Grassroot Tories demand new selection process

GRASS roots Tories have demanded a restart of the west Suffolk selection process for a parliamentary candidate amid claims party chiefs had “parachuted” in their favourites at the expense of locals.

Jonathan Schofield

GRASSROOTS Tories have demanded a restart of the west Suffolk selection process for a parliamentary candidate amid claims party chiefs had “parachuted” in their favourites at the expense of locals.

Current West Suffolk MP Richard Spring has announced he is standing down at the next general election. This has triggered a selection process to choose a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate.

But the short-list of six drawn up by the executive committee of the West Suffolk Conservative Association has left local Tories furious because it does not contain anybody who lives in Suffolk.


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Complaints have been sent to Conservative central office and calls were last night made for the entire process to be started again.

Barrister Rachel Hood, who is the chairman of the Save Historic Newmarket Action Group and wife of trainer John Gosden, was one of scores of local people overlooked in the six-strong shortlist.

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“There seems to be a groundswell of anger that the residents of west Suffolk are not being given the opportunity to consider not even one local candidate,” she said. “All those other people are being parachuted in. A number of people have complained directly to central office and the expectation is that consideration should be given to having a repeat of the process.

“Not one of the six people put forward lives in Suffolk. That cannot be right. We have gone to the trouble of getting approved to go on the long list and I find it hard to believe that there was not one or two people in Suffolk could enough to go on the shortlist.”

Colin Noble, chairman of the local Tory association and Jane Storey, deputy leader of the county council, were on the original list but neither appeared in the final cut.

Mrs Storey said: “The Conservative party is not served well by always recruiting the same type of people to slot into seats. They should have a broad spectrum and a local feel but it is very difficult to get that when it is so controlled. Colin (Noble) would have been an excellent candidate but people will not get that opportunity to hear what he had to offer.”

Trainers and stable owners in Newmarket said they feared an MP from outside the region would have little knowledge of the industry, which provides hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds in income.

Sir Mark Prescott, trainer and owner of Heath House in Newmarket, said all political parties have turned into control freaks.

He said: “The original idea, which seemed to be a good one, was for a local person to be the MP and most people thought that made sense. I'm afraid we do not live in those times anymore and as with all parties they just move everything around to suit their own agenda.”

No one from the West Suffolk Conservative Association was available for comment.

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