Tory snub to local candidates

ANOTHER Conservative association in Suffolk has snubbed local activists and short-listed six people with no connection to the county.

Graham Dines

ANOTHER Conservative association in Suffolk has snubbed local activists and short-listed six people with no connection to the county.

Three men and three women will be grilled by party members and constituency voters in West Suffolk at the end of the month for the right to succeed Richard Spring, who is retiring after 18 years as an MP.

The decision to overlook local candidates is a particular blow to Colin Noble, the chairman of the constituency who had hoped to be given the chance to represent his home area in Westminster.

Mr Noble, and Jane Storey who is the deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, put on a brave face last night on the decision of the selection committee after it sifted through more than 160 applications at a meeting at Conservative Central Office in London.

Mr Noble said: “I am naturally disappointed that I have not been given the opportunity to stand up in front of my peers to tell them how I could best represent them as their MP.

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“However, at the out set, I made it clear that whoever wins, man or woman, local or national, would have my backing. I full faith in the process which has given us a final six. Whoever wins, will make a great MP for West Suffolk and will have my full support.”

Mrs Storey, who also failed to make the shortlist for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich late last year, said it was a “big blow” not to make the shortlist.

“I think both Colin and I would have done a good job as MP for the constituency. Following the criticism of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich for not short-listing a local, West Suffolk could have avoided criticism by making an exception and adding a local name to the final six.”

Both Mr Noble and Mrs Storey have passed the Tory qualification course, which means they are fully approved parliamentary candidates.

Richard Balfe, who took charge of the selection process following Mr Noble's decision to seek the nomination, said the six finalists had excellent credentials, all of whom would be a first-class MP for West Suffolk.

The six short-listed are: Natalie Elphicke, a partner in a London law practice and whose husband will be Tory candidate in Dover; Anthony Frieze, a part-time financial services consultant and former director of international banking giant Dresdner Kleinwort and who fought Darlington in 2005; Sam Gyimah, a one-time CBI Entrepreneur of the Future; Matthew Hancock, chief of staff to Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, Sheila Lawlor, director of Politeia, one of the UK's leading thin tanks who lives in Cambridge; and Lucille Nicholson, 2005 election candidate in Easington (County Durham) and chairman of Conservative Business Relations in the North East.

An open primary for all registered voters in the constituency will be held in Mildenhall on January 30.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal have this week begun the process to choose a successor to John Gummer, who also is standing down at the next election.