All day, the grassroots Tory Party has been in overdrive about getting a genuinely gifted younger MP in Kensington now Sir Malcolm Rifkind has finally vacated his plum West London seat. The bookies have come up with some names that most Conservatives would approve of, as has Guido Fawkes.
But anyone who knows how the selection will work will be painfully aware of who the final list is going to be. It will be the same final list that has been in almost all the selections for safe seats. A group of women that Conservative HQ absolutely love (but ordinary association members seem less keen on).
Here is the way candidate selection really works: a group of six local worthies will be assembled to look at CVs. They will be joined by four people from CCHQ, who do not vote in the ‘paper sift’ but instead are there to “help”.
As the CVs are presented the CCHQ team will push their four names (more on that later) and savagely knife everyone else. CCHQ will arrange the seating plan for the meeting, and will sit in between all the locals so they cannot confer and can be watched.
The meeting itself will not be held on home turf in Kensington, but instead in CCHQ boardroom, as if the event was not already uncomfortable enough! The end result of this will be that when the names are presented to the local association they will be the same names most other safe seats have been given:
Laura Trott – Advisor to David Cameron
Suella Fernandes – Planning barristers and serial finalist
Helen Whately – Former candidate in Kingston
and Charlotte Vere – Head of Independent Schools Council
Under by-election rules just four names go forward to the meeting of the full association, helpfully sidestepping the need to include some of the popular local candidates being discussed. Because the truth of this process is that ordinary members are not quite as excited about it as the party machine is.
This is their opportunity to guarantee one of their people get a rock solid safe seat. They are not going to trust the members with the important job of who represents them, much as it pains me to report it.