The short list for Richard Spring’s replacement as PPC for West Suffolk has been announced. It’s an interesting group.
- Natalie Elphicke is partner with a firm of London solicitors and has a special interest in social housing. She has been active for some time with Westminster Conservative Asssociation.
- Anthony Frieze has been a director with a number of investment banks and is currently a voluntary fund raiser for The Prince’s Teaching Institute. He was PPC for Darlington in the 1995 General Election.
- Sam Gyimah is an entrepreneur who lives in London and provides mentoring support for small businesses as well as serving as a school governor. He ran in the selection process for PPC in Gosport.
- Matt Hancock is an economic adviser working for the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne.
- Sheila Lawlor is a conservative thinker and writer who lives in Cambridge. She is Director of Politeia, a forum for social and economic thinking with close links to the Conservative Party.
- Lucille Nicholson is Chairman of Conservative Business Relations in the North East. She stood as Conservative PPC in Easington in 2005 and ran in the selection process for PPC in Penrith and Border.
Although there is one local (Cambridge) resident among them, the field predominantly comprises party activists and members of the political “elite” with a distinct Westminster complexion.
This will disappoint some “grassroots” activists: Many of them believe that we need a new kind of politics, dedicated to building trust with an electorate that has grown indifferent to politics in general. How effectively can such a group identify with local constituency needs and convince the constituency electorate that they are going to bring change to Westminster and the political system? We shall see!
West Suffolk is a mixed constituency, predominantly rural but with a number of market towns (Haverhill, Newmarket, Mildenhall) that are characterised by light industry and have their own very specific local issues. Newmarket and Haverhill are also overspill towns with a growing population of young families that work in London and Cambridge and that are unlikely to be natural Conservative voters.
While Richard Spring built a comfortable majority in 2005, the selected candidate will need to work hard to motivate life-long but disillusioned Conservative voters to vote at all, and convince marginal voters that they understand local constituency issues enough to justify switching their votes to Conservative.
The final six (plus an undisclosed reserve) now go for interview and selection at an open primary (open to all West Suffolk constituents) on January 30th. I wish them well and the constituents of West Suffolk a successful outcome.