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Among the five seats opened to candidate applications last month, two are currently held by Conservative MPs who intend to step down in 2015 (one, Newark, is held by ex-Tory Patrick Mercer who will also be departing come the next election). Tonbridge and Malling will select its new candidate by Open Primary, in which all registered voters can have a say. The other, Croydon South, is set to take the more traditional route to selection.

Here, with a brief introduction for each, are the three front runners in the Croydon South race:

  • Oliver Dowden. Currently one of the two Deputy Chiefs of Staff to David Cameron, Dowden comes with extensive experience of CCHQ campaigns and two stints in the public affairs industry. He received some unwelcome media attention following an interview in the US in which he spoke candidly about the hectic life of a Downing Street aide, but is widely recognised in Westminster as one of the Government’s most capable advisers.
  • Chris Philp. A successful businessman, Philp has founded and sold several enterprises, and was named one of the UK’s top ten entrepreneurs. He delivered a 9.8 per cent swing as Conservative candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn in 2010, losing out to Glenda Jackson by a mere 42 votes (the seat is now a prime target in the 40/40 programme). Since 2009 he has run The Next Big Thing, which teams up young people from less advantaged areas with experienced entrepreneurs who provide mentoring and advice in order to inspire them to go into business.
  • Laura Trott. Not to be confused with the Olympic cyclist of the same name, Trott is an adviser to the Prime Minister on women’s issues, and added education and childcare to her brief a few months ago. Previously Special Adviser to Francis Maude at the Cabinet Office, she is also a Councillor in Camden, where she represents the Frognal and Fitzjohns ward.

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