Best wishes from ConservativeHome to Simon Burns, who announces today that he won’t contest June’s election. The MP for Chelmsford will not be the last sitting MP to be flushed out by Theresa May’s surprise announcement. For example, Ken Clarke is off. There will be others.
Furthermore, the Party is likely to take some seats off Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour (to put it no more strongly than that). Your guess of how many new Tory MPs will enter the Commons in June is as good as mine, if not better, but it is not absurd to believe that it could be well north of 50, if what the polls find now is reproduced on the day.
As Mark Wallace points out on our live blog, all these selections may well take place under by-election rules, which empower CCHQ “to produce a shortlist of three for the association to choose from”. There are currently 330 Conservative MPs. And there are 650 seats overall.
Admittedly, the Party won’t contest all of them, but you will see at once that, because the coming election is taking place so early, CCHQ will have an unprecedented degree of control over selections. The current Parliamentary Party is one that the last Tory leader did much to shape: not for nothing did ConservativeHome call the last intake Cameron’s Children.
May thus has an opportunity, delivered to her by the Party’s selection rules and this election’s timing, to begin to create a Parliamentary Party in her own image: serious-minded, public-spirited, Brexit-backing, committed to battling modern slavery, new grammar schools, industrial strategy and “social reform”.
The days when Nick Timothy, her co-Chief of Staff, and Stephen Parkinson, her Political Secretary, were both culled from the candidates’ list by Cameron’s political operation, because neither were prepared to break civil service rules on political campaigning, already seem to have taken place a long time ago.