By Tim Montgomerie
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Sarah Newton MP, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, has just given ConservativeHome the names of the ten constituencies who will taking part in the first of three tranches to select the forty candidates in the Tories' 40/40 battleground strategy to win a majority at the next election. They are:
- Birmingham Northfield, Lab maj of 2,782
- Cheadle, Lib Dem maj of 3,272
- Chorley, Lab maj of 2,593
- Delyn, Lab maj of 2,272
- Hampstead and Kilburn, Lab maj of 42 in three way marginal
- Harrow West, Lab maj of 3,143
- Morley and Outwood, Lab maj of 1,101
- N E Derbyshire, Lab maj of 2,445
- Sutton and Cheam, Lib Dem maj of 1,608
- Vale of Clwyd, Lab maj of 2,509
Sarah told me that the forty seats haven't just been selected because of the size of their majorities but because of examination of other factors including demographic trends and local issues. Selection procedeures will begin on 16th November and be wrapped up in time for Christmas in a sign that the party is determined to benefit as much as it now can from early adoption.
None of these first ten have fast-tracked candidates – that is candidates who fought the seat at the last election and have asked to fight it again. A number of candidates in the other thirty of the forty seats have asked to be fast-tracked and are going through the relevant ConHQ and local approval processes.
Constituencies with less than 100 members will have to choose a three person shortlist given to them by a special ConHQ committee or choose their candidate by open primary. Of this first list of ten four seats fall into this category – Birmingham Northfield, Cheadle, Morley and Outwood and N E Derbyshire. The open primary would be at a one-off meeting rather than constituency-wide ballot unless the Association would be willing to pay for it. Something that by the nature of their limited memberships seems unlikely. Sarah Newton insisted that ConHQ would not be operating an unofficial secret A-list. She said that when the party drew up the shortlists of three then all members of the candidates' list would be considered.
I'm grateful to Sarah for talking me through this list and the procedures. In the past ConHome received information from individual candidates and it was sometimes partial. Getting briefed directly is really helpful.