By Mark Wallace
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Following the selection of the candidates for the 40 target seats that make up half of the 40/40 strategy, selections are proceeding apace in other constituencies. By my count, eight more seats now have PPCs in place.
- Birmingham Erdington: Robert Alden. Cllr Alden fought the seat in 2010, increasing the Conservative vote by impressive 9.7 percentage points. If he repeats the feat he will unseat Labour's Jack Dromey, and as a local councillor has the experience and access on the ground to take a serious run at it.
- Brighton Pavilion: Clarence Mitchell. A former journalist, Mitchell is probably the most high-profile candidate selected so far. He is best known as the PR representative of the McCanns in their search for their missing daughter, Madeleine. In 2010, the Conservatives slipped to third place in Brighton Pavilion as Caroline Lucas became the first Green MP.
- Carshalton and Wallington: Matthew Maxwell Scott. Maxwell Scott is a Wandsworth Councillor and a professional speechwriter in the private sector. He will be taking on Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, who has a majority of 5,260.
- Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland: Will Goodhand. As the MD of a marketing farm, no doubt Goodhand is already planning his messaging for the campaign in one of the top Tory targets in the North East. Labour incumbent Tom Blenkinsop has a 1,700 majority here, so the seat is up for grabs in 2015.
- Taunton Deane: Rebecca Pow. After 16 years as a journalist, specialising in agriculture and rural affairs and becoming Britain's first environment correspondent on the way, Pow has since launched her own business. She has lived in Taunton for 27 years, and will be up against the Lib Dems' Jeremy Browne, who holds the constituency with a 4,000 vote majority.
- Westminster North: Lindsey Hall. Another former journalist, Cllr Hall leads Westminster City Council's drive against fraud. The Conservatives were unlucky not to win Westminster North last time round after a series of messy disputes involving the A-list candidate, Joanne Cash. Hopes will be high that Cllr Hall can get the job done properly.
- Westmorland and Lonsdale: Ann Myatt. Dr Myatt, a consulting dermatologist, stood in 2010 in Hemsworth, where she was the only main party candidate to increase their vote. She now faces Lib Dem President Tim Farron in a seat which is a totem of the yellows' local campaigning model.
- Yeovil: Marcus Fysch. A local businessman, Fysch was selected through an open primary public meeting, attended by over 200 local voters. He is a County and District Councillor, with experience of fighting the Lib Dems that should prove useful taking on David Laws.
This new raft of candidates allows us to update the analysis of who will be standing at the next election.
Three more female PPCs take the ratio up to 29 per cent, well above the current Parliamentary figures. Half are local to their seat, lower than the 75 per cent in the first 40 selections but still good news. Two have previously stood for Parliament and several have local and national campaigning experience.
Their professional backgrounds are varied, and the presence of three former journalists, several business leaders and a professional speechwriter all suggests that associations increasingly value the ability to communicate a point and lead a team.
All in all, some welcome additions to the team who will be fighting the 2015 general election on the ground in some must-win seats.