Tomorrow, the selection panel in Mid Worcestershire will decide on the shortlist of would-be candidates who are seeking to replace Peter Luff when he stands down in 2015.
The final decision will be made by Open Primary on Saturday 22nd November.
Today we can reveal the longlist of 13 candidates going into tomorrow’s meeting:
- Kashif Ali. Ali had the unusual experience of running for Parliament not once but twice since 2010 – first in the General Election in Oldham East and Saddleworth (when he increased the vote share by 8.7 percentage points), and then again in the same seat in January 2011, when the previous election was invalidated. Having been in third place at the General Election, his vote was then heavily squeezed in the by-election. Ali is a barrister based in the North West of England, and is a former Deputy Chairman of the Manchester Conservative Federation.
- Edward Argar. A Westminster councillor and Cabinet member for City Management, Transport and Environment, he fought the Lib/Lab marginal constituency of Oxford East at the 2010 General Election, where he increased the Conservative vote by 1.5 percentage points. Before moving to a career in the private sector, he worked for Michael Ancram when he was Shadow Foreign Secretary. Argar reached the final four in both Newark and Tonbridge and Malling in the last few weeks – the latter meaning that he has recent Open Primary experience.
- Vicky Atkins. A criminal prosecutor, specialising in fraud and other complex cases, she stood to be the Gloucestershire PCC a year ago. Having won the first round, she was defeated on preferences in the second round by an Independent candidate. Her website emphasises the practical campaigning experience she gained from the process, and her continued work in the voluntary party including serving as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum’s Justice and Home Affairs Group. Like Argar, she, too, made the final four at the recent Tonbridge and Malling Open Primary
- Nusrat Ghani. Over recent years, Ghani has held a number of high profile roles in the public affairs industry, having worked for the BBC World Service, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and Age Concern among others. She joined the Conservative Party in 2009, in response to Cameron’s call for would-be candidates, and stepped into the breach when the PPC in Birmingham Ladywood stood down only 100 days before the 2010 election. Despite the short campaign, the Conservative vote share increased by 3.5 percentage points. She is another familiar face, having made the longlist of 15 in Croydon South.
- Martin Howe QC. One of those nominated in our search for 100 new Peers back in 2010, Howe has long been a familiar figure in the centre right and in the legal profession. Among others, he has worked with Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Justice, but most notably has run a persistent campaign for the introduction of a British Bill of Rights.
- Nigel Huddleston. As the Conservative candidate in Luton South at the last election, Huddleston halved the Labour majority and had the unexpected experience of Esther Rantzen entering the race as an Independent. Currently the Industry Head for Travel at Google, he is a long-standing member of the Tory Reform Group and has had a taste of US politics, too, volunteering in the recall campaign which saw Arnold Schwarzenegger become Governor of California. In recent weeks he has made the Croydon South longlist, and the final four in Newark.
- Seema Kennedy. In 2010, Kennedy stood for the Conservatives in the safe Labour seat of Ashton under Lyne, taking on David Heyes’ 14,000 vote majority, which she reduced to 9,000. Some readers will recall that Kennedy stood down as St Albans’ Association Chairman in 2009 after an unsuccessful attempt to deselect Anne Main over the expenses scandal. A director of her family firm, she came close to being selected in Hampstead and Kilburn last year, making the final three.
- Wendy Morton. Currently Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Social Action, Morton stood for the marginal seat of Tynemouth at the 2010 General Election, when the Conservative vote share in the seat fell by 2.2 percentage points. A Yorkshirewoman born and bred, she runs an electronics company with her husband, and is involved with Project Umubano, which sends Conservative volunteers to do development projects in Rwanda.
- Dr Spencer Pitfield. As National Voluntary Director of the Conservative Policy Forum (on which he reports to ConservativeHome), Pitfield is a musician and music teacher in his professional life. Having stood against Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam in 2005, he stood in Penistone and Stocksbridge in 2010, where he increased the Conservative vote share by 7.5 percentage points. His work with the CPF has brought him into contact with large tracts of the party membership, as well as CCHQ.
- David Skelton. The former Deputy Director of Policy Exchange, Skelton left the think tank earlier this year to found Renewal, an organisation exploring the key question of how to restore Conservative prospects in the North of England. Hailing from County Durham, Skelton stood against Labour’s Kevan Jones in North Durham in 2010, and increased the Conservative vote share by 4.3 percentage points, taking second place from the Liberal Democrats.
- Dr Michelle Tempest. A psychiatrist and qualified lawyer, Tempest was also David Skelton’s neighbour in 2010, when she stood in North West Durham, increasing the Conservative vote share by 3.6 percentage points. As well as her medical work in the NHS, she has played a debate over health policy, editing The Future of the NHS in 2006.
- Maggie Throup. A businesswoman, running a marketing consultancy since 1996, with a background in medical science, Throup was very nearly elected as an MP in 2010. As the Conservative candidate in Solihull, she polled 42.6 per cent of the vote (an increase of 3 percentage points) but was defeated by the Lib Dems’ Lorely Burt by 175 votes.
- Nick Timothy. Formerly Deputy Head of the Conservative Research Department, Timothy is now a Special Adviser to Theresa May. A fan of Joseph Chamberlain, having been born and brought up in Birmingham, Tim Montgomerie tipped him in 2009 as a potential future Conservative MP.