Last night, 300 voters gathered in Kelso to select the Conservative candidate to fight the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat in 2015 – currently held by Michael Moore, the Lib Dem former Secretary of State for Scotland.
It was a head to head battle between John Lamont MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ Chief Whip whose Holyrood constituency covers some of the same territory, and Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne, who leads the Conservative opposition on Scottish Borders council.
Both are experienced campaigners. Cllr Ballantyne leads her colleagues as the largest party in the council chamber against a ruling coalition of the SNP, Lib Dems and Independents, and made the shortlist to fight the parliamentary seat in 2010. Lamont first entered the Scottish Parliament by unseating a Lib Dem incumbent in 2007, and stood against Michael Moore in 2005 and 2010.
In the end, John Lamont was selected to take his third run at the seat – with Lib Dem support collapsing and the complexities of four party politics there must be a good chance he will overturn Moore’s 5,675 vote majority in 2015. Certainly local Conservatives seem very bullish about his chances.
It’s good to see the open primary model of selections spreading and becoming more deeply embedded in Conservative politics.
The more there are, the more voters our candidates engage at an early stage and the greater support there is for direct democracy. Congratulations to the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk Association for picking this approach, and getting such a strong turnout.