Now that the European and local elections are out of the way, it seems selections are accelerating. After the announcement of South Ribble and South Thanet a week ago, now three more associations have opened applications from would-be PPCs.
The seats involved are very different. They are:
- Eastleigh: The site of the most troubling by-election performance for some years, Eastleigh is currently held by Lib Dem MP Mike Thornton. Whereas the Conservatives came second in 2010, UKIP of course pipped us at last year’s by-election. In the recent European elections, Farage’s party won the Eastleigh area – but the Lib Dems triumphed in almost every seat in the local election held on the same day. The new candidate will have the task of taking on an energised UKIP as well as an entrenched Lib Dem force – and rebuilding the atrophied local Conservative presence at the same time.
- Louth and Horncastle: The Lincolnshire seat, which has been Conservative-held since it was created in 1997, is being vacated by Sir Peter Tapsell, the Father of the House who is stepping down in 2015. Sir Peter enjoyed a majority of 13,871 (27.5 percentage points) in 2010, so it’s fair to say the selection will most likely be picking the next MP as well as the candidate. It can be a different sort of challenge taking over from someone of such long standing, but I’m sure the opportunity will appeal to large numbers of candidates – it’ll be a hot contest.
- South Suffolk: Cosmetically, there are some similarities with Louth and Horncastle here – a seat with a sizeable majority (8,689 votes, 16.9 per cent) whose long-serving Conservative MP, the only person to ever represent it in parliament, is stepping down. But it couldn’t be more different – while Sir Peter is voluntarily retiring, Tim Yeo was forcibly deselected by his association amid accusations and recriminations earlier this year. The new candidate’s task will be to help unite the local operation in support of a 2015 victory, and leave the past behind.