Good news – the Conservative candidate to take on Mark Reckless in the Rochester and Strood by-election will be selected by a full postal ballot of the entire constituency.
We’ve known since the weekend that the selection would be more open than the traditional process, with leaflets going out offering everyone a vote on the matter. But until now it hasn’t been clear whether it would be a proper, postal primary or a town hall meeting-style caucus, as was used in Clacton.
I’m told that the letters inviting the electorate to choose their preferred candidate should land on the doormats of every voter tomorrow.
The local and national party has remained very tight-lipped about who is on the shortlist, but we will bring readers the names as soon as we find out.
This is a wise and welcome decision on the part of CCHQ – as I argued when making the case for a full, postal primary in Clacton and again on Sunday for Rochester and Strood: this approach tends to pick strong, independent-minded candidates; it sends the unequivocal message that the Conservatives are listening to voters in the constituency; and it has the practical benefit of giving the winning candidate a direct introduction to tens of thousands of voters at the very start of the campaign.
As ConservativeHome has said since Reckless’ defection, this by-election can be won with the right approach, the right candidate and the right campaign. It’s great to see that the party has listened and taken the first step on that road.