In December, we reported that the selection process to find the successor to Braintree MP Brooks Newmark had been suspended due to a dispute over an attempt to shortlist an ineligible candidate.

Happily, last week the local press was informed that the selection had been restarted. With only a short time before the election, things are now moving quickly – a shortlist was confirmed at the weekend and apparently the selection meeting will take place tomorrow.

The four finalists are:

  • James Cleverly. A sometime contributor to ConHome, Cleverly is currently the London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley, as well as Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. In 2005 he was the Conservative candidate for the Westminster seat of Lewisham East, increasing the Tory share by 0.3 percentage points but finishing second behind Labour. As well as working in the web publishing world, he has served in the Army and risen to the rank of Major in the Territorial Army. He was shortlisted for selection in Bury St Edmunds in October, and for Bexhill and Battle in November.
  • Michael McManus. McManus served as the transitional Executive Director of the Press Complaints Commission, which has recently been succeeded by IPSO. In the 1990s he wrote speeches for Margaret Thatcher and John Major among others, before spending five years running Edward Heath’s private office. He later ran Vote 2004, a campaign for a referendum on the EU Constitution. More recently, he was a director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs and wrote Tory Pride and Prejudice: The Conservative Party and Homosexual Law Reform. In 2001 he stood for Watford, and last year he was in the final four for Havant.
  • Suella Fernandes is a Harrow-born barrister, and stood against Keith Vaz in Leicester East in 2005. She is a co-founder, former chair and now trustee of the Africa Justice Foundation (about which she has written for ConHome), and a co-founder of the Michaela Community School, a free school in Brent. She was a finalist in Uxbridge, Bexhill and Battle and Croydon South.
  • Sarah Macken. Currently Chief Executive of ESCO, the industry body for the electronic sytems sector (which is co-chaired by Baroness Neville-Rolfe), Macken previously worked at the British Chambers of Commerce. She, too, writes her own blog (and has written occasionally for this site) on which, among other things, she expresses her support for Grammar Schools. In 2005 she stood against Stephen Timms in East Ham, where her vote suffered due to an unexpectedly high RESPECT entry into the field. Last summer, she made the final four in Louth and Horncastle.