I’ve written before about the need for the Conservative Party to get on with early selections of candidates in target seats. Eric Pickles, in his Party Review, advised that all battleground seats should have candidates in place by June 2018.
However, there is growing frustration in a variety of target constituencies at the lack of any news from CCHQ about when selections will be permitted to begin.
The latest example of that comes from Eastbourne, which Caroline Ansell narrowly gained for the Conservatives in 2015 then narrowly lost again to the Lib Dems in 2017.
Yesterday, Cllr David Elkin wrote to Party members in Eastbourne to announce his resignation as Chairman of the local Conservative Association. Among his three reasons for doing so, he specified:
‘…the fact that we are not currently able to select a Parliamentary Candidate for the Constituency frustrates me greatly, and the rumour that selection may not be possible until next summer is simply unacceptable and incomprehensible to me.’
He also mentioned as a reason the demands of his work as Deputy Leader of East Sussex County Council, but it’s notable when the top officer of an association in a key target seat quits because of “unacceptable and incomprehensible” delays to candidate selection.
Labour, as I’ve previously reported, have a stated goal of selecting 76 candidates in marginals by Christmas. The fact that they’re struggling to attract enough applicants to meet that goal might be a little heartening, but it doesn’t change the fact that in terms of selections the Opposition has been allowed to gain a head start over the Conservatives. And in seats like Eastbourne, lost to other parties in 2017, the local Tory associations are raring to fight back – but are hobbled by not being allowed to select candidates to front their campaigns.
When will CCHQ follow the advice of its own Party Review and allow keen local associations in target seats to properly take the fight to Labour and the Lib Dems?