I can reveal that the local Conservative Association in Peterborough (Labour majority: 607) will select their candidate this Friday, 19th October.

As a seat lost by the Conservatives at the 2017 election, Peterborough is a natural fit as a target, but it is also a particular constituency of interest because of the unusual circumstances of the Labour incumbent – Fiona Onasanya is set to stand trial over allegations that she lied about who was driving in a speeding case. No-one can know the outcome of that trial, of course, but it would be pragmatic to at least prepare for the possibility of a by-election.

I’m told that the local association has fought hard for the right to select now, under the normal and more democratic selection rules, rather than run the risk of having their candidate picked for them by CCHQ, as would be the case under by-election procedures. They were originally going to select a few weeks ago, so there has been some delay, but they have evidently managed to stave off the threat of a restricted choice.

The three candidates who are through to the final are:

Paul Bristow: A Peterborough resident, and already a prospective council candidate in the city, Bristow fought Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in the 2010 General Election, and is also a former Hammersmith and Fulham councillor and cabinet member. He is Managing Director of his own public affairs consultancy, and chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultancies. He has written for ConservativeHome, including on the topic of Momentum‘s activities in Peterborough, and contested a previous selection final in Bedford last week.

Cllr Helen Harrison: A District Councillor in East Northamptonshire, Harrison runs her own physiotherapy business, having previously spent much of her career in the NHS. She fought Ashfield in the 2015 General Election and Bolsover in 2017, and serves as Chairman of the Corby and East Northants Conservative Association. She is Chief Executive of the pro-Brexit campaign group Grassroots Out and involved in the Leave Means Leave campaign. Harrison has written for ConservativeHome, most recently about scrapping hospital parking charges.

Clarence Mitchell: A former BBC journalist turned PR consultant, Mitchell acted as spokesman for the McCann family in their search for their missing daughter. In 2015 he stood as Conservative candidate in the Greens’ stronghold of Brighton Pavilion. His communications work has included the private sector, government, charities, and the Conservative Party, for whom he worked as Head of Election Media Monitoring during the 2010 General Election campaign

Henson selected in Bedford

Congratulations to Cllr Ryan Henson, who won the recent selection contest in Bedford (Labour majority: 789). To recap, here is his sketch bio:

  • Cllr Ryan Henson: An East Hertfordshire councillor, Henson’s day job is as Senior Political Advisor to CAFOD, the international development charity. He too has written for ConservativeHome, most recently on social mobility and opportunity for working class white boys.

New tranche of seats open for applications

Meanwhile, the candidates list have been informed that half a dozen new target seats are now open for applications, with a deadline of Monday 29th October. The core of the tranche represents the first London constituencies to select – including Twickenham, which Vince Cable regained last year with a sizeable majority.

Interestingly, the four London seats are joined by Darlington and Wirral West, both of which I revealed on Saturday had to have their selections postponed and restarted amid a shortage of willing candidates.

Here is the full tranche:

Battersea (Labour majority: 2,416)
Croydon Central (Labour majority: 5,652)
Darlington (Labour majority: 3,280)
Kingston and Surbiton (Lib Dem majority: 4,124)
Twickenham (Lib Dem majority: 9,762)
Wirral West (Labour majority 5,365)