Ten days ago, ConservativeHome exclusively reported that the Grantham and Stamford Association Executive intended to accelerate proceedings to potentially deselect Nick Boles as their candidate:
The Party’s constitution does not make mention the words ‘deselection’ or ‘no confidence’, despite the common use of both terms. Instead, the process is one of re-adoption:
‘A sitting Member of Parliament shall be required to make a written application to the Executive Council should he wish to seek re-adoption to stand again for Parliament or submit such an application if requested by the Executive Council.’
If an MP does want to be re-adopted, then the Association Executive will vote on the application between two weeks and two months after receiving it. The MP has a right to attend and speak before that vote if they wish.
Normally, associations are content to leave the timing of a re-adoption application to the MP. On rare occasions they will use their power to request that an application be made, normally if they suspect the MP intends to retire and they want to get on with selecting a successor in good time.
In Grantham and Stamford, however, I’m told the executive intends to use this power at their next meeting in order to demand Boles apply for re-adoption or confirm his intention not to do so. Effectively, that means the association is accelerating the process, with an implicit intention to swiftly vote not to re-adopt their MP. “We know what we have to do,” as one executive member told me.
I can now share the content of a new email to members in the constituency – sent by Philip Sagar, the Association Chairman, earlier this afternoon – which fully confirms our report. He writes:
‘We are not beginning a deselection process. We are though, in readiness for the next election whenever that is, commencing the selection process in accordance with the rules. Nick will with the approval of the next Executive meeting on the 11th February be invited to advise us if he wishes to continue as our candidate. If his intention is to continue this will then go to the following Executive meeting for approval or not. In accordance with the rules if he does not get the support of the Executive Council he can choose to ask for a postal vote of the membership or join a shortlist of candidates for selection.’
So the re-adoption process will likely begin a week from today. It remains to be seen, of course, if Boles intends to seek re-adoption. If he does, Sagar does not exactly conceal his own view on what the answer should be:
‘I like and respect Nick but his most recent article in Friday nights London Evening Standard will not help repair the rift that has appeared since Xmas with his attacks on the Association. Click here for the article. Clearly he still has supporters but with his continuing statements he is loosing that support daily if your emails to me are a measure. It is a difficult choice but returning a Conservative MP at the next election has to be the priority. I am trying very hard to reflect the members view as clearly expressed by so many of you.’
There doesn’t seem to be any sign of the disagreement over Brexit between MP and association going away any time soon, either. The email concludes by noting that Boles’s next public meeting in the constituency is organised by local campaigners for a second referendum:
‘Also to advise that the meeting at St Martins on the 8th February with Nick has been arranged by Richard Cleaver and People’s Vote and not by the Association. If you want to attend you will need to register online, which you can do so by clicking here.’
Boles has respondedto the news on Twitter, saying “I remain wholly opposed to a second referendum” and that Friday’s public meeting “is not a People’s Vote meeting”.
Apparently Sagar has sent a subsequent email correcting his assertion that the event was “arranged by…People’s Vote”. However, our original report remains correct to say it is organised by a local campaigner for a second referendum.