More odd news coming out of candidate selections: Devizes (Conservative majority: 21,136) has shortlisted six candidates to appear at its selection meeting on 17th November. Yes, six – the normal number is three, or occasionally four. The association’s press release explains it as follows:
‘A panel appointed by the Executive Council of the Devizes Conservative Association have agreed a short list of four candidates with Conservative Central HQ and added two more with strong local connections.’
In the context of the tensions between CCHQ and associations which I reported last week, that sounds rather like there’s been a fightback by the Devizes association officers against central control. Elsewhere, concerns have been growing that the Candidates Department has been rather taking advantage of associations’ sense of urgency to bounce them into shortlists they might not otherwise have chosen.
Indeed, one might detect polite hints of frustration to selection in the supplied quote from Brigadier Peter Sharpe, Chairman of Devizes Constituency Conservative Association:
“The process to select a Candidate has taken longer than we would have liked however we now have six excellent candidates who will give members a real choice of who they would like to be their candidate in the next General Election.”
The six candidates set to fight it out in the ensuing battle royale are:
Cllr Antonia Cox. A former journalist and current Westminster councillor, Cox stood in Islington South and Finsbury in 2010. A former banking correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and Leader writer for the Evening Standard, she has also produced reports on defence spending for the Centre for Policy Studies and on volunteering in the Big Society for Res Publica. She is co-founder of the Marylebone Boys’ School, a Free School, and was a List candidate for the 2016 London Assembly elections.
Laura Farris: A barrister specialising in employment and equality law, Farris sits on the Executive of the Society of Conservative Lawyers and is Deputy Chair of West Berkshire Conservatives. She is a former BBC and Reuters journalist, has worked in politics in the US, and contested Leyton and Wanstead in the 2017 General Election. Farris is the daughter of the late Michael McNair-Wilson, former MP for Newbury, and the niece of Patrick McNair-Wilson, former MP for the New Forest.
Sir Ashley Fox: The former leader of the Conservative MEPs, Fox represented the South West of England in the European Parliament from 2009 to 2019. He lives in Bristol, where he served as a city councillor for eight years, and where he worked as a solicitor before entering politics. He is a former columnist for this site, in which capacity he regularly reported back on events in Brussels and Strasbourg. Fox was knighted for political and public service in the previous Prime Minister’s resignation honours.
Rupert Harrison: After working as an economist for the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Harrison advised George Osborne from 2006 until 2015, including serving as Chief of Staff to the Chancellor during the full five years of the coalition. When he left, Osborne joked that “It has been an honour to play a role in the Harrison chancellorship.” Since leaving Whitehall, he was worked as an economist and portfolio manager at BlackRock. He also chairs The Fore, a charity which helps small charities to raise money, and he serves as Fundraising Officer of Westminster North Conservative Association.
Danny Kruger: The Political Secretary to the Prime Minister is the first current adviser to appear in a selection final this time round. Kruger worked in policy development, at the CPS and for the Conservative Party, before becoming Chief Leader Writer at the Daily Telegraph in 2005. He left the newspaper to become David Cameron’s speechwriter in 2006, following which he founded Only Connect, a charity which works with former prison inmates to prevent reoffending by getting them into work and establishing stable personal relationships. His mother is Prue Leith, judge of the Great British Bake Off.
Dom Morris: A fourth-generation farmer, Morris began his career as a pilot in the RAF but broke his back in flying training, worked for the Prince’s Trust getting disadvantaged young people back into work during his recuperation, and has since served as a Political Officer in Afghanistan, Syria, and the response to Hurricane Irma. He sits on the Cotswolds Area Of Natural Beauty Board, and his family farm hosted a Boris Johnson rally during the leadership race; he was South West Co-ordinator for the Johnson leadership campaign. Morris contested the Exeter constituency in the 2015 General Election.