I broke the news last night that Seema Kennedy is standing down at the next election. It’s something of a surprise, given that she was first elected for South Ribble in 2015, and has often been tipped for great things in Westminster.
In a statement to her local paper she confirms the news and explains that “after a great deal of thought and reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate at the next general election. It is now time for me to focus on other priorities in my life.” I’m speculating, but it also can’t have been easy to serve as the previous Prime Minister’s loyal PPS through an extremely turbulent couple of years. We have noted before the rising attrition rates, and falling lengths of service, among MPs – this adds to that pattern.
Now her seat, with a majority of 7,421, is in search of a new Conservative candidate.
Controversially, it appears that here, too, the centralising trend I reported on yesterday is at play. Not only is the shortlist being drawn up without inviting applications from the whole candidates’ list, but candidates have been shocked to learn that the shortlist was already put together before the news of Kennedy’s departure was announced. So not only was there no chance for anyone to apply to be considered, but there wasn’t even the option for anyone to try to show an interest informally. A closed system, with no published criteria, no notice of forthcoming opportunities and therefore a diminishing sense of fairness is liable to severely demoralise candidates who feel they aren’t being given even the pretence of a fair shot.
Local Party members have been notified of a selection meeting at 1.30pm on Saturday 9th November, at which they will select from a shortlist of three. I’ll publish the names, to ensure local members have the chance to scrutinise them and make an informed choice, as soon as I learn them. All tips, on this seat and others, are gratefully received, with anonymity guaranteed.