As the nomination deadline draws ever nearer, so the selections are now coming thick and fast.
First in today’s set of shortlists is Devizes, where readers will recall I already reported an unusually long shortlist of six last week. I noted at the time that there were signs of a tug of war over the selection between the association and CCHQ, and so it has proved. Late last week I revealed that the association chairman, Brigadier Peter Sharpe, had resigned in protest at an attempt by the central party to cull the list down to three.
Evidently they have succeeded – arguing, as I understand it, that the association was operating outside the selection rules by adding in candidates of its own choosing, and had by implication tried to bounce CCHQ into accepting six. That’s a little difficult to measure given that despite my repeated requests the Party still has not actually published the selection rules by which it is operating, but the effect has been to remove Laura Farris (a barrister), Rupert Harrison (George Osborne’s former adviser) and Dominic Morris (an ex-RAF farmer). The association’s annoyance becomes more evident when one considers that Morris and Harrison were the more locally-based candidates of the original six.
Quite what impact the row will have on local morale remains to be seen, but here is the newly shortened shortlist for Saturday’s selection:
Devizes (Conservative majority: 21,136)
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. She was a finalist in Cities of London and Westminster last Sunday.
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.
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 for 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. Despite his work for Cameron, Kruger describes his heroes as “Gove, Johnson, Carswell, [and] Hannan”. His mother is Prue Leith, judge of the Great British Bake Off.
Broadland (Conservative majority: 15,816)
Meanwhile, the three finalists who will face the selection meeting in Broadland on Wednesday are:
Nick Conrad. The presenter of BBC Radio Norfolk’s breakfast show – until last Thursday, when he left the Corporation with “immediate effect”, apparently to contest this selection – Conrad worked for the BBC for 12 years. He has been a vocal campaigner for those suffering from Alzheimers, inspired by his grandmother’s experience of the condition.
Alicia Kearns is an expert in counter-terrorism, and formerly worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During her time at the FCO she advised over 70 governments on the fight against ISIS, and she has also worked at the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice. Kearns was the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Mitcham and Morden in 2017.
Jerome Mayhew: For the last ten years Mayhew has been Managing Director of Go Ape, the outdoor adventure company founded by his brother and sister-in-law. Prior to joining that business, he was a barrister for a decade, and he is a graduate of the Cranfield University School of Management. He is the son of Patrick, later Lord, Mayhew, who served in the Cabinets of Margaret Thatcher and John Major.