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As the old saying has it, quoted in Goldfinger: “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”
First, Sally-Ann Hart’s Executive voted to deselect her in Hastings and Rye. That looked like a one-off with no wider political implications.
Then Damian Green wasn’t adopted – but for a new seat, the Weald of Kent, not his present one, Ashford. (Though the former will contain part of the latter because of boundary changes. Hence Green’s eligibility for consideration.)
As William Atkinson explained on this site, the decision had less to do with Green’s left-of-Tory-centre politics than the new Association’s executive wanting a choice of candidate.
But now Theo Clarke’s Executive has voted to deselect her. Her statement below suggests that her absence on maternity leave was a trigger. However, her politics are not dissimilar to Green’s.
It’s best to discount the usual claims by the usual suspects that the decision was connected to the fall of Boris Johnson – at least, until or unless there is independent verification.
But it’s beginning to look as though the reselection of Conservative MPs by their local Associations, previously a matter of course, cannot simply be assumed after the turbulent events of the last year (and indeed since the 2019 general election).
Some decisions may turn out to relate to Johnson, Liz Truss, the current plight of the Government – and all the rest of it. Association members are unlikely, as a rule, to be to the left of their MPs.
However, I suspect that the majority will be more closely related to the way we live now. Consumer demands of politicians’ performance are very high – and some executives may feel that their local MP isn’t pulling his or her weight.
Nor will it do for such MPs to be assiduous in courting their constituents but careless with their members. And there is a wider dimension.
Our current monthly survey results are still coming in, but as matters stand they bode ill for the current leadership. Were I to sum up the membership’s mood in a sentence, it would be: “Why isn’t this a more conservative country after over 12 years in office?”
It was this sense that Kemi Badernoch most caught in last summer’s leadership election during its Parliamentary stage. And which Liz Truss captured better than Rishi Sunak when the contest went to the members.
At any rate, here is Clarke’s statement: