Giles Watling – the former councillor and actor who has represented Clacton in Parliament since 2017, and is one of two (that I know of) Tory MPs related to Doctor Who companions – has failed to be automatically re-adopted as the candidate for the revised boundaries of his seat after he lost a vote among senior local members.
The vote took place on April 6th. Watling has announced that he will exercise his right to take his case for re-adoption to the wider membership. When asked by ConservativeHome, Watling provided this statement:
“My selection as our candidate will go to the members. I’ve lived here for decades and been a party member for decades. So I’m very relaxed at fellow members and neighbours having their say. I’ve worked flat out to bring investment here, such as the £17m for Clacton Hospital and the £20m levelling up fund. This is as well as acting on the national issues Clacton people are worried about such as stopping the boats. I look forward to engaging with party members about how I can keep Clacton blue, having gained the seat back for us in 2017.”
From that statement, one gets the impression Watling feels rather chipper. And why shouldn’t he? He currently sits on a majority of 56.8 per cent, with the Tories taking 72.3 per cent of the vote at the last election. Readers will remember the seat was formerly that of UKIP defector Douglas Carswell. Watling has held it since 2017. In the redrawing of boundaries it has gained three small parts of Harwich and North Essex, but is predicted to remain solidly blue.
Nevertheless, a local source got in touch with ConservativeHome to share another side of the story. They said the “meeting for Giles’ re-adoption was surprisingly quiet” but “many felt his ‘performance’ was lacklustre”. His speech reportedly began with him talking about being “an accidental candidate” due to the 2014 by-election and the two subsequent general elections.
According to this source, most people they spoke to “came away feeling that Giles just lacked” a clear “reason why he was there”. Watling “rarely stated why he should remain as an MP or anything that personally differed him from any other people who could be generically put into the role.” A bit like how I worry about my job being taken by ChatGPT.
Concerns were also raised about an underwhelming Facebook page, and his website, which includes a rather large cover photo of Watling – a member of the armed forces scheme in Parliament – in military uniform. The collective impression is given of an MP lacking in the connection to his constituency one might expect – and whose efforts to develop one have left something to be desired.
Of course, Watling would dispute that – and I welcome any local members to message me to share their take. But those criticisms of Watling put me in mind of similar concerns raised about fellow non-adoptees Richard Bacon and Julie Marson. The trend so far has been for MPs who fail to be automatically re-adopted to be re-selected by their members. We shall see if Watling joins their club.
As ever, please get in touch with me about any info you have about candidates and selections in your area at email@example.com.