James Cracknell, the two-time Olympic gold medallist, has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Colchester. He hopes to replace Will Quince, who won the constituency from the Liberal Democrats in 2015 and is standing down. According to Electoral Calculus, the seat had an implied majority of 9,552 in 2019.
Cracknell’s sporting achievements need little introduction. His coxless four crew won gold at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games. In 2019 he became the oldest person – by a decade – to ever compete in the Boat Race whilst studying for a DPhil at Peterhouse. Clearly he has something for winning Blues, since he has previously stood for the European Parliament, and was linked with Henley this summer.
Paul Dundas – the leader of the Conservatives’ group on the city council – predicted victory for Cracknell, since he is a “guy who doesn’t like losing”. He was, according to Dundas, the “clear choice of members”, and reportedly won on the first ballot. It is said he was given no special treatment, and impressed members with his enthusiasm and interest in campaigning.
Cracknell’s selection is interesting for several reasons. He obviously lends a little star power to the current crop of Conservative candidates. ConservativeHome has immense respect for Nick Timothy, but even we must admit that the Telegraph’s star columnist has no Olympic medals. Yet it is not only in name recognition that Cracknell’s selection is set apart from others.
ConservativeHome has much of the trend towards ‘local champions’ in recent selections. As Dan Hannan pointed out for us two weeks ago, at the time of his writing, 26 of the 38 candidates so far selected were either local councillors or long-standing members of their associations. Cracknell is neither, and does not appear to have any particular ties to Colchester. He originally hails from Sutton.
But also of interest about Cracknell is his age. At 51, he is hardly old. But he is still more than a decade older than Quince, who is standing down to spend more time with his family. In his eight years as an MP so far, he has served in a variety of ministerial roles, and clearly feels he has served his due. He epitomises the increasing rate at which MPs stand down: 9.8 years on average for men, in this cycle.
Celebrities and politics don’t always mix. For every Glenda Jackson there is a Louise Bagshawe. If Cracknell succeeds in retaining the constituency – which Electoral Calculus currently predicts to turn red – there is the possibility that he may not take to politics as readily as to the water. If so, will we see yet more turnover? That average age may continue to tick downwards.
Nonetheless, ConservativeHome wishes him all the best in directing his competitive spirit to keeping Colchester blue. As ever, if you have any information about candidates or selections in your constituency, please e-mail at email@example.com.