90 people apply to be Conservative candidate for Stamford MP job
About 90 applications have been received from people hoping to be the Conservative candidate and eventually Stamford's next MP.
A vacancy on the Tory party arose after current constituency MP Nick Boles quit the Conservatives after his outspoken views on Brexit led to disputes with the local association. Mr Boles has vowed to remain as an independent MP until the next General Election is called.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) in London is overseeing the contest. It is only accepting candidates who have been ‘vetted’ and appear on a list of approved candidates. However, the final selection will be made locally by party members.
The deadline for nominations passed last Monday, with the association executive this week meeting to create a ‘sifting committee’ to whittle down the applicants.
Association vice-president Philip Sagar says around 90 applications were received - around double what was expected - but about the same as 10 years ago when Mr Boles was selected.
The Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association does not yet know who the candidates are, but with a lack of boundary changes affecting the upcoming general election, it is less likely a 'big beast', such as a cabinet minister who might have 'lost' their constituency, will have applied for the safe seat. Thus, the chances of a local person being selected are improved.
Mr Sagar, a former association chairman, says the committee will soon whittle down the numbers down to around 10 for the association executive to interview on July 27.
A shortlist of two to four candidates will then be put to the association’s 500 members in a final vote soon afterwards.
Mr Sagar added: “I think it will all be done and dusted by early August.”
Current chairman Martin Trollope-Bellew says CCHQ may further intervene and ask certain candidates if they are ‘compatible’ with the constituency, noting both its current and previous MP Quentin Davies, quit the party, with Mr Davies joining Labour in 2007 and Mr Boles becoming an Independent MP earlier this year.
Mr Trollope-Bellew expects much interest from constituents in the battle ahead. “The selection is very important within the constituency. It’s about who best will serve the people of the constituency.”
Among the candidates who are known is Coun Kelham Cooke, the current deputy-leader of South Kesteven District Council, who said: “This contest is about the person who is going to stand up in the House of Commons. They are going to represent the views of the constituents of this area in Parliament. This individual is going to be banging the drum for this area.”
Coun Cooke, 29, promotes himself as the ‘local lad’ who arrived in South Kesteven from Chesterfield when he was very young, living in Helpston, Carlby and Uffington. He attended Kirkstone House School in Baston, Stamford School and Nottingham Trent University.
He worked for MP Nick Boles as his party agent and communications officer. He has been a district councillor for Barholm since he was 20 and deputy leader of SKDC since he was 26.
Another candidate for selection is Richard Short, who was born in Corby to a steelworker father, and moved to a flat in Westgate, Grantham, situated above an antique shop run by his mother.
The 49-year-old father of three adult children attended schools in Grantham. After University, he worked in environmental health, with career and family leading to a ‘forced exile’ in Warrington, where he stood for the Conservatives in the 2015 General Election.
Mr Short says he first became interested in politics when as a child in 1979 his dad told him Margaret Thatcher was from Grantham and she was about to win her first General Election. Regardless of such inspiration, Mr Short has been a trade unionist most of his life and is deputy-director of Union Blue, formerly the Tory Workers organisation.
In 2017, Nick Boles won the Grantham and Stamford seat with a 20,000 majority, gaining 62 per cent of the vote.
But even Mr Sagar accepts the seat can no longer be considered safe, noting 61 per cent voted ‘leave’ in 2016.