Conservative Central just don’t get it. They pay lip service to the idea that the electorate are up in arms about MPs expenses, they mutter that the electorate are ‘our Masters’, then they fail to see that it is for the local people to send a candidate to London to represent them – not for London to send their fancy candidate up to Norfolk and inform the locals that this is who will represent them.
Admittedly South Norfolk have had their troubles in the past, they botched their last selection attempt and after a re-run, ended up with Christopher Fraser who had not been their first choice.
Fraser was not a local man, the house in the constituency for which he claimed expenses often seemed his only tangible link with Norfolk, so much so that ‘Where’s Fraser?’ jokes, in the manner of ‘Find Wally’ proliferated.
Liz Truss was a popular candidate in the lowlands of Norfolk, but the secrecy that was imposed on the final selection meeting, with no mobile phones allowed and no one able to leave the room, detonates the lie that the ‘local turnips’ as the good people of Norfolk were referred to, should have ‘googled’ Liz Truss’s name before voting for her if they were they concerned about ’skeletons in her cupboard’. By the time they knew her name, on the crucial voting day, they had no opportunity – on pain of not being allowed to vote – to leave the room and ‘google’ her.
It is a PR disaster for the Conservatives, on the one hand Central Office has been shown to be domineering and more interested in finding a safe seat for one of their star candidates than representing the wishes of the local electorate, on the other hand, South Norfolk has been made to look as though the Conservatives haven’t moved on in the past 50 years – portrayed as a collection of Mary Whitehouse types who objected to a girl with a ’sullied past’.
Either way, the Conservative Party is the loser.
The Party told the local Association that if they didn’t accept Truss as their candidate, then they would be ‘made to’ chose another candidate from a short list of three drawn up by London.
That, really, has been the problem all along, not a sordid affair over three years ago. People in Norfolk have affairs all the time, there is little else to while away the long cold winters in the Fens. They are broad minded.
They don’t like being patronised by a metropolitan elite, and digging their heels in over the past three weeks has hopefully taught Cameron a valuable lesson.
Local Associations are there to chose and support a local candidate – not to campaign and raise money to ensure a safe seat for someone selected for them by London.
Personally I would have been very happy for South Norfolk to not only refuse to endorse Truss, but to refuse to campaign for any candidate foisted on them by London, and if necessary for every last Tory member to go out campaigning for an independent candidate of their choice, and let the ‘metro’ boys come down and trudge along country lanes trying in vain to get votes for their star.
It would have given all the big political parties a valuable lesson in hubris.
Unfortunately, I have been disappointed – tonight the Swaffham Association have endorsed Liz Truss.