The spread of the Turnip Taliban
Yesterday's showdown in Swaffham over the attempt by the redneck wing of the Tory Party, AKA the Turnip Taliban, to deselect their PPC for not telling them loudly enough about her fling with a Tory MP, won't be the last bit of Tory infighting over selections.
David Cameron seems determined to scrub what few elements of internal party democracy have ever existed in the Tories as he seeks to use the flurry of late selections to create a parliamentary party in his own image and owing its loyalty to him personally for shoe-horning them in against the (admittedly bigoted) wishes of local activists.
In doing so he is exhibiting more control-freakery than Tony Blair was ever able to dream of even in the heyday of year zero New Labour.
In the Labour Party the usual selection procedure involves nominations by local party branches and affiliates, shortlisting by the constituency General Committee, and a final all-member vote at a hustings. Thus ordinary local activists get an input into the process at every stage.
In the new Tory set-up the choice of candidates who the constituency members get to see and vote for isn't in the hands of local activists. Instead the shortlist is picked by a joint meeting, at CCHQ in London, of six constituency representatives with, on the other side of the table the intimidating presence of Eric Pickles MP and massed ranks of Central Office enforcers and apparatchiks letting them know exactly whom the leadership want to get given a hearing in their seat. So even if local members don't get the choice of candidate taken away from them and handed to an open primary (so far only used in Totnes) or an open caucus misdescribed as a primary (as used in Bedford), they can still only pick from those six people Cameron, Pickles and the CCHQ bureaucracy have given the nod to. The reality behind the Truss incident is that her alleged non-disclosure was probably just the excuse the locals latched onto to try and reopen a selection where they felt the local candidates hadn't made it onto the shortlist and had been stitched up for one of the Notting Hill set (a bit unfair as Truss is actually based in Greenwich, though that's equally far from SW Norfolk).
Other constituencies where bust-ups between the local Tories and CCHQ have leaked into the public domain (mainly thanks to ConservativeHome) are:
Bethnal Green & Bow: The locals refused to ratify the candidate selected by an open primary. They have yet to select an alternative candidate. Why this fuss over a seat where the Tories are in a notional fourth place?
Bracknell: ConservativeHome reported “Bracknell councillors unhappy at "CCHQ’s shortlist"".
Bromsgrove: The local association seem to be backing Julie Kirkbride's attempt to overturn her resignation over expenses.
Bournemouth West: Camden Councillor Mike Greene won an open caucus and then the locals overturned the result and sacked him as candidate after he had given up his council seat and moved there.
Cambridge: Former CCHQ staffer Richard Normington resigned as candidate after falling out with the association officers.
Cambridgeshire North East: Local activists discovered that only A-listers were informed about the selection timetable for the seat, excluding local candidates such as the Eurosceptic Lee Rotheram. There were also allegations that CCHQ promised more campaign support for local associations which chose a female candidate.
Dudley North: CCHQ had to stop the selection after the local members refused to implement quotas and short listed nine men and three women.
Gosport: Local members are angry that the shortlist doesn’t include anyone actually from Gosport.
Macclesfield: Another case of CCHQ blocking local candidates from the shortlist. Two leading members have resigned in protest.
Mid Norfolk: Mid Norfolk ignored the CCHQ criteria and refused to have a quota on their shortlist.
Penrith & The Border. Local members want to sack their new and high-profile candidate
Rory Stewart after none of the shortlisted candidates was local.
Plymouth Sutton: As in Bethnal Green and Bournemouth the local activists refused to endorse the candidate picked by an open caucus.
Tynemouth: An A-lister was picked over a local councillor, causing a public row.
Woking: This time the row was over timetabling, with CCHQ wanting to delay the process until they could vet all of the applicants while the local party wanted to select as soon as possible.
Wycombe: the selection has been suspended by Eric Pickles leading to the resignation of a member of the association's management committee.