Rochester and Strood will have a by-election on 20 November. This is the constituency of Mark Reckless, the former Tory MP who triggered this by-election by defecting to Ukip on the eve of Conservative party conference. Because his personal standing in the area is not as significant as Douglas Carswell’s in Clacton, and also due to the seat only being the 271st friendliest Ukip seat, the Tories are gearing up to battle hard to keep hold of this constituency.
One of their tactics is a postal primary, letting voters select their candidate to fight the seat. As part of this strategy, David Cameron has written to the constituents, outlining the credentials of the two Tory candidates voters can choose between in the primary: Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth.
His letter shows clearly how the Conservative party is looking to approach this by-election. It is positioning itself as the trustworthy, serious option, against what it is painting as silly, flash-in-the-pan publicity chasers: Ukip. Cameron condemns Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless for turning the election into a “national media circus” and concludes his plea with: “No stunts: just a strong local candidate you can trust.”
Here’s the letter:
YOU SELECT THE CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE FOR THE ROCHESTER AND STROOD BY-ELECTION
Following the resignation of Mark Reckless, the Conservative Party now has to choose a new candidate to contest the upcoming by-election. And as you may have already heard, we’re putting the people of Rochester and Strood in the drivers seat.
We’re inviting you – regardless of which Party you support – to help us make that decision through a postal primary election. This is a unique and exciting opportunity that the other parties aren’t offering. In fact, it’s only happened a few times before in British history.
Every voter will be sent a ballot paper in the mail, along with the details of each candidate by the local Conservative Association. And before you vote you’ll have the chance to meet the candidates and hear their plans for our area at public meetings around the constituency.
It’s your chance to make a positive choice for the future of Rochester and Strood by selecting the Conservative candidate, so you have the best chance of getting a local MP that you can trust to stand up for you and your family. So don’t pass it up!
Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless want to turn this election into a national media circus – we want it to be about you and what you want for the future of this area.
The decision is in your hands. There’s no stunts or backroom deals, just a strong local candidate you can trust.
OUR CANDIDATES – KELLY TOLHURST AND ANNA FIRTH
So today we are very excited to announce that the two people who will be contesting the postal primary are Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth – two strong local candidates who you can trust to fight for your interests.
Kelly has lived and worked here all her life. The daughter of a boat builder, she now runs her own marine survey business in Rochester and has served as a local councillor for over three years. As a life-long resident who has seen our area grow and change over the years, Kelly understands the benefits new investment can provide for local people. But she has also seen the strain that excessive immigration has put on housing and our local services. So if she’s elected, Kelly will work hard to secure a better future for our area by pushing for more serious action to get immigration under control, working to improve the service at Medway Hospital, fighting for improvements to our local primary schools and helping small businesses get the government investment they need to create more jobs.
Anna lives in Kent with her husband and three children. Formerly a barrister, she now serves on the local council where she has worked to successfully secure funding for sports facilities and a new nursery, delivered changes to welfare and campaigned for the regeneration of our high streets. Growing up in Essex as the daughter of an engineer and a school teacher, and now with a son at school in Rochester and a brother who works at Medway Maritime Hospital, Anna knows the issues that matter to you because they also matter to her. If elected to serve the people of Rochester and Strood she would fight for more police on our streets to tackle anti-social behaviour, better health services and a better deal for our armed forces, to whom we own so much.
But remember this primary process is all about you. It’s your chance to make a positive choice for the future of Rochester and Strood by selecting the Conservative Party candidate. Kelly or Anna, the decision is in your hands.
No stunts: just a strong local candidate you can trust.
The question is whether the Tories painting themselves as the only serious option will just feed into voters’ perceptions of the arrogance of establishment political parties.