Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Elections
10 November 2019

MP anger grows over Conservative candidate selections

The decision to move minister Mims Davies to a safer seat has inspired a furious reaction among colleagues.

By Patrick Maguire

Stories about botched or controversial selections for parliamentary candidates dominated a difficult week for both Labour and the Conservatives. One new candidate for a safe seat, however, has particularly riled Tory MPs: Mims Davies, selected earlier this week in Mid-Sussex. 

Davies, of course, isn’t really a new candidate at all, but a serving minister. Having won Eastleigh in Hampshire from the Liberal Democrats in 2015, she announced that she would not stand again late last month.

Colleagues immediately suspected that she would not leave the Commons but instead seek selection in Mid-Sussex. The county was singled out for special mention in her resignation statement – her children live there – and she is close to Nick Soames, the retiring MP.

Those suspicions have been proven correct – much to the consternation of other members of the 2015 intake. Davies had personal reasons for moving, but that her old seat might be at risk of a loss to the resurgent Liberal Democrats – who held Eastleigh for 21 years before her first victory, and still control the local council – has not been lost on other Tory MPs. 

Two of them, Andrea Jenkyns and Lucy Allan, aired their complaints on WhatsApp groups for Conservative MPs last night. Both have slender majorities and feel that they have been left to struggle by CCHQ while Davies receives preferential treatment. Others grumble that she has gamed the system and embarked on a “chicken run” to a safer seat.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

For many Conservative MPs, Davies’ case is symptomatic of a deeper problem with selections. One member of the government complains of “lots of special advisers on shortlists, and many more poor but connected candidates”. Another frontbencher, defending a tight majority in an English marginal, adds: “It’s a case of ‘who you know’, and ticking the right boxes. There is fury among decent Tory MPs about what Davies has done.” They fear that the price of winning a majority could be a markedly worse parliamentary party.

Content from our partners
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping
Why digital inclusion is a vital piece of levelling up

Though we can expect to hear plenty about the Labour leadership stitching up selections for its allies before nominations close next Thursday, Conservative MPs believe that their own party’s hierarchy is just as guilty.