Tories move to replace Change UK defectors

The party has quietly opened selections in five plum seats in a bid to show there will be "no way back" for those who quit over Brexit.

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The Conservatives have opened selections in the seats vacated by the four MPs who quit the party over Brexit, the New Statesman has learned. 

Approved Tory candidates have been invited to apply in Broxtowe, held by Anna Soubry; Grantham and Stamford, held by Nick Boles; South Cambridgeshire, held by Heidi Allen; and Totnes, held by Sarah Wollaston. 

Sanctioned centrally by Tory chairman Brandon Lewis, the move has been characterised by one source familiar with the process as a bid to show there will be "no way back" for those MPs who have resigned the whip. 

Also vacant is the Tory candidacy in Bosworth, Leicestershire. David Tredinnick, the incumbent MP, will stand down at the next election. 

Applications for the five seats – which, with the exception of Broxtowe, are all notionally safe – opened on 24 May and close on 17 June. 

The ideological hue of the candidates shortlisted – and the Brexit stances of those who eventually succeed – will provide a key early indication of the mood among the Tory grassroots ahead of the leadership ballot of party members next month.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.