...Looks like Liz Truss's failed to open, given her impact on the Conservatives (and others) in the Norfolk consituency that didn't choose her as a PPC. "Lead balloon" springs to mind.
At all times, candidates for Member of Parliament should be local people. I would have thought that was blindingly obvious to all but Iain Dale, who's banging on about it in yet another pretty bitchy little post today (you have to wonder whether his personal ambitions in the direction of parliament have coloured his judgment on this), Conservative Party Central Office - and, oh yeah, the Labour Party. I doubt if Dale would be in the running for MP anywhere were it not for the prospect of the helpful parachute. Mind you, it looks like he might have given up after coming third in Bracknell. Don't get me wrong, however, I wish neither him nor Miss Truss any ill will. I just don't like candidates foisted on people. It's a stitch-up, it's patronising, it takes the electorate for granted and it should never be tolerated. To put it another way, there should be a law against it.
Conservative policy on this really does need to be clarified, as the excellent DT commentary from Melanie McDonagh (see link above) states. To say there are mixed signals coming from the Tory high command on localism is a major understatement. Pickles' presence, no less, is required.
Iain Dale (I had no idea he read this little blog - maybe he has staff to do it for him) believes that the shortlist system helps to stop the "parachute effect" from ever happening, although he didn't put it quite like that (see comments). I'm not convinced, frankly, although I concede that the picture is more complex than the one I painted in my slightly bilious initial remarks. It does not, for instance, answer the question that is being put by Swaffham's Conservative Association: how much influence does, can and should Central Office bring to bear on local Associations in the selection of candidates? A better argument for universal open primaries (or open caucuses, to be precise) I have yet to hear. Mr Dale himself came a dignified cropper because of this excellent innovation as the people of the constituency for which he had hoped to stand opted for someone who, in terms of the crowded clusters of towns and villages in the south east of England at least, qualifies as a local man.
Interesting, that, and, I think, goes some way to proving my point. In the case of Elisabeth Truss, David Cameron on the radio just now said that he thought she would be an excellent candidate and that he hopes she is selected. I am sure he is absolutely right - she would most likely be an effective MP. But given that he sounds like he's otherwise washed his hands of the whole affair, it seems she's on her own, and we haven't been given the policy clarification on MPs' independence, localism and the relationship between constituency and party that is clearly needed.
We haven't forgotten about the expenses scandal yet. Does David Cameron (and, perhaps, Mr Dale) really need to be reminded just who MPs are elected to serve: constituency, parliament and party in that order?