Downing Street tips its advisors for parliamentary selection

Laura Trott bikeOn yer bike. Downing Street has spoken and Laura Trott is one of its three preferred candidates to run for the Conservatives in the ultra-safe Tory Croydon South seat in 2015.

But you might want to hit your Shimano brakes… It’s not that Laura Trott.

Conservative Home, the very well-connected website, yesterday turned its attention to Croydon matters. But with around 300 applicants for selection – “I wouldn’t be surprised if half the candidates’ list have applied,” one local activist has said – the Tory website has managed to mention only three potential candidates.

Two of them just happen to be Downing Street advisors, while the other is a high-roller who heads up an organisation of Tory donors.

If Conservative Home’s endorsement is not a nudge and a wink to members in Croydon South when it comes to choosing the candidate to succeed “Lord Bletchingley”, aka Tricky Dicky Ottaway, when he stands down from his 15,000 majority sinecure, then we don’t know what is. Although it might be a tad too subtle for the likes of the Sage (and Thyme) of Selsdon, Anne Piles, who is one of around a dozen members appointed to the Croydon South selection panel.

As Inside Croydon reported earlier this week, on the list of applicants is Oliver Dowden, which Conservative Home confirms approvingly. Dowden is David Cameron’s deputy chief of staff. If Dowden were any good at that job, the Prime Minister would surely want him to stick around; if Dowden isn’t up to it, then what better wheeze than easing him into one of the safest seats in London? Conservative Home says that Dowden is “one of the government’s most capable advisers”, though the benchmark in that respect has not been set particularly high.

The "real" Laura Trott: Camden councillor and No10 spad Laura Trott, coming to a selection meeting in Croydon soon?

The “real” Laura Trott: Camden councillor and No10 spad Laura Trott, coming to a selection meeting in Croydon soon?

Two other names hand-picked for mention by Conservative Home (whose founder now works alongside Gideon Osborne‘s mate and speechwriter, and whose former deputy editor scribbles gags for Cameron’s speeches) are Chris Philp and Trott.

Philp is one of the country’s leading businessmen, but even as Labour was in meltdown at the 2010 General Election, he failed – albeit by 42 votes – to unseat Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn. Although the posh bits of north London are targeted in the Tories’ 40/40 plan to try to win an election in 2015, Philp has opted to come south of the river to further his political ambitions. So another opportunistic wannabe seeking a parliamentary job for life, then, just like Ottaway before him?

As the chairman of “Team 2000” – annual membership a cool two grand – Philp heads up what the Conservatives describe as “the principal group of donors who support and market the party’s policies in Government, by hearing them first hand from the Leader and key Conservative politicians through a lively programme of drinks receptions, dinner and discussion”. So doubtless Philp may have had an opportunity to discuss his choice of constituency over the port with “Call Me Dave”.

Unlike Dowden and Philp, the third person named by Conservative Home, Laura Trott does at least have a successful track record of elected office. Though not here in Croydon, but as a councillor in Camden.

Trott’s day job is as an adviser to Cameron on women’s issues, education and childcare. Previously, she worked as a spad to Francis Maude, one of the most influential figures in the cabinet.

While the Tories will not sanction all-women short-lists, Croydon South’s local members might be shrewdly steered towards choosing a woman candidate. After all, the likes of Charlotte Vere and Trott cannot possibly be any worse than the bungling burghers from Katharine Street, such as florid-faced Mike Fisher, Simon “I’m cheap but I’m not free” Hoar and Councillor Lynn Hale, current MP Ottaway’s office help.

Faced with such a lack of real political talent locally, yet again, when selection for a plum elected position is being discussed, the major political parties seem set to work towards ensuring jobs for the boys (or gals), parachuting in professional politicos from outside the borough. 

Of course, we fully expect Croydon South resident Gary Barlow, the MP for Croydon Central, to express utter outrage that the Tories should even be considering outsiders like Dowden and Trott. Because if Barwell does not criticise such candidates, he might be open to charges of hypocrisy, and he’d never want that to happen, would he?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Croydon South, Lynne Hale, Mike Fisher, Richard Ottaway MP, Simon Hoar and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Downing Street tips its advisors for parliamentary selection

  1. ” Anne Piles” – shurley shome mishtake

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