Voters in Croydon South are being used as human guinea pigs by the local Conservative party.
From dozens of applicants, the Tories have whittled down to a final 15 the candidates still in the running to replace Tricky Dicky Ottaway as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the 15,000 majority safe seat come the next parliamentary election.
And last weekend, these MP wannabes were given a practical test, examining what Kirsty Allsop might call their “kerb appeal”. They were sent out in two wards in the constituency, knocking on doors to see how good they are at canvassing (or in some cases, dealing with barking dogs), all assessed by a local councillor.
Given that florid-faced Mike Fisher, the leader of the Tory group which controls Croydon Town Hall, is thought to be among the hopefuls, you wonder quite what his “councillor assessor” will have made of his boss’s performance on the doorstep.
Mark Wallace, on the ConservativeHome website, welcomes the initiative to test prospective candidates’ campaigning skills; not that Tricky Dicky has ever had to do much in the way of campaigning in a constituency in which he has never lived.
“All too often selections rely on good interviews and entertaining speeches without testing how candidates communicate when face to face with the electorate,” Wallace writes.
Wallace reveals that the test may have impacted the selection pecking order: “I’m told that the process threw up some genuinely challenging situations, and turned the selection panel’s opinion of several candidates on its head. While some seized the moment and impressed, a couple faltered badly – all of which helps to inform the decision for the final shortlist.”
Among the local Tory members taking part in the sifting process to arrive at a three-person shortlist is none other than the Sage of Selsdon, Anne Piles. “The candidates might struggle to get a word in edge ways,” our mole outside Croydon Conservatives’ Purley headquarters suggested.
Candidate interviews will be held next week, before a final three are put to a vote of Croydon South Tory members.
As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, those applying included two Downing Street aides, Oliver Dowden and Laura Trott (no, not that one), while Waddon councillor and Viridor delivery boy Simon “I’m cheap but I’m not free” Hoar also put himself forward.
According to our sources in Purley, an interesting inclusion in the 15 is Rachel Joyce, a NHS doctor of 20 years’ experience and mother of two from Hertfordshire with strong links to international human rights organisations. She was the losing Tory candidate in Harrow West at the 2010 General Election. That she was an adviser to Andrew Lansley when he was formulating Tory policy on the health service when in opposition might raise a few interesting questions if she rolls up on your doorstep in the next few months.
Coming to Croydon
- Lakes Playground group’s fundraising Zumba-ween: Oct 26
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- The Railway Children: Oct 30-Nov 2
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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