Today was a great day for local democracy. Over 250 local residents went to a meeting at a local school to select the next Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative party in North East Hampshire. What made this unusual was that over 100 of these residents were not party members, for this was an open primary.
4 candidates were presented to us. Helen Whately and Spencer Pitfield were very good. They presented themselves well, answered the questions with skill, and made a generally good impression. It would have been very close between them had they been the only two candidates, and both would make excellent MPs.
However, on this occasion we also had 2 outstanding candidates. Victoria Atkins is a name I am sure we will hear again, as she will certainly get a seat soon. She spoke with conviction, fire and passion, and on any other day would probably have won.
But today, there was also an outstanding local candidate, brought up and schooled in the constituency, and with 5 years experience on the local council. Ranil Jayawardena spoke brilliantly, also with passion and conviction.
The vote was taken, and after a nervous wait, Ranil was confirmed as the victor, and after the formality of ratification by the local party membership was formally selected as the next candidate for the Conservatives at the 2015 election.
Conservatives often get a bad press, but this venture into more open and accountable local politics is to be commended. There are no 'Falkirk' moments in the Conservative party.
Oh, and Ranil is also a Christian, and a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.
The Government will be a much better place with the likes of Ranil (and Victoria, Helen and Spencer) in it. A new breed of Conservatives are rising, ones in touch with their local constituents, because they have to convince them to even get selected.
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