As the Conservatives prepare for a predicted landslide victory on June 8, the selection process for the new generation of prospective MPs is a critical one. The party is carefully laying the groundwork for its next five — or 10 — years in power and is assembling a cohort that is consistent with the contemporary face of Conservatism. It is keen to prove that it has taken on board the easy criticisms: that it is too white, too posh and too male, for starters.
And its answer has been to promote a group of young, though experienced, independent-minded, though not unpredictable candidates — many of whom are, incidentally, female.
It’s a PR move as much as a political one. This is the party that has given the country both its female prime ministers — and makes much of the fact — so it’s an astute move to ensure that women have been highly visible on selection lists.
These are the new names to watch.
Conservative majority: 24,991
Badenoch, 37, is a Londoner, and her political career has centred on the capital. Wimbledon-born, she was (unsuccessfully) on the selection list for Hampstead and Kilburn this time round, has served as the governor of two schools in the capital, and is currently deputy leader of the Tory group in the London Assembly. In the end, she was selected for the suburban Essex seat of Saffron Walden — though she won’t grumble: it’s a very safe Conservative seat with a majority of almost 25,000. It’s “surreal” to be fighting the election. “A few weeks ago, I had no idea there’d be an election, let alone that I’d be fighting a winnable seat.” She acknowledges that Saffron Walden is a “winnable” seat but says she’ll be fighting “for every vote”. The mood in her camp is “nervous excitement”. “I know many people are expecting our party to do well, but the last two years have shown us that polls aren’t always right and elections can be very unpredictable!”
Badenoch, a mother of two, grew up partly in the US and Nigeria and has degrees in engineering and law. In a past life she was an associate director at Coutts bank and the head of digital at Right-leaning weekly The Spectator — current editor Fraser Nelson notes that she is the third Spectator alumnus to graduate to politics (she joins Nigel Lawson and Boris Johnson).
“You’re unlikely to meet a more staunch Conservative,” Nelson wrote in a piece for the magazine’s website on Tuesday, “and someone who loves of the British way of life because she chose it rather than was born into it.
“She’s a rare combination: an original thinker, a robust debater and someone who defies all kinds of caricatures.”
Hornchurch and Upminster
Conservative majority: 13,074
Dockerill’s appointment is logical: she has been a local councillor in the area since 2014 and has been an active member of its Conservative community for longer. Nationally, she will be hoping to reposition herself: until now she has been best known for being the parliamentary aide to Mark Field — the one who inadvertently revealed briefing documents that may or may not have been the Government’s then strategy on Brexit — “have cake and eat it” being the top line. The 32-year-old has also been a Tory councillor in Tower Hamlets since 2014.
The Conservative Home website reports that she is “currently working on a social and economic modern history of London called London in the Noughties”.
If elected, she’ll replace Dame Angela Watkinson, who returned a majority of more than 13,000 in 2015, and has been MP there since 2001.
Conservative majority: 24,413
Keegan is director of the Tories’ Women2Win movement, co-founded by May, which campaigns for the selection of women in seats across the country. Now she’s been picked herself, in the safe seat of Chichester, where she is currently a councillor.
Due to her role at Women2Win, she’s been a visible activist for a while — just last week, she co-wrote an impassioned piece for Conservative Home calling for more action against sexism from within the party itself.
“The commission’s survey of councillors found that overt sexism is worryingly commonplace,” she wrote in the piece, “with 33 per cent of Conservative women councillors experiencing sexist comments
from other members of our party.”
Keegan, 49, pitches herself carefully: her Twitter biog reads, “27 years of ‘real’ jobs, now doing self-styled apprenticeship in public service!” — it is a conscious opposition to the career politician. These real jobs include executive roles in tech and banking and she remains a venture capital investor, focusing on technology businesses. On her website she states that she has “championed gender diversity and acts as a business and personal mentor to a number of businesswomen”.
Brentwood and Ongar
Conservative majority: 21,810
The only man on this list, 39-year-old Burghart is perhaps used to being over-shadowed by women: he works in Theresa May’s Downing Street operation, under joint chief-of-staff Fiona Hill and deputy chief-of-staff Jo Penn. He’s the lead adviser on social justice in May’s policy unit, and his past hats include director of policy at the Centre for Social Justice and policy adviser at the Department for Education. He’s also a former academic: he used to teach history at King’s College London.
Undeniably, Burghart’s fortunes have flipped this time around: in 2015 he stood against Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North, where the Labour leader returned a majority of more than 21,000. Residents remember him going door-to-door, hopeful if resigned to likely defeat (he came second). This time Burghart is standing in Eric Pickles’s former seat, where the former Communities Secretary had a majority of roughly the same amount.
Burghart says it feels “thunderously exciting” to be fighting #GE2017. “I’ve been out all day, every day, talking to as many local people as possible — and setting out why the constituency and the country need the strong and stable leadership only Theresa May can offer.” He’s been speaking to “movers and shakers” in his constituency.
His wife is a journalist, Hermione Eyr (who writes for the Evening Standard), and they have a daughter. In Islington North, Burghart’s manifesto included a campaign to save local pubs: this time he’s focusing on “education, health, policing, business, and farming”. His Twitter bio now includes the statement, “Conservative PPC for the epic Brentwood & Ongar”: residents will be pleased. What’s the mood in his office? “A cheerful yet steely determination underpinned by unwavering confidence in our leader. We have a fantastically committed team here who are good for a laugh and never tire of canvassing.”
Ealing Central and Acton
Labour marginal: 274
Morrissey is an adopted Londoner: she was born in America and came to the capital to study for a masters at the LSE. The 36-year-old candidate is now a British citizen and married to an Ealing native. She speaks Chinese and Albanian and has one daughter.
Labour MP Rupa Huq’s majority is eye-wateringly small in Ealing Central, and Morrissey has got off to a fighting start: Tory activists on Twitter report that she has been converting Labour voters on the doorsteps — and she doesn’t need to get many to take the seat. She says she’s “very honoured” to have been selected. The Ealing Central camp is “extremely positive but not complacent”.
Morrissey has worked at the Centre for Social Justice since November 2016 and runs its events. She has also worked in Westminster, managing parliamentary and constituency offices for Angie Bray and Will Quince MP, though in a past life she worked on events in the film industry. Politics is probably more dramatic.
Hampstead and Kilburn
Labour marginal: 1,138
Leyland also says she feels “honoured” to have been selected to take on this north-west London constituency, one of the country’s most marginal seats — though one which has been Labour since 1992 under its previous name of Hampstead and Highgate.
Lucky for Leyland, its preoccupations in this Brexit election align with her own: 75 per cent of the constituency voted Remain, and Leyland, a Camden councillor, campaigned for Stronger In, which should play well with its liberal residents.
As should her commitment to local issues: she’s raised money for gardening groups, has fought for Belsize Community Library, and works as an art therapist in Hampstead. All this is invaluable PR in the village-like scene of NW3.
Labour marginal: 2,208
David is not new- guard: she’s been a party activist for more than 20 years and has served as a Tory councillor. She has already stood in Harrow West: in 2015 she came a narrow second to Labour’s Gareth Thomas and managed a 5.2 per cent swing to the Tories (the party’s best result in Harrow West since 1992). The photo on her candidate page shows her laughing with Boris Johnson and David Cameron.
Otherwise, David, 47, is a property lawyer — she was made partner at Jaffe Porter Crossick in 2006 — and has a masters in spatial planning from UCL. Off the back of this she founded an infrastructure think tank, Planning Futures, in 2015. She’s also the national director of the Conservative Policy Forum.
Brentford and Isleworth
Labour marginal: 465
Macleod has real skin in this game: she lost this constituency to Labour’s Ruth Cadbury by 465 votes in 2015, so the former management consultant and adviser to the Queen is back for more. Between elections she’s been a special adviser to Scotland Secretary David Mindell. The 48-year-old was born in London to Scottish parents, and studied Greek and business studies at the University of Glasgow.
Macleod beat Olympic gold medal rower James Cracknell to the selection in this seat. Her Twitter biog reads, “Be the change you want to see in the world” — let’s see if she manages it on June 8.
Follow Phoebe Luckhurst on Twitter: @phoebeluckhurst