Tory chairman’s last minute bid for seat as party scrambles to find up to 141 candidates

The Tories are desperately scrambling to get up to 141 candidates in place ahead of the deadline at 4pm on Friday.

Among the last ditch selections will be party members in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich tonight making a decision on whether to adopt party chairman Richard Holden amid a row that he is being “parachuted” into the constituency after “going on a chicken run” from the north east of England.

The seat was left open as a result of Dr Dan Poulter defecting to Labour from the Conservatives a few weeks before the election was called.

When the election was called it is understood that 191 constituencies did not have a Conservative candidate, this was added to when 10 Tory MPs including Michael Gove decided to quit. Estimates leave that number still at 141 although this has been denied by some party sources.

Tory chairman Richard Holden is an MP looking for a seat (LBC)
Tory chairman Richard Holden is an MP looking for a seat (LBC)

Mr Holden is one of several homeless Tory MPs looking for a seat to contest as the party aims to resolve its nominations over the next 48 hours.

The party chairman has been linked to a number of seats after his North West Durham constituency disappeared as a result of the boundary change and he declined to stand in the neighbouring Bishop Aukland seat vacated by Dehenna Davison.

Holden had previously been linked to Billericay and Basildon. In Suffolk, Mr Holden would be up against Yasmin Al-Atroshi, a leading pharmacist and a third candidate.

There had been some speculation about whether neighbouring MP Tom Hunt may move from Ipswich but he appears to be staying in his original seat. However, he appeared to be unhappy, tweeting: “Much to ponder.”

One source said that “it was all blowing up” in the constituency over Mr Holden’s shortlisting. Other constituencies where CCHQ’s shortlists have reportedly been disputed are Great Yarmouth, Billericay and Basildon, and Bognor Regis and Littlehampton where the association chair is understood to have resigned in protest.

Among other MPs looking for a constituency are Andy Carter, who was on the Privileges Committee which found Boris Johnson guilty of misleading parliament; Nicola Richards, who was an MP in West Bromwich; and Neil Hudson, the former MP for Penrith.

Tory peer and leading pollster Lord Robert Hayward is set to chair another selection meeting tonight for another potentially safe seat in Epping Forest which has been vacated by former deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing.

The shortlist for that seat includes former special adviser Anita Boateng, Mr Hudson, ex-Lord Cameron aide Louise Staite.

Lord Hayward said: “It is true that there are a lot of seats in theory to fill but most of these are in unwinnable places like east London and the Welsh valleys. The party knows the candidates for them and they just need to be confirmed.

“There are though some very winnable seats still up for grabs with selections today and tomorrow.”

On the MPs who still have not found a new constituency, he added: “I am afraid that some of them are going to be disappointed.”

Controversially, the shortlist for Mr Gove’s now former Surrey Heath seat now includes his ally, former journalist Seb Payne who has struggled to get selected. An attempt to run a recount after he failed to be selected for Bromsgrove replace Sajid Javid backfired with support growing for the original candidate.