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Any story denied by Conservative Central Office and appearing in the ‘Daily Mail’ must be true. Thus former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss will be standing as the Conservative candidate in the Corby by-election. This is expected to be held on 15 November 2012 to coincide with the Northamptonshire election of a Police and Crime Commissioner.
Strauss is absolutely perfect as a Dave drop-in selection. He was born in South Africa (Johannesburg: 2 March 1977), moved to England at the age of six and was educated at two private schools, the second of which was Radley College. In 2011 he raised £25,000 for the Conservative party. Amongst his nicknames is ‘Muppet’: the cricket dressing room can be a cruel place.
I wonder if he knows that the Borough of Corby has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the East Midlands.
I assume there will be a mock selection process to allow the local members to imagine that Strauss is their selection but, of course, the probability is that Dave has already made the decision.
The antecedents are not good. The former MP Louise Mensch, a society chick-lit, was parachuted in over the heads of the local officials and stayed for two years until finding that being a mother and a MP was too difficult. Quite fairly she put her family first and flew off to be with her husband in New York. The news was given out by the Conservatives during the height of the Olympics Games. I cannot imagine Downing Street wanted to bury bad news in an avalanche of gold medals.
Unofficial polling has suggested that Labour is 15% ahead in the polls and is itching to win the seat. My own recent visit to Corby uncovered rumours of a demoralised Conservative party and a split over the ‘Mensch’ affair.
Mr. Strauss will certainly find the centre of the town rather different to the hallowed turf of Lords. Many shops are derelict, unemployed teenagers stare at you and local people seem tired and desperate. Strauss will probably tour the beautiful Northamptonshire villages in the outskirts where the remaining Conservative support lies.
One hopes that for Strauss’s election chances the Deputy Prime Minister does not canvass for the Liberal Democrats and talk about his proposed (and now totally ridiculed) wealth tax. Just in case Mr. Strauss has been concentrating on his latest test defeat (against the South Africans) Mr. Clegg has a rather frightening influence over the Prime Minister who knows that his only chance of winning the 2015 election is to pray that the economy turns (as it probably will) in his favour. For that reason alone he needs to hold the Coalition together.
Andrew Strauss has been a truly great England cricket captain and is a natural leader. In due course he might make a decent Member of Parliament. He stands a real chance of making a duck at Corby.
Take my advice Mr. Strauss. Stay away and bide your time.
As regards the apparent selection process (or its non-existence), as a former Chairman of a Conservative Constituency (South West Bedfordshire), I have simply given up all hope that the Prime Minister has any real understanding of the importance of local members. He prefers his celebs, hedge fund managers and his muppets.
The author is Tony Drury. He tweets @mrtonydrury
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