Tories to stage 'open primary' in Totnes
THE Tory candidate to replace ousted Totnes MP Anthony Steen will be chosen by every voter in the constituency.
Conservative leader David Cameron will allow each of the seat's 69,000 registered voters to cast their vote to decide who will fight the next election for him.
The position became vacant after Mr Steen announced he will retire on polling day, in the wake of revelations about his expenses.
Over four years he claimed almost £87,000 for the upkeep of his million-pound Devon mansion, including guarding shrubs from rabbits, fencing off fields near stables and overhauling his private sewerage system.
Fantastic offer at Swanson Ford, Newton Abbot. 3 Years FREE Servicing and 5 Years Warranty available on your BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA with the AWARD WINNING ECOBOOST ENGINE!!!
Terms: Limited stock available. Only whilst stock lasts
Contact: 01626 240583
Valid until: Tuesday, December 24 2013
Announcing his retirement, Mr Steen claimed he was the victim of "jealousy" over his home, which he likened to Balmoral. He later apologised after suggesting the public had no right to "interfere with his private life".
The Totnes seat has a notional majority of 2,693 going into the next election, and is seen as a key vacancy for high-flying Tory figures to gain a seat in Parliament.
By opening up the selection of the party's candidate to all voters – including supporters of other parties and none – it will raise their profile with less than a year before the election.
Mr Cameron said: "This is the first time any political party in Britain has sought the views of the voters in such a direct way.
"It is an exciting opportunity to re-engage with the voters in Totnes and give them a real say in who will be the Conservative candidate at the next election.
"I hope people will take part in this unique chance to have a real say over how politics works and who represents them."
Scores of people are thought to have applied for the vacancy, with a shortlist of 11 drawn up by the local association.
This weekend the names will be whittled down to between two and four. Ballot papers, with campaign leaflets from each candidate, will be sent out over the summer.