Monitor: Reaction in the Sunday papers to the exclusion of Steven Norris from the Conservative Party's shortlist for Mayor of London

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The Observer

Steven Norris has been treated disgustingly. In him the Tories had an intelligent, liberal, populist candidate-in-waiting for Mayor of London. Already the idea that he could come through and actually win was gaining ground. A paid-up member of the human race, Norris had been dubious about standing for a second, post-Archer contest, but had been persuaded by Tory bigwigs that, this time, they really wanted him. Instead, he has been kicked where it hurts. The Conservatives ought to be rising well in the polls. There are enough big questions over Europe, transport, schooling and health to give a half-decent Opposition the ammunition it needs to frightened this Government. Tony Blair leads a respectable Cabinet but they are hardly a team of political giants. Yet the Tories are making almost no impact. William Hague can no longer blame the 1997 landslide. Today, it is his fault. He is failing to lead an open and competent national party, and this latest spiteful act merely confirms it. On the evening of the next general election Mr Norris, we suspect, will have his revenge.

Sunday Express

The decision by the Conservative Party to block Steven Norris from standing in the contest to be London mayor is an affront to democracy and an insult to Londoners. Norris was by far the most outstanding candidate that the Tories had to offer and possessed the skill and the charisma to give Labour a run for its money. Instead, the Tories have whittled down the shortlist to an unappetising selection of worthy but drab individuals. Party spokesman were insisting last night that the decision was taken by a small group of Tory worthies. We take that claim with a pinch of salt. If William Hague had wanted Norris to stand, Norris would have stood. Hague must bear responsibility for the decision. It is fresh evidence that, for all his undoubted political talents, a question mark still surrounds the quality of his judgement.

The Sunday Telegraph

Mr Norris's more excitable friends allege that there was a campaign against him by a member of his former constituency party: a woman whose husband left her as Mr Norris abandoned his own wife. This, in the curious logic of the Norris camp, makes him the victim of vendetta by an obsessive woman. But might they not reflect that members are perfectly entitled to judge the character of those standing for election? Voters surely will.

The Independent on Sunday

At first it was funny, watching the Conservative Party tear itself apart over the nomination for Mayor of London. When Lord Archer withdrew, even supportive commentators admitted the selection process was degenerating into farce. Scenting disaster, senior Tory figures declined to step into the spotlight. Enter Teresa Gorman, ever the pantomime dame, stage right - only to be cast back into the wings two minutes later because of her Europhobia. With all the gravitas of a soap star playing Buttons, William Hague made a backstage plea for the former baddie Steven Norris to rescue the plot. It was a solution of sorts, although only Norris himself really believed he was the Prince Charming. Now it seems the Conservatives do not want a romantic lead after all. So the Tories are left with a cast of unknowns in comparison with whom the otherwise anonymous Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer now has the celebrity of a Spice Girl. It has gone beyond farce now. At a time when Labour politicians are so desperate to stick to their leader's script, the crumbling of Her Majesty's Opposition is not a joke but a tragedy.

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