Ministers dropped from seat shortlist

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The Independent Online
The grassroots backlash against Conservative MPs looking for new seats gathered force over the weekend as three ministers failed to make the final shortlist for the ultra-safe new Tory seat of Maidenhead.

The three, Sir Paul Beresford, Eric Forth and John Watts were dropped by Maidenhead Tories as they narrowed their shortlist from six names to three.

A final choice will now be made from the remaining non-MPs, Philip Hammond, Theresa May and Nick St Aubyn.

The mood of Tory members seems directed partly against the Government as a whole as MPs, especially ministers whose own seats have been abolished by boundary changes, are being treated as badly as the "chicken runners", who have abandoned marginal seats which Labour might win.

Sir Paul's Croydon Central seat has been redrawn, but Mr Forth (Redditch) and Mr Watts (Slough) are trying to find safer seats than their existing marginals. A Cabinet minister, Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, failed even to make the last six.

Ministers and sitting MPs have had an equally difficult time elsewhere. Last week, Sir John Wheeler failed to make the last six in the newly-merged Kensington & Chelsea seat and Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor, was not among 20 hopefuls short-listed for the Vale of York. The shortlist for Kensington & Chelsea includes Sir Nicholas Scott, the existing MP for Kensington, who has an automatic right to be considered, but top of the list is Michael Fallon, the right-wing former education minister.

Sitting MPs also failed over the weekend to make the last three for the Tory seat of Altrincham and Sale West. The candidates there include Tony Favell, John Major's former parliamentary secretary who lost Stockport in 1992, and Elizabeth Cottrell, political adviser to Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education.