High-profile contenders eye Scott seat

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Indy Politics
The hunt for a replacement for deposed Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Scott will begin today, sources in the former minister's Kensington and Chelsea constituency said last night.

Notices will go out to begin the selection process for a new MP to represent the area after the general election, when Sir Nicholas will stand down. There are likely to be a number of high-profile contenders for the seat, which is one of the safest in the country.

Party members refused to back Sir Nicholas's continued candidature on Monday night. The move to deselect him came after he was found lying face- down on the pavement after a drinks reception. Although he pleaded that a moderate amount of wine had reacted with medication he was taking, many people felt the incident was the last straw. It followed a drink-driving conviction earlier this year.

Sir Nicholas told a packed meeting at Kensington Town Hall that he had given up drink completely, but he was defeated by 509 votes to 439.

Yesterday Andrew Dalton, constituency chairman, said a new candidate for the seat would be selected before the end of January. "We are wasting no time at all," he said.

Mr Dalton said the 130-strong executive council of the association would meet next week to set up a timetable for the selection process, and the post would then be advertised to people on the Conservative Party's approved list of candidates. The final stage would be a meeting at which a minimum of four contenders would address party members, and at which a ballot would be held.

Mr Dalton, who denied rumours that he was planning to stand for the seat himself, said the move to unseat Sir Nicholas was unconnected with his reputation as a "wet". He also described as "nonsense" the suggestion that the seat was being kept warm for the return of Chris Patten, currently governor of Hong Kong.

"I don't think that Nick was deselected because of anything political. There was a feeling that he was becoming accident-prone, and he had indicated that he was only going to stand for one more parliament," he said.

Among those whose names were being mentioned as possible successors last night was the Northern Ireland minister, Sir John Wheeler, whose Westminster North constituency has been affected by boundary changes. Sir John's office said last night that he was not commenting on the rumours.

Other possible runners could include Hartley Booth, the MP who succeeded Baroness Thatcher in Finchley and who has also been hit by boundary changes, Terry Dicks, MP for Hayes and Harlington, who has a majority of just 53, and Alan Clark.

Last night Mr Dicks confirmed that he was thinking of standing, although few commentators believe he will be selected.

"Of course I am interested and yes I will apply. Then we will allow the selection committee to make their choice," he said.

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