The battle of the Tory women: Farcical scenes after 'invalid' vote to select candidate for safe seat

QC is selected amid claims that she was beaten by another in the primary poll

David Cameron's hopes of boosting the number of female Conservative MPs at the next election was undermined last night amid farcical scenes over the selection of a woman candidate in a safe Tory seat.

Lucy Frazer, a barrister, was "reaffirmed" as Conservative candidate for South East Cambridgeshire on Friday despite claims that she had been beaten in an open primary by another woman, Heidi Allen, last month.

Despite calls for the local party to rerun the vote, the South East Cambridgeshire Conservative association voted to "reaffirm" Ms Frazer as their candidate. Her Labour opponent claimed it would always be suspected Mrs Frazer was the "second-choice" candidate for the constituency. The decision to appoint her also undermines the legitimacy of the open primary process, which Mr Cameron has held up as an example of his party's effort to rebuild trust in politics.

Although Conservative headquarters were insisting the vote was a matter for the local party, the selection of Mrs Frazer has ramifications for the Prime Minister because he is under pressure to increase the number of Tory women in Parliament. Only a third of candidates selected for key target seats in 2015 so far are female. While both contenders for the seat were female, lingering doubts about Mrs Frazer's selection will overshadow the quest to increase the tally of women.

Last month, South East Cambridgeshire Conservatives held an open primary, in which anyone, rather than only members of the party, can cast their vote, to replace the current MP James Paice, who is retiring. In the final run-off, Ms Allen, an astrophysicist and St Albans district councillor, was beaten by Mrs Frazer by 84 votes to 48. But the controversy erupted last week amid claims that Ms Allen's result was far lower than had been expected. When a local party official took the ballot papers home for an informal recount, the result was wrong, it was alleged, and 23 votes for Ms Allen had been mistakenly awarded to Mrs Frazer.

Because the official had taken the ballot papers home, the local association's president Brian Ashton deemed the entire count invalid, and an emergency meeting was called, amid demands for a recount.

Steve Tierney, a Wisbech Conservative town councillor, wrote on the Conservative Home website: "What a mess! Seems bizarre it could even happen. Every count I've ever seen has been scrupulous."

Yet on Friday evening, at a stormy meeting in Ely, the local association voted to reaffirm Mrs Frazer in the interests of "party unity", according to the local newspaper, the Wisbech Standard.

Huw Jones, Labour's parliamentary candidate for the seat, told the Cambridge News: "However the Tories spin their decision, there will always be a suspicion that Lucy was their second choice.

"While people in south-east Cambridgeshire are resorting to food banks, we need first-choice politicians to be concentrating on sorting out the cost-of-living crisis. "South-east Cambridgeshire deserves better than second best."

But Shona Johnstone, a former Conservative councillor and former county council leader, tweeted that she was "delighted" that Mrs Frazer had been adopted as candidate.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters refused to comment on the dispute, saying only: "This was a local association matter that has now been resolved by them." It is believed the local association will put out a statement this weekend.

Mrs Frazer, a graduate of Cambridge University, is a QC, state school governor and a mentor for children from low-income families. She has two children with her husband, David. After her selection in December she said she was "thrilled", adding: I hope to bring my experience of working with a wide range of businesses to increase growth. I am interested in improving state education in the constituency and the road and rail infrastructure. I am looking forward to working with and for everyone in the constituency."

She could not be contacted for comment last night.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor