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.

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform