Tories stage 'open primary'

Three Tory candidates put their cases to the public today in Britain's first "open primary" style election for a prospective MP.

Nearly 400 people were at Torbay Leisure Centre in south Devon to hear from Dr Sarah Wollaston, Sara Randall Johnson and Torbay Mayor Nick Bye who are all bidding to stand for the Totnes seat.

Sitting MP Anthony Steen announced he would stand down at the next election in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Mr Steen said he would go after it was revealed he had spent £87,729 in four years towards the upkeep of his £1 million mansion.

The three candidates were allocated 30 minutes each before they took questions from the floor.

Political commentator and former MP Matthew Parris chaired the event.

Ballot papers have been sent to all 69,000 voters in Totnes.

The open election of a candidate is thought to be the first held by a British political party and was hailed as "historic" by the Tories.

A party spokesman said votes must be in by 30 July and they hope to announce the winner by the end of the month.

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