Tory fury as Sunak allies ‘parachuted’ into winnable seats

Rishi Sunak’s allies have been accused of “operating a chumocracy” in “parachuting” special advisers and people close to the inner circle around the prime minister for winnable seats in the general election.

David Goss, the prime minister’s deputy political secretary, became the latest high profile figure from Downing Street to be selected for a winnable seat in Wellingborough and Rushden, recently lost to Labor in a grueling by-election.

He followed former army officer James Clark, a special adviser to defense secretary Grant Shapps, being selected for Great Yarmouth last night.

Others to get winnable seats include former Home Office special adviser Katie Lam landing in the Weald of Kent constituency last year.

Rishi Sunak is lining up members of his number 10 team for winnable seats (AFP via Getty Images)

Ameet Jogia, another Downing Street spad has landed Hendon seat, while yet another former number 10 spad Luke Gardiner has been selected in Mid Derbyshire.

Alice Hopkins, a current special adviser to home secretary James Cleverly has been shortlisted for Rochford and South East. Rishi Sunak’s deputy chief of staff Will Tanner was favorite for Stratford upon Avon vacated by former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi but has since been shortlisted for Bury St Edmunds.

Michael Gove’ spad Henry Newman is in line for Bexhill and Battle in Sussex. Another number 10 pad Declan Lyons is being promoted fro Stratford upon Avon. Lord Cameron’s former spad Tim Chatwin was shortlisted for Bognor Regis and Littlhmpton.

Head of strategy Jamie Njoku-Goodwin was in the running for Cities of London and Westminster and is still understood to be hoping for a winnable constituency.

The chancellor’s spad Hannah Galley is understood to be hoping to be selected having narrowly missed out on Calder Valley last year.

Critics claim Starmer does not want leftwingers on his team (Getty Images)

Most pressingly, party chairman Richard Holden is looking for a seat after his North West Durham constituency disappeared in the boundary review. He was said to be eyeing Billericay and Basildon or Skipton.

From further back George Osborne’s former adviser Rupert Harrison was selected last year for the new Bicester and Woodstock seat while Theresa May’s ex-spad Nick Timothy got Matt Hancock’s West Suffolk seat.

Since the election was called last week the party had to fill around 191 seats plus those for MPs who were standing down such as Michael Gove in Surrey Heath.

Party officials have gone into emergency by-election rules which means constituency associations are asked to pick from a shortlist of three imposed on them or just have a candidate imposed if the association is considered to be too small.

Tory chairman Richard Holden is a man looking for a seat (LBC)

The Independent understands that already Great Yarmouth party association “had a stand off” with Tory bosses at CCHQ over the shortlist sent to them but slowed last night to select Mr Clark. Currently it is claimed that a similar row is taking place with Billericay and Basildon.

Outside special advisers, the party has refused to comment on anger that LBC presenter Iain Dale was shortlisted for Tunbridge Wells even though there are claims he had not gone through the vetting procedures or carried out the campaigning work expected for those to be allowed on the candidates list. Mr Dale though has unsuccessfully run for the Tories in previous elections.

Meanwhile, there are complaints that “real ideological Conservatives” like former Brexit minister Lord Frost are unable to apply for seats because it is claimed they are on the “deferred candidates list”. This means they cannot apply themselves.

A small committee with Downing Street political secretary James Forsyth, chief whip Simon Hart, chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith and a small group of others are told to be deciding who goes on the shortlists.

Former Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman, who is also on the deferred list, accused the party bosses of “operating a chumocracy.”

Mr Campbell Bannerman is chairman of the grassroots Conservative Democratic Organization (CDO) seeking to reform the party structures and give members more of a say.

He said: “I am afraid this is not new but it is clear that a small clique is operating a chumocracy parachuting people they like into winnable seats. They are making it up as they go along.

“It is clear that the prime minister wants people who have been his special advisers or are close to him rather than people who have put in his work and are true ideological conservatives.”

He reflected warnings from elsewhere in the party that “decisions made now on a whim will leave us with MPs for the next 30 years.”

He added: “What is going on is really disrespectful of members and the activists the party needs to help us win the election.”

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, author of The Plot On the downfall of Boris Johnson, he believes that the selections are actually an attempt to install allies of Dominic Cummings and Mr Gove.

She posted on X (formerly Twitter): “They are just candidates being selected for seats, to most people. But, what is happening right now over the next few days is a crazy mad rush to get the chosen few from number 10 into safe seats.

“They are on a Michael Gove adoring WhatsApp thread ‘The Order of the Phoenix.’ No, I don’t know either. They call Dominic Cummings ‘The Dark Lord,’ which no journalist feels is worth reporting and they are trying desperately to install a new order of Gove/Cummings acolytes into the House of Commons.”

The row reflects similar anger in the Labor Party where Keir Starmer’s allies are being accused of a purge of the left and trying to parachute in his allies.

While Diane Abbott’s future remains uncertain and leftwinger Faiza Shaheen has been dropped, one of Sir Keir’s former advisers Uma Kumaran is apparently being lined up for Stratford and Bowe while another Chris Ward is being lined up for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven where defending MP Lloyd Russell- Moyle was dropped today because of a historic allegation.

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