Brighton Pavilion shortlist reveals Tory class divide and prejudice

The Conservative Party has announced a shortlist of six candidates for the General Election campaign in Brighton Pavilion.  And in so doing it has revealed what a class-divided Party it is.

First there is Scott Digby (or is it Scott Seaman-Digby?), the national Tory commercial director.  Why would he possibly have wanted to drop the Seaman from his surname.  It hasn’t held him back when becoming Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Borough of Hillingdon.  Then we have fellow London Tory councillor, insurance broker Mary Weale, who represents the good folk in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

No 3 is Charlotte Vere, a former finance director, now chief executive of Big White Wall, a charity for those with mental health problems.  She is joined by Anna Firth, who has been described as “a leading campaigner” for better early years education, and by Douglas Chirnside, a TV producer.  There was a TV producer called Douglas Chirnside (a common name amongst TV producers, I am sure) whose finest work was a series called “Sex and Shopping”.

Finally, there is someone from Brighton (you remember Brighton?  This election is for a Brighton seat!). Andrew Wealls was the Tory candidate who was beaten by Alex Phillips in Goldsmid in a by-election in July. I know Andrew and like him.  He is a decent, hard-working chap.  If selected he could put in good effort, but is hardly going to set the campaign on fire, especially against Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.

More interesting is the absence of Mary Mears and Maria Caulfield, two very strong female candidates, well-known and well-respected.  Either could out-flank Nancy and Caroline, not least on the Council estates in Brighton Pavilion.  Their omission from the shortlist is evidence of the deep class division that runs through the local Conservative Party. This division exists on the City Council where Mary Mears (Open Market) defeated Geoffrey Theobald (Brighton College) for the post of Tory Leader and, consequently, Leader of the Council.

From my point of view, the omission of Mary and Maria is great news as their selection would have almost guaranteed a Tory gain. The Conservative Association, led by the hapless Carol Ramsden, has handed Nancy and Caroline a head start, first by selecting Dr David Bull who then stood down, and now possibly Scott Seaman-Digby-Weale-Vere-Chirnside-Firth IV of the Royal London Borough of Uppity Class, as its candidate.

It may yet be a straight fight between Nancy and Caroline.  Bring it on.