Conservatives split over selection of Henley by-election candidate

Watchers of BBC TV’s regional news tonight will have heard how the Conservatives “have been split” over the selection of their Henley by-election candidate.

You can watch the piece at

The background is that the local party had a timetable it wanted to follow for selecting their candidate, including the use of an open primary. Conservative Central Office tried to talk them out of both, sending John Maples to tell them what to do. According to a well-placed eye-witness John Maples’s pleas were rebuffed and David Cameron then had to meet personally with the local party to get it to fall into line.

On BBC Radio Oxford this morning the local party chair, John Walsh, confirmed that the local party had been “firmly told” what to do.

The Conservative selection is now taking place on Friday night.

Stephen Kearney will be the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Henley by-election.

UPDATE: Judging from many of the comments over on ConservativeHome, quite a few Conservative members are getting a bit nervous about their chances in the by-election. I also particularly liked the comment from one local: “Perhaps you ought to hurry up. We’ve already had two leaflets and, just now, a “newspaper” through the door from the LibDems!”

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Guido,

    The Lib Dems have rules for byelections. I assume they have been/ will be followed. End of story.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 28th May '08 - 9:44pm

    The Lib Dems keep claiming there aare by-election rules for selecting a candidate which includes dumping the locally selected candidate when one is in situ.

    I was with the party for many years and do not recall such a rule.

    Is it in the constitution? Perhaps someone would be kind enough to direct me to the relevant info?


  • Hello all. I don’t know why Mark Pack insists on posting things like this. OK, the Tories are making a mess of selecting a candidate. But we made an unseemly mess of the process ourselves. And now we’re supposed to be annoyed because someone has the cheek to come on LDV and point this out? I for one would like to see a bit more self-criticism in the party: given how embarrassing the Tories look to us here, can’t we pause a moment over our own behaviour in Henley?

    And having paused, can’t we avoid such behaviour in the future?

  • Hywel Morgan 28th May '08 - 11:07pm

    “Let me guess, reading carefully between the lines, you dumped the old candidate?”

    No – when a seat becomes or is likely to become vacant the selection ceases to have effect – and a new selection is held.

    It is impossible to dump a candidate in such circumstances as there in effect ceases to be or to have even been such a candidate (a bit Winston Smith I will concede 🙂

    In any case did we have a PPC in Henley before Stephen Kearney – there’s no mention of one on in the old stories on the Henley website so either they were not very good at publicity or someone has done a very good, if pointless, job of airbrushing them out of history.

  • Jackie Pearcey 29th May '08 - 3:09pm

    There’s a huge difference between being “dumped” and the membership choosing not to select the candidate for the previous election for the next one in a free, secret ballot.

    Similarly given the media circus which are modern by-elections, many candidates might not be at all willing to put themselves and their families through the taboids and the other problems of a by-election, whilst they’re very happy to build a Constituency and stand at a general election. Also candidates who would make very good MPs might not make a good by-election candidate due to that very media scrutiny, so most parties have always made it clear that if there is a by-election, the selection process starts with a clean slate for just that by-election.

    So, what’s the conspiracy here?

  • The issue is surely whether the membership were given a free choice of who they could vote for.

    As always it is not the issue of selecting a new candidate that is the issue but the usual holier-than-thou hypocrisy which streams from Lib dem lips as soon as anyone mentions the word “byelection”

  • Grammar Police 29th May '08 - 7:21pm

    A a 4.26pm, as I understand it, when there is a by-election there is must be a new selection of candidate. Ultimately, a candidate was chosen by local memebrs.
    Unlike the Tories, our leader didn’t come in and instruct the chair of the local party who should and who should not be on the shortlist . . .

  • Paul Griffiths 29th May '08 - 10:20pm

    In my experience as an RO, by-election candidate selection proceeds exactly as normal candidate selection except that (a) it’s done on an accelerated timescale and (b) there is the extra stage of a short-listing interview in Cowley Street, to assess the candidates’ suitability for such a media-intensive campaign. If Ms Cooper was unhappy with the process I hope she told her RO.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 30th May '08 - 3:11am

    If there was a new selection with members given a free choice, then is that process open to scrutiny?

    Would the Liberal Democrats object if two personnell officers with experience of selecting and shortlisting were to examine the selection process in Crewe and Nantwich and Henley?

  • Grammar Police 30th May '08 - 8:06am

    I’ve no idea, but unless one of the potential candidates had complained, why would they need to?

    Which stage do you think personnel officers should “examine”? It’s not a job interview as such – I presume you’re talking about the shortlisting.

    For a by-election, there will also have been a Cowley St interview to see if the candidates were suitable for a by-election campaign and the media intensity. The people at Cowley St are also experienced in this kind of thing so why should they need “two personnel officers” to come and look at anything . . .?

  • passing tory 30th May '08 - 8:22am

    So the difference between the Lib Dems and the Tories seems to be that for the Lib Dems the candidates need to come up to Cowley St for vetting (sorry “see if the candidates were suitable for a by-election campaign and the media intensity”) while for the Tories CCHQ goes out to the constituency to brief the local party about which candidates would be suitable to the same effect. Wow, what a difference.

  • Passing tory, shouldn’t you already change your name to “resident tory”?

  • passing tory 30th May '08 - 2:47pm

    Not really. I come and go. This week has involved a lot of boring software installation at work which has left plenty of time for posts. You lucky people 🙂

    And just a couple of days ago some irregular poster had a go at me clearly not appreciating my resident status so I must have been passing as far as he was concerned.

  • Daniel Bowen 30th May '08 - 5:55pm

    Chris Paul: It seems uncertain whether Labour have selected Richard McKenzie for the by-election. (Not that it’ll make any real difference)

  • Martin Land 30th May '08 - 6:34pm

    Returning to the issue, the point is that even a superficial analysis shows that much of the change in the opinion polls has been to do with PTV (Propensity to Vote) and whilst there has been a swing from Labour to the Cons, it’s nothing like as large as the pollsters would have us believe. It’s just that more Tory supporters are now saying they will certainly vote and far fewer Labour voters are doing so.

    Equally, the LD vote has not gone up substantially in core numbers, it’s just the case that more are now saying they will vote now we have stopped arguing and have a credible leader.

    In Henley, we will have to see how the Tory voters are going to react to Boris abandoning them – and the electorate can be a difficult bunch!

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see when the Tories finally get around to calling it, especially as a large chunk of the Henley electorate go on holiday a couple of weeks before the rest of us!

  • Chris Paul: you should try taking some bar exams and see how far your innuendoes get you in proving guilt.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 31st May '08 - 1:20am

    Mark Valladares

    You say that the process of by election selections is ‘ethically robost’.

    I’d like to take a look for myself. So I am making a freedom of information request for this evaluation. I am sure that Cowley Street have my details of where to send the information. I’d prefer paper copies please.

    Thank you in anticipation

  • Tony Greaves 31st May '08 - 1:45pm

    No, Ms Zalzala is not a member of the party. And we should not be debating this kind of thing in public without knowing that she is someone who will take the party to the courts is she feels like it – she is a woman with a huge anti-LD chip on her shoulder.

    Tony Greaves

  • Grammar Police 1st Jun '08 - 12:09am

    Passing Tory, the difference is that apparently David Cameron/his office weighed into the matter to make sure the “right” people were going to be put on the shortlist (or perhaps, that the wrong ones weren’t) whereas with the LDs there’s actually a process set down that is follows, that includes an interview with Cowley St amongst other things.

    Ealing Southall was another great example of the fair an open processes that the Conservatives use to select by-election candidates.

  • Grammar Police 1st Jun '08 - 12:11am

    er, *is followed*. (Late night posts are never a good idea.)

  • Yasmin Zalzala 1st Jun '08 - 3:03am

    You hypocrites!

    The party of openness, accountability, transparency etc etc complains and regards it as something of a crime to as for info under the FOI ?

    Is that how far Lib Dem principles and policy go?

    Ok, you asked for it. I am going to start a blog and am going to put EVERYTHING re Man Withington Selection on the net including lies by current MP’s and councilors.

    I feel sorry for the many hard working dedicated members who used to believe in the Liberal Democrats like I used to.

    They are being sold down the rive by the current leadership, especially in the House of Lords

  • Grammar Police 1st Jun '08 - 9:10am

    I don’t think it’s regarded as a “crime”, it’s simply that the Freedom of Information Act 2000 applies to public bodies only. Political parties (and other members’ groups) are not bodies that the Act applies to and so there would be no point making an FOI request – the Party would not be obliged by the Act to supply anything to you. It might choose to give you what you wanted, but that would be exactly what it was, *a choice*.

    In any event, you’ve not actually asked the party whether it would provide you with what you want – you’ve just posted something on an independent website.

  • Grammar Police 2nd Jun '08 - 11:33am

    Mark’s story above is:

    “The background is that the local [Tory] party had a timetable it wanted to follow for selecting their candidate, including the use of an open primary. Conservative Central Office tried to talk them out of both, sending John Maples to tell them what to do. According to a well-placed eye-witness John Maples’s pleas were rebuffed and David Cameron then had to meet personally with the local party to get it to fall into line.”

    That’s the controversy the story points out – that CCHQ/Cameron put pressure on the local group to do things a certain way even though presumably the local Conservatives were following the rules. It’s a variation of CCHQ seeking to impose a candidate (Ealing Southall anyone?)

    The comparison you’re trying to draw is with LDs following their selection rules with a by-election, which provide for a new selection even where a PPC has been previously selected. Although you might not want to hear it, it’s not the same . ..

  • Yasmin Zalzala 2nd Jun '08 - 7:55pm

    I hope that you will agree that I am the best person to answer as I have all the papers and pusuing a legalcase against the party.

    The Federal Appeal ruling said that it had no power to change anything (see posting on LoL ethnic cleansing Yasmin Zalzala) They bounced it back to the Manchester City Liberal Democrats and the sub panel chaired by barrister with a leading chamber in Manchester Peter Rothery (he since left the council as a member of the Lib Dems)

    The panel asked questions relating to aspects that are different from the original criteria under which the Manchester City Liberal Democrats approve candidates. And they kept asking me why I had called the party and seniour councilors racist.

    I explained that the above is untrue. That I had never called either the party or any councilor racist.

    And so on. I have transcripts written by an observer from the Regional NW exec.

    At the end Peter Rothery told me they will uphold the decision and severak days later he wrote a several page justification that trailed back to finding excuses to justify the decision to stop me standing in the local elections.

    I hope to bring these issue to an open court as this is becoming farcical.

    Please also see posting on LoL ethnic cleansing yasmin zalzala where I have posted transcripts etc

  • Jackie Pearcey 3rd Jun '08 - 8:12am


    I don’t want to go over old ground, but I was at a meeting in a room full of people when you specifically accused two senior Councillors of racism because they didn’t agree with you on the proposed boundary changes which we were going to put to the Boundary Commission as the Liberal Democrat proposals. This caused a lot of offence, especially as the Councillors in question had worked very hard at assembling a complex jigsaw of proposals. You left everybody there the impression that if somebody didn’t agree with you then it had to be due to racism and sexism. An prompt and sincere apology would have stopped the whole sorry saga right there and then.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 3rd Jun '08 - 11:33am


    Your comments are untruthful, defamatory and libellous. You have put them now in a public forum for all to see.

    Even at the time of the Peter Rothery investigation, he admitted that could not find any evidence to support this. The only time the words were used was in the email to Simon Ashley. I then wrought an apology and withdrew them.

    I put this in my CRE RA Questionnaire from which I quote:

    ‘And the only occasion is the email to Cllr Simon Ashley on 08.07.02. This was confirmed by Cllr Peter Rothery when he came to my house in October 03 and I wrote the handwritten withdrawal of the words, sexist and racist. Peter Rothery said he pushed ‘them’ i.e. david sandiford and co to produce evidence for me calling them racist and sexist yet nothing came forward.’

    Someone else made a similar allegation after the meeting at the time so I rung Bill Fisher to check. He confirmed that I had not said the words racist and sexist but ‘white people’.

    As part of the Lib Dem response, you Jackie made further untruthful allegations. But now you have made them in public so you and others are going to be held to account.

    The English Standards Board cannot refuse to investigate now. And of course there is the court case.

  • Jackie Pearcey 3rd Jun '08 - 12:00pm


    I have stated what I honestly believe was said at a meeting more than four years ago. You were very angry at the time and may well have forgotten exactly what you said, but I am entitled to state what I truly believe happened at an event.

    It was a long time ago, so I do not recall the exact words used, but I do recall the clear impression which I (and others) had of what you said and the astonishing anger with which you said it.

    I am not aware of any part of the code of conduct which prevents me from stating what I remember. Remembering something differently from yourself (which it seems I do on this occasion) is not in itself a breach of code of standards.

    When you pretty much (or so it seemed to me sitting in the room) accused some of my colleagues of paying more attention to the submissions of white people and men, that to me sounded as much as accusation of racism (and sexism) as it would have done if you had used the word racism itself. You have confirmed that you used the words “white people”. I cannot think of a context in which you could have used those words in a discussion of Ward boundaries which could be not have been construed by those of us listening as a suggestion of racism. If that was not your intent, then clearly we all misunderstood what you were trying to say.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 3rd Jun '08 - 12:40pm

    You are backtracking Jackie.

    I’d remain quiet from now on if I was you.

    As for the code of conduct, I remember reading that councilors should behave with dignity and not bring their office into disrepute.

    Saying false untruthful lies in a public forum about someone else is hardly dignified behaviour and it brings Manchester City Council and the Bolton Constituency that you now are a PPC for, into disrepute by association.

  • I never cease to be amazed at the number of personal hobby horses some people bring into these discussions. And then how so many people get side tracked into debating them. No wonder our meetings seem to take for ever and don’t reach a decision!! However, back to the by-election.

    I personally am very disappointed that Susan Cooper was not re-selected. In the past, the Liberals knew full well the advantage of selecting a local candidate with a proven record, while the Conservatives selected someone from miles away and then wondered why they lost. Now we select someone from miles away – and when the result comes in ….. A candidate who says I will be a local and moves in for the by election just won’t cut the mustard.

    I’m afraid that the decision was a bad one and will be seen to be so when the result is declared. However, what is clearly lacking in this debate is any indication as to how we got into this situation. The constitution is clear, but at what stage we dropped Susan Cooper is not. I belive she stood for selection, but didn’t make it onto the final list. So who on earth decided that although she was good enough for us to put forward as a General election candidate to the people of Henley, she wasn’t good enough to put forward at a by election. Was it the local selection panel, Cowley St, the local panel on the advice of Cowley St or who? In any case the end result shows total incompetence.

  • Yasmin Zalzala wrote:

    “if I was you”

    After “if”, use the subjunctive.

    “false untruthful lies”

    Triple tautology.

    “that you now are a PPC for,”

    Never end a sentence with a preposition.

    Three reasons why Jon Leech was a much better choice, and they are only trivial ones.

    We want level-headed folk who get on with the job as our MPs, not whiners and obsessives.

    BTW, how many votes did Yasmin Zalzala actually get when she stood against Jon Leech in 2005? Remind me.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 12th Jun '08 - 5:05pm


    I suppose it is easy to pointificate when you are hiding behind anonymous identity!

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