On my way into 5 Live this morning I heard most of David Cameron's twenty minute interview with Julian Worricker. The first half was taken up with the Middle East where he re-emphasised William Hague's view that Israel's strikes against Hizbollah targets in the Lebanon were disproportionate. In fact, not only did he re-emphasise, but he re-emphasised again. My friends at CFI will not be pleased.
But something which others do not seem to have picked up was Cameron's announcement that in future CCHQ would put a shortlist of candidates for by-elections to the local association to choose from, and this might be as few as two or three people. They might be A Listers, non A Listers or local people, according to circumstances. This is not a huge departure from what happens now, but it is currently the norm for the local association to whittle a list of between 10 and 20 down to a final three. In future it seems that task will be performed centrally, albeit in consultation with the local constituency chairman.
Is this a good thing? I am a staunch defender of local association's rights to choose the candidate they want, but everyone must recognise that by-elections are very different. Local associations generally have no idea what is about to hit them. Therefore it is only right that there needs to be more help and direction provided from the centre. We need to learn some lessons here from His Lordship, the Baron Rennard at the LibDems here. They make great pretence of running local campaigns, but Rennard is pulling all the strings and is usually resident for the last week of the campaign. As I've said before, we need to find our own Chris Rennard. And so far, we haven't.