Brendan Carlin has certainly hit the ground running in his first couple of weeks at the Mail on Sunday. He has a story today about Helen Grant, the new Conservative candidate in Maidstone & the Weald. According to Carlin's story she only recently left the Labour Party.
My first reaction was a huge shrug of the shoulders and an unspoken 'so what'? Shouldn't we welcome people who see the light? Of course we should, but many will understandably be asking how long they should serve a 'Conservative Apprenticeship' before they are allowed to stand as an official Conservative parliamentary candidate.
In another Kent seat, Gillingham & Rainham, the candidate Rehman Chishti was actually a Labour candidate at the 2005 election. He stood against Francis Maude. According to the MoS story, at the same election, Helen Grant allowed Labour telephone canvassers to use her office. It hardly compares.
It is alleged that Helen Grant didn't tell the selection committee about her Labour Party past. It's quite clear the selection committee didn't ask her, so she was hardly likely to volunteer it. You might think that would be their failure not hers. You might think that - I couldn't possibly comment.
At the end of most selection interviews you're normally asked to declare anything from your political or private past which might cause embarrassment to the local Association. I didn't get that question, so I imagine neither did she. I was asked if there was any issue (such as fox hunting) which I had controversial views on which might be a problem (for what it's worth I mentioned the English Parliament issue), but that is a different question to the one candidates are normally asked.
In the MoS story, Helen Grant seeks to play down her Labour activism, saying that she was only in the party for "about five minutes". There are some further somewhat unconvincing lines too. What she should have done was to take the story head on and be quite up front about why she left Labour and became impressed by David Cameron. A passionate defence of why she's a Conservative would be far more likely to convince Kent Tories of her worth. The weak lines fed out by CCHQ on her behalf to the MoS have done her a disservice.
Helen Grant won the Maidstone & the Weald selection fair and square. There was no CCHQ imposition. She topped the voting on each of the three rounds and beat ninety odd other candidates, including me, in a totally fair and transparent contest. If there is any flak from this story she needs to show the qualities which won her the selection and come out fighting. I've never met her, but from what I have been told I reckon she's more than capable of it. As indeed her predecessor has proved to be.
Helen Grant now has an early opportunity to prove her Widdecombe-esque qualities and sock it to those in politics and the media who are quite clearly seeking to undermine her.