Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reflecting on Bracknell & Moving On

Front: Julia Manning, Katy Lindsay, Ryan Robson
Middle: Margaret Doyle, Rory Stewart, Phillip Lee

First of all, I have been overwhelmed over the last 24 hours by all the emails, texts, tweets and blog comments people have left. 98% of them have been very nice and almost made me feel like I am reading my own obituary!

Yesterday was a a very good one for Bracknell Conservatives. At the end of the day the Open Primary has to be judged a success. I told the selection that I believe any one of the seven candidates would be a good MP and I stick by that. It was a very strong shortlist.

I arrived at the venue at 1pm and dished out my leaflets on each chair in the auditorium. BBC South were there and wanted to do an interview but I was reluctant to do one unless the others did too. At 1.30 the room started to fill up with constituents, many of whom were very keen to have a chat before the proceedings got underway. I wasn't sure if this was really allowed so after a short time retreated to the rather spartan room which had been set aside for the candidates. Just before 2pm we were called down to draw lots in front of the audience. I drew number 7 meaning that I was last on. I didn't know whether to be pleased or not. Would they all be so punch drunk by the time I appeared that they would just want it all over with? Or would it be an advantage. The others seemed to believe I had struck lucky. But it meant that I had three and a half hours to sit there, with no contact with the outside world, until I was on.

Obviously we didn't listen to each others' performances, so I can't tell you exactly what was said but the Bracknell Blog has an extensive blogpost outlining what each candidate said and how they approached it. As we were waiting most of the others were boning up on some local issue or other or rewriting bits of their speeches. I am afraid I take the view that if you don't know it by now, you never will. So I just sat there mentally rehearsing a few lines in my head. Some went into a separate room to rehearse their speeches out loud. I kept thinking, should I be doing this too? But in the end, you have to do it your way.

We all had to do a three minute introduction, then answer questions for 20 minutes and then do a three minute wind up. The questions had all been submitted in advance and were put to each candidate. There were no spontaneous questions from the floor.

Eventually, at about 5.20pm, my turn came. I was really pleased with my opening statement. I decided to address the issue of trust head on and the reason we were all there. I was told afterwards that I was the only one who had addressed the expenses issue head on. Was this a mistake? Surely not.

We then moved on to questions. I know at the Executive Round that I was far too loquacious in my answers so I was determined to be more succinct. We covered a huge range of issues including nuclear power, working with the local councils, Europe, Heathrow, how we would split our time between Westminster and the constituency, Trident, the euro, our personal priorities and the NHS. I am sure there were others which I can't recall now.

I got a couple of rounds of applause when I mentioned I was in favour of an English Parliament and against the government's plans for a so-called paedophile register and I also made them laugh a few times.

I was really pleased at how the question session went and felt that I had given very robust and honest answers to every question. Perhaps things were going too well...

I then made a mistake. I didn't use my full three minutes at the end. I thought that the audience had probably had enough, as they had been sitting there for more than four hours. So I reiterated the point that it was up to a new MP to restore trust and expressed the hope that they would allow me to be given the chance to do that. I was told afterwards that several people had voiced the opinion that I should have used the full three minutes.

But apart from that, I genuinely think that I performed well.

We then trooped off back to the candidates room to await the verdict. Time after time, the Association chairman, Lesley Philpot, knocked on the door to deliver the terrible news to one of the candidates.

I knew my best chance was to win on the first or second ballot. When it went to four ballots and it was down to Rory Stewart, Phillip Lee and myself I had an inkling that the game was up. Why? Because I reckon I am a bit of a marmite candidate. You either love me or you hate me. I don't do well on second preferences! So I always knew that when the supporters of the other candidates had to vote again, I might not do as well. We weren't told the figures, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if I had been ahead on round 1 or 2, but gradually slipped back. I guess I'll never know.

So when Lesley came into the room for the final time and told me I was out, I wasn't in the least surprised. I'm normally quite emotional in these circumstances, but on this occasion remained completely calm. One or two of the other candidates were clearly devastated. For some reason I wasn't - not because I didn't care, or didn't want it badly enough: I did. But somehow I just knew Phillip was destined to get it. I had told quite a few people right from the start that if I didn't win, I hoped he would, and I genuinely meant it. I don't know him well, but I knew enough to know he'd be a good choice. So when Lesley came back and told him he had won I was delighted to shake his hand and wish him well. Rory took it very well. He had clearly made a huge impression and I have no doubt he will soon be selected elsewhere - maybe Penrith next weekend.

There have been a lot of comments about whether Open Primaries are working. Personally, I have absolutely no complaints about the system used in this selection. It was conducted fairly and transparently. The Association Agent, Mary Ballin, did a terrific job and I'd like to thank all the members and councillors I have met over the last three weeks for their unfailing courtesy and helpfulness.

My only doubt about the whole process would be the fact that there were seven of us in the final. It was too many and made the event far too long-winded. It would be far better in future to allow Associations to reduce the shortlist of 6 to 4 at an Executive Round. I know this issue has caused some angst in other constituencies.

So what now? Obviously I wanted to win Bracknell - I think I made that fairly clear. But anyone who expects to apply for one seat and then win it is either delusional or very lucky. Michael Howard applied for 44 before he got one. Bracknell was the first seat I had applied for in two years.

Will I apply for others, having fallen at this hurdle? You bet I will.

I didn't apply for Devizes, Gosport, Esher or Central Suffolk as the deadline was last Monday and I wanted to concentrate on Bracknell, but I'll certainly now apply for other seats as they become available. But I won't use a scattergun approach and apply for everything. It has to be the right constituency.


Michael said...

It was an extremely impressive list of candidates and one that the other parties would love to have. Well done!

Johnny Norfolk said...

The best line in this blog was.

"Will I apply for others, having fallen at this hurdle? You bet I will."

Only 43 to go Iain.

I think city seat would be your best bet.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I must say iain this open primary thing. ( cant we find a Brit name for it). is great for involving people. I have been involved in one of the early trails in Mid Norfolk, it was great and we have a great candidate in George Freeman.

thanks for sharing your experiences it is very interesting and humanises politics.

Were there many non Tories involved in the vote ?

Anonymous said...

"Tri tro i Gymro"

Okay, I know you are not a Welshman, but I think three tries or even 'try try and try again' are in order if that is what you really want.

Personally I think you have more power and influence than most back benchers, and do you really want to 'not do very much for the first 5 years' [i.e. loyally keep your nose clean] but you know best, dear..

p.s. If some good can come of this, the silver lining if you will, at least the Daily Mail know that they cannot slag off the gay community with impunity any more.

BOF2BS said...

Yes sir onwards & upwards.

No way is it 43 to go.

On reading the Bracknell Blog analysis - he, quite rightly, was highly impressed.

Unsworth said...

Yes, seven is far too many. They should have whittled it to three, possibly four. I'm not convinced that not using the full three minutes is a bad thing. Most people will have already made up their minds. Maybe the three minute wind-up was meant to be a summary of the questions together with a re-statement of your position. It's a pity that there were no spontaneous questions, it all sounds a bit too regimented. Maybe that's in the interests of fairness, but having spent many years interviewing I can honestly say that the best results were always when the interviewers went off-piste. Then you got to see how and what the individuals actually thought, rather than seeing their rehearsed positions.

Still, keep sharp and seize each opportunity.

Kate. said...

Just to say sorry you didn't get in Iain, and good luck next time round, I had my fingers crossed for you this time, and I will when you try again.

Best wishes,


LM said...

nice ethnically diverse bunch. What ever happened to Dave's "A" List

Anonymous said...

Katy Lindsay lost today in Sleaford and North Hykeham being eliminated in the first round.

Old Holborn said...

Will I apply for others, having fallen at this hurdle? You bet I will

Why? You are an editor of a national magazine, a political commentator and broadcaster plus a book publisher.

You've been told three times now that what you are offering is not what is required or wanted. Not just by the Tories but by ordinary people. You know, voters. Just today, you've used the "homophobes" card in the Guardian, yet again.

Give it up. Do what you do, (very well I might add) and be happy with it.

I realise you won't publish this, just like you don't publish anything else I write but a new Parliament needs NEW ideas and NEW people.

Paul Halsall said...

please don't tell me the blond one, with a pleasant face, on the right actually won.

Wow. We need affirmative action for poofs and elves (rory).

Sean said...

You will be an excellent MP, with a thoughtful approach and deep humanity.

I just disagree that 7 is too many. Give the people as much choice as possible.

Paul Halsall said...

Ref Aulde on FB

Hey, I can try to kick sand in Iain's eyes as much as anyone, but Iain DID NOT here blame the Daily Mail or homophobia.

AFAIK everyone thought Rory was Iain's main opposition, and while I know nothing at all about Rory's sexuality, he does not exactly come across as butch.

I want a Labour government, but (and I suppose ID may not like this), if there is to be a Tory government, I would like people like Iain, and Rory for that matter, to be in it.

The new Tory benches will be very thin on talent, and I think almost everyone agrees Blair and Brown's use of the Lords has been scandalous.

wonkotsane said...

Why not apply for a constituency you have some connection with? I imagine you've got more chance of getting selected as a PPC if you're standing in your own or a neighbouring constituency than one you're being parachuted into.

DMC said...

I Think Iains main problem is that he is too well known, I would suspect alot of people personally liked Iain but the old saying "all politics is local" kicks in.

In your next seat Iain, I would suggest that you attend every fair, coffee morning, raffle and other events that you can get to.

Andrew Allison said...

Seven is far too long a short list. For me, four would be the right amount of candidates.

Having said that, I am so proud the Conservative Party is leading the way. Open primaries will be the norm in a few years. They are fair and allow those who would never have a chance to vote for the Conservative candidate a voice.

You will get selected and will be elected at the next general election. I have no doubt. You did a good job and you will have learned from the experience. This will put you in a better position for the next fight.

Anonymous said...

Well done Iain and keep at it. I am at the opposite end of the political spectrum to you but a big fan in the best posible way and I think you would be a real asset to Parliament. I have been involved in campaigns for selections and I know what a hard slog they can be especially when you dont get the right outcome but brush yourself off and get out there again as soon as the right seat comes along.

Neil A said...

I think it will take a while for the open primary system to bed in. At the moment it seems like it is a bit of a brick wall for "overtly political" candidates. Whilst I am the first to agree that a government stuffed full of political commentators and policy wonks is no good, hopefully people will soon start selecting actual politicos soon instead of "holding out for a hero".

T said...

Thanks for the interesting write up, these open primaries are an excellent idea, and its is good to know that the Bracknell one has been run well.

I have one reservation however; I dont like that it is still the norm for people from all over the country apply to be a constituency MP.
My view is that a potential candidate should have lived in an area for some time and be genuinely representative of that area. MP's are there to act as a representative of their constituents and 'boning up' on local issues just doesn't cut the mustard.

I would like for the candidates at these primaries to all have lived in the constituency for 5 years+.

Granted we may risk a decrease in
the quality of the candidates but the gain would be that the elected MPs would not be these sheep who vote with the whip every time - with no stomach to really fight for their consituents.... a key principle of modern conservatism is 'localism' and I think long term resident MPs would enforce this.

Elliot Kane said...

You're still a very strong candidate and you'd make a great MP, Iain. There will be other days!

Better luck next time :)

dazmando said...

Just for infor, there was not that many people from other partys there. I know a few of them in Bracknell and there was only 3 lib dems voting (Lib Dem PPC left the vote) ot Labour no BNP no UKIP. There was a good number of ordinary people and a fair number of conservative members.

Iain did as well as he could of done. I think Iain can win dispite being sort of famous.

He need to have a less busy leaflet.

Talk to people coming in if hes allowed to.

Kept on being honest this will work in the end.

Phillips just had the edge being a local doctor, doctors win primarys fact

True Belle said...

It is funny how Tories pull in medical men to be MPs . It is a bit like pinching doctors from the developing countries.

Where are the would be engineers or scientists who would like to develop their relationship with the public and parliament/ nothing but talk talk types.

Don't forget it is your own Tory sort who sit in judgement- usually ex military blah and the rest.

Square pegs don't fit certain criteria, a female friend thought she would be very much the part. The committee assumed she would be out sailing all the time and/or bringing up babies!

Tories well, misogyny rules!

violet said...

I've run a lot of Conservative political selection processes - and experience has shown me that a candidate makes an indelible impression in the first minute (for good or ill), and the rest is for show.

I long ago lost the argument for only having two candidates in the final, but still think I'm right!

Finally, I believe that to be selected for a winnable seat, and to become a successful MP, you have to have a splinter of ice in your heart. Having met you, and read such a lot of your blog, I don't think you have that splinter, you are a normal human being. Stay with us on the bright side, Iain!

Weygand said...

Well said.

But may I add.

If Duncan, Cormack and other Dickensian characters who are reluctant to serve for "rations" should read this blog, may I say to them that this primary proves that there is no shortage of able men and women who would give their eye teeth to be an MP - and who would do a far better job than most of you.

Why don't you make way for one of these people? (rhetorical question)

Why does the present system not ensure that you have to? (real question)

Anonymous said...

Good Man!

That read like postive thinking, best way to look at it! Maybe one will come up closer to home - which would be better for you!

cew said...

commiserations on the bracknell result, any chance you might go for beckenham?

repossessed house investor said...

Well done Iain,

I'm inclined to agree with Johnny Norfolk, I also feel that a city seat woild be your best bet.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

It's looking like there will be plenty more chances. Orpington would probably be good for you, for example.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Looking at the picture, I think you are overplaying the gay bit.

I reckon that in these hysterical health-conscious times, you lost because you had the fattest face.

Eat some bloody lettuce, man!

Better luck next time. ;-)

Anonymous said...


Why don't you come up to Edinburgh and put your name in the hat for Edinburgh South west, Alister Darlings seat?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Having read the Bracknell blog and the interviews, it seems to me that the winning candidate got in because he at least has some kind of intimate link with the consituency.

I obviously don't know the details, but if it was in my patch, I would start from a position of favouring a local candidate. I am afraid an "outsider" would have to convince me. The local would merely have to keep his nose clean. Clearly they would both have to be in the same ball park, but I am afraid the phrase "parachuted in" (even using your own parachute )is death - the implication being that the "outsider" merely wants to be in Parliament, not represent Mrs Tressel, Acacia Avenue, Bracknell.

In this case, the winning candidate probably has intimate knowledge of Mrs Tressel, and her bunions.

In the event that it is close, does the perception that a local will serve local needs better clinch the deal?

If that is the case, next time you need a USP. You write that you were reticent about using the full allotted time to speak at the end. For someone who is a communicator at the top of his game, that may have been an own goal.

Good luck next time.

Not every competition will yield a strong, local candidate, so

M.Hristov said...

I am in favour of free speech but I am surprised you allowed Old Holborn onto this string, bearing in mind his hateful rants about you on his blog. I stand by my previous post when I said that he would be in real trouble if his anarchist ideas prevailed. Also, copying “V for Vendetta” is not terribly original or funny.

Having got that out of my system, I now address the idea that you would be out of your depth as an MP.

Leaving aside the fact that the actual depth required to be an MP is a level that would be reasonably safe in a toddlers paddling pool, I do deplore those who imagine we are governed by a wonderful elite that only the super intelligent can join. We are governed by men and women of flesh and bone. A lot of them are a good deal less successful than you, Iain, and you would make thunderingly good MP.

I was at university with two current Conservative MPs and am the great-great nephew of a Conservative MP, who was a government minister. You will be more than capable of matching the achievements of these people.

The Bracknell blog shows that you did very well in Bracknell. You got the highest praise for your literature.

Th fact that a GP won is interesting.

GPs are always going to be popular because they help people and do not charge them any money. What’s not to like about someone who acts in this way?

The fact that they earn huge wages because of an extraordinary New Labour “cock up”, over GPs contracts, doesn’t affect people directly.

Virtually all other professionals charge directly and the old adage that as soon as the bills go out the complaints come in rings very true. It would probably be impossible for a solicitor or accountant to win an open primary because of this fact.

New Labour, aided by sections of the media, has waged an unremitting war on all professionals. Self government has been removed and all professionals (including GPs) have been hedged around with rules and regulations and subject to politically correct diktats. It is no wonder that so many GPs are flocking to the Conservative Party.

The Conservatives could win spectacularly, with a large group of GPs as candidates but don’t expect any radical change from people who are effectively the very well paid junior officers of the largest state monolith in Europe, the NHS (which took over that role from the Red Army).

Personally, I would like a rest from radicalism but we probably need very radical policies, directed towards the public sector, if we are to dig ourselves out of the mess we are in.

I think that the NHS should, itself, be spared but I do think that a preponderance of GP MPs will mean that there is no real attempt to tackle the public sector.

You will find your seat and don’t be discouraged by the doubters. Just plough on and on.

Magical_Mist said...

Iain, are the constituency parties made aware of how many other seats that you have applied for?
I would certainly hope not.

Commiserations for not winning Bracknell, I wish you the best of luck with all future applications and hope to see you in the Commons next year! You'd make a fantastic MP, you've got the experience and the personality.

I love you!!!

ukipwebmaster said...

Off topic, but does anyone here know who Cranmer is and can physically look in on him as he sounds very down at the moment?

Stephen Gash said...

Is Rory Stewart standing in a Primary in his native Scotland? He seems to be in a few in my native country England?

Does Dave "I've got lots of Scottish blood in my veins" Cameron intend reducing the number of MPs in Scotland, or is that particular attack on democractic accountability only going to affect England?

No English Parliament for the natural Tory constituency then? Just more Scots in England making decisions for the English, but with a weather-eye on their countryfolk in Scotland.

A hotchpotch house for the English with Scots in Scotland voting at the 3rd reading on English matters only.

Is there ANY reason a self-respecting Englishman should vote Tory?

Tapestry said...

'I'm still standing'..

How will you still be able to blog your inner thoughts once you have a public role?

You are against a paedophile register. What methods would you recommend to protect children as an alternative?

Anonymous said...

It's tough for someone with a high national profile to beat anyone in an open primary playing the local issues, local man, local doctor card. I'm sure there is a seat out there for you, Iain, if you want it.

I just wonder whether you can't do more good outside parliament than inside. You are one of the clearest communicators that the centre-right has in this country. I think you can reach more people, especially young people so alienated from our politics, through your blog and media appearances than in our discredited parliament. You can also hold the forthcoming (God-willing) Cameron administration to account from outside.

Hawkeye said...

True Belle said: "Where are the would be engineers or scientists who would like to develop their relationship with the public "

I know a lot of scientists and engineers and based on the sample I know I can offer a simple answer. Most of them have no time for politics. They are far, far too busy doing other things.

Science, in particular, is far more interesting than politics. I suspect the engineers feel the same.

To Iain - if politics is want you want to do then keep applying. John Creasey, the detective novelist, tried 103 publishers before his first story got published. He then published another 600 books. He was also interested in politics and tried to be an MP. Are you a modern day Creasey Iain?

strapworld said...

By saying 'it has to be the right constituency' it could be said that you are only interested in a safe seat!

Perhaps a bit of the scattergun approach might not go amiss. May I suggest you Go North?

I admire your spirit.

Sarah said...

Having sat through the whole selection process at Bracknell I agree that 7 candidates was too many. I was very disappointed that you weren't selected as to my mind you were the only candidate who I really believed would fight for what you believe in were you to be elected. In the absence of you I am glad that the vote went to Phillip Lee.

Good luck in your attempts to be selected for another constituency.

Ellee Seymour said...

You did brilliantly to get so far and I have no doubt that your day will come. I wish you every success.

Anonymous said...

The fact that open primaries have twice chosen GPs when they are on offer is instructive: the public are angry with the political class in general and would rather choose someone in a "proper" and trusted profession rather than a politico who's never done anything 'real'. This is bad news for you, Iain and for (for instance) Margaret Doyle.

Alex said...


And here’s me thinking you are actually from Bracknell / live in Bracknell, and you wanted top represent your own area. How wrong I was.

Moving to the future, quite simple

How about applying for a seat you actually might be able to represent, ie a seat you have local ties with. I have no idea where you live, but from reading your blog posts it does not sound like you are from any of the seats you are applying for.

Maybe you live in a solid labour or lib dem constituency, or an area where there are a number of labour or lib dem constituencies, but somehow I doubt it.

Politics in Britain is all about the local, and for your sake the open primary idea will not help. A strong local candidate will always beat someone who has “applied” to be the local MP, but has no roots there. An old style closed selection would be much easier for you, but it does not look like that avenue is open for you.

Why don’t you, get involved in your local association, get known as a good local voice in your area and then look at a seat that you have some local affinity with.

Richard said...

You asked whether addressing the expenses issue head on was a mistake. At the time I thought you had shot yourself in the foot with this courageous gambit. You were not addressing a public meeting but one composed mainly of Bracknell conservatives. Only you were foolish enough to point out that the reason for the selection process was the fact that the much-loved current member for Bracknell doesn’t have your high level of integrity!

Other random thoughts…

I was impressed with the polished presentation skills displayed by almost all the candidates. Definitely a prerequisite if this selection process becomes the norm. Felt sorry for poor unpolished Katy, but in a way I liked her the most as she seemed more human, and who’s to say she wouldn’t have made an excellent MP for the constituency.

Didn’t vote for the doctor – I assume he’s already doing a great job of public service in the constituency and one that requires lengthy training to acquire the necessary qualifications – don’t give up that useful job to do one that requires no special training or talents other than wearing a rosette of the right colour and a willingness to tow the party line.

Slightly surreal to sit and listen to a succession of earnest and believable people telling me what a great place Bracknell is and how wonderful the people are… have they never walked though the place? It’s a depressing dump, full of chavs.

Bilbo Baggins said...

Anyway, good to see that the Conservative party is becoming more and more inclusive.

I count at least two hobbit candidates in that line up.

Lib Dems and Labour already have Sarah Teather and Blears, so nice to see the Tories catching up.

A Voter said...

I really don't like this idea of people running around all over the country to "find a seat". It smacks too much of the careerism we're trying to put behind us.

It'd be much better if the candidates had some prior or current connection with the constituency.

I trust selectors will increasingly make this a central consideration, and resist all and any parachutistes.

Anonymous said...

your in the wrong party. you have no chance being picked ever....

Anonymous said...

I think you should go for a seat in London. Boris got the Mayors position, you could get elected in London.

If you go for a lost cause for the Conservatives like Camberwell & Peckham or Lambeth North it will give you some brownie points as I am sure that you will knock some thousands off the majorities of the long time incumbants due to your media profile.

If you could get somewhere more likely to turn blue like Dulwich & West Norwood you might actually win.

Anonymous said...


Don't bother to try again; the salary and expenses are rubbish I hear. Even when you do manage to get a few bob out of them they send you a letter asking for most of it back. Look for a proper job - the post office are taking on temporary staff to clear their "backlog" - that should be good for about ten years at least I would think; and you can wear shorts there now.

jailhouselawyer said...

Thanks for telling me who those are in the photo in the front and middle. But, who's the bloke at the back are we supposed to know him?

Anonymous said...

You're a Tory, but I reckon hal;f of these candidates would have run for New Labour in 1997 if they had had the chance. Careerists, politics-lite.

Osama the Nazarene said...

Anon @2:32 today - brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I was there. I had made no decision in advance as to who to vote for and was looking forward to being convinced.

Well, Iain, you won it for me and I voted accordingly. You came across with little of the politician's 'gloss' we have unfortunately come to expect from our politicians. A plus point for me, it's irrelevant. I liked your answers to the questions, they were knowlegeable, rational, reasonable and principled. I believed you. All the others came across as politicians (a perjorative term). It is sad that not enough of Bracknell could see that. I think you played it straight (if you'll pardon the connotation) and we so need that in UK politics today.

Please continue to be yourself, please continue to try to find a suitable constituency. I am a Tory but I'll be voting UKIP as it seems to be the only party that has so far recognised that the biggest issue at stake is not the economy, it's our democracy.

Good on yer!

Anonymous said...

Will you be applying for Saffron Walden? Am looking forward to another open primary :-)

disgusted said...

Philip has nice hair. You had no chance