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US-style selection for MP Lait seat

PUBLISHED: 16:30 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 09:43 12 August 2010

US-style selection for MP Lait seat

US-style selection for MP Lait seat

A US-STYLE open primary has been chosen as the method to select the next Tory candidate for one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. Beckenham Conservative Association has opted for the method favoured by David Cameron, to choose a candidate

A US-STYLE open primary has been chosen as the method to select the next Tory candidate for one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.

Beckenham Conservative Association has opted for the method favoured by David Cameron, to choose a candidate to take over from Jacqui Lait, who has held the seat for nearly 12 years.

It allows non-party members to choose their candidate, as long as they are a registered voter and live in the new constituency boundaries.

Open primaries have been chosen to replace several MPs who fuelled anger over their expenses, including Sir Peter Viggers who claimed for a floating duck house.

Mrs Lait was forced to repay £7,000 after over-claiming interest for the mortgage of her second home in Beckenham between October 2003 and December 2006 and defended spending £160 of taxpayers' money on a kitchen pan.

Chair of the Beckenham Association Tony Power denied rumours Mrs Lait was pushed from her seat.

He told the Times: "She was absolutely not pushed."

When asked if there was any truth in the rumours that she was, he said "None at all.

"I think her expenses were fine. People have a lot of criticism of the whole system. It is justifiable - what she claimed."

He added: "I don't think the process has been taken out of our hands. I would imagine Conservatory Party members will make up a significant amount at the meeting and would have a considerable influence."

He denied any pressure from Conservative Central Office to hold an open primary.

Mr Law said: "It was our decision that the open primary was the way to engage the electoral in the contest.

"I certainly didn't feel any pressure.

"I think all all constituencies should hold open primaries. I don't think it is the party view.

"Non party-members are very welcome to come along and vote. But they have to be there for the whole meeting. We wanted the option to be open to include the whole electorate. Most of the candidates will have local connections."

The shortlist of six which has been selected by the local party was expected to be announced yesterday, after the Times went to press.

l The open primary will be held on Sunday, September 6, at 2pm, with a reception at 12.45pm, at Langley Park School for Boys. All electors in the new Beckenham Constituency will be invited to attend and vote and must register by November 30. Electors wishing to vote must pre register and be present for all the candidates' presentations.

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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