US-style selection process to be held after James Arbuthnot announces decision to step down in 2015
Hart residents are being given the chance to choose their next potential MP.
A public ‘open primary’ is being held to select a successor to North East Hampshire MP James Arbuthnot, who has announced his retirement at the next general election, in 2015.
The selection process for parliamentary candidates is usually a private one, conducted by the local membership of a political party.
However, the North East Hampshire Conservative Association (NEHCA) has decided to hold an open primary.
Voters do not need to be a member of a political party, just registered on the electoral roll in the North East Hampshire constituency.
NEHCA chairman James Russell said: “We are delighted to be holding the first open primary in North East Hampshire.
“It allows for a sense of community involvement for the public to select the Conservative candidate for the 2015 General Election who, we hope, will be our next member of parliament.”
Primaries are common in the United States, where their origins are traced to the progressive movement to take the power of candidate nomination from party leaders to the people.
Mr Russell said NEHCA’s executive council voted overwhelmingly in favour of an open primary, with a view to ‘opening its doors’ to any elector of any party who is prepared to register and attend the meeting.
The open primary, which will be moderated by Mrs Frances Hoare OBE JP, will be held in Sherfield School in Sherfield-on-Loddon near Hook on November 17 at 1.45pm.
It will comprise a number of question-and-answer sessions with up to four Conservative candidates.
Those registered to attend will then have an opportunity to vote by secret ballot for the Conservative candidate to fight the general election for North East Hampshire in 2015.
Mr Arbuthnot, whose North East Hampshire constituency covers Fleet and Yateley, announced his decision to step down in the summer of 2011.
He said at the time that it had been a ‘great privilege’ to have represented North East Hampshire for the last 14 years and, before that, Wanstead and Woodford for 10.
“My constituents have been generous and supportive and have taught me much,” he added.
“Their friendship has meant a great deal to [my wife] Emma and me, and we shall always be grateful to them.
“After a fulfilling career, first as a barrister and then in parliament, it is now right to move on at a time when I can still take on new challenges.”
Mr Arbuthnot, the Eton-educated chairman of the influential Defence Select Committee, vowed to continue representing the interests of his constituents to the best of his ability until he stood down.
Those wishing to attend the open primary must register by November 13 by calling 01256 322207 or emailing . Electors will not be able to attend the meeting without registering before the deadline.