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Elite Maneuvers: Tory Leaders’ Controversial Seat Grabs Spark Outrage



General election: Urgent scramble for positions casts Douglas Ross and Richard Holden as elitist

Traditional MPs would likely view the current Conservative party turmoil with significant disdain.

Senior political reporter @joncraig

Thursday, June 6, 2024, 16:

During the 1980s, the area of Banff and Buchan was under the representation of Conservative Party Member of Parliament Albert McQuarrie, who earned the nickname "the Buchan Bulldog" at Westminster.

Broad-shouldered and as resilient as the hardest stone, his voice thundered through the Commons like a lion's roar whenever he stood to speak, capturing the attention of ministers.

Douglas Ross, the head of the Scottish Conservatives, isn't particularly tough; he's more akin to an overly groomed poodle. However, the way the Conservatives dealt with former Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid is even more ruthless than the typical cutthroat behavior.

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Having initially announced his intention to resign from his role as a Member of Parliament at Westminster to concentrate on his duties at Holyord, Mr Ross has reversed his decision. He now intends to run for election in the newly formed constituency of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Imagine this: He made his declaration merely hours after Mr. Duguid, a respected figure and a favorite of prominent Aberdonian and Westminster figure Michael Gove, revealed his disappointment over being excluded from the contest for the newly established seat.

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Mr. Duguid, currently hospitalized for a spinal condition but optimistic about a complete recovery, disclosed on Wednesday evening that his party had harshly removed him from his position.

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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross to run for position following the departure of incumbent MP David Duguid, who was barred by the Conservative Party

"Although I was embraced by our local affiliates, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has notified me this evening that they have opted not to endorse me as their selected candidate," he objected.

During his quickly organized press briefing to disclose his reversal, Mr. Ross had to refute claims that the Scottish Tories had dismissed a man who was ill. Nonetheless, the handling of Mr. Duguid was less than satisfactory, to put it mildly.

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Mr. Ross is no stranger to reversing his decisions. In 2022, he initially demanded Boris Johnson's resignation due to the "partygate" scandal, only to later retract his statement. This led his political adversaries to accuse him of having "the backbone of a jellyfish".

His recent reversal indicates that although he once seemed uncertain, his current state of doubt is even more pronounced.

However, Mr. Ross is not the only prominent Conservative given a parliamentary position at the eleventh hour in a process that detractors say is highly irregular and appears to be a poorly executed fix.

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On the very night Mr Duguid lost his position, Richard Holden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, was installed as the candidate for the reliably Conservative constituency of Basildon and Billericay. This occurred after the local Conservative members were given a single option to choose from on their candidate shortlist.

In an interview earlier this year on television, Mr. Holden, the Tory chairman and the only candidate, asserted his "bloody loyalty to the North East." He has represented North-West Durham as an MP since 2019.

To give Mr. Holden his due, the redrawing of district lines eliminated his seat, dividing it into four different areas. Consequently, he was compelled to seek representation elsewhere. However, choosing a location 300 miles distant raises questions. Up until recently, he was having a difficult time.

The decision to present only a single candidate instead of the customary multiple options sparked anger among the typically reserved Conservative supporters in Essex. Additionally, the imposition of Mr. Holden by the party headquarters just days before the Friday 4pm deadline added to the discontent.

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It certainly doesn't present a positive image. The eleventh-hour placement of Mr. Ross and Mr. Holden in seats held by the Conservatives, at the expense of local party members, portrays these leading Tories as a self-interested upper class.

Moreover, a number of aides from Rishi Sunak’s team at Number 10 have secured themselves safe electoral districts, while various Conservative members previously serving in at-risk seats, particularly those in the Red Wall areas, have shifted to more secure constituencies.

The situation has not always been the same. In 1992, Chris Patten, who was then the chairman of the Conservative Party, continued to campaign in his Bath constituency despite anticipating a defeat. Ultimately, he did lose his seat in a surprising general election victory for John Major.

Undoubtedly, such an event is implausible today. Moreover, in the grand parliamentary hall above, the ongoing events would probably be met with loud objections that resemble the growl of an angry bulldog.

The individuals running for office in North Aberdeishire and East Moray include:

• Ian Bailey – Representing the Liberal Democrats

• Andy Brown – Candidate for the Labour Party

• Seamus Logan – Member of the SNP

• Douglas Ross – From the Conservative and Unionist

The individuals running for office in Basildon and Billericay include:

• Christopher Bateman represents the British Democratic Party

• Stephen Conlay is affiliated with Reform UK

• Stewart Goshawk stands for the Green Party

• Alex Harrison is a candidate from the Labour Party

• Richard Holden belongs to the Conservative and Unionist Party

• Edward Sainsbury is with the Liberal Democrats

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