THE Conservatives will on Saturday select the successor to William Hague as the battle for one of the safest seats in the country draws to a close.
Local Tories will interview and vote on four candidates looking to take over from a seat Mr Hague will have held for 26 years when he steps down at the 2015 General Election. Mr Hague defended his Richmond seat with a 23,336 majority in 2010, and application process for the staunchly Conservative seat attracted around 90 candidates.
The final four will be interviewed and voted on by any of the 800 local party members who attend the afternoon session.
Association chairman Ron Kirk said the party was looking for someone able to follow in a line of successful MPs.
He said: “We are looking for someone who has an empathy with the constituency but also has the ability to achieve things on a national level. When you think of the history we have had, William was maybe 28 when he started, he had not stood before but went on to great things, we had Leon Brittan, who was Home Secretary, and Tim Kitson (parliamentary aide to Edward Heath).
“We have a history of people who are very good local MPs, but have also achieved things within the party, and that is the kind of person we are really looking for.
“We are not just looking for someone who is local, not at all really, we have right from the word go said that what we want is the best candidate. Locality really doesn’t matter, though we would anticipate the candidate living in the constituency.”
He added that the candidates would be quizzed on their views of a wide range of Conservative opinions during the final hustings.
“With around 800 members there will obviously be a variety of views reflected in the party,” he added.
Candidates for the seat include Rishi Sunak, head of the lack and minority ethnic research at the right-leaning Policy exchange think tank.
Oxford educated Mr Sunak says on his website biography that he is particularly interested in education and is a governor at the East London Science School, a new free school based in Tower Hamlets.
Robert Light is also bidding for the seat. Mr Light is the Conservative group leader in Kirklees and former council leader. He is managing director of a farming and equestrian business.
Chris Brannigan is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, a role which saw him serve eleven operational tours.
He was a candidate for the Hampshire police commissioner nomination and played a role in the Tory election campaign there.
Also standing is former Richmond Association chairwoman Wendy Morton, who stepped down to apply for the seat.
The only woman in the shortlist, Mrs Morton previously stood for the Tynemouth seat in 2010. She is vice chairman of the Conservative Party for Social Action, and runs an electronics company with her husband.
Mrs Morton played a role in the “Save our Friarage Hospital” campaign and was one of those who marched through Northallerton in support of the hospital.
Each candidate has roughly half an hour to make their pitch and answer questions.
Those who did not make the short list include Stephen Parkinson and Nick Timothy, advisers to Home secretary Theresa May.
Mr Hague stepped down as Foreign Secretary over the summer, and is now tasked with the marginal seats strategy.