Tories launch search for MP candidate to fill Hague shoes

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Richmond Conservatives have started the task of replacing William Hague.

A party long list for the seat has been opened up to applicants after the former Foreign Secretary announced he will step down in 2015.

Mr Hague will spend the rest of the parliament as Leader of the House, with a “key seats” role at the General Election.

His Richmond seat is one of the safest in the country, with a 23,336 Conservative majority, and will be seen as the top target for would-be MPs.

The local Conservative party branch says it expects around 80 inquires and applicants for the job.

Early speculation had even included London mayor Boris Johnson, though the leading Tory has made it clear he will seek a seat somewhat closer to his day job in the capital.

Among the early names to confirm they will seek the candidacy is Robin Scott, who recently stepped down as deputy chairman in Richmond.

Mr Scott said: “I think we can rest assured there will be a strong pool of candidates. Those involved in selecting William have told me that there were over 200 applicants for the role back in 1989.

“I hope that we do get the strongest range of applications – particularly from people with a strong local connection. Our constituency is best represented by a person who understands the unique qualities of Richmond and the particular issues we face across this varied constituency.”

Another name in the running is former TV presenter Selina Scott, who was initially linked to the Thirsk and Malton seat.

Mr Scott said: “I believe Ms Scott lives in the Thirsk and Malton constituency. She’d have some strong local candidates to overcome if she did choose to parachute into Richmond.”

Bookies have made former local popular party chairman Wendy Morton the 2-1 favourite to be selected for the seat.

The battle comes as the Shadow Leader of the House, Angela Eagle, challenged the Conservatives to “come clean over the true state of their party membership”.

Labour said that since David Cameron became leader 118,600 members have left the Conservative Party. This, Labour said, was equivalent to the population of Exeter or Tunbridge Wells and bigger than the population of many seats that Mr Cameron hopes to win in 2015.