The Newport West campaign this time is unique and wonderful.
The previous candidates were a mixed bunch-but none were accused of cancelling an appointment with a distinguished journalist from the national press and then ‘dodging’ her phone calls. It’s eccentric PR for a candidate who is unknown in the constituency and was imposed under duress here.
Feature writer Janice Turner from the Times newspaper arranged to meet me and the Tory before embarking on the train ride from London. When Janice tried to confirm the arrangements for meeting on the train, the Tory candidate ‘cancelled the meeting then ‘dodged her phonecalls’. Newport West has attracted UK interest as it’s the only constituency in the UK where Tory HQ has imposed a ‘shortlist’ of one. Bridgend had two and they are in open revolt. The rest of the ’empty’ constituencies had a choice of three. I have a theory about the reason which I will give at the Hustings.
There were no shortage of Newport based Tories who wanted to be on the shortlist to challenge the Cardiff based candidate who had lost her two previous elections in 2010 and 2011 and was not subsequently readopted by the constituencies where she stood or any others. The 2015 candidate in Newport West complained in a tweet that he was denied a place on the shortlist. A brilliant London-based Newport Tory is ‘hopping mad’ that he was excluded from the shortlist. The truth will come out. Former Tory candidate Iain Dale of LBC knows the inside details from an impeccable source. So do I. Iain humiliated Andrew RT Davies in a radio interview by repeating the same question 8 times.
It’s still baffling. Why should a candidate run away from national publicity in Tory sympathetic newspaper? Could it be that Tory HQ told her to pull out of the interview for fear that the reporter would ask why she was imposed. If that was the tactic it backfired. The Times reported without qualification that the Tory ‘is from Cardiff and was imposed on the constituency’.
It’s hardly started yet but it’s already almost the most interesting campaign I’ve ever had. The best was when the Tory candidate’s personal pension policy was to ‘ship Newport pensioners to Eritrea because poverty is relative.’
Three weeks to go. Time to find whether the policies of omerta and the Tory HQ bullying Newport Tories works?