Mondays are usually a bit of a blur for me. Today was worse than usual because the M1 was stuffed up and I ended up trying to get to work through the backroads of Northamptonshire to make a meeting at 9:30 – only to get there and realise I’d left my pass at home so would have to go through the security palaver, making me five minutes late.
Harumph! But then a bit of news from the homeland came my way – Laura Moffatt has decided not to stand for another term as MP for Crawley. Only last week she was making a public point of refusing her pay increase and next week was due to debate with the other candidates next Thursday. The seat was about the most marginal in the country, with a majority of 37 over the Tories, and so with no swing it was vulnerable *and everyone has known that for nearly 5 years*. With the Tories making gains in the polls between 2007 and 2009, the seat looked lost (although it’s hard for an insider to accept such things as certain), and Laura did not stand down. Now that the polls are narrowing, the race would be tighter but still a very tough one to win. I get the impression that this was a personal decision, not one force on her, but I don’t know what it is, beyond the stated one: “The work of an MP is challenging and exciting but it takes its toll on family life which is why I have taken this difficult decision.” One theory I heard today was that she was worried she might win.
The timing is awful for the local party though. There’s very little time to organise a selection before the campaign officially starts (which could well be soon after next week’s budget), and a candidate would need to be in place ready. The seat was an All-Woman-Shortlist for 1997, so there could be pressure for it to be so again. There are a load of people on the national shortlist who could go for it, but it may be that a local person would be better placed – and would avoid accusations of being a parachute. Of course the question then would be who locally would be a good candidate.