When I read about this on Twitter, it gave me a chuckle to see a commentator say it seems clear Jeremy Middleton doesn’t think he’ll get far as a Conservative Party candidate.
Then I read the ConservativeHome article , realised that the Tories are saying it too, and had a good belly-laugh.
What does that tell us about the Conservative Party’s self-image and popularity?
I’ll tell you: Both are in decline.
Back in February, Jeremy Middleton became the first candidate from any party to declare his intention to run for the new North East mayoralty, announcing that he hoped to secure the Conservative nomination.
Middleton is a successful businessman, a two-times Parliamentary candidate in the North East, a five-times council candidate in Newcastle and former Chairman of the National Conservative Convention. The assumption was that he would either be nominated unopposed, or easily triumph in a contested selection process.
At least, that was the assumption until a few days ago – on Friday, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle reported that Middleton has left the Conservative Party, and will instead run as an independent.
Here is his account of his reason for doing so:
“This is not about party politics, it is about the North East. This region needs candidates focused exclusively on its interests and not people with one eye on their party careers.
“I am disillusioned with Westminster squabbles. It is clear the big parties will use these elections as platforms to fight national battles and internal arguments, but we need to put the people’s interests first.
“We need to end the factionalism and childish Westminster arguments that dominate our local politics.”
The North East has had a “raw deal” from successive governments for decades, Mr Middleton added.
That may all be true, but it’s hard to avoid the unspoken implication that he has decided he stands a better chance of winning if he is not officially a Conservative candidate.
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