Friday, 12 May 2017

Where has Dan gone?

Thursday was closing day for candidates to submit their paperwork if they want to stand in the General Election. Which raises an interesting question for this blog: if Dan Hannan is not standing in Aldershot then where is he standing?

Dan Hannan has been a Conservative MEP since 1999 and is well known as one of the most prominent Eurosceptics. He was described by the Guardian as "The man who brought you Brexit". Even Boris had to concede that Dan Hannan had possibly written more than he had himself about the deficiencies of the EU.

As you may recall the Aldershot branch of the Conservatives asked for Dan Hannan to be shortlisted as a candidate. Conservative Central Office refused this and put forward a list of three candidates which did not include Dan. It seems that the committee then backed down and the selection meeting was held without anyone attending being impolite enough to ask why Dan was not on the shortlist.

Aldershot was not the only local branch of the Conservatives to be unhappy with the selection procedure. The issues included the shortlist being imposed without consultation, the shortlist not being available to members before the selection meeting and an overall lack of candidates to fill the seats available. Mark Wallace has a very readable article on the problems here.

So if CCHQ did not think that Dan was the right person for Aldershot, where have they decided to use his obvious abilities? The answer, it appears, is nowhere at all.

You might imagine that CCHQ was not allowing MEPs to stand as MPs for fear of losing representation in Brussels. However this does not seem to apply to Vicky Ford MEP (selected for Chelmsford) or Andrew Lewer MEP (selected for Northampton South).

So why would CCHQ be so keen to ensure that one of the most influential political thinkers in Britain was not selected as a candidate for Westminster? The lazy answer would be that this is some kind of Remainer conspiracy. Maybe that can not be ruled out, but I think that Dan's independence of mind is probably a bigger problem for the men in suits. Dan was thrown out of the EPP long before the rest of the Conservative party decided to leave, he resigned from the front bench over Cameron's refusal to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and famously he had a go at Gordon Brown when the latter appeared in Brussels.

Central Office has used the snap election as an opportunity to grab power from the local associations. In future Conservative candidates (and MPs) will answer to Central Office and not the local association. The last thing that Central Office would want is allow in to Parliament someone who has consistently argued that this is wrong.

One of my memories of the day after the Brexit vote was of Daniel Hannan thanking his audience for putting him out of a job. It seems that this was not really a joke after all.

Ken McNair

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