Dorries dives in accusing candidate selection of being “rigged” as Festus fails to make the cut

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MP for Mid Beds, Nadine Dorries and PCC Festus Akinbusoye
PCC Festus Akinbusoye stood as the Conservative candidate in the Mid Bedfordshire by-election to replace former MP, Nadine Dorries. Image: Nadine Dorries/Twitter

The former MP for Mid Beds said the selection process to decide the Conservative candidate for the upcoming general election was “rigged”.

Last night (23 May), Blake Stephenson was selected from a shortlist of three, with the other two being Sue Clark, a Central Bedfordshire councillor, and Jamie Wallis, who will be the MP for Bridgend until next week, to be the Conservative candidate for July’s election.

Just after Stephenson was announced as the successful applicant, Nadine Dorries, who last August resigned as MP in anger at not being given a peerage, tweeted on X (formerly Twitter)…

I’ve had messages from inside the selection meeting at Mid Beds tonight that the whittling down to the final 3 candidates was rigged in order to ensure that @FestAKINBUSOYE didn’t get put through to the final 3 because ‘he would have won with the members.’

He is a superstar and…

— Rt Hon Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) May 23, 2024

Then, this morning (24 May) Festus Akinbusoye posted on Facebook…

“I just want to clarify: Though I lost the PCC [police and crime commissioner] election overall, I won in Central Bedfordshire and secured by far my highest vote tally in Mid Beds constituency (MORE than by-election total for any candidate).

“In fact, I won in EVERY polling district in Mid Beds. 3x Labour votes in one ward, 1.5x overall in the constituency. So of course, I am disappointed that I bizarrely did not get on final three as decided by local selection panel after interview.

“Apparently a very influential local member of the Panel stated to colleagues, ‘If he gets in final three, he will win with members’. I thought the point was for members to decide- Politics hunh! [sic]

“It will be very wrong to assume this had anything to do with Conservative Party HQ. This was all local.

“That said, I am not bitter or angry. I remain my positive and happy self. As I believe so strongly in this country of ours and what it has given me.

“I won’t be deterred from doing my bit to make it better..one election win and defeat at a time,” he wrote.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service approached the Mid Bedfordshire Conservatives Association but was told that no one was available to comment.

Nadine Dorries became the Mid Beds MP in 2005 and faced increasing pressure to quit in August 2023 after seemingly abandoning her constituency when she failed to get a peerage when former PM Boris Johnson resigned.

Read: ‘Dosser Dorries’ signs appear as 75,000 people sign petition telling local MP to “shape up or ship out”

The by-election after her departure saw a Labour win, taking the area from the Conservatives for the first time since 1931.

By John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

and Paul Hutchinson
Bedford Independent