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The Conservatives are turning to familiar figures from former governments to inject fresh talent into the parliamentary party, with two ex-senior advisers poised to become MPs at the next election.
Nick Timothy, former chief of staff to Theresa May in Downing Street, was chosen on Sunday night as the Tory candidate for the parliamentary constituency of West Suffolk.
His selection followed Rupert Harrison, former chief of staff to George Osborne at the Treasury, being picked last month to run in the newly created seat of Bicester and Woodstock.
While Timothy is considered a scourge of the international elite, Harrison was a key advocate of austerity and went on to pursue a lucrative career at BlackRock, the US money manager.
Both constituencies are considered Conservative “safe seats” on paper, with West Suffolk boasting a Tory majority of 23,194 at the last election when it was won by Matt Hancock, the former health secretary who has since been suspended from the party. A Tory victory is also anticipated in Bicester and Woodstock in the blue-leaning county of Oxfordshire.
Both Timothy and Harrison are already being talked up in Westminster circles as potential future Conservative leadership candidates.
Hailing from opposing wings of the party, the two men’s expected arrival in the House of Commons after the next election sets up the ideological dividing lines that could define the party after Rishi Sunak’s time as premier.
While advising May, Timothy was a proponent of industrial strategy and credited as the driving force behind her 2016 “citizens of nowhere” speech in which she lashed out at unrooted global elites.
He was also held responsible for his part in May’s 2017 snap election that saw the Tories lose their Commons majority, after which he and his co-chief of staff Fiona Hill were forced out of government.
Timothy is a Eurosceptic who supports cutting immigration, shrinking the civil service and reforming the BBC, views set out in his regular column for The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
At present he also has roles at the right-leaning think tanks Policy Exchange and Onward, where he is chairing a project on the future of Conservatism.
His selection as a Tory parliamentary candidate was welcomed by the right of the party.
Former Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman described Timothy on Twitter as someone who “genuinely believes in Brexit and speaks with great courage on immigration issues”.
Former Eton head boy Harrison was one of the key figures in the “austerity” era overseen by David Cameron’s coalition government.
He worked for the then chancellor Osborne from 2005 to 2015 and was a leading adviser on economic policy after the financial crisis.
A supporter of Remain in the EU referendum, he went on to become a portfolio manager at BlackRock and is currently an economic adviser to chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Harrison’s association with the Cameron-Osborne team became something of a liability after Brexit and the election of May and Boris Johnson as Tory prime ministers.
But Osborne said: “Rupert is one of the very best and the brightest. I’ve no doubt he’ll play a big role in our national life and it’s a welcome sign that the seeds of the Tory renewal are already being planted.”
Harrison and Timothy’s decision to stand for office has boosted morale among Tory MPs pessimistic about the party’s electoral prospects.
One said it was heartening that “there are good people still in Conservative politics who want to be MPs”.
A flurry of parliamentary candidate selections are taking place each month as the Conservatives prepare for a long election campaign.
Paul Goodman, editor of the influential grassroots party website ConservativeHome, said on Monday that male candidates were doing notably better than their female equivalents.
“Downing Street and CCHQ will be perturbed by the continuing run of men being selected in the safer constituencies,” he wrote on the website.
A Tory official hit back, saying that women have been selected to fight the South West Devon constituency, which a Conservative majority of more than 21,000, and Reigate, which has a majority of more than 18,000.
The proportion of women on the party’s candidates list is higher than the share among existing Tory MPs, added the official.