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So, what did happen in Thirsk & Malton?

The failure of John Greenway to win selection for the new Thirsk & Malton seat (for electoral enthusiasts it is actually a famous old seat recreated) seems to have taken alot of people by surprise, not least John himself and many in the Conservative Party.

So, what went wrong from his point of view?

From talking to John, reading the local press and listening to other MPs, it seems that he failed to get sufficient control over various factions in his local constituency party, some who had never been his biggest fans despite his apparent popularity as a constituency MP. When John won Ryedale in 1987 it was a Liberal held seat, Liz Shields having snatched it from the Conservatives in a by-election the previous year. This wasn't a flash in the pan for the Liberals in Ryedale as they had been picking off Tory Council seats for a few years previously. John was among those unimpressed by the old guard's attempts to keep the Liberals at bay and when the by-election was lost he seized his chance to oust the unsuccessful Tory candidate and was selected to fight the 1987 General Election.

The Liberal/SDP Alliance (as it was then) was widely predicted to hold the seat. John proved the pundits wrong, won by a substantial margin and has made it a safe Tory seat ever since. However, some old wounds never healed. The faction around the ousted canadidate from 20 years ago has never embraced John as one of their own and their manoeuvring, coupled with the expected influx of Anne McIntosh supporters from the Vale of York seems to have caught John out.

A few local issues are meant to have weighed in as well, such as John's "failure" to get a by-pass built, coupled with the suggestion that a shadow minister might have more clout (McInstosh was recently made a shadow eduction minister) also cost John some votes. Such thoughts are born out of a spectacular naivety about Westminster politics that can only be down to the remoteness of the Yorkshire Moors from the hustle and bustle of London politics. Junior shadow ministers rarely have any clout, and certainly no more than respected, well informed backbench MPs like John.

Still, it is all water under the bridge now. John lost. He is not going to look for another seat and so will stand dwon from parliament at the next election. In the meantime, he has made it clear that he will be throwing himself into Westminster life, including chairing the All Party Group, with renewed vigour.

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