It was a long day. I was up at 5.30am and in my office at 7am, collecting paperwork and supplies to take to T&MBC Council Chamber, where the meeting was being held. (For the record, we paid T&MBC a commercial rate to hire the facilities).
The caterers (aka Joyce Gadd and the Aylesford branch committee) arrived at 7.45am to prepare morning coffee, and they kept us supplied with drinks, sandwiches and delicious home-made cakes all day. Members of the Executive arrived at 8am for a briefing and the interviews commenced at 9am and continued until the final candidate was seen at 6pm. It was a long day, but the quality of the candidates, the constant supply of delicious food and the intelligent and considered questioning, kept everyone alert and involved.
The complex and thorough evaluation / scoring matrix ensured each applicant was considered across a demanding range of criteria. This process resulted in the back-stage team inputting up to 560 marks for each candidate. I am hugely grateful to my friend and colleague, Ginny Heard (who is Nicholas Soames' agent from Mid Sussex) for taking on the lion's share of the data-managing.
As the day wore on it was obvious how outstanding the field was; any one of the applicants would have made an wonderful final candidate and, with the support of the public, a first rate MP. I would like to thank all the candidates for their courtesy, dedication and hard work throughout the process.
The rules, however, stipulate a maximum of four in the final and so the top four went through. I was grateful today that I wasn't one of those having to choose; it would have been an honour to have found myself working as agent alongside any one of the shortlisted candidates.
So there we have it. The penultimate stage is over, we have our finalists and in one week's time we will have our new parliamentary candidate, chosen by the people of Tonbridge & Malling at an open, inclusive and democratic Open Primary. Now it's time to LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.
Click HERE to see a list of final candidates.