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By-election update: All voters to get chance to have a say in choosing Tory successor to Mark Reckless in Rochester and Strood

By Paul Francis

All voters in Rochester and Strood are to have a say in who will be the Conservative candidate at the forthcoming by-election under plans to select the candidate through a postal primary.

The Conservative association will get the selection process underway next week and will draw up a shortlist of three from the party's approved candidates list.

Voters will then get a chance to vote by post on who they want to be the official candidate - regardless of whether they are members of the Conservative party.

Mark Reckless triggered the looming by-election after his defection to Ukip
Mark Reckless triggered the looming by-election after his defection to Ukip

The bold move has been agreed with national party managers and sources say they want an inclusive process that will give everyone a say - if they choose to.

The same process was used by the Conservatives to choose its candidate for the Clacton by-election which was triggered by the first defection of a Conservative MP to UKIP, Douglas Carswell.

The use of primaries to select candidates has previously been championed by David Cameron but the party has appeared to cool on the idea in recent years. Totnes MP Dr Sarah Woolaston was elected using the process in 2010.

Nineteen seats are up for grabs
Nineteen seats are up for grabs

The by-election in Kent, triggered by the defection of MP Mark Reckless to UKIP, is expected to be one of the most acrimonious of recent years.

The Conservatives have been infuriated by the decision made by its former MP and are determined to retain the seat in the face of rising support for the anti-EU party.

Read KM political editor Paul Francis's take on the Rochester and Strood by-election here.

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