The Conservative Party has turned to ‘people power’ to select a candidate to replace record-breaking MP Sir Peter Tapsell.
Sir Peter will step down at next year’s General Election and the fight to succeed him is already underway in one of the safest Tory seats in the country.
The News can reveal ‘scores’ of candidates are involved in the initial selection process.
We can also confirm several big name candidates are in the running - but London Mayor Boris Johnson is NOT among them.
The final decision on Sir Peter’s successor will feature an American style primary election with a list of ‘three or four’ candidates.
Local people will be invited to vote and choose Sir Peter’s successor.
It is believed to be one of the first times a primary election has been held in Lincolnshire.
A Tory party spokesman said: “We want to be completely open and honest about this.
“That’s why we’ve decided on a primary election.
“We want to let the people of Louth and Horncastle decide who they want to succeed Sir Peter.
“It will be their decision.”
It’s thought the primary election will be held in Spilsby on July 28.
Provided people officially register their interest - and turn up at the event - they will be allowed to vote.
The winner will be announced that night, ending months of speculation about Sir Peter’s successor.
The local Conservative Association will play a leading role in the process.
They are already sifting through more than 100 hopefuls.
That list will be whittled down to a short list of around 10-20 candidates who will go through a rigorous interview process.
The final list will comprise of a maximum four candidates who will be involved in the Primary Election.
The winner will be the first person to gain more than 50 per cent of the vote.
Traditionally, it has been local party officials who have chosen candidates and all too often, there have been accusations of central office interference
The spokesman added: “This is a real opportunity - a historic opportunity - for people to have their say.
“Central Office will not be involved.
“ It is one of the safest seats in the country but there will be absolutely no pressure to select one particular person.
“After the result at the Primary Election, the local association will be asked whether they accept the winner. It’s a simple yes or no but that result has never been overturned.”
There has been intense speculation about who will succeed Sir Peter who is the country’s longest serving MP and is a highly respected Father of the House.
Several big names have been put forward, including Boris Johnson.
The spokesman was reluctant to reveal the identity of any of the candidates but sources told the News that the Mayor of London is not in the running.
Sir Peter had already appeared to rule Johnson out of contention when he said the Horncastle and Louth constituency was too far away from London.
The spokesman did confirm ‘scores of candidates’ had indicated their interest and the list included several well-known names.