AN OLD Etonian and friend of David Cameron has urged Conservative Party members in Witney to back the local association chairman as their next parliamentary candidate.

In an email ahead of a selection event tomorrow night, Lord de Mauley described David McFarlane as "hugely experienced person in all the aspects of life" who had "put his back into every aspect of our electoral success".

He also said the chairman had shown "exemplary local leadership" and "turned things around" after being appointed as chairman by Mr Cameron last year.

But the peer's intervention was described by one local Tory as an attempt to "ram raid" the selection process, which will see members pick one of three candidates vetted by Conservative Party HQ. 

Witney Gazette:

  • David McFarlane, chairman of West Oxfordshire Conservatives

It has not been confirmed who has been shortlisted, but it was reported this morning that prominent politicians who were not local, such as South East MEP Daniel Hannan and former Employment Minister Esther McVey, would not be included.

Mc McFarlane, who is also a district councillor, has not responded to requests for comment but is known to be in the running, with several party members also suggesting Mr Cameron's former aide, Natasha Whitmill, could be on the selection ballot.

Baroness Jenkin yesterday called for the new candidate to be a woman, because only a fifth of Tory MPs are female.

Both West Oxfordshire District Council leader James Mills and his deputy leader Robert Courts are also seeking the nomination and Mr Mills remains the favourite of bookmakers. 

Meanwhile, Labour has named Duncan Enright, a Witney district councillor who fought last year's general election in Witney, as its candidate, with the Liberal Democrats selecting Charlbury district councillor Liz Leffman.

Former professional boxer Winston McKenzie will stand for the English Democrats. 

Lord de Mauley's office at the House of Commons did not answer phone calls this morning.