Totnes Conservative primary, 2009

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Conservative Party (UK) parliamentary primary in Totnes, 2009
United Kingdom
4 August 2009

Turnout 24.6%
Candidate Sarah Wollaston Sara Randall-Johnson Nicholas Bye
Popular vote 7,914 5,495 3,088
Percentage 48.0% 33.3% 18.7%

Elected Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

Sarah Wollaston

The Totnes Conservative Party parliamentary primary of 2009 was the 1st open primary election used to select the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the constituency of Totnes. The election was held on Tuesday 4 August 2009 under the first-past-the-post system. The primary was triggered by Anthony Steen's announcement that he would not stand at the next election.[1] This came just days after details of Steen's expenses claims were published in The Daily Telegraph.


On 17 May 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that Anthony Steen, MP for Totnes, had claimed over £87,000 on a country house with 500 trees[2] On 20 May he announced that he would retire from Westminster at the next election - the day after this announcement, he told BBC Radio 4's long-running lunchtime program The World at One that the Labour Government's Freedom of Information Act was to blame for making his expenses public. He also accused his constituents of being "jealous". Later that day, Steen issued an apology.

On 8 June the Totnes Conservative Association advertised the position of Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Totnes - the deadline for applications was ten days following this. On 10 July it was announced that the Association would organise a constituency-wide postal ballot in which registered voters, regardless of their political affiliation, could select the Conservative PPC.


Thursday 18 June Deadline for candidate applications
Tuesday 14 July Totnes Conservative Association publish list of three shortlisted candidates
Saturday 25 July Public hustings, moderated by Matthew Parris
Tuesday 4 August Deadline for ballot papers to be returned. Result announced
Thursday 6 May General election


On 14 July the Totnes Conservative Association announced a shortlist of three candidates whose names would appear on the ballot. The candidates were:


The three candidates campaigned throughout the constituency - each registered voter received a personal leaflet from each candidate as well as the ballot paper.[3] Sarah Wollaston capitalised on the fact that she was the only candidate to not have had a political career and, at the public hustings, avoided taking a partisan approach, which proved favourable among voters.[4][5]


Ballot: 4 August 2009
Candidate Votes %
Sarah Wollaston 7,914 48.0
Sara Randall-Johnson 5,495 33.3
Nicholas Bye 3,088 18.7
Spoilt 73 0.4
Majority 2,419 14.7
Turnout 16,497
Wollaston elected Totnes PPC


There was concern regarding the cost of the vote after it was revealed that the primary had cost Conservative Campaign Headquarters over £40,000.[6]

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