Prospective Conservative Candidates for Cambridge Announced

Monday, December 7th, 2009. 2:09pm

Those running in Cambridge’s “open primary” to select a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate have been announced:

Nick Hillman

Photo of Nick Hillman
The leading candidate appears to me to be Nick Hillman. Mr Hillman is the only one of those standing to have a personal / political website though even he only started his blog a week or so ago. He has committed to lobbying for the interests of Cambridge. He recognises that the city does not receive its fair share of national resources. He uses the example of school provision which is a major problem in the city; both with underestimation of the number of children living in new developments and, as Mr Hillman highlights, the lack of investment in Hills Road Sixth Form College. He links to his professional work as an advisor to David Willetts MP. (He doesn’t call himself an advisor, he’s clearly been watching far too much of “The West Wing” and styles himself as Willetts’ “Chief of Staff”).

Mr Hillman comes across as slightly slippery on the subject of his association with Cambridge. He lives in London but has spent time (perhaps as a student?) in Cambridge. In his piece on the Cambridge Conservatives website he says: “we will move here later this month”, but on his own website he makes clear he only plans to move to Cambridge if he wins the Conservative nomination.

Sarah El-Neil

Photo of Sarah El-Neil

Sarah El-Neil, Cambridge’s Conservative Association Chairman is also standing. As the previous candidate, Richard Normington stood down due to differences with the new leadership of the Association El-Neil will presumably have to explain what went on if she is to gain support. She has also not yet made clear if she plans to step down from her job as a Harley Street Doctor and Life Coach either to campaign or if elected. As far as I’m aware all the local Conservative Association do is run raffles; they don’t engage their members in policy discussions or influence the views of the party nationally. I think the Conservative party suffers from a lack of lack of a connection between party members and the leadership and associations being run in the way that Cambridge’s has doesn’t help improve matters.

Eve Conway

Photo of Eve Conway
Next up is Eve Conway – from Redbridge in London, who has worked for the BBC moderating user-submitted news photos. After having read her puff-piece on the Cambridge City Conservatives website I’m wondering how she found out there were members of six different religions in her Rotary Club and why she thinks it matters.

Chamali Fernando

Photo of Chamali Fernando
Chamali Fernando – describes herself as a Cameron cutie and before setting her sights on representing Cambridge tried to get the Liberal Democrat nomination for Mayor of London. While she mentions she was shortlisted for to be the Mayoral Candidate for a “major political party” in her introduction on the Cambridge Conservatives website she fails to make clear she looking to stand as a Liberal Democrat and not a Conservative!

It has been suggested that she left the Liberal Democrats, in July January 2009, because she opposed the party’s stance on tuition fees. She never gave a full explanation. Standing in Cambridge on a policy of keeping, and perhaps increasing, tuition fees isn’t going to go down well. She defected to the Conservatives in at the same time as her brother switched allegiance too.

Jane Gould

Photo of Jane Gould

Jane Gould – “Makes cakes” says her piece on the Cambridge Conservatives website.

Mark Higgins

Photo of Mark Higgins
Mark Higgins – yet another Londoner, but he appears to have read a local website of some sort as he describes an intent to pursue: “the best interests of Cambridge to ensure that, for example, concerns about the A14 or the airport site produce results.” That doesn’t inspire me with confidence that he’s grasped the transport challenges associated with the growth of the city and the surrounding region and the fact the City can make a great case for central government transport infrastructure funding to be invested here.

Register for the Open Primary

Register by midnight Wednesday 9th December 2009 for a vote at the Public Meeting to select the candidate to be held on the 12th of December.

Even if you’re planning to vote Labour, Green or for an individual you can still vote for who represents the Conservatives. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those from other parties turn up to choose their opponent. If I was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate, Daniel Zeichner, I think my vote would be with ex. Lib Dem “Cameron Cuitie” Chamali.

Cllr Howell, the city’s most prominent conservative (if you don’t count Jeffery Archer!) isn’t standing; which while a shame, is positive from the point of view of the City Council as it ensures there will continue to be effective scrutiny of what the Liberal Democrats get up to; and the residents of Coleridge continue to get served by a team of excellent councillors and campaigners, despite their Labour County Councillor setting his sights on the South Cambridgeshire Parliamentary seat.

19 comments/updates on “Prospective Conservative Candidates for Cambridge Announced

  1. Oliver Stanton

    Richard, hi.

    Mr Hillman has: ‘worked in local schools, including Hills Road Sixth Form College, so I know the needs of young people and public sector staff. I have lived on King Street, and I cycle, drive and use public transport, so I understand local transport pressures’. Which is slightly more than your ‘He lives in London but has spent time (perhaps as a student?) in Cambridge’ comment would lead us to believe.

    He may also get into another unprovoked attack, if he’s less than careful?

    Notwithstanding that the Cons in Cambridge are doomed, they’d be better off defending Mr Lansley.

  2. Richard Article author


    Mr Hillman could have worked at Hills Road Sixth Form College while training to be a teacher, from the scant information he has made available that was one possibility I considered.

  3. James Graham

    It has been suggested that she left the Liberal Democrats, in July 2009, because she opposed the party’s stance on tuition fees.

    That isn’t what I wrote. I said – in JANUARY 2009 – that she resigned before the vote on tuition fees policy on the party’s Federal Policy Committee (on which she had recently been elected at the time).

  4. Nick Mason

    I know the blogosphere is meant to be caustic, but your sole comment on Jane Gould is a bit harsh. She’s spent many years working for the party, is a leading light in the Job Club social action programme, is a director of a Cambridge based high tech company and knows the city extremely well.

    She is compassionate, hard working, and knows how to win votes from the Lib Dems.

    Just my two penn’orth.

  5. Richard Article author


    I read her biography and “make cakes” was the only bit which really stood out to me.

    I’ve just read from your website about the “job club” she started in Dorset :

    I don’t think that’s particularly relevant to representing Cambridge. What’s most shocking about your link is the suggestion Jane Gould has recently been elected as a councillor in Shaftesbury.

    Quite what election this was I can’t find out; she lost the 2009 election to represent Shaftesbury on North Dorset District Council to a Liberal Democrat. *

    I found some other interesting links though:

    Jane4Shaftesbury blog, up to last week she was campaigning for Shaftesbuty!
    Jane Gould’s “janiebear” Twitter account. “Location Shaftesbury, Dorset, England; Bio Tory activist, co council c’date. would be MP. love to cook, chat & read.

    As far as I can see there’s no mention of Cambridge on either the blog or twitter feed.

    And I’ve found a picture of one of her cakes :

    Cake made by Jane Gould

  6. Richard Article author

    I have been sent the below email:

    From: Eric Barrett-Payton
    Date: 8 December 2009 22:56:44 GMT
    To: Richard Taylor
    Subject: Selection of Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

    This is the formal confirmation that you are registered to attend and vote on Saturday December 12th.

    You will need to come to The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ in the centre of Cambridge

    Please arrive as soon as possible after 9.00 for a 9.30 start.

    Once the formal proceedings have commenced, anyone arriving afterwards will not be able to participate.

    Please also note that it will be necessary to be present throughout the proceedings, to hear all 6 candidates, for approximately 20/25 minutes each, before the final vote takes place. Anyone who leaves the building will not be permitted to return.

    There will be a tea/coffee break of about 15 minutes at the halfway stage at around 11.00

    It should be an interesting morning, and we look forward to seeing you on Saturday

    Eric Barrett-Payton
    Chairman of the Selection Process
    Cambridge City Conservative Association

  7. David Vincent

    I believe Sarah El-Neil’s parents and other family members live in Cambridge and she has owned a flat here for many years (even if she hasn’t occupied it). Perhaps the absence of other “local” candidates from the short list has to do with a wish to promote her as the “local option”.

  8. Nick Hillman


    Thanks for publicising Saturday’s public meeting. I look forward to seeing you – and hopefully lots of others – there. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope it marks a new stage of engagement with local voters.

    As you have spotted, I have a blog at that describes my activities since being selected as one of the final six. Today’s entry (‘Entering the final lap’) includes:

    –my meeting with the Parkside Federation
    –a stint leafleting Cambridge commuters and
    –the sad news about Trinity Street Post Office.

    I freely admit that there is plenty more that I have still to learn, but I have always thought politics should be fun and the last few days have been a blast.

    See you on Saturday,

  9. Ruth Deyermond

    I see that Ms Fernando describes herself as a “former resident of Cambridge”. I wonder when this was – there’s no mention of it in any other piece about her that I can find anywhere. If I were a member of Cambridge Conservatives, I’d be keen to question the shortlisting of a candidate who has been a member of the party for less than 5 months, having previously been a Lib Dem for 20 years, and who has no current and seemingly very little former connection to the city.

  10. Richard Article author

    Nick Hillman attended the whole of the West/Central area committee on Thursday the 11th of December.

    I asked what the format of Saturday’s caucus was likely to be and if anyone would be able to ask questions of the candidates. He said he didn’t know, and clearly as a candidate couldn’t seek to influence what happened. I suggested that if the public were able to ask questions it might be worth mentioning that in advance to let people prepare.

    Sarah El-Neil also made an appearance, but left well before the end.

  11. David Vincent

    As far as I can gather, Nick Hillman’s association with Cambridge consists almost entirely of doing his PGCE in the City (apart from having his wedding reception here, of course). I was interested to note that he considers teaching to be by far the most stressful of any occupation he has ever followed (which is perhaps why he left the profession). He doesn’t indicate whether he thinks the salaries of teachers should be raised to reflect this.

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