Could an advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron be Horsham’s first female MP?
Francis Maude’s shock announcement that he would not be restanding in the May general election has provoked a flurry of excitement in political circles.
While Mr Maude seems destined for a seat in the House of Lords where he can continue his cost-cutting work for the Government begun as Minister for the Cabinet Office, the traditionally safe Tory seat is seen as a top prize for many aspiring politicians.
One of the oldest seats in the country, it has never been represented in Parliament by a woman - but it could be that a female candidate could be chosen this time round.
The Horsham Conservative Association and its members will take the final decision and known for its fierce independence under respected chairman Brad Watson OBE it is unlikely to allow itself to be told who to appoint by central office.
Mr Watson has not commented on the process, but insiders believe he will merely want the very best candidate who can champion the best interests of the constituency.
A full selection process is already beginning.
But undoubtedly, the Tory hierarchy nationally want more women MPs.
Party Chairman Grant Shapps reinforced that point in a recent Sunday Times interview, pointing out that a third of its candidates were women up from 22 per cent in the last election.
who could seek selection?
One of the names mentioned as a potential Conservative candidate in Horsham was Helen Whatley who unsuccessfully stood for the party in Kingston and Surbiton in 2010, where Mr Maude helped her launch the Conservative manifesto locally.
But Mrs Whatley was named as the Tories candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent on Tuesday.
The other possible candidate is Laura Trott, who was also vying to be selected in Kent this week.
She is a former special advisor to Mr Maude at the Cabinet Office, and is now a political advisor to Mr Cameron on education and women’s issues.
Her appointment came in February 2012 to advise the Prime Minister on how the Government’s policies could affect women. This brief was enlarged in July 2013 to cover education and childcare.
She has been longlisted by the party previously in Croydon in 2013 and Havant late last year, and was a councillor in Camden.
According to her LinkedIn profile she studied History and Economics at Oxford.
Already five candidates have announced their intention to stand for Horsham in May’s General Election.