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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 11:53 GMT
Neil to conduct Tory interviews
Andrew Neil
Neil: To grill would-be MPs
Newspaper editor and host of the BBC's Daily Politics Andrew Neil will conduct the final interviews to choose a Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea.

Ex-Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind is best known of the seven-strong list.

After a further sifting, Tory members will select the candidate after Mr Neil publicly grills them on 25 February.

Shireen Ritchie, association chair and Madonna's mother-in-law, said members would be able to "see candidates performing under some pressure".

Mrs Ritchie said more than 200 approved Tory candidates had applied for the safe seat currently held by Michael Portillo.

Following interviews this week the final shortlist will be presented to the full membership of the Kensington and Chelsea Tory membership at a special general meeting on 25 February.

"With candidates of this calibre we can see that people are once again enthusiastic about representing the Conservative Party, and that its renaissance, under Michael Howard, continues apace," she said.

Mr Neil, a well known newspaper editor and host of the BBC Two's Daily Politics programme, will grill the final shortlist in the public meeting - fitting the bill as an "independent, professional political broadcaster".

Mrs Ritchie said: "Today, all public figures need media skills, so this form of interview will give the membership an opportunity to see candidates performing under some pressure in a high profile political situation.

"I believe this is the first time that this kind of interview has been tried, and I am sure it will help us in our efforts to select the very best candidate for Kensington and Chelsea."

The other shortlisted candidates are Pam Chesters, Mary Weale, Harriet Richmond and Warwick Lightfoot.

Conservative MPs for Kensington and Chelsea have traditionally been high profile - the safe seat was held by Alan Clark before Mr Portillo took it over.

Mr Portillo had previously represented Enfield Southgate from 1984 - a seat he lost to Stephen Twigg in what became one of the iconic moments of the 1997 general election.

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