PENRITH and the Border still has no official Conservative Party General Election candidate - despite a December 12 vote now being set.

The constituency, served since 2010 by Conservative MP Rory Stewart, has long been considered one of the safest Tory seats in the country.

But following the MP’s expulsion from the party after defying Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Brexit, the party has been without a candidate for the next election.

With an election campaign now in full swing, Penrith and the Border Conservative Association says it is eager to have a candidate in place.

But a spokesman for local party association’s executive said Conservative Party Headquarters (CCHQ) only gave the official green light to a candidate selection process beginning on Monday.

“We have been obliged to wait for information and permission to proceed from CCHQ, which we have requested repeatedly,” the association executive spokesman said.

“On Monday of this week CCHQ agreed to formally start the process of selection by advertising the vacancy to their list of potential candidates.

“However, now that the General Election has been called for December 12, this may change.

“CCHQ has the discretion to stop the normal process and initiate by-election rules.

“This means that they can put forward a shortlist of three for the membership to choose from.

“[On Wednesday], we requested that they urgently clarify the position and we await their reply.

“Further information will be circulated as soon as it becomes available.”

Just a few weeks ago, Rory Stewart had indicated his intention to run for re-election in Penrith and the Border as an indepedent MP - which until the dissolution of Parliament next week he still technically is.

However, he announced at the beginning of this month that he will stand down when the election was called so he can run as an independent candidate for London mayor.

He told The Cumberland News that in its current form Parliamentary democracy is failing to properly use the knowledge and expertise of citizens.

He criticised both main party’s - including Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour - for becoming too extreme.

Mr Stewart said: “I’m against the idea that we have to delegate our brains to MPs for a full Parliamentary term. There are so many people outside Parliament who are so much better informed that people in Parliament.”

He would like to see the UK move to a system of citizen assemblies, with issues examined a jury of say 300 people who represent people.

They could then make recommendations on issues of importance. Mr Stewart is currently on a walking tour of London, engaging directly with voters.

In an earlier interview, Mt Stewart describes Parliament as medieval. Some 15 of the 24 ‘one nation’ Conservatives who backed him in the leadership race were now leaving the Commons. “The time has come to strike out as an independent,” he added.