THE shortlist of candidates to fight the next general election for the Conservatives in Salisbury will be announced on Friday.

Local party chairman Penny Brown said there have been 183 applicants, including a number of local people. They will be whittled down to six by a selection panel meeting at the Tory central office in London on Thursday.

The vacancy has arisen following Robert Key’s decision to stand down on medical advice.

The party is holding an open primary on January 31 where the final six candidates will give a presentation.

About 1,000 party members will be invited to the meeting and some tickets will also be available for people in the constituency who are on the electoral roll – irrespective of their political allegiance.

Once one of the candidates has 51 per cent of the votes, he or she will be formally adopted as the party’s candidate.

Mr Key, who has served as the city’s MP since 1983, has spoken of the need to restore the public’s trust in politicians. He described the selection process as “rigorous” and said he was delighted that there would be “no decisions behind closed doors by a tight-knit group of politically-motivated people”.