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Election 2017: Upminster mum starts campaign against candidates unfamiliar with area

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:44 24 April 2017

Catherine Meek hard at work in her office. Picture Catherine Meek.

Catherine Meek hard at work in her office. Picture Catherine Meek.

Catherine Meek

A mum-of-two has warned a political party against taking voters for granted by selecting election candidates not familiar with the area.

Former Conservative employment minister Esther McVey. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images. Former Conservative employment minister Esther McVey. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images.

Because of time constraints before the general election, the Conservative party is selecting candidates for the Hornchurch and Upminster constituency after Dame Angela Watkinson announced she would step down.

When Catherine Meek, 43, of Courtenay Gardens, Upminster, found out she leapt into action and started a social media campaign and petitioned Gareth Fox, head of candidates.

“Conservative headquarters is not letting local Tory associations choose their own organic candidates,” she said.

“I heard that the plan is to parachute in the likes of Esther McVey or David Campbell-Bannerman, neither of whom know anything about the area.

“Through people power, we are trying to change this.”

Ms McVey, is the former MP for Wirral West, and Mr Campbell-Bannerman is Conservative member for the European Parliament (MEP) for the east of England.

Shaun Bailey speaking at a Conservative Party Conference. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Archive/PA Images Shaun Bailey speaking at a Conservative Party Conference. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Archive/PA Images

A third candidate is said to be Shaun Bailey, Conservative London assembly member who stood for Hammersmith in the 2010 elections, but now lives in Harold Hill.

Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Association chairman, Bob Perry, 60, said: “It’s true but we are rejecting that principle and we are fighting for a local.”

Ms Meek continued: “We have a strong Tory majority but don’t take us for granted. Don’t think we are just going to stand for it.

“Think again. If you’re a big Tory area they should be saying thank you not just give us someone from Wirral who doesn’t know the area.”

Theresa May announced a snap general election on June 8 last week and was backed by a major of 522 MPs to 13.

Simon Darvill, secretary for the Hornchurch and Upminster Constituency Labour Party said the process for his association is similar to the Conservatives.

David Campbell Bannerman speaking at an Alternatives to EU Membership conference. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images. David Campbell Bannerman speaking at an Alternatives to EU Membership conference. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images.

He said usually associations have two months to choose a candidate, hold hustings and have names short listed by Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).

“Local members don’t get a say but having said that, they [the NEC] will try to pick a local candidate sometimes someone who has previously stood,” he said.

Mr Darvill suggested a possible candidate is Paul McGeary who stood in the 2015 elections.

Labour party candidates will be unveiled on May 2.

But according to Ms Meek, a solicitor, once Dame Angela’s replacement is chosen, the seat is likely to remain Conservative because of the large Tory majority.

“We know that the Tory MP is going to be retained here,” she continued.

“The question is who is that Tory going to be?”

Mr Darvill added: “It is a very large majority but we have held the seat before.

“We have 600 members, the most members we have ever had.

“We will be working hard to speak to voters and get our message out there in the time we can.”

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