Conservative councillor picked to contest late MP James Brokenshire’s south London seat

The Conservative Party has selected Louie French as its candidate in Old Bexley and Sidcup, after the late MP James Brokenshire‘s death earlier this month. 

Mr French is a Tory councillor of eight years who previously served as deputy leader of Bexley council from 2018 to 2021.

A by-election will be contested in the near future after Mr Brokenshire, a former Cabinet minister, died of lung cancer earlier this month. A date for the by-election is yet to be announced.

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The Conservatives will likely cling onto the seat in south-east London, which has remained blue since its inception in 1983. Mr Brokenshire won 64.5 per cent of the vote in 2019.

Mr French said it was an “honour” to stand as the party’s candidate in the former seat of his “friend and mentor”.

“I hope to carry on his excellent work [and] will campaign to ensure that outer London areas like Old Bexley and Sidcup are not forgotten or left behind by the mayor of London and City Hall,” he said.

“And I will work to improve access to GPs and healthcare services, building directly on James’ work with Queen Mary’s Hospital, so residents can get a face-to-face GP appointment at a time that suits them.”

It comes after former Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice announced his candidacy for the seat, in a bid to send a “powerful message to Boris Johnson” about the impact of his Government’s manifesto-breaking decision to increase taxes.

Mr Tice, who replaced Nigel Farage as leader of the renamed Reform Party in the aftermath of Brexit, said that a victory for his party would be a “massive wake up call” for the PM.

“Though it is awful that this election is happening at all, I am standing to ensure that a choice is given to the people of Bexley and Sidcup,” he said. “We now have the highest overall taxes for 70 years and the lowest medium term growth forecasts for 60 years. It means authoritarian controls and record long waiting lists.”

Labour announced it had selected Daniel Francis, a Bexley councillor and former leader of the region’s Labour group, as its candidate for the constituency.  

Mr Francis, in a message on Twitter, said he had lived in the area for 20 years and vowed to work “tirelessly” for the community if elected.

It comes after Mr Brokenshire’s death from lung cancer at the age of 53 earlier this month. 

The politician served as both Northern Ireland Secretary and Housing and Communities Secretary in former prime minister Theresa May’s Cabinet. 

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The father-of-three became vocal in urging the Government to roll out a national screening for lung cancer, and in April 2018 used a debate in Parliament to call for a national programme to improve poor survival rates.

His death sparked an outpouring of gratitude from across the political spectrum, with Mr Johnson describing him as the “nicest, kindest and most unassuming of politicians”.

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