politics

Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election: ‘They feel sorry for me’ … the Tory battling for votes after sleaze



F

or Louie French, the home grown Conservative candidate bidding to join Boris Johnson’s troubled Tory ranks – the last few weeks of sleaze and chaos at Westminster have drawn an unexpected response from voters.

“They feel sorry for me,” he explains, sitting in the back room of the Halfway House Bar in Sidcup. “People have been asking me; ‘Louie, are you sure you want to be doing this?’”

Meanwhile the Prime Minister has stumbled from crisis to crisis, with Conservative backbenchers rebelling over plans to water down social care reforms and accusations of broken promises over railways.

It all culminated in a bizarre speech to business leaders last Monday where the Prime Minister lost his way before launching a surreal tribute to Peppa Pig, sparking fresh concerns over Mr Johnson and his Number 10 operation.

It is against this febrile backdrop that Mr French, a 33-year-old investment portfolio manager and Tory councillor, will attempt to extend the Conservative Party’s long grip on the south east London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup on Thursday.

A true blue constituency, the area was represented by former Prime Minister Ted Heath for over five decades. And while the boundaries of the seat have shifted slightly down the years the Tories’ dominance has not.

It was most recently served by James Brokenshire, the popular former Northern Ireland Secretary who died of cancer in October aged just 53, triggering this week’s by-election.

A wealthy, leafy London suburb, the 2011 census by the Office for National Statistics show 80 per cent of people own their own homes and 10 per cent work in higher managerial and professional jobs.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson are among those to have joined Labour candidate Daniel Francis on the campaign trail

While Mr Johnson’s promise to get Brexit done and level up the country might have attracted new Red Wall voters in the North and Midlands in 2019, it is places like this which have long been the foundation stone of Tory majorities in Parliament.



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