The Conservatives have selected a candidate to contest the Old Bexley and Sidcup byelection after the death of MP James Brokenshire.
Louie French, a councillor for eight years and the former deputy leader of Bexley council, will face candidates from Labour and the Reform party in a byelection, the date of which has not yet been announced.
The announcement on Saturday comes after former Cabinet minister Brokenshire, who had lung cancer, died aged 53 earlier this month.
French, to whom Brokenshire was a friend and mentor, is likely to be viewed as the favourite to win the seat, which has been held by the Conservatives since its creation in 1983.
“It’s an honour to have been selected as the Conservative candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup, where I hope to carry on his [Brokenshire’s] excellent work,” he said. “I 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 also pledged to improve access to GPs and other healthcare services and build on Brokenshire’s work with Queen Mary’s hospital.
Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party chair, praised French’s appointment, saying: “Louie will build on James’s exceptional record as a strong voice tirelessly standing up for the people of Bexley.”
French will run against Daniel Francis, a Bexley councillor for Labour, and Richard Tice, the leader of Reform, formerly known as the Brexit party.
Francis, a former leader of Bexley’s Labour group on the council who has lived in the area for his entire life, claims residents are “fed up of being taken for granted by the Tories”.
He tweeted from the campaign trail today: “Only Labour can provide the change our constituency needs.”
Meanwhile, Tice said he will be standing on a ticket of low taxes and pledged to campaign for a referendum on the 2050 net zero emissions target.
The former MEP described the seat as “traditionally Conservative”. He said: “Voters here did not expect the prime minister to deliver con-socialism, a highly taxed, highly regulated nanny state.”
The south-east London seat, which was previously held by former prime minister Ted Heath, was won by Brokenshire with a majority of close to 19,000 in the 2019 general election.
He served as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and for communities and local government under Theresa May and held multiple junior government positions under David Cameron and Boris Johnson. He was MP for Hornchurch from 2005 to 2010 and then for 11 years as MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup.