HUSTINGS: Basildon and Billericay Tory candidate speaks out over selection

A South Essex Tory parliamentary candidate has insisted he had nothing to do with the selection process for his candidacy following anger and controversy locally over him being selected to contest the seat.

Richard Holden, who is both the Conservative Party chairman and the candidate for Basildon and Billericay spoke during a hustings hosted by Basildon radio station Gateway 97.8 on Friday June 28.

He also said polls are pointing to Keir Starmer as PM with a “supermajority” after the election this week.

Mr Holden was selected by the national party after long-serving Conservative MP John Baron decided not to stand, having been the MP for the constituency since 2010.

Speaking to Gateway 97.8 on Friday Mr Holden said: “I’ve spoken to a lot of the guys and I met them and I’ve got people out campaigning with me, including the conservative group leader on the council.

“He’s doing some telephone canvassing, for me that my agents were the local councillors as on the executive, as well. And I had, obviously as party chairman, who oversees the candidates process, had to recuse myself from the entire process as it was going through. 

“You know, as soon as I was party chairman, I recused myself for the entire candidates process, which was the right thing to do.  So what will happen is because the election was sooner than many people expected it to be rather than having a November election, we had a July election. We had to select over I think was 150 candidates.”

Mr Holden being selected at the last minute sparked anger from the local Tory party. Last month, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service,  Andrew Baggott, leader of the Basildon Conservatives, described the decision to make Mr Holden the only option in the Tory candidate poll for the seat as a “kick in the teeth” for local party campaigners.

Speaking to Gateway Mr Holden added: “I’ll be a hard working constituency MP, they don’t need to trust me, they’ll do that because I’ve done it already. With the prospect of Keir Starmer becoming Prime Minister, the Labour council here, you know, and potential Labour government, I think a bit of grit on the side of local people in that from a hardworking Conservative MP would be beneficial as well.

“If you look at the national polls, that’s what that’s pointing to. I would say that, you know, I’ve been out on the doorsteps a huge amount, we must have knocked on four or 5000 doors personally now right across from Vange to the top of Billericay. I would say that, you know,, it’s going to be a close election this year.

“It’s pretty clear to me, it’s going to be Labour or Conservative here. Nationally. I know my colleagues will be out there fighting for every vote as well. But it is a difficult election. And I think there is that danger as some of the polls are pointing to a supermajority for the Labour Party.”

The other candidates standing for the Basildon and Billericay seat are Christopher Bateman (British Democratic Party); Stephen Conlay (Reform UK); Stewart Goshawk (Green Party); Alex Harrison (Labour); Dave Murray (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and Edward Sainsbury (Lib Dems).

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Matthew Critchell

Local Democracy Reporter