Tories choose candidate for Southend West by-election

Southend Conservatives have chosen Anna Firth as the potential successor to MP Sir David Amess.

The Southend West Conservative Association has selected the Kent councillor to stand as a parliamentary candidate in a forthcoming by-election.

Association members gathered on Saturday morning at the Civic Centre in Victoria Avenue, Southend to interview Ms Firth and two other shortlisted candidates, Castle Point Council leader Andrew Sheldon and former Chelmsford City councillor Julia Jeaps.

Sevenoaks District councillor, Ms Firth gained more than 50 per cent of members’ votes in a second round of voting, qualifying her as the chosen candidate.

A total of 112 candidates put their names forward for the role before Conservative Party headquarters drew up the short list of three for the local association members to make a final choice.

Ms Firth, a barrister, is a former chairman of the Sevenoaks Conservative Association and is national director of the Conservative Party Forum. She is also the chief executive of the Invicta National Academy. She stood as a parliamentary candidate for Erith and Thamesmead in the 2015 General Election and for Canterbury in 2019.

The association had previously made it clear they wanted a Southend-based candidate to run for the seat but they were denied that opportunity by Conservative central office which rejected local candidates including councillors James Courtenay and Alex Bright.

Nigel Holdcroft, president of the Southend West Conservative Association, said: “We had a large and strong field of applicants and I am delighted that we chose Anna who is someone who was born and raised in Southend West and has a long relationship with the town.

“She is moving to the town immediately, literally by the end of the week. Her main home is in Kent and she is selling that and relocating with her family on a permanent basis.”

The meeting was attended by 80 Conservative members.

Mr Holdcroft added: “It was inevitably a long meeting with strong candidates. Anna is a very committed person who is eager to move to the town and really reach out to the community. She is an enthusiastic campaigner like Sir David and I think we are going to see a very similar type of campaigning at the election. Anna is a very outgoing, bubbly and enthusiastic person who tends to carry people along with her.”

A by-election is expected to be held in February. It follows the death of MP Sir David Amess, who died following an attack in his constituency surgery in Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh on October 15.

Both Labour and Lib Dems have said they will not field a candidate for the by-election out of respect for Sir David.

Ali Harbi Ali, 25, has been charged with Sir David’s murder and is due to enter a plea at the Old Bailey later this month.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter