Meet Kent's newest MPs
They're the new boys and girls on block,
representing Kent in the House of Commons.
After an historic general election our nine new MPs
are due to be sworn in from today and take their seats at
From barristers to one-time stockroom assistants at Woolworths,
Kent's backbenchers have varied backgrounds.
But one thing they do have in common is that they're all
Here, KentOnline's political editor Paul
Francis gives you the low down on who they are and what
they stand for.
GORDON HENDERSON, Sittingbourne and Sheppey
Cheerfully independent, Gordon Henderson has finally made it to
Parliament at the third attempt and at the age of 62.
Victory is a sweet one for this avowedly local candidate - he
has lived on Sheppey for 30 years - given that he had thought he'd
won last time only for those hopes to be dashed after a
He describes himself as a true "Man of Kent", growing up on a
council estate and going to local schools before leaving at the age
of 16 to work for Woolworths as a stockroom assistant in
He carved a career there, staying for 15 years and becoming a
store manager before leaving in 1979 and taking on new challenges -
including running his own restaurant in South Africa. He is a
self-employed management consultant.
His affection for Sheppey is captured by his willingness to be
labelled an adopted "Swampie" and he is proud of his links to the
Gordon is married to Louise, has three children and seven
grandchildren, who are all girls. He is also a long standing
supporter of Gillingham FC and Partick Thistle FC.
Politically, he is on the right of the party and has not hidden
his Euro-sceptic views, signing up to the "˜Better Off Out of
He recently said that he had "no ambition to climb up the greasy
pole" - and he is less like a careerist politician than most - and
cited Frank Field, the long-standing Labour MP as someone he
Little known fact: He has written five unpublished novels and
many short stories
Ideal job: MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey
MARK RECKLESS, Rochester and Strood
Tenacity and perserverance are qualities most politicians need
and Mark Reckless, the first MP to be elected to the newly-created
Rochester and Strood constituency, has both.
The 39-year-old has spent close to a decade pursuing his
ambition to become an MP in Kent and has finally succeeded at the
third time of asking.
He came tantalisingly close in 2005, narrowly losing to the
former Medway MP Bob Marshall-Andrews.
A philosophy, politics and economics graduate of Oxford
University, he is a trained barrister and was called to the Bar in
2007. His CV includes a stint as a UK economist for the investment
bank Warburgs and employment with a leading firm of City
He became a Medway councillor in 2007, representing Rochester
West and is a member of the Kent Police Authority. He lives in the
centre of Rochester.
Politically, he has shown something of an independent streak and
can be considered to be on the right of the Conservative party,
citing Margaret Thatcher as his heroine and maintaining that
immigration needs to be cut and that more police are needed on the
He is an avowed Euro-sceptic and when seeking the nomination for
Rochester, he made plain to the local party that he was at odds
with the Conservative line on a number of issues and was prepared
to speak out on them. It may not have endeared him to party
managers at Conservative Central Office but it went down well with
activists who chose him ahead of 100 other would-be candidates.
He counts the Euro-sceptic Conservative MEP Dan Hannan as a
close friend and commentator for the Daily Telegraph, who described
him as "refreshingly independent".
He was best man for Dan's wedding, organising a stag night in
Reykjavik in Iceland - determined to celebrate the event in a
Dream job: Home Secretary
REHMAN CHISHTI, Gillingham and Rainham
Back in 2005, Rehman Chishti, 31, unsuccessfully contested the
Sussex seat of Horsham - a safe Conservative seat held by Tory
chairman Sir Francis Maude.
It was unremarkable in one sense but remarkable in another: he
did so as a Labour candidate. A year later, he announced he was
defecting to David Cameron's Conservatives, saying Labour - the
party he had joined in 1997 - had become arrogant, complacent and
out of touch.
He has always denied he was promised a safe seat in return but
in landing the candidacy for the super-marginal of Gillingham and
Rainham, his prospects of a Parliamentary career were indisputably
Not that he was parachuted in. Born in Pakistan, he has lived in
Gillingham since the age of six, went to school in the area until
going on to study law at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and
has practised as a barrister since being called to the Bar in
He was elected to Medway Council in 2003 as a member for
Gillingham North, then following his defection became Conservative
councillor for Rainham Central. He is cabinet member for community
Politically, he has been careful to toe the party line on most
issues and is regarded as ultra loyal, rarely deviating from the
main policy lines and enjoying something of a reputation for being
determinedly "on message."
He cites his hero as Winston Churchill, saying he was a great
On local issues, he has focused on improving train services for
commuters, cracking down on crime and improving health care.
He should be well-placed to withstand the physical rigours of
Westminster. He is an enthusiastic runner and has completed several
half marathons for charity and is a keen cricketer.
Dream job: Prime Minister
TRACEY CROUCH, Chatham and Aylesford
Election to the House of Commons will not be the only reason
Tracey Crouch will be celebrating this week. An avid Spurs fan - as
well as an FA-qualified coach - she may be examining her diary
closely to see if her Parliamentary duties will clash with her
team's European fixtures next season.
Tracey has well-established roots in the county, growing up the
county and going to school in Folkestone before studying law at
Hull University. She is the daughter of a social worker and
Her first foray into politics came, in her own words"by
accident" when she had a two-year spell working as a researcher and
aide to various Conservative MPs, including Michael Howard, the
Folkestone and Hythe MP.
She left to become a political consultant, representing clients
ranging from chocolate manufacturers, slimming groups and pet
Tracey returned to Westminster in 2003, becoming chief of staff
to the then shadow education secretary and Ashford MP Damian Green,
before moving to a similar role for shadow home secretary David
In 2005, she left Parliament for a second time to work in the
City for insurance giant Norwich Union and its parent company
Aviva, again as a political consultant.
She applied to become a Conservative candidate and was put on
David Cameron's controversial "A" list, designed to improve the
number of women and ethnic minority candidates, securing the
Chatham and Aylesford constituency nomination in 2006.
Her Parliamentary connections and experience of Westminster are
likely to prove invaluable and although she has insisted she wants
to spend time on the backbenches, she is seen as someone who could
rise quickly up the ranks.
She recently featured in a photo shoot of potential new MPs for
women's fashion magazine Grazia and has conceded in an interview:
"If you're going to be worried about that [being judged for what
you wear and how you look], you shouldn't go into public life."
Locally, she has campaigned over plans to build 9,200 homes in
Capstone Valley and cites uncontrolled immigration as one of her
Her love of soccer has led her to coach the local under-12s
Meridian Girls team.
Little known fact: She is the first MP called Tracey to be
elected to Westminster
Ideal job: Sports Minister
HELEN GRANT, Maidstone and The Weald
For anyone looking for a candidate to symbolise the Conservative
party's re-invention under David Cameron, Helen Grant ticks all the
Born in London to a single mum, she was brought up on a council
estate in Carlisle for much of her early childhood. She also
happens to be black and, with her election, has made a mark in
political history by becoming the first black female Conservative
Growing up on a tough council estate proved a formative
experience and she has said in interviews that she was bullied but
found an escape through sport, developing talents in several and
becoming the under 16 judo champion in the north of England, as
well as captain of her school's tennis and hockey teams.
After studying law at Hull University, she went on to train as a
solicitor and after qualifying in 1988, went on to set up her own
Croydon-based firm, specialising in family law.
She joined the Conservative party when Cameron became leader and
after applying to become a candidate, was quickly put on the
party's "A" list aimed at selecting potential MPs that would
broaden the party's base of support beyond its traditional core
group of supporters.
Her success in being chosen as the candidate for Maidstone in
January 2008 came after being shortlisted for two other
constituencies - Hammersmith and Sutton and Cheam.
However, there was an early embarrassment when it emerged that
she had once been invited to become a Labour council candidate and
had very briefly been a party member. She says she was "seduced for
about five minutes" before realising what a "complete shower"
Labour was and had never voted for the party.
Politically, she has been closely involved in the campaign to
stop maternity services at Maidstone Hospital from being
transferred to Pembury and has lobbied over the reduction of train
services from west Kent.
More recently, she triggered some controversy by explaining why
she would consider claiming for a second home during a KM hustings
She is married to Simon, also a solicitor and has two teenage
sons. She has a home in Marden.
Little known fact: The selection meeting to choose the Maidstone
and Weald Conservative candidate was chaired by Private Eye editor
and Have I Got News For You panelist Ian Hislop.
Dream job: Children's Secretary
DAMIAN COLLINS, Folkestone and Hythe MP
At 36, Damian Collins has already been tipped to be a politician
who has a bright future.
Just last year, he was identified as one of 30 prospective
Parliamentary candidates by a political consultancy agency that
singled them out for "their ability and potential to become an
important and influentual political player. These are cabinet
ministers, ministers and shadow ministers of tomorrow."
Now he has succeeded Michael Howard as the Conservative MP for
Folkestone and many observers predict it will not be too long
before he begins to move up the party’s ranks.
Born in Northampton in 1974, he was educated at St. Mary’s High
School, and Belmont Abbey School in Herefordshire and graduated
from Oxford with a degree in modern history in 1996.
Although he says his family was not steeped in politics, he
developed an interest at university where became president of the
Oxford University Conservative Association and after leaving,
joined the Conservative Research Department.
On his website, he states that he became involved in politics
because "I believe everyone should have the chance to achieve what
they want in life with Government helping them along the way rather
than holding them back."
In 1998, a year after Tony Blair swept to power, he became a
Conservative party press officer, working for the party’s foreign
affairs and agriculture teams.
He comes from a background in advertising and communications and
has worked for the M&C Saatchi advertising agency then in 2005
went on to become managing director of Influence Communications,
specialising in social and political issues campaigns.
He cut his political teeth when he stood as a candidate in 2005
in a safe Labour-held seat before landing the Folkestone and Hythe
nomination a year later.
He is married to Sarah Richardson, who is also active in
politics and has been a Conservative councillor in Westminster for
five years and also comes from a background in PR and
The couple have two young children and live in Brabourne.
Outside politics, the new MP lists sport as a keen interest as well
as ‘cooking with local ingredients.’
LAURA SANDYS, Conservative MP Thanet
The newly-elected MP for Thanet South has Conservative politics
in her blood.
She is the daughter of Duncan Sandys,a two-time MP who served in
the government in the 1950s as defence secretary and was married to
the daughter of Winston Churchill.
Born in 1964, she started her first business at the age of 17
and has since bought and sold several companies throughout her
career, chiefly related to communications and marketing.
Among her jobs was a spell working for the Shopping Hours Reform
Council, an organisation which promoted people having Sundays
She is deputy chairman of the Civic Trust, a trustee of the Open
University and chairman of openDemocracy (correct), a forum for
debate for about international politics and culture,
After unsuccessfully seeking a seat in the 2005 election, she
was placed on David Cameron’s ‘A’ list of candidates a year
She sought to the nomination for Folkestone and Hythe and had
been considered a favourite but lost out to Damian Collins before
landing the nomination for Thanet South.
Politically, she has been a member of David Cameron’s Democracy
Taskforce and worked for the party’s defence team on energy
security. She is particularly interested in small business
She married her husband Randolph Kent in 2007 and lives in
GARETH JOHNSON, Dartford MP
A solicitor who grew up in the constituency he now represents,
Gareth Johnson, 41, insists he has never had any interest in
standing anywhere but his home town.
He is married with two young children and describes himself as a
progressive Conservative who believes David Cameron has transformed
He has campaigned strongly against the increase in tolls on the
Dartford Crossing, saying they should be scrapped and believes more
needs to be done to help the regeneration of the town.
A former pupil of Dartford Grammar School, he is a strong
supporter of the county's selective schooling system.
He says that on balance, Britain has gained by being part of the
EU and believes the country should remain part of it.
Outside work and politics, he is a keen cricketer, occasionally
turning out to play in the Kent Village League.
CHARLIE ELPHICKE, Dover and Deal MP
According to his website, the newly-elected MP for Dover and
Deal believes "there is nothing like the sound of the crashing
waves as I walk up and down Deal beach with my family and our dog
In securing a majority of 5,274 and ousting Labour MP Gwyn
Prosser, it is a sound that he can look forward to listening to for
a few years at least.
Educated at the independent school Felsted and Nottingham
University, Charlie Elphicke is - like a former Conservative
MP for the area, Peter Rees - a tax lawyer and has previously
worked in the pharmaceutical research industry and run an
award-winning small business.
He contested the seat of St Albans in Hertfordshire for the
party in 2001.
He and his family live in Deal and his late father lived near
Aylesham, also in the constituency.
A research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, he is an
expert on tax and pensions and has written several articles
highlighting the impact of the previous Government's tax regime in
worsening the problems facing the poorest members of society.
He opposes the sell-off of the Port of Dover, a key local issue
that dominated the local campaign and is a subject the new
government will have to address.
The Conservatives had supported privatisation in the 2005
Like a lot of new MPs, he has embraced new digital technology
and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. He has also
set up his own You Tube TV station - although it appears not
to have broadcast any fresh material for several months.
Away from politics, he says he enjoys "going to Deal's new Pier
cafe for a good fry up with the kids".
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