Published: 09:36, 11 July 2019
| Updated: 14:04, 11 July 2019
The chairman of Canterbury Conservatives has bet readers a pint his party will win back the constituency at the next election.
Local Tories were left reeling when Labour’s Rosie Duffield overturned a 10,000-strong majority to secure a shock victory in 2017.
But Canterbury association chairman Greig Baker is confident of winning back the seat lost by Sir Julian Brazier by just 187 votes.
He was speaking as a 100-strong list of prospective parliamentary candidates was set to be whittled down to as few as eight today (Thursday, July 11) – ahead of a final hustings at the end of the month.
Bullish Mr Baker said: “Whenever the next general election is, the Conservatives will win back Canterbury.
“I bet you and any of your readers a pint that happens.”
The Conservatives lost several seats during the recent local elections and the Brexit Party stormed the European elections shortly after.
Expert pollsters at Electoral Calculus predict Nigel Farage’s party would gain 10,593 votes in Canterbury in a general election – with Ms Duffield clinging on to her seat, just 26 votes ahead of the Tories.
Before local Conservatives can launch their fightback, a candidate must first be selected.
Mr Baker and four other members of the association’s “sifting committee” will travel to the party’s headquarters in London today.
Each will be armed with a list of 10 candidates they want to advance to the next stage of the process.
Mr Baker says they will not leave until they have agreed on a final longlist of eight to 12 candidates, who will be interviewed by the local association’s executive on July 28.
The final two or four candidates will then face the whole association in the final hustings on July 31, chaired by former party leader Lord Howard of Lympne.
“It shows the level of attention we have got,” says Mr Baker.
“It’s really exciting and encouraging to have had such a good response. There are six candidates who we would be incredibly lucky to have.”
Neither Sir Julian Brazier nor recently-ousted council leader Simon Cook has put their name forward.
CCHQ had previously delayed selecting a new candidate due to recommendations put forward by the Boundary Commission to create a new constituency of Canterbury and Faversham.
If approved by MPs, the proposals would see Conservative MP Helen Whately’s Faversham and Mid Kent seat disappear completely.
Mr Baker said: “In the highly unlikely event the changes go through before the next election, anyone who applies for Canterbury will have signed an agreement beforehand, that once the seats are adjusted, the selection process starts again.”
Mr Baker and fellow local members recently welcomed BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg to The Old Coach and Horses in Harbledown to discuss the leadership contest.
One compared Boris Johnson to an “ice cream sundae who’d give you a sugar rush”, while Jeremy Hunt was more of a “cheese sandwich”.
Mr Baker said a survey of 500 local members returned a result 80% in favour of Mr Johnson becoming leader.
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