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Canterbury Conservatives select Anna Firth as parliamentary candidate to take on Labour's Rosie Duffield

Conservative members last night selected a candidate to try to win back a key Kent seat.

Anna Firth emerged triumphant at a final hustings in Canterbury.

The Sevenoaks councillor secured more than 50% in the first round of voting, meaning she was immediately declared winner.

Anna Firth (14603913)
Anna Firth (14603913)

Ms Firth says she is "unbelievably thrilled to be selected for the best seat in Kent".

The former investment banker and barrister, who is a full-time mum to three children, is tasked with winning the seat back for the Tories from Labour MP Rosie Duffield.

Ms Duffield this week confirmed she is seeking re-selection from local party members in order to stand in the next general election.

Ms Firth, who was co-chair of Vote Leave's Women for Britain, defeated rival candidates Sally Ann-Hart, Kirsty Finlayson and Angela Richardson at the hustings.

The crunch debate was held at Tokyo Tea Rooms nightclub and chaired by former party leader Lord Howard of Lympne.

Ms Firth said: "I am delighted to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Canterbury.

Anna Firth with Canterbury Conservative members (14608580)
Anna Firth with Canterbury Conservative members (14608580)

"Canterbury, Whitstable and the surrounding villages need a strong constituency MP who will stick up for their interests in Westminster.

"Only a Conservative government will deliver the new, fully functioning hospital that Canterbury deserves, more police, fairer funding for our schools, and the strong, local and national economy to pay for it all.

"My priority as MP is to protect this beautiful area, make sure we build a country that works for everyone and a more caring, compassionate society."

Canterbury Conservative Association chairman Greig Baker said he is "really chuffed that we now have an excellent candidate for parliament."

Anna Firth campaigning in Canterbury (14603136)
Anna Firth campaigning in Canterbury (14603136)

Analysis by KentOnline political editor Paul Francis

In selecting Anna Firth as their prospective candidate, Canterbury Conservatives have opted for someone who has been tipped to become an MP for some time.

Of the four candidates shortlisted, she was the only one able to boast Kent credentials - which may help head off the traditional line of attack of her rivals that she has been parachuted in to the seat.

She has been a Parliamentary candidate before, contesting the Erith and Thamesmead constituency in 2015 and stood in the South East region in the recent European election.

She reached the shortlist for Thanet South in 2014 - losing out to Craig Mackinlay.

She came close to being selected as the Conservative candidate in the Rochester and Strood by-election in 2014, losing out to Kelly Tolhurst who recaptured the seat in 2015.

Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth in 2014
Kelly Tolhurst and Anna Firth in 2014

She is not afraid to take her own party to task. In an article for the Conservative Home website, she blamed “Westminster ineptitude” for the severe losses of “hard-working local Conservative councillors across the country” in May’s local elections.

“It did not have to be that way and it must not be allowed to be that way again,” she wrote.

She has also advocated the role councils can play in tackling loneliness - at the same time as advocating tax breaks for families who care for elderly relatives.

She has also argued that parents need to be at the forefront of efforts to protect children from online abuse.

As to her prospects of winning, she is unlikely to have a better chance of fulfilling her ambition and she may get the chance sooner rather than later.

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