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Canterbury Conservatives select former city councillor Louise Harvey-Quirke to take on Labour MP Rosie Duffield at General Election

The new Conservative candidate selected to take on Kent’s only Labour MP has vowed to fight a clean campaign and not “tear into” her rival.

Former city councillor Louise Harvey-Quirke represented Sturry from 2019 until the May 2023 election, where she lost her seat.

Louise Harvey-Quirke was Sturry councillor up until losing her seat in the local elections
Louise Harvey-Quirke was Sturry councillor up until losing her seat in the local elections

At a meeting yesterday, Canterbury Conservative Association selected the 45-year-old to stand as the Tory candidate against incumbent Labour MP Rosie Duffield in the election this year.

Mrs Harvey-Quirke has vowed to fight a clean campaign, saying constituents do not want to see two women attacking each other in the media.

“I’ve met Rosie a couple of times – she’s always been very pleasant to me,” she said.

“I’m going to keep this campaign as clean as possible and I’m happy to go after Labour’s policies when we find out what they are. But for the most part I want to keep this a clean campaign.

“I don’t think that our constituents want to see two women tearing into each other in the press, ultimately.”

Canterbury’s Rosie Duffield is currently Labour’s only MP in Kent
Canterbury’s Rosie Duffield is currently Labour’s only MP in Kent

Mrs Harvey-Quirke intends to focus on local issues in her campaign, such as the Labour-Lib Dem city council hiking parking charges, as well as its local plan which is currently out for consultation.

The plan includes a new “rural settlement” of 2,000 homes on land north of the University of Kent, near Blean and Tyler Hill.

The mum-of-two says she is keen to listen to residents’ views on the proposals and submit a response based on them.

“I think the person who runs in the Canterbury seat needs to have that local knowledge – needs to be local, needs to be able to relate to local people, understand the issues that people are facing,” she said.

“I’m very keen to focus on safeguarding rural areas.

Former Canterbury Conservative MP Julian Brazier
Former Canterbury Conservative MP Julian Brazier

“We have to protect our farmland and our future food supplies. That’s something that’s very close to my heart so that’s an issue that I’ll be working on.”

Local to the area for more than 30 years, Mrs Harvey-Quirke works as a senior facilities coordinator at Canterbury Christ Church University and formerly held the civic role of Sheriff of Canterbury.

“I did four years as a city councillor and I loved being a representative,” she said.

Mrs Harvey-Quirke beat chairwoman of the Aphra Behn Society and previous local election candidate Hilary Scott, and Kate Lymer, a Bromley borough councillor, in the race to be the candidate.

Ms Duffield was first elected in Canterbury in 2017 - defeating Tory Julian Brazier, who had been MP since 1987, by only 187 votes.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to call an election in the second half of the year
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to call an election in the second half of the year

She was reelected on an increased majority in 2019, beating Tory contender Anna Firth - who is now MP for Southend West - by more than 1,800 votes.

Electoral Calculus currently predicts Labour will hold the seat with a stronger majority of 55% of the vote.

However, Mrs Harvey-Quirke thinks she can turn the seat blue once again.

“I don’t think anyone runs a campaign to lose – you always run to win and you have to be positive and you have to put the hard work and effort in to get those results,” she said.

As well as being on the city council for the area, she formerly sat on Sturry’s Parish Council.

However, under the new constituency boundaries which will take effect from the election, Sturry will be moved out of Canterbury and become part of the Herne Bay and Sandwich seat.

The seat will still include coastal Whitstable, where Mrs Harvey-Quirke says there is a need to “make sure we’re harnessing the benefits of tourism but that that is not affecting locals that live there in terms of not being able to rent, AirBnBs, and hollowing out of communities”.

It is not yet known when the General Election will be. The latest it could legally be held is January 2025, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously said it will be in the second half of 2024.

Many polls are predicting a Labour victory nationally - with Electoral Calculus forecasting a huge majority for the party.

Mrs Harvey-Quirke is optimistic though.

“It just takes the slightest thing to change the polls, so I think we’ll have a clearer picture once the election is called,” she said.

The other confirmed candidates for the Canterbury seat are Russ Timpson for the Liberal Democrats, Bridget Porter for Reform UK, and Luke Buchanan-Hodgman for the Social Democratic Party.

James Somerville-Meikle, chairman of Canterbury Conservative Association, said: “I’ve known Louise for a long time. She cares deeply about our community and would make a brilliant champion for local causes in Parliament as our next MP.

“After seven years of having a Labour MP, people are rightly asking what she has done for our local community.

“We need an MP who is focused on serving the people of Canterbury and Whitstable. Louise is the woman for the job.”

One local Conservative described Mrs Harvey-Quirke as "a local candidate who can look the electorate in the face and genuinely say she understands their concerns, hopes and aspirations".

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