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James Willis will fight Maidstone and the Weald for the Lib Dems

Former Maidstone Borough Councillor James Willis will be the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate fighting Maidstone and the Weald for the Liberal Democrats at the next General Election.

Mr Willis topped the poll at a meeting of local Liberal Democrat party members held at the YMCA in Melrose Close, Maidstone, last night, beating off four other candidates, including last year's Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Dave Naghi.

James Willis, Lib Dem PPC for Maidstone and the Weald
James Willis, Lib Dem PPC for Maidstone and the Weald

Mr Willis represented Heath Ward in the borough between 2014 and 2018, but did not seek re-election after moving out of the area to Gravesend.

However, Mr Willis who is known for his strong interest in transport issues has stayed in touch with the borough and has continued to campaign in particular for better rail services from Maidstone.

He will take on the sitting Conservative MP Helen Grant who had a majority of more than 17,000 at the last election in 2017. Labour have yet to select a candidate for the seat.

In 2017, there were also Ukip and Green party candidates and an Independent candidate.

Mr Willis has an uphill battle to take a seat in the House Of Commons.

James Willis (right) campaigning for better rail services outside Maidstone West station in March this year, with Lib Dem KCC councillors Rob Bird (left) and Ian Chittenden
James Willis (right) campaigning for better rail services outside Maidstone West station in March this year, with Lib Dem KCC councillors Rob Bird (left) and Ian Chittenden

In 2017, the vote for the then Liberal Democrat candidate, Emily Fermor, was 8,455 - less than a third of Mrs Grant's total of 29,156.

Mr Willis contested Gravesham for the Liberal Democrats in 2017, where he gained 1,210 votes, coming fourth behind the Conservatives, Labour and Ukip.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "We are pleased to announce James' selection. He is well known in Maidstone as an active campaigner on transport and environmental issues.

"A natural and enthusiastic campaigner, James has a strong record of bringing community groups together and getting results across Maidstone and The Weald. He has previously been a Kent candidate at two General Elections and increased the Liberal Democrat vote both times."

Mr Willis said: “I feel privileged to have been asked to represent the Liberal Democrats at the forthcoming General Election for this great County Town.

"I am determined to work hard to protect Maidstone and The Weald from the effects Boris Johnson’s chaotic Conservative Government.”

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