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The old guard versus the new in election for KCC Rural South division

At the last elections for Kent County Council in 2017, the Conservative group emerged with a huge majority, taking 67 of the 81 seats.

By-elections and resignations have since whittled that figure down to 63, but still no-one is expecting any major upheavals when Kent voters go to the polls on Thursday, May 6.

The Tories have a huge majority at County Hall
The Tories have a huge majority at County Hall

But there is at least one division within the Maidstone area, where the outcome is uncertain.

Eric Hotson has represented the Maidstone Rural South division, which includes Staplehurst, Sutton Valence, Chart Sutton, Boughton Monchelsea and Loose, for the past 20 years, having been first elected in 2001.

Of those two decades, 19 years and eight months have been as a Conservative, but since January, Cllr Hotson has sat as an Independent.

In September last year, the Conservative party selection panel met to consider who should stand for the party this time around.

In a secret ballot, they voted not to select Cllr Hotson.

Eric Hotson currently represents Maidstone Rural South
Eric Hotson currently represents Maidstone Rural South

He said: "It was an immediate decision. When I got home, there was the message to say: 'Sorry, it's not you."

His de-selection surprised many because Cllr Hotson had been one of the party's most successful councillors.

He had been the chairman of KCC for a year and a cabinet member, and he had also been a Conservative borough councillor on Maidstone council for 16 years and was leader of the Conservative group when the party returned to a majority after 10 years in opposition. He served the town as Mayor in 2010.

Cllr Hotson, who achieved 69% of the vote last time around, said it was still a mystery to him why he was rejected.

He remained loyal to his party for a further three months, but by Christmas he felt it was time to part ways.

Cllr Hotson during his tenure as Mayor of Maidstone in 2010
Cllr Hotson during his tenure as Mayor of Maidstone in 2010

Cllr Hotson, who lives in High Street, Staplehurst, said: "I've loved every moment representing this area for 20 years. I'm still fit and healthy. I just thought: 'I'm not ready to be thrown on the scrapheap.'"

His official Conservative opponent will be Lottie Parfitt-Reid.

Mrs Parfitt-Reid has been a Maidstone borough councillor since 2018 for Coxheath and Hunton. She lives in Marden.

She said: "The way it works is that nobody is automatically reselected."

Tory voters will have to chose between loyalty to the party or to the man
Tory voters will have to chose between loyalty to the party or to the man

She said: "First of all you have to go before a selection board of nine people, who decide whether they think you are suitable as a candidate.

"If you pass that, you apply for the division you want to represent. If there's more than one person after that seat, there is another interview process.

"I was never in a contest with Eric. He wasn't selected as a candidate at the first stage. He appealed, but still wasn't selected.

"I've never met Eric in person, only a couple of times on Zoom.

"He has decided to stand as an Independent. That's democracy."

The Conservative candidate: Lottie Parfitt-Reid
The Conservative candidate: Lottie Parfitt-Reid

Cllr Parfitt-Reid said: "I'm just focussing on getting my message across and telling people what I want to achieve."

This situation is further complicated because for the first time in many elections, the Liberal Democrats have failed to field a candidate.

A party spokesman denied that the absence was in any way an attempt to influence the battle between Cllr Parfitt-Reid and Cllr Hotson.

He said: "We had a good candidate lined up to contest the seat, then he started a new job with KCC.

"That debarred him from standing and we weren't able to find another in the short time available."

In addition there is a Labour candidate, Bob Millar, and a Reform UK candidate, Justin Randall.

Reform UK is the new name of the Brexit Party and is now lead by Richard Tice, after Nigel Farage retired from politics.

Here is the full list of candidates in the KCC divisions within Maidstone borough.

Maidstone Central (Two seats)

Tom Cannon (Con)

Patrick Coates (Lab)

Dan Daley (Lib Dem)

Donna Greenan (Green)

Paul Harper (Lab)

Stuart Jeffery (Green)

Chris Passmore (Lib Dem)

John Perry (Con)

Maidstone North East

Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem)

Scott Hahnefeld (Con)

Kimberley Milham (Green)

John Randall (Lab)

Maidstone Rural East

Susan Parr (Green)

Hannah Perkin (Lib Dem)

Shelina Prendergast (Con)

Marlyn Randall (Lab)

Twiz Stripp (Reform UK)

Maidstone Rural North

Jo Burns (Lab)

Sam Burrows (Lib Dem)

Paul Carter (Con)

Ian McDonald (Green)

Maidstone Rural South

Steven Cheeseman (Green)

Eric Hotson (Ind)

Bob Millar (Lab)

Lottie Parfitt-Reid (Con)

Justin Randall (Reform UK)

Maidstone Rural West

Richard Coates (Lab)

Ashleigh Kimmance (Lib Dem)

Mike Summersgill (Green)

Simon Webb (Con)

Maidstone South

Gary Butler (Ind)

Brian Clark (Lib Dem)

Paul Cooper (Con)

Yolande Kenward (Ind)

Stephen Muggeridge (Green)

Kim Roberts (Lab)

Maidstone South East

Gary Cooke (Con)

David Naghi (Lib Dem)

Dan Wilkinson (Lab)

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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