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PM David Cameron to make five visits to Rochester and Strood ahead of by-election

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David Cameron is reported to be planning an unprecedented number of visits to Rochester and Strood during the forthcoming by-election campaign - with the first thought to be taking place tomorrow.

In a clear signal that the Conservatives are determined to take the fight to Ukip, the Prime Minister is expected to make five visits over the coming weeks.

The blitz of visits - which will also see other senior figures on the campaign trail - vividly underlines just what is at stake for all the parties.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged 500 free schools
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged 500 free schools

Yesterday national newspapers were reporting that senior Tories are saying the PM will face a confidence vote if the party loses the Rochester and Strood seat.

Voters have already received a letter from Mr Cameron urging them to support the party at the ballot on November 20.

He has told his MPs that the contest would be "very, very hard" and the party is desperate to avoid a second successive by-election defeat.

Mr Cameron's first visit could come this week, before the party has even announced who will be its candidate in the election triggered by the defection of Mark Reckless.

MP Mark Reckless
MP Mark Reckless

An open hustings meeting takes place tonight (Weds) where the public as well as party members will have the chance to quiz the two shortlisted candidates: Medway councillor Kelly Tolhurst and Sevenoaks councillor Anna Firth.

But the decision on which of these two will be adopted will not be known until next week after a postal ballot in which every resident in the constituency has a chance to vote.

Cllr Kelly Tolhurst.
Cllr Kelly Tolhurst.

Mark Reckless has a majority of nearly 10,000 and if the bookmakers and polls are any guide appear at this stage to be odds on favourite to win when the election is held on November 20.

But the latest odds are grim reading for the Liberal Democrats, who are tipped to lose their deposit.

Meanwhile, Labour steps up its campaign today with a visit by shadow woman and equalities minister Gloria de Piero, who will be accompanied by the deputy chairman of the Labour party John Ashworth and candidate .

The pair are due to visit Mid Kent College this afternoon to talk to students, followed by a visit to Rochester to meet campaigners and activists.

  • Follow Paul Francis on Twitter @PaulOnPolitics for reports on tonight's Conservative hustings meeting.
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