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Greens select teacher and mum-of-two to take on Tom Tugendhat in Tonbridge at next general election

A mum-of-two is hoping to become the first MP to represent a newly formed Kent constituency at the next general election.

Anna Cope has been selected as the Green Party candidate for Tonbridge.

Anna Cope is a teacher in Tonbridge
Anna Cope is a teacher in Tonbridge

The new constituency will consist of the major part of the existing Tonbridge and Malling constituency, currently represented by Tom Tugendhat for the Conservatives, after some of the Malling wards are split off and added to a new Maidstone and Malling constituency.

Mrs Cope has twice been elected as a councillor to Tonbridge and Malling council, where she represents Cage Green and Angel Ward, but it will be the first time that she has stood in a general election.

The parliamentary candidate, 45, teaches English, media and drama at a grammar school in Tonbridge and says her husband Jon, a lecturer at Westminster University, is backing her campaign.

The couple have a daughter aged 14 and a son aged 12.

Born in Lincolnshire, Mrs Cope has lived in Tonbridge since 2012.

Anna Cope cleaning the Tonbridge Bridge ahead of the annual Dragon Boat Race
Anna Cope cleaning the Tonbridge Bridge ahead of the annual Dragon Boat Race

She has previously worked as a press officer for the NHS and for various government quangos.

On her bid, she said: “I am thrilled to have been selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Tonbridge.

“As a party, we Greens want residents to see that we provide a choice beyond the two-party race for Westminster that seems to exclude so many who don’t agree with the current narrative being offered.

“People deserve to have their concerns heard – not just around the environmental policies that the Green Party are known for, but also to be represented by someone who has seen at first-hand the need for better investment in our communities and who understands that we need to create a society that works for everyone.”

As a councillor, she has pushed for more openness in council decisions, particularly with regard to the leisure facilities in the town.

Em Perera is the co-chair of the Tonbridge and Malling Green Party.

She said: “Anna Cope is extremely capable and has worked hard for five years to improve the lives of residents.

Anna Cope supporting a warm space event
Anna Cope supporting a warm space event

“But there is only so much she can do as a councillor, when central government so often works against local interests.

“As an MP, it will be different matter.

“Representatives from the main parties follow their party line and cannot always stand up for what their residents want.

“We need politicians from our local area who understand and will represent the problems that ordinary people have and who will work hard within government to change their situation.”

I started as a volunteer… but when I saw how much good they do, I thought, yes, this is something I want to be a part of

Previously of no political persuasion, Mrs Cope joined the Greens during lockdown.

She said: “I started as a volunteer, just joining them on their litter picks.

“But when I saw how much good they do, I thought, yes, this is something I want to be a part of.”

The Green Party, with eight councillors, is currently the third largest party on the borough council after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but much of the Liberal Democrat support is within wards that will be moving over to Maidstone.

Mrs Cope said: “Traditionally Green support has been concentrated in the town, so, if anything, the boundary change should work in our favour.”

Green party leader Mark Hood added: “This will leave the Greens as the only creditable alternative to the Conservatives in Tonbridge.”

Tom Tugendhat is the sitting MP
Tom Tugendhat is the sitting MP

At the 2019 general election, Tom Tugendhat was returned with a 62% share of the vote and a 26,941 majority.

The former solider first was returned for the constituency in 2015 and has gone on to campaign for party leader and serve as Minister of State for Security, a post he currently holds.

Mrs Cope acknowledged that there was a mountain to climb before she could be elected, but said: “It’s important that I stand so that people have the chance to vote Green if they wish to.”

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have not yet confirmed their candidates for the seat.

The only other candidate to have been declared so far is Paul Skinner who will be standing for Reform UK.

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