Claire-Louise Leyland is Conservative candidate for MP in Hampstead and Kilburn all-women line-up

If the Greens had stood down, they would have helped Ms Siddiq in her battle to defeat Tory Claire-L

If the Greens had stood down, they would have helped Ms Siddiq in her battle to defeat Tory Claire-Louise Leyland - Credit: Archant

The Conservatives have selected their parliamentary candidate to contest Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, in one of the most marginal constituencies in the country.

Claire-Louise Leyland, who is currently Camden Council’s Conservative leader of the opposition, said she was “honoured” to be chosen to represent the Conservatives as their parliamentary candidate and try to “win back” the seat of Hampstead and Kilburn.

Running against Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Liberal Democrat candidate Kirsty Allan, she is part of the first all-women line-up of major parties in the constituency, which was previously called Hampstead and Highgate, for 20 years.

Hampstead and Kilburn is one of the most marginal seats in the country, although it has been Labour since 1992.

Ms Siddiq won by a majority of 1,138 votes in 2015 on a turnout of 67.3 per cent.

It is also a constituency in which 75 per cent voted to remain in the EU, including Ms Leyland, who campaigned for “stronger in” as a Camden councillor.

She told the Ham&High tonight, however, that she was determined to work as a team as part of the Conservative party to get the best deal for Brexit.

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Focusing on the need to get a good trade agreement, she also said that she would make sure the voices of EU nationals living in Hampstead are heard.

Asked if she would fight for the rights of EU citizens to stay, she said: “I’ll certainly make sure that people’s concerns are heard and go out of my way to keep asking questions to make sure that is top of the list of priorities.”

On the subject of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the West Hampstead mum jailed in Iran, she said: “I know so many people who have worked to support her, all we can do is keep on trying”, adding that she thinks Prime Minister Theresa May is doing her “best”.

Ms Leyland criticised Ms Siddiq for nominating Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader in 2016, although she went on to vote for Andy Burnham in the selection.

She also argued that Ms Siddiq had not spoken out enough about incidents of antisemitism in the Labour party.

Ms Leyland said: “She’s not spoken out when members of the Labour party have said things that were completely unacceptable. I think you have to take a stand. She speaks out a lot about the importance of fighting antisemitism, but then when it happens in the party so obviously, you need to see it then.”

Responding, Ms Siddiq said: “As the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, I have worked tirelessly to put local people at the heart of my work. I have taken a strong, independent stance to campaign against the Tory’s hard Brexit and the destruction caused by HS2, and am working cross-party to challenge devastating cuts planned for local schools and nurseries. If reelected, I will continue those campaigns, just as I will continue my public fight against antisemitism.

“As the Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, I have called out antisemitism however it appears, wherever it appears. Being a Labour member earns no free pass, as my public criticisms of Ken Livingstone have shown.

“I have a proven, unwavering record of support for the Jewish Community in Hampstead and Kilburn, and a great rapport with local faith leaders.”

Kirsty Allan, the Liberal Democrat candidate, responded to Ms Leyland’s selection by commenting: “There is little difference between Labour and the Conservatives. One is dead set on forcing through a hard Brexit and the other will do nothing to oppose it. Hampstead and Kilburn deserves better.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party willing to stand up and fight the disastrous effects of Brexit. This election is a huge opportunity to send a strong message and change the direction of this country.”

An art therapist and counsellor, Ms Leyland said that she cared passionately about mental health around the country.