Conservatives throw down gauntlet for Hampstead and Kilburn seat

The Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives have unveiled their candidates to fight for the Tory target seat at the next general election.

Although constituents might not vote until 2015, the Conservatives have laid down the gauntlet to Labour and the Liberal Democrats as the battle for the most precarious seat in the country gets underway.

In the 2010 General Election, Labour MP Glenda Jackson squeezed home ahead of Tory candidate Chris Philp by just 42 votes after a tense recount at Haverstock School. It was the most hotly-contested seat in the country.

The shortlist of three Tory candidates was selected last Tuesday.

The list does not feature any of the high profile candidates rumoured to have designs on the seat – such as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson or secretary of state Michael Gove.

Instead, new Hampstead Town councillor Simon Marcus will take on social policy guru Dr Alex Burghart and solicitor Seema Kennedy.

Tory agent David Douglas said: “Central office have decided the target seats and the battle ground and we are one of them. We are one of 40 seats that the party is aiming to win.”

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All registered voters will have the chance to select the candidate and not just party members, in what is known as a “primary election” on January 30 next year.

It will be held at Hampstead Synagogue in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead, in a bid to give the candidate a “greater mandate”.

The Labour party has not yet started its selection process, the Ham&High understands, and is waiting for Ms Jackson to formally announce that she will not contest the seat.

Last year Oscar-winning actress Ms Jackson revealed she would not stand in 2015, when she will be 79, saying it was “time for someone else to have a turn”.

The Labour MP was first elected to the seat of Hampstead and Highgate, which became Hampstead and Kilburn when the constituency was redrawn in 2010, and she has held the seat for 20 years.

Comedian Eddie Izzard, a Labour supporter, was rumoured to be considering running for Hampstead and Kilburn, but his spokeswoman has denied the speculation.

The Liberal Democrats have not yet announced their shortlist of candidates, although Ed Fordham, who polled in third place in 2010 and missed out by fewer than 1,000 votes, has ruled himself out.