INDEPTH: Mark Field vows to hold on

MARK Field's seat is so safe the last time a non-Tory held the Cities of London and Westminster was when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It was held then by the Liberal British philosopher John Stuart Mill, between 1865 and 1868. But since that brief in

MARK Field's seat is so safe the last time a non-Tory held the Cities of London and Westminster was when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

It was held then by the Liberal British philosopher John Stuart Mill, between 1865 and 1868.

But since that brief interlude the Tories have held a cast-iron grip on the constituency. So it was no surprise that Mr Field glided to victory in the consecutive general elections he fought.

In both 2001 and 2005 he gained a majority of more than 8,000,

winning 47 per cent of the vote in both counts.

But he says his reaction to these victories was more of relief than joy as he avoided the embarrassment of losing a secure seat.

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Once again he stresses he's

taking nothing for granted when he goes to the polls on May 6.

And this time he's facing competition from a bona fide popstar, with Dave Rowntree from Blur standing as the opposing Labour candidate.

The drummer may have a ready-made legion of fans, but Mr Field has his own band of loyal followers.

Unlike the embattled Tory

candidate in his neighbouring Westminster constituency, Joanne Cash, the former solicitor seems hugely popular with his local

party. He has been described by its members as a hard worker and the right man for the job.

Like Ms Cash he has links to David Cameron, attending Oxford University at the same time as the Tory leader.

But in contrast to her, there has been little gossip about him being fast-tracked to a ministerial

position if the Conservatives are elected.

When asked about what he thinks of David Cameron he full of praise. "He's a very able guy," he says. "He is very intelligent and diligent, and while all the talk about him changing the party is one thing, this is what will be most important if he becomes Prime Minister."

But at the same time the 45-year-old is willing to speak his mind about Cameron's controversial

A-list, which Ms Cash is on.

He is clearly in full agreement with the discontented party faithful who have protested against Tory HQ parachuting in candidates against their will.

"Above all I think the local Conservative association should have as full a choice as possible," he argues. "With all-women shortlists I don't think it's a good idea for the women who emerge from this process. Politics is a pretty competitive business and the most

important thing is to have the most talented people.

"David Cameron has made the Tories appeal to a different range of people. Some will be women and some will be from ethnic minorities, which is a good thing.

"But there needs to be a sense that the local parties buy into this and don't feel that central office is imposing candidates on them."

However, one thing Mr Field does have in common with the

A-listers is that he was also the new kid on the block when first selected in 2001.

With its central London kudos, the Cities of London and Westminster have attracted a string of well-known candidates.

These have included peace campaigner Brian Haw, who has been camping on Parliament Square, protesting against the Iraq war for nine years, and the anarchic comedian Jerry Sadowitz. But Mr Field said he was chosen to take on the high-profile seat over more

experienced politicians because they wanted someone fresh.

Since being elected he has been no stranger to publicity, becoming a regular political pundit on radio and television and speaking on issues ranging from the expenses row to home education.

Mr Field's parliamentary career has also seen him moving forward. He was made an opposition whip by Iain Duncan Smith in 2003, before becoming the shadow Minister for London later that year. In 2005 he was made shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the following year served an 11-month stint as Tory Party spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport.

Yet his career has not been without controversy. In 2006 his name was dragged through the papers over an extra-marital affair with A-lister Elizabeth Truss between 2004 and 2005. He was divorced the same year.

Despite the furore Mr Field has bounced back from this scandal and is now happily re-married to his second wife Vicky, a celebrity agent. The couple live with their two-year-old son in Victoria.

With the election less than a month away and the Tories lead on Labour dwindling Mr Field says his biggest fear is that there might be a hung parliament.

"I'm very concerned about a hung parliament because that way you have political uncertainty and perhaps a second election in quick succession," he said. "Both of these things could cause a problem in the financial markets because as soon as the election is out of the way the financiers will want rapid action and a hung parliament would delay that action.

"I think we've got to make it clear that it's not in the national interest to have a hung parliament."

But with a long history behind him as a party activist, Mr Field says he remains hopeful the Conservatives will score an outright win.

"This is the first time in 20 years we've been ahead in the polls consistently so we've got to put this in perspective," he said.

One issue continuing to dog the Tory campaign is the criticism the party is all style over substance.

Aware of how this perception could jeopardise their election chances, Mr Field is frank about the need to start setting out concrete policies.

"We've got some very good policies - we now need to crystalise them into a certain message," he said. "The most important thing for the party is that we hold our nerve.