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Ex-military chief wins race to stand for safest' Tory seat

PUBLISHED: 17:06 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:14 12 August 2010

WINNER: All the candidates

WINNER: All the candidates

A FORMER UN commander and father-of six has won the race to become the Conservative candidate for one of the safest Tory seats in the country, claiming it is the best thing to ever happen to him . Bob Stewart, 60, (pictured inset) became the Conservati

A FORMER UN commander and father-of six has won the race to become the Conservative candidate for one of the safest Tory seats in the country, claiming "it is the best thing to ever happen to him".

Bob Stewart, 60, (pictured inset) became the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Beckenham last Sunday after winning more than 50 per cent of the votes at an open primary at Langley Park School for Boys in South Eden Park Road, Beckenham.

This was not the first time he applied to become a Tory candidate. In July, he put himself forward for an East Cheshire seat, near to his old regiment, but was not shortlisted.

Laughing he said: "Beckenham is better.

"It is an honour to service my country again. It is the best thing to happen to me in my life, apart from meeting my wife of course.

"I hope my appeal is to everyone in Beckenham.

"We have got to sell our house and buy another one in Beckenham

"I am in the constituency every day."

His two teenage daughters, aged 12 and 14 are at a boarding school in Horsham, West Sussex, where they will stay but his younger children aged ten and six will move to a Beckenham school.

The Sandhurst-trained Colonel dismissed the accusations of elitism within the Conservative party, saying: "If you were to look at Cameron's new candidates for safe seats I think you will find only one Etonian.

"I went to a middle-ranking public school (Chigwell School in Essex). I had been to eleven schools by the time I was nine-years-old.

"If I hadn't, I wouldn't stand a chance in life. I couldn't read or write well at the age of nine."

When asked how his wife Claire Podbielski (cor) Stewart, the daughter of a Polish count, feels about the imminent scrutiny into MPs and their family's lives, he said: "She doesn't give a damn what people think because she knows the truth."

Chairman of the Beckenham Conservative Association Tony Power said: "I was very happy with all the candidates. All of them were quality and I would have been happy with any of them."

Surrey councillor Sally Marks was knocked out after the first round enabling Mr Stewart to reach more then 50 per cent in the second.

Commentator Iain Dale from Tunbridge Wells confirmed on his widely-read blog that he was on the reserve list for the seat. But he never made it to the shortlist because Dr Daniel Poulter pulled out of the seat too late. Mr Dale wrote: "I won't pretend I wasn't disappointed - who wouldn't be?"

But he told the Times, he was happy with the Stewart's win, adding: "Bob Stewart is a larger than life character who will bring some colour to the Conservative benches. Parliament needs more people with military backgrounds."

marina.soteriou@archant.co.uk

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