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Voters to expect a bun fight' over safe Tory seats

PUBLISHED: 16:29 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 09:10 12 August 2010

POLITICOS have predicted a fierce battle over two of the safest seats in the country after another long serving borough MP announced his retirement.

POLITICOS have predicted a fierce battle over two of the safest seats in the country after another long serving borough MP announced his retirement.

John Horam, who was elected in 1992, informed the Orpington Conservative Association he would not contest the next election, joining Beckenham MP Jacqui Lait who handed her notice in last month.

Now Tory sources are expecting a "bun fight" over the true blue constituencies which will attract "cream of the crop" applicants but have warned that losing two long standing MPs could be detrimental to the area.

Blogger Jonathan Isaby, who writes for conservativehomecom said: "These seats are very attractive because they are very close to central London and they are safe. There could be 200 people applying. They will have access to cream of crop and there will be people from all over the country who want it. They may select potential Ministers.

"It is inevitable that those who are hitting their 60s will stand down, particularly those who have served for a long time but you lose their experience then.

"If there is a Conservative government next year you will need people who have knowledge of how things work but I'm sure John Horam will continue to take an interest in the political scene."

But he added: "It is not always the be all and end all to have someone local. Often the local characters will have baggage and history and there may already be personality clashes which will make it more difficult to get a consensus. You can be a very strong advocate of a constituency without living and breathing it for decades."

Mr Horam became the 108th MP in the country to announce that he will stand down at the next election. He won his seat four times in a row and at the last election he converted a majority of 269 into one of nearly 5,000.The MP said: "It has been a great honour and pleasure representing Orpington, but I will have done the job for 18 years by the next election and it is time for someone else to take over."

He said his greatest achievement was campaigning for and accomplishing the building of the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough.

Another Conservative source, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that a deluge of applications would flood in and it may lead to some underhand tactics.

He said: "They are two of the safest seats around so it will be an absolute bun fight. It's around 200 days until the election so I'm sure they will want to make their selection before Christmas. It will bring out the best in some people but no doubt it will also bring out the worst. There will be a lot of people showing a great deal of interest in these two seats."

Councillor for Hayes and Coney Hall, Neil Reddin, has been tipped as a potential winner for the Orpington seat on conservativehome.com.

Asked if he would apply, he said: "I'm not ruling it out at the moment. I am on the approved candidates list. They haven't even been advertised yet but I will look when they are."

Former United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: "I don't care who is selected for Orpington or Beckenham so long as they serve the people of this country well.

"If Mr Horam had made his announcement earlier I probably would have put myself forward but I have committed myself to Buckingham now.

"Both John Horam and Jacqui Lait watched this self governing country give everything away to the control of Brussels. Parliament is now an entertaining matinee performance every afternoon but doesn't actually do anything important at all."

kate.nelson@archant.co.uk

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