Conservative candidates battle it out for Kensington safe seat as party picks new MP

Following Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP’s decision to leave Parliament amid a ‘cash for access’ controversy the Conservative Party have shortlisted three candidates to stand in Kensington for May’s election.

Charlotte Vere, Shaun Bailey and Victoria Borwick AM have been nominated, with Kensington Conservative party members to decide at a meeting in the town hall this evening.

The seat has long been coveted by Conservative candidates, who consider the affluent area a shoe-in to the Commons.

From 130 people who applied to be the candidate, a long-list of six has been whittled down to a select three, with former footballers Frank Lampard and Sol Campbell reportedly turning down a nomination.

Ms Vere is widely considered a strong yet safe candidate, having successfully lobbied as Finance Director against the 2011 No2AV referendum and campaigning for Conservative policies to be better targeted at women.

As much as her current position as General Secretary of the Independent Schools Council will stand her in good stead, her loss to Caroline Lucas MP in 2010 in the Brighton Pavilion constituency and lack of parlimentary experience may count against her.

Mr Shaun Bailey was born in North Kensington in 1971. He is the former special advisor to the Prime Minister on youth and crime and failed to win the marginal Hammersmith seat in 2010.

The self-proclaimed youth voice specialist will face tough opposition from the other safer candidates.

Bailey left Cameron’s advisory circle in 2013 amid controversial claims that he had been ‘frozen out’ by an Etonian clique.

Living costs, youth crime and welfare are topics Bailey has prioritised during his political career, criticising the Coalition’s cuts to youth services, housing benefits and policing.

His vocal attacks could become muted on returning to his birthplace and the privileged seat of Kensington and Chelsea.

Ms Borwick, 52, is currently a member of the London Assembly, deputy Mayor of London and arguably the strongest of the three candidates.

Her past in arts events management and recent campaign against Labour’s proposed mansion tax will likely win her favour with a constituency famed for its museum culture and affluent population.

A recent report by estate agents Rightmove showed the average Kensington terraced property sold for over £4 million, suggesting support for Ms Borwick’s free market, trickle-down economics.

Although Kensington remains one of the choicest seats for any discerning, up-and-coming Tory, it is also one with a history of controversy.

In 1997 Sir Nicholas Scott MP was forced to stand down prior to the election over accusations of alcoholism, sparked by a much publicised stint in a Bournemouth gutter.

Following the mid-term death of famed diarist Alan Clark, Michael Portillo occupied the seat before losing a party leader bid in 2001.

Mr Rifkind followed in his footsteps in 2005, ducking out of a likely heavy defeat to Cameron before balloting commenced.

With this checkered history in mind, the Kensington seat is one that promises as much media scrutiny as it does opportunity to enter the Commons.

Who is considered most able to step into this spotlight and grab the golden Kensington ticket will be decided tonight.

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