CONSERVATIVES have been challenged over why there was no local candidate on their shortlist to succeed Sir David Amess as MP for Southend West.

Local party members voted on Saturday for Kent councillor Anna Firth to stand in the February byelection, which follows Sir David’s killing in October.

She was chosen from a shortlist of three, which also included Castle Point Council leader Andrew Sheldon and Chelmsford City councillor Julia Jeaps.

Aston Line, Labour councillor for Westborough ward who stood in the seat in 2019, Tweeted: “Unsurprisingly, no Southend-on-Sea based potential candidate.

“The Conservatives once again parachute somebody external into our ‘seemingly’ safe seat, and treat it like a coronation.”

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats will put up candidates against Ms Frith, as the seat only became vacant following Sir David’s killing.

However the seat was always likely to be attractive, as it is one of the safest Conservative seats in Parliament.

Several local Conservatives are known to have applied for the seat, including Southend councillors James Courtenay and Alex Bright.

Mr Courtenay said Ms Frith was local as she had grown up in the borough.

He added: “The best final three won through. Anna moved not a million miles away and she is moving back.

“There were a lot of applicants. It’s a difficult balance because local connections are just one key point. They have to pick someone based on what’s necessary for the constituency.”

Alex Bright, councillor for Southchurch ward, said: “I want to wish Anna very many congratulations on successfully being selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for Southend West.

“I know that Anna will be a fantastic Member of Parliament for Southend West - the first to have been born in the town. Anna is someone who has a record of action and I’m very much looking forward to working with her in championing residents’ issues, building on Sir David Amess’s legacy and making a success of Southend’s city status.”