A FORMER Southend councillor is the first to confirm an interest in becoming a candidate to replace outgoing Rochford and Southend East MP Sir James Duddridge.

Sir James, who has represented the constituency since 2005, announced this month that he will stand down at the next general election.

Teacher Louise Lawton, Conservative councillor for Kursaal Ward from 2010 to 2014, is on a list of approved candidates for Sir James’ seat and is considering becoming a contender.

Prospective candidates are expected to be asked to formally apply for the job in the new year. In the meantime Ms Lawton says she will take time to consider such a big decision.

She said: “Yes, of course, I am interested in standing in my home constituency where I was a local councillor for Kursaal Ward and I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve had from friends and local residents.

“However, I have three children and a successful career, so I need to put a few things in place before deciding whether to formally throw my hat into the ring.”

Ms Lawton has taught in both primary and secondary education and has been a lead practitioner for a school improvement team working in deprived areas. She is director of an education consultancy.

She is the daughter of the Rev Stephen Burdett, a previous Team Rector of Southend, and moved to Southend in the 1999 with her family.

Long-serving Conservative councillor Derek Jarvis gave her his backing. He said: “She is a very, very dedicated Conservative. She led the young Conservatives for quite a few years then she got married and had children and she’s at the stage now where she can move back on to the scene.

“She’s been there all the time in the background. It is good to see her amongst others who will put their names forward.

“I can’t think of anyone else who would be as good as her at the moment but I haven’t seen the list. I know she is very active back in our party again.”

Describing herself on her website, Ms Lawton said: “A working, married mum of three children. I believe in the worth of the individual, self-determination, competition and this sense of aspiration and getting on is something I have always admired in our party – the notion that everybody can achieve something and people can always improve.”