A VETERAN Tory has branded the Conservative shortlist for the Southend East and Rochford seat a “recipe for disaster” after three “outsiders” were picked for selection.

Former mayor and alderwoman Sally Carr spoke out as Conservative Campaign Headquarters chose three candidates from outside the city to fight for the seat vacated by Sir James Duddridge.

The candidates vying for selection for the General Election on July 4, are yet to be confirmed by the Southend East and Rochford Conservative Association.

However, reliable sources say they are Stephanie Hedley-Barnes, Gavin Haran and Alice Hopkin.

Mrs Carr said: "Why didn’t they give us somebody local that’s known in the area whose got four weeks to try and get support within the constituency?”

Activists and members of the Conservative association will choose the candidate during a vote on Sunday.

Ms Hopkin is former special advisor to Home Secretary James Cleverly while Mr Haran has previously ran in Lewisham. Ms Hedley-Barnes is a teacher living in Billericay and unsuccessfully stood in Basildon local elections in the past.

The selection leaves former Southend councillor Alex Bright and Southend teacher Louise Lawton out in the cold.

Mrs Carr said: “I’m absolutely, totally disappointed in the three candidates that central office have lobbed onto us. We had some excellent local candidates. Having left the selection to the eleventh hour and then bring in unknowns it’s a recipe for disaster.

“Words fail me. It’s never happened like this before and it needn’t have happened. We had plenty of time from when Sir James handed in his resignation to do our own shortlisting and our own selection. Obviously they didn’t know there was going to be a snap election but we could have had a candidate in situ chosen properly by the members.”

Mr Carr added: “This has been such a solid Conservative seat that it just seems to me that somebody is out to disrupt that. I feel distraught about it. The powers that be seem to want to dictate to us who should be the successor to Sir James.

Colin Campbell, new association chairman, was approached for a comment, as were those shortlisted.