Senior Basildon Tory councillors have claimed they will not campaign for newly "imposed"  candidate Richard Holden and will instead support neighbouring candidates. 

Mr Holden, Tory chairman and until recently, MP for North West Durham was the sole candidate presented on what was expected to be a three name shortlist for Basildon candidates. 

The decision has prompted senior party members to reject Mr Holden and vow to instead campaign for neighbouring candidates.

Asked by the PA news agency if he would campaign for Mr Holden, Tory leader Andrew Baggott said: “Absolutely not.

"Sorry, I will be campaigning for Stephen Metcalfe in the neighbouring authority.

"I will be campaigning for Mark Francois. I will not be campaigning for somebody that is being imposed upon us.”

Richard Moore, chairman of the Basildon Tory association said Mr Holden’s candidacy was “a complete surprise” to local members.

He suggested the Conservative Party’s central office had “stacked everything against us” in how the selection was handled.

Mr Moore told the PA News Agency: “What we find ourselves with is unfortunately this wholly undemocratic process need never have been necessary as the previous MP John Baron had announced that he would stand down at the next general election in October last year.

“So, association members are very disappointed that the party, after seven months, has imposed one candidate and have not given the opportunity for several candidates to be considered by the members of the association.”

He added: “We have been absolutely frustrated with the selection process, we have had the vacancy for seven months and party headquarters waited until two days before nominations close to give us one candidate. I mean, it is really not right. It is not cricket as one would say.”

Mr Moore also suggested potential candidates who had hoped to make the list were disappointed by the decision after taking part in campaigning ahead of May’s local elections.

The chairman said: “All of that work, time and effort is all wasted, because Conservative Party headquarters want to parachute their man into the constituency.

"It is just not fair on those people that have given up their time, and in some cases money, to get here and do all of this.”

The Labour candidate in Basildon and Billericay is Alex Harrison, with Stephen Conlay standing for Reform UK and Stewart Goshawk picked for the Greens.

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.