On 29th September my friend and fellow Croydon MP Malcolm Wicks lost his brave battle with cancer. As a result, there will be a by-election to elect a new Member of Parliament for Croydon North, probably on Thursday 15th November. The Prime Minister has asked me to work with our activists in Croydon North to organise the Conservative campaign for that by-election.
Although we were from different parties, I would be the first to acknowledge that Malcolm will be a hard act to follow. He was an excellent local MP.
That’s why this by-election is so important. Croydon North deserves - and needs - an MP who shares his commitment to the area, not a career politician.
I'm therefore delighted that Croydon North Conservatives have selected Andy Stranack as their candidate for the by-election. I'm biased because I have worked with him setting up a group of volunteers to clean our parks and open spaces and a job club on Monks Hill, but I think that he's exactly the kind of person Croydon North needs.
He's a local man - he was born at Mayday Hospital. And he's spent his life serving the local community.
He worked closely with Malcolm Wicks to help establish the Croydon Disability Forum, which supports people with disabilities in the borough.
He wrote the Lottery bid that secured millions of pounds to help re-build Thornton Heath Leisure Centre, improving the lives of thousands of Croydon North residents.
He worked for Croydon Jubilee Church as a Community Development Worker, helping to set up a number of community services including a debt advice clinic, a lunch club for the retired and several youth organisations.
He currently works for with Ment4, a Croydon charity that helps young people aged between 14 and 19 who are involved in crime to turn their lives around.
And he is a member of the West Croydon Community Forum that is trying to regenerate London Road after last year's riots that devastated our town.
There's no denying that we face an uphill battle - Croydon North is one of the safest Labour seats in the country and it looks like being a short campaign. But there are two grounds for optimism.
First it was clear from the canvassing that we did today that quite a few of the people who voted Labour at the last Election were voting for Malcolm personally. They will be looking at the candidates on offer this time.
And second, if people are prepared to look at the candidates, rather than just voting for a party, I think they will like Andy. The more people that we can get to meet him the better we will do. Talk to him for just one minute and I defy you to think that this is a Conservative who is only interested in helping the better off. Even the Labour leaning Inside Croydon website said that Croydon North Conservatives had:
"shown some astute judgement in going for Andrew Stranack, whose background gives him a firm understanding of Croydon’s social problems".
I’ll be doing everything I can over the coming weeks to try to Andy get elected. If you’d like to help, please e-mail email@example.com.