Tories who selected a parliamentary candidate who lives 240 miles away to stand in County Durham have been accused of being “deeply patronising” to voters.
Charlotte Haitham-Taylor, the Conservative vying for the safe Labour seat of North West Durham, has rented a home in Shotley Bridge and was chosen to stand for the party in August.
However, she is also a councillor at Wokingham Borough Council, and this week faced calls to stand down from her role as Lead Member for Children’s Services.
Opponents in Berkshire say she cannot be a ‘part time head of department’, but rivals for the Durham seat say Ms Haitham-Taylor should not have been selected by David Cameron’s party to run in the North East seat at all.
Owen Temple, the Liberal Democrats’ candidate, said: “The Conservatives’ approach to our constituency is deeply patronising.
“Election after election they put up a candidate from the other end of the country (Maidstone in 2005, Cambridge in 2010, and now Berkshire) who is never seen again once the election is over.
“If they want to be taken seriously they need to develop a local candidate. The problem is there just are no local Conservatives.”
Pat Glass, the incumbent Labour MP for the constituency, said: “I think that Ms Haitham-Taylor needs to be open about where she lives.
“It appears that she is telling people in North West Durham that she is local and has moved to Shotley Bridge whilst at the same time telling the people of Wokingham that she is only renting in Shotley Bridge and her home is in Wokingham.
“I think that the people of North West Durham deserve to be represented by someone that not only lives in North West Durham but also shares an understanding of the issues that are important to them and affects their daily lives but also shares some collective history with them.”
When approached for a comment, Ms Haitham-Taylor said she had rented the Shotley Bridge home at her own cost and had committed considerable time with voters in County Durham already.
However, the Tory campaigner, who is a mum-of-one and a professional fine artist, also made a press statement hitting out at her critics in Wokingham and insisting her role with the Berkshire council was more important.
She told the BBC: “I can understand why they might have concerns but I want to assure them that I absolutely prioritise my duties of lead membership for children’s services.
“That is incredibly important to me. I will not desert my role in order to put my canvassing in North West Durham ahead of that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Sept 2014