Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Dark Horse Set for Tory Stronghold

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Dark Horse Set for Tory Stronghold

Article excerpt


A HIGH-flying businessman has emerged as a surprise frontrunner in the battle to be Tory candidate for the blue-chip parliamentary constituency of Kensington and Chelsea.

The seat, which comes with a rocksolid Conservative majority, has long been seen as a leading prize among the party's would-be MPs.

Recently, activists have chosen highprofile candidates such as former ministers Alan Clark and Michael Portillo.

But there are clear signs that, following Mr Portillo's decision to stand down at the next election, local Tories will abandon this policy in favour of a more youthful choice.

Insiders say venture capitalist Peter Wilson, 36, fits the bill perfectly.

He lives in the constituency and was treasurer of its Tory association from 1998 to 2000.

The Oxford and Harvard graduate gained valuable experience by fighting Labour's Karen Buck in Regents Park in the 2001 general election.

Mr Wilson, however, faces tough competition from a field led by former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

Speculation that Sir Malcolm fancies K&C - as the constituency is known by insiders - was fuelled by the absence of his name in a list of "working peers" nominated by Tory leader Michael Howard in the New Year.

The selection process will be overseen by the Tory association's formidable chairman, Shirren Ritchie - mother-in-law of Madonna and mother of film director Guy Ritchie.

The constituency, which includes

Kensington Palace, the Kings Road, Harrods and the Royal Albert Hall, is seen as the best seat in the country by aspiring Tories.

The seat's constituents include some of the wealthiest and most influential figures in the country.

In 1997 outspoken Mr Clark beat off all-comers to win the prize, despite being embroiled in the latest of the many sex scandals to hit his career, in an astonishing political comeback.

After his death, local Tories gave Mr Portillo the chance of a parliamentary rehabilitation four years after his humiliating defeat by Labour's Stephen Twigg in his former seat of Enfield Southgate. …

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