Labour set to select Kettering candidate for next general election battle

Kettering Labour members will choose between Rosie Wrighting and Martin ShepherdKettering Labour members will choose between Rosie Wrighting and Martin Shepherd
Kettering Labour members will choose between Rosie Wrighting and Martin Shepherd
They hope to turn the constituency red for the first time since 2001

Labour Party members are set to pick the candidate who they hope will turn Kettering red at the next general election.

They’ll be choosing between Rosie Wrighting and Martin Shepherd, with a decision made after the pair take questions at a hustings event on Tuesday night (November 21).

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Labour last saw success in Kettering in 2001 when Phil Sawford narrowly defeated Conservative Philip Hollobone, who went on to take the seat in 2005 and has held on to it ever since.

They have a mountain to climb as the Tories have a whopping majority of almost 17,000 after romping home the last time the nation went to the polls in 2019.

But Labour are on course for a landslide national victory at the next general election – which many expect to be in autumn 2024 – and one polling website has the Conservatives’ vote share lead in Kettering down as under five per cent. The final two on the Kettering selection shortlist believe Labour has a good chance of regaining the seat and have both raised concerns about the closure of the town’s art gallery, museum and library.

If she was selected and won the election Rosie, who is 26, would be one of the country’s youngest MPs. But she is an experienced political campaigner, has the backing of many unions and made the final four in the Corby selection process earlier this year.

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She grew up in Geddington and went to Bishop Stopford School Kettering and Montsaye Academy in Rothwell. She’s also volunteered at Kettering children’s holiday clubs, mental health cafes and youth groups and says she wants to fight for the people of Kettering who ‘deserve better’.

She said that, as Kettering’s MP, her priorities would be to help local people through the cost of living crisis, support our NHS and work for improvements to social care services, create opportunities for young people, with green jobs and investment in education, and back businesses and support fairness in the workplace in partnership with trade unions.

Rosie said: “My career has been spent in the retail industry. I now work for a UK-based global retailer, which means I know UK supply chains.

"I will use that knowledge to support our high streets and bring green jobs here.

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“With me you will get an experienced campaigner, a local candidate and the knowledge to turn the Kettering constituency red.”

Her opponent Martin said the pair are ‘chalk and cheese’ but that whoever is chosen by the local party’s 409 members will put Kettering first.

The 59-year-old is the Kettering Constituency Labour Party secretary and is a maths teacher at Kettering Buccleuch Academy, having taught locally for more than a decade.

He is running for selection for the first time and believes now is the time to give it a go after the youngest of his five children left for university. A few years ago Martin, who is also in a band, went part-time and began dedicating time to campaigning for the Labour cause.

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He wants to take up national issues which are being felt by people in Kettering – such as town centres ‘closing down’ and people having less money to spend – as well as pothole problems and improving green spaces for people.

Martin believes he has the ‘energy, wisdom and experience’ to help Labour win.

He said: "If we can get to as many houses as we can and persuade people in areas which should vote Labour but often see low turnout to come out and vote, then I think we've got a really good chance.

"Kettering really needs a Labour MP."

Kettering is the last north Northamptonshire constituency to choose its Labour candidate.

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Lee Barron was chosen to represent Corby, a bellwether seat, in April. At the weekend Wellingborough and Rushden Labour Party members chose Gen Kitchen to stand in Wellingborough. They expedited their process after the incumbent MP Peter Bone was found to have engaged in bullying and sexual misconduct, behaviour which meant he was suspended and is currently subject to a recall petition. If it attracts 8,000 signatures a by-election will be held there.