Towards the end of last week, Wythenshawe and Sale East Conservative Association selected its candidate for the forthcoming by-election, which was spurred by the untimely death of Paul Goggins MP.
In keeping with the wider trend in selections, they went for a local candidate, Daniel Critchlow, who lives in a neighbouring constituency. More unusually, he is the 26-year-old Church of England vicar of St Hilda’s Church in Firswood.
I’m not sure the last time a vicar stood as a Conservative candidate – the only former vicar in Parliament to my knowledge is Labour’s Chris Bryant. It’s certainly an eye-catching choice.
The Revd Critchlow said the following on his selection:
“The hardworking people of Wythenshawe and Sale East deserve a local MP who understands their concerns and will stand up for them each and every day. I do want to pay tribute to Paul Goggins. He was a great local champion for Wythenshawe and Sale East and I hope to follow in his example. I want to be the people’s MP, working on everyday issues that affect our area like reducing crime, tackling litter on our streets and supporting local businesses so they create good jobs for our young people.”
In 2010, Goggins won a 7,575 majority over the Conservatives – with the 9,107 votes won by the third-placed Lib Dems facing a squeeze, Revd Critchlow will face a tough few weeks. There is lots of hype about a strong UKIP challenge, though, which could well force Labour to focus much of their resources on shoring up their own vote. With Farage promising to target Labour voters, it is hard to predict how things will turn out.
It will be an interesting race – we wish Daniel Critchlow all the best in fighting it.