Forget about the battle for gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, all eyes locally will be focussed another race...for Parliament.
A field of hundreds of contenders hoping to fill Sir Peter Tapsell’s considerable shoes and retain the Louth and Horncastle seat for the Conservatives in next year’s General Election has been cut to just four.
The area’s Conservative Association ended weeks of speculation about Sir Peter’s successor and named Victoria Atkins, James Browne, Sarah Macken and Kelly Smith on a final shortlist.
They will face a historic primary election at Franklin Hall in Spilsby next Monday evening.
The winner will be installed as a hot favourite to claim what is regarded as one of the safest Tory seats in the country.
There will probably be a few raised eyebrows the final list does not include any recognised ‘big hitters.’
David Andrews - chairman of the Louth and Horncastle Conservative Association - insisted the candidates were the ‘best for the job.’
He stressed they had come through a rigorous selection process with nine hopefuls being interviewed last Saturday by members of the local Executive Committee.
Mr Andrews said: “It was our choice - there was no outside interference - and we believe we have the four best candidates available.”
To the quartet, it must have felt like a marathon. Now, with the finish line agonisingly close, their fate, their futures, will be determined by people power.
Kelly Smith was born in Lincoln and lives in Tealby.
He started his own IT business in 1995, which employed 70 people and dealt with multi-million pound deals.
He sold his business in 2012 and is now in the coffee business. He was a Lincolnshire County Councillor from 2009-2013.
He said: “I believe local people deserve to have a local representative that understands their issues, someone who can fight their corner on the national stage and be a candidate that can get results.
“There are a number of issues that surrounds this huge constituency, with particular issues with agriculture, small businesses and flooding.
“I am very passionate about the local heritage and the area I live in. It’s the place I call home and this is the only seat I have applied for.”
“I have no interest in being a career politician, I would be looking at getting to Westminster and representing my local community, pushing forward their needs, which would be benefit to the area as a whole.”
James Browne is a councillor in Elmbridge, Surrey, where his portfolio includes housing.
Although living and working in the south, he stressed fighting for the Louth and Horncastle seat would be a case of ‘coming home.’
Mr Browne said: “I was brought up in Lincolnshire. I went to school in the county and learned to drive on the roads.
“If I am selected, it would be like coming home. My wife and children are behind me. They know how important this is to me. I know the area. I know what is important to local people. Representing Louth and Horncastle would be an honour.
“It’s a big challenge taking over from someone of Sir Peter’s stature but one that, if selected, I would relish.”
Sarah Macken said: “I am honoured to be a contender to succeed Sir Peter. It is a stunning constituency with strong market towns and successful small businesses.
“It needs a hardworking, energetic MP with real experience. I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve achieved in life and coming from an ordinary background I was lucky to go to a great grammar school and was the first in my family to go to university.
“This opened up real opportunities for me and this is what I want for all young people in Louth and Horncastle - a chance to succeed.
“I went on to represent thousands of small businesses across the country while at the British Chambers of Commerce and worked for ten years at a senior level in the UK Aerospace and Defence industry.
“Today, I’m the Chief Executive of an engineering sector body which represents an industry worth over £80bn to the economy.”
Victoria Atkins, 38, was born in London, but currently lives in Gloucestershire, but would move to the local area if she was selected for the seat.
Victoria, a criminal barrister, said: “I think that Louth and Horncastle is situated in a beautiful part of the world and I get to have both the countryside and the coast within my constituency if I was elected for the seat.
“I live in a rural area myself, so I feel like I know the issues that face rural counties and the same goes with the coastal area, as I was educated near the shadow of Blackpool Tower, so I have some experience with coastal areas as well. .
“I believe I could bring a lot of energy to the area, I will work really hard and be an active politician for everyone, regardless of whether they voted for me or not,
“I feel like I already understand a lot of the local issues with flooding, health services and schooling and I would like to bring all of the skills and experience forward to help the areas of Louth and Horncastle to the very best of my ability.”
l People wishing to vote next Monday must forward their details to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01507 603713 by 6pm tomorrow (Thursday).