Uttlesford Liberal Democrats select Smita Rajesh to stand against Tory MP Kemi Badenoch in new North West Essex seat at next General Election
Uttlesford Liberal Democrats have announced the candidate they hope will unseat Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch at the next General Election.
Smita Rajesh, 50, succeeds Mike Hibbs, who has stood at the last three elections, finishing second in December 2019 with 12,120 votes – almost double the 6,079 he polled in 2015 when he finished fourth to Sir Alan Haselhurst. In between, in 2017, he was third with 8,528.
Mr Hibbs, a former Saffron Walden mayor and town and Uttlesford district councillor, has retired for health reasons, having been diagnosed four years ago with Parkinson’s disease.
Mrs Rajesh will be standing for the newly-named North West Essex seat, currently Saffron Walden.
Married with two children, she lives on the boundary of the new constituency in Chelmsford. She has served on Chelmsford City Council since 2019.
She said that she was excited for the challenge ahead and wanted to use her experience as a Chelmsford city councillor to see positive change for her constituents.
“I have been very much involved in the community at grassroots level and what I have found from everyone I talk to is that each one of us is frustrated at the way this Government is being run,” she said.
“That’s not just a political statement, it’s about what each of us is feeling because of the cost-of-living crisis, where people are struggling to make ends meet.”
Mrs Rajesh will stand against Mrs Badenoch – to whom the Lib Dems came second at the last election – and the Green Party’s Edward Gildea. Labour has yet to announce its candidate.
A recent survey on national voting intentions revealed Mrs Badenoch, the current Business and Trade Secretary and women and equalities minister, will retain the seat she has held since 2017, when she was elected with a majority of 24,966, which she increased to 27,594 in 2019.
Mr Hibbs described Mrs Rajesh as “a fantastic new candidate” who was “committed and determined”.
Referring to his years of political service, he added: “I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2019 so have taken a back seat. It’s been a lot of fun, I shall miss it.”
Mrs Rajesh said: “I have a hard act to follow and am determined to build on the excellent second place achieved in 2019. I would like to give the local Lib Dem members a big thank you for their support and for giving me this opportunity to represent them.
“My vision is to serve the community to the best of our abilities and put them at the core of our message. The forthcoming election is our chance to show them the way out.”