Labour has chosen a city councillor to contest the Romsey and Southampton North seat at next year’s General Election.
After a lively debate at the selection meeting, lecturer, Darren Paffrey, was picked ahead of his two shortlist rivals, Mark Chaloner, a barrister and David Stevens, an IT specialist.
During the meeting, the trio were quizzed on issues ranging from the health service to fracking.
Mr Paffrey, 36, grew up in Hampshire and has lived in Southampton for 13 years, since arriving as a student to work on his PhD.
He represents the Peartree Ward on the city council and serves on committees related to education and children’s safeguarding. He is also a governor at a local academy school, and serves on the Southampton Fairness Commission.
Married with two young children, Mr Paffrey works as a Spanish lecturer at the University of Southampton.
His home is in Bitterne Park, just a few hundred yards from the boundary of the constituency and has relatives in the Romsey area.
The previous Labour candidate, Aktar Begg, polled just 6.4 per cent of the votes in the 2010 election and Mr Paffrey is realistic about his chances, but added: “We must not allow the Conservatives and Lib Dems to turn this into a two-horse race without any challenge.”
He said that there were likely to be many who had voted Lib Dem at the last election who had become disenchanted with their party and would turn to Labour.
“We have a government with poor priorities. They stand up for the wrong people, defending bankers’ bonuses and handing out tax cuts to the very richest, while so many working families are worse off and the most vulnerable have their welfare payments slashed. Families are forced to pay a bedroom tax, yet big businesses are let off from paying their fair share,” said Mr Paffrey.
Another factor in 2015 will be UKIP and Mr Paffrey said: “We know all about their tub-thumping on Europe, but I’m interested to find out what people’s understanding is of their policies on other issues, like the NHS and working parents’ rights.”
He said he was aware that in Romsey planning issues – particularly proposals for housing at Whitenap and a Tesco on the bypass – were high on the list of voters’ concerns.
Sandra Smith, chair of Romsey and Southampton North said: “Darren will be an excellent candidate to voice the concerns of ordinary families who are worse off since David Cameron became Prime Minister.
“A vote for Labour will send a message that things aren’t getting any easier and we do not want five more years of the same under the Tory-led coalition, we need a government which acts in the interests of the many and not the few.”