SAQIB Bhatti will fight to become Conservative MP in the Tory ‘safe seat’ of Meriden – after beating ex-Prime Ministerial aide Nick Timothy to become the party’s candidate.
Mr Bhatti, the president of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, had the most members’ support on a national party-influenced shortlist of Mr Timothy and Charlotte Hodivala, a former Sutton Coldfield mayor.
The inclusion of Mr Timothy, who was Downing Street chief of staff for then Prime Minister Theresa May until a disastrous general election campaign in 2017, provoked much national media attention and suspicions of national party attempts to ‘parachute’ him in.
Mr Bhatti is a chartered accountant, having qualified at Deloitte as an auditor, and he studied for a degree in law at the London School of Economics.
On being selected in a secret ballot of local Meriden party members on Tuesday night, Mr Bhatti said: “I am delighted to be selected as the Conservative candidate for Meriden.
“Dame Caroline Spelman has been a fantastic Member of Parliament for this area over the last 22 years, she will be a hard act to follow and I pay tribute to her legacy of standing up for local people across the constituency.
“I look forward to speaking to as many people as possible about my positive vision for our communities and how I shall be campaigning on issues such as protecting our precious green belt, further investment and jobs for our area and ensuring that our children have access to a good school place, no matter their background or where they live.”
We understand he beat Mr Timothy in a second round of balloting, after no candidate reached the required straight majority of votes in the first round.
Mr Timothy resigned from his Downing Street role following the 2017 general election results, which forced the Conservatives to run a minority administration with DUP support.
Seen as instrumental in that election campaign, he was believed to be the fall-guy for a disastrous decline in Mrs May’s polling popularity as the 2017 campaign progressed, after she had called an early election.
Former minister Dame Caroline increased her massive majority in the Meriden seat in 2017 to more than 19,000, with a seven per cent swing.
She announced her impending retirement in September after her long campaign in Parliament to prevent a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It put her at odds with PM Boris Johnson’s position, although she abstained in a key vote rather than voting against the government.
She has long argued a ‘no deal’ Brexit would put thousands of jobs at risk including in Solihull borough, amid warning from key regional business figures including JLR chief executive Ralf Speth.
Mr Bhatti said: “After three years of delay, the public wants to get Brexit done – and when they choose the next Prime Minister, voters deserve to have a clear picture of what each potential leader will do when it comes to Brexit.
“A Conservative government with a functional majority can get Brexit done with the Prime Minister’s great new deal and focus on the issues that make a real difference to people’s lives here in Meriden – the NHS, schools, and policing.”
Also set to be on the Meriden ballot paper on December 12 are Laura McCarthy (Liberal Democrats) and Stephen Caudwell (Green). Other parties, including Labour, are yet to announce candidates.