Cotswold Liberal Democrats have selected their high profile leader on Cotswold District Council as their new Parliamentary Candidate.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson’s selection comes just four months after he stunned the Conservatives by becoming the first Lib Dem to win the so-called ‘true blue’ seat of Bourton and Northleach in this May’s county council elections.
The 51-year-old, who has lived in the Cotswolds for 25 years, will be up against the Cotswolds’ Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who has held the seat since 1992.
“I have made this beautiful area my home and set up my small business here,” he said. “Residents asked me to stand after seeing my record as a councillor and I will be the voice for the many who feel disconnected from decisions made in Cirencester and at Shire Hall in Gloucester. I want to give our area a real voice, actively speaking up for it rather than seeing some MPs motivated by their own pockets.”
Cllr Hodgkinson was first elected to Cotswold District Council for the Churn Valley in 2007 and has held the rural seat since then. He became leader of the council’s Lib Dems four years ago, going on to steer the opposition group to the party’s best results nationally in 2011 when they gained seven seats to take their total to 12.
A successful local businessman with a strong record of campaigning for local people, he has fought against high parking charges, led road safety campaigns and challenged unethical behaviour by public figures in the Cotswold Water Park fraud scandal.
The news was welcomed by Cirencester mayor Joe Harris who was mentored by Cllr Hodgkinson after he became the country’s youngest district councillor at the age of 19.
“The Cotswolds needs a change of representation at Westminster and Paul is the best man for the job,” said Cllr Harris. “Under his leadership we have been standing up for Cotswolds people on the big issues that matter – tackling the cost of living in our area, working to sort out transport problems and protecting the unique character of the district. We need someone as our MP who can take the case to Parliament and get some action.”
Cllr Hodgkinson is planning to build on the dramatic swing to the Liberal Democrats across the Cotswolds which saw them gain three seats in May’s County Council elections.
“There is a demand for change and growing disillusionment with the performance of the Tories locally, right through from district and county level to our MP’s track record in Parliament,” he said.
“It is shameful that our MP has done little to address the fact that the Cotswolds suffers from some of the highest rural house prices in the country coupled with low average wages.
“Those in power have concentrated on turning the area into a second home haven for privileged outsiders while ignoring the pressing needs of working local families. That is something I will be fighting to change.
“Our progress at district and county level has already shaken the Tories and we will be working hard to make the 2015 general election the next major upset.
“You can really feel the breath of fresh air that our new councillors have brought to local politics and it is gratifying that the voters have noticed. Mr Clifton-Brown has had 22 years to get things fixed in the constituency and has been a part-time MP. I will do everything I can to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in the Cotswolds and give this area the effective and energetic representation it so badly needs at Westminster.”