FOREST Labour Party members are in the process of choosing who will challenge Mark Harper to be the district’s MP in the next general election.
With the Tories’ popularity having dwindled in recent years, opposition parties are hopeful they can wrestle away control of constituencies across the UK when voters head to the polls in 2024.
Conservative MP Mark Harper, appointed Secretary of State for Transport by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in 2022, has held his seat in the Forest of Dean since 2005.
But a number of issues since the last Tory victory in 2019 - including the government’s handling of the pandemic, Brexit, the climate emergency and most recently immigration - are leading few to predict such levels of success next time around.
Last month, senior Green figure Caroline Lucas said that her party would be targeting the Forest next year following success in this year’s local elections, with the Greens now running a minority administration at the Forest Council.
And the Labour Party is now set to make its move, with members being encouraged to apply for prospective parliamentary candidacy before January 10.
A statement from the Forest group takes aim at Mr Harper, suggesting that his high-profile cabinet appointment has been of very little benefit to local residents.
It says that “the poor state of transport in the area, with constant roadworks, potholes, and very limited public transport, is a testament to his continued failures.”
It goes on to say national and local polling shows that Labour can win the Forest of Dean, “and send an MP to Westminster to work for the people of this constituency after thirteen years of Tory cuts.”
“While the Conservative Government squabble over unworkable policies like sending migrants to Rwanda, the Labour Party is focused on issues that impact our everyday lives, the cost of living, poor access to affordable housing, growing the economy and saving our NHS”, it adds.
“The Forest of Dean Labour Party is made up of local people who want to protect the beautiful natural area we live in, to protect the environment, tackle everyday issues like paying your bills, energy and food costs, give access to good schools and healthcare, and affordable homes.”
Labour’s last candidate in 2019 was Di Martin, who is now Chair of the Forest Council.
She lost out to Harper - who had 59.6% of the vote - coming second with 28.8%.
In third place was Chris McFarling, Forest Council Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, for the Green Party with 9.1%.