A Conservative council leader has said he will not campaign for national Tory chairman Richard Holden who is set to become the area’s parliamentary candidate.

Andrew Baggott, who leads the Conservative group on the Basildon Council, confirmed Mr Holden, until recently the MP for North West Durham, was the sole candidate on a list for the Basildon constituency presented to the local Conservative association by the party’s head office.

Mr Baggott said: “They have given no choice of candidate to the association, no choice of candidate to the membership.

"They have shown complete disrespect and arrogance to all the party volunteers, all the party members, hardworking Conservatives in this borough. They are shameful.”

He added: “They are lacking in integrity, honour, and these are the things that the public looks for in the people they want to run this country.”

The Conservative councillor said association members were “exploring” options to fight the decision, adding: “Of course we are running out of time, because the nominations have to be in by 4pm on Friday.

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"We have to organise people. It is deliberately being left to the last minute to prevent any action being able to be taken.”

Asked by the PA news agency if he would campaign for Mr Holden, he said: “Absolutely not. Sorry, I will be campaigning for Stephen Metcalfe in the neighbouring authority.

"I will be campaigning for Mark Francois. I will not be campaigning for somebody that is being imposed upon us.”

Richard Moore, chairman of the local association said Mr Holden’s candidacy was “a complete surprise” to local members.

He suggested the Conservative Party’s central office had “stacked everything against us” in how the selection was handled.

Mr Moore told the PA News Agency: “What we find ourselves with is unfortunately this wholly undemocratic process need never have been necessary as the previous MP John Baron had announced that he would stand down at the next general election in October last year.

“So, association members are very disappointed that the party, after seven months, has imposed one candidate and have not given the opportunity for several candidates to be considered by the members of the association.”

He added: “We have been absolutely frustrated with the selection process, we have had the vacancy for seven months and party headquarters waited until two days before nominations close to give us one candidate. I mean, it is really not right. It is not cricket as one would say.”

Mr Moore also suggested potential candidates who had hoped to make the list were disappointed by the decision after taking part in campaigning ahead of May’s local elections.

The chairman said: “All of that work, time and effort is all wasted, because Conservative Party headquarters want to parachute their man into the constituency.

"It is just not fair on those people that have given up their time, and in some cases money, to get here and do all of this.”

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Mr Holden, who was elected to represent communities including Crook and Consett in 2019, said he looking for a new constituency after boundaries changes were announced.

North-West Durham has now been split between Bishop Auckland and Blaydon.

Responding to news of Richard Holden’s selection, Catherine McKinnell, Labour's parliamentary candidate in Newcastle North, said:

“After his cringy claim that he was ‘bloody loyal to the North East’, the Tory Chair is keeping up his party’s habit of breaking promises to voters.

“Wherever he nests, Holden will find out that the public is tired of this failed Conservative government serving its own interests.

“Whether it’s in Billericay or Durham, the public wants to turn the page on 14 years of chaos. The changed Labour Party stands ready to offer that change and the chance to rebuild Britain.”

Mr Holden and The Conservative Party have been approached for comment.