Cabinet member for children and young people Alistair Strathern is Labour’s candidate to replace Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter
A senior Labour councillor in Waltham Forest has been chosen to run as his party’s candidate for Nadine Dorries’ Mid Bedfordshire seat.
Alistair Strathern, who has been Waltham Forest’s cabinet member for children and young people since September 2021, was selected as Labour’s candidate at a meeting last week.
Cllr Strathern, who also works part-time at the Bank of England, has said he is “absolutely delighted” to have been selected for the constituency he grew up in.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that Mid Bedfordshire has been “let down by a part time MP”.
The Labour councillor added: “Speaking to the towns and villages across Mid Bedfordshire, it’s clear they feel the impact of this lack of presence in the challenges they face and the local issues that have been left unaddressed for far too long.”
However, he would not provide specific examples of neglected local issues when pressed.
According to a self-titled website created for his campaign – which has been taken offline in the last few days – Cllr Strathern said he has “a proven track record” as a councillor in Waltham Forest through “fixing up housing”, delivering new youth centres and free breakfast provision.
The 33-year-old, who has represented Higham Hill since 2014, told the LDRS he anticipates stepping down from his councillor role if he is elected as an MP.
Waltham Forest’s Conservative group leader Emma Best today (19th June) congratulated Cllr Strathern but urged council leader Grace Williams to appoint a temporary replacement to his cabinet role.
She said: “This would reassure us and the people of the borough that the cabinet member for children and young people is giving the portfolio the complete attention it deserves.”
The Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats have raised the same concern about Cllr Strathern “progressing his own career” at a time when “urgent action is needed” locally.
The local party’s vice chair and Higham Hill resident Alex Lewis said: “No date for the by-election has been announced, meaning this state of affairs could last indefinitely.
“If Strathern wants to represent Mid Bedfordshire he should resign as a councillor and allow local people to elect someone who actually wants to represent them.
“Waltham Forest Council needs to act immediately and appoint a cabinet member who is serious about addressing the terrible issues facing children and young people here in our borough.”
In past roles at Waltham Forest Council, Cllr Strathern served as chair of the budget scrutiny committee from 2015 to 2017 and was appointed junior cabinet member for asset strategy and transformation from May 2019.
Soon after being elected in 2014, he was appointed as a director at Waltham Forest’s arms-length housing management organisation, Ascham Homes, before it was wound down in 2015.
Alongside his cabinet member role at Waltham Forest Council, he has worked part-time as climate lead for insurance at the Bank of England since September last year.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he was a maths teacher in Harlow before joining the Bank of England in 2013, where he spent five years working in supervisory roles.
In 2019 joined Oaknorth Bank, a “digital lender” co-owned by Conservative Party donor Rishi Khosla, where he was a capital manager and director of prudential risk.
If Dorries does trigger a by-election by stepping down, Cllr Strathern will run against Festus Akinbusoye, the Conservative’s police and crime commissioner for Bedfordshire.
Today the Liberal Democrats also announced their Mid Bedfordshire candidate is Emma Holland-Lindsay, who is a local councillor on Central Bedfordshire Council.
According to the BBC, if Dorries does not formally quit by the middle of this week, the by-election could happen as late as September due to Parliament’s summer recess from 21st July.