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Defeated Tory priest wants to stand again

THE FIRST currently ordained priest in the Church of England able to stand for Parliament under new legislation suffered a heavy defeat at the polls, but has every intention of standing again next time.

The priest, the Revd Michael Windridge, a late ordinand, stood as Conservative candidate in Blyth, an ex-mining area and Labour stronghold in the North East. Labour retained the seat with 19,659 votes, and Mr Windridge was beaten into third place with 4982.

He described his defeat as a political “crucifixion” experience, but said on Tuesday: “I’m determined to try for a winnable seat next time. It was an extraordinary experience, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Mr Windridge, who has permission to officiate in the diocese of Norwich, but who now works principally as a part-time carer for his elderly father, is deputy chairman of South Norfolk Conservative Association, and has been a member of South Norfolk Council since 1999.

It had been the hallmark of the constituency campaign that it was dull and passionless, he said, and the level of political alienation was disturbing.

The hustings meeting organised by Churches Together had been the exception to a complete lack of interest by the many voluntary, business and educational organisations in the constituency, Mr Windridge found. In his own campaign, he spoke of “the worrying levels of welfare dependency, drug-taking, under-age drinking, and yob culture” in Blyth.

His Labour opponent, Ronnie Campbell, was described by The Times in a leader as “unrestructured Old Labour”. “He impressed the extremely sparse audience [at the hustings] by referring to al-Qaeda as Ikea,” said Mr Windridge.

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