Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election: Candidates vying to replace James Brokenshire have ‘big shoes to fill’

Whoever replaces James Brokenshire in south-east London will have big shoes to fill, according to residents in Bexley village.

Beneath the wooden beams in the Kings Head pub in Bexley, punters and staff are still reminiscing about their previous MP.

Former prime minister Ted Heath, who was also MP for the south-east London constituency, also enjoyed a beer in a the friendly pub, and his photo still takes pride of place on the wall.

Yet in the Kings Head, in Bexley High Street, the focus is not on the new candidates but the former Tory cabinet minister, who was a popular local MP.

James Brokenshire leaving 10 Downing Street in London on November 26, 2018, almost a year after his first diagnosis with lung cancer. Credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

“The new candidate has big shoes to fill,” bar worker Sally Scattis says.

She remembers when Ted Heath used to drink at the pub.

“James Brokenshire used to come here as well,” she explains.

“He helped out with a lot of issues we used to have, when there were roadworks in the high street or other things that affected businesses.”

Photographs of prime minister Ted Heath in the Kings Head in Bexley village. Credit: Lynn Rusk

Yet despite the Conservatives having held the seat since it was created in 1983, Ms Scattis is unsure which way the election will go.

“It will be interesting to see how it pans out and what the result will be, as it’s always been a very strong Conservative hold in Bexley,” Ms Scattis adds.

The front-runner is Conservative candidate Louie French, a 33-year-old investment portfolio manager and Tory councillor for Bexley borough.

In the red corner is Daniel Francis, also a local councillor and former leader of Bexley’s Labour group.

Sharon Webb. Credit: Lynn Rusk

“James Brokenshire was a very proactive politician so I think the person that takes over has got very big shoes to fill,” Sharon Webb, owner of Greys Tea & Coffee House, tells LondonWorld.

“He lived in Bexley village, his kids went to school in the village, he was very village orientated.

“Unfortunately, I think Bexley has been missed off the map somehow with the new candidates coming in wanting to take over.

“I’ve met Louie French, he seems like a really nice guy, but the jury is still out on him at the moment,” Ms Webb continues.

“As I said before he has big shoes to fill.

“He’s very much for Falconwood, Welling and Sidcup, and I do think the boundaries have sort of moved a bit this time round and Bexley has been left out.”

Pensioner Jean James. Credit: Lynn Rusk

Pensioner Jean James also thinks the constituency will remain in Conservative power.

“I’d like to think they would stay with the Tory party because Mr Brokenshire was an MP that was more interested in his community than becoming Prime Minister.

“If the new Conservative gentleman is the same, that would be wonderful for us.

“I’ve had loads of Louie French’s leaflets posted through my door but I’ve not been aware of anybody else coming around and trying to talk to people.

“I think for us older people, we’re Tory voters and we’re hoping he’s going to be the same as Mr Brokenshire was.”