LOCAL Conservatives have selected a 24-year-old charity worker to take on Paula Sherriff in Dewsbury & Mirfield at the General Election.
Dewsbury-born and bred Beth Prescott won over party members at a meeting last Friday night and has already set out her priorities if she wins a place in Parliament on June 8.
Miss Prescott was selected from a shortlist of three, with Coun James Daly, a criminal defence solicitor from Bury, and Nicola Wilson, a Conservative activist from Knaresborough, both missing out.
She is a senior member of the Dewsbury Conservative Association and works as a donor development campaign manager for a poverty-relief charity.
A former apprentice and supermarket worker, she has vowed to campaign for better health services and more jobs, especially apprenticeships for young people.
“This was the only seat I applied for in this General Election – I think it’s important to represent your home seat,” she said. “I came into politics because of this area – it’s the only area I ever wanted to be MP for.
“It takes a genuine local resident to be truly passionate about the issues. I am a person of action – it’s not enough to just say words, you actually have to carry them through.”
A Tory media officer admitted at Miss Prescott’s launch event that Dewsbury & Mirfield is a ‘seat of interest’, a term the party is using instead of ‘target seat’.
In 2015, single-term Conservative MP Simon Reevell was beaten by Labour’s Paula Sherriff, who is already campaigning hard to retain her role.
Miss Prescott faces a Labour majority of under 1,500 and a 2015 UKIP vote of over 6,600 in a constituency that is estimated to have voted Leave by 67 per cent. There will be no UKIP candidate standing in the 2017 election.
One electoral prediction website gives her a 65 per cent chance of carrying the day.
Miss Prescott first came to the fore when she took on Labour heavyweight Yvette Cooper for her Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford seat in 2015. She came third with 20.8 per cent of the vote.
She joined the Conservative Party at the age of 18, having got into politics after studying the subject at A-level.
A season-ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and a licensed Christian preacher, she is also credited as the creator of the #workingclasstories hashtag used on social media.
“Obviously a big priority is Dewsbury Hospital – it’s something I’m very passionate about,” she continued. “It’s the hospital I was born in, it’s the hospital I use, I’ve had my fair share of trips to A&E there, it’s where my mum works.
“I spoke with the Health Secretary last week, in advance of potentially being selected, and I hope to meet with him again soon. It’s not going to be just talk, it’s going to be action.”
Miss Prescott also highlighted town and village centres across the constituency as a priority.
“I know, particularly in Dewsbury, that local businesses have struggled recently, and I want to reopen the conversation about an enterprise zone in Dewsbury and really push hard for that. I want to fight to get Dewsbury’s voice heard,” she said.