Fenland councillor Michelle Tanfield who is also fighting a Parliamentary seat in Manchester under fire over ‘paper candidate’ claim

Cllr Michelle Tanfield at the George Campbell centre.

Cllr Michelle Tanfield at the George Campbell centre. - Credit: Archant

A Cabinet member of Fenland Council – who also works for MP Steve Barclay- has come under fire from her Labour opponent in Manchester where she is fighting a Parliamentary seat.

Michelle Tanfield, who is defending her Elm and Christchurch seat on Fenland Council that she won in a by election in December 13, is also the Conservative Party’s choice for the Blackley and Broughton constituency.

In the NW she is fighting Labour stalwart Graham Stringer who is defending the seat he won in 2010 with 54.3 per cent of the votes compared to the Conservative’s 18.3 per cent.

Mr Stringer says he is angry at comments made by Cllr Tanfield to the Wisbech Standard and Cambs Times in which she described herself as a “paper candidate”.

She said in January, after her selection as the Manchester candidate, that “I don’t stand a chance of getting in as we only get around 10 per cent of the votes, but it is good experience.

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“At some point in the future I would like to be an MP but right now this is just to gain experience. I have been on the candidates list for two years and when this opportunity came up I thought why not.

She added: “It is better to have a paper candidate than leave a seat empty. I will not be campaigning in Manchester or putting any energy into it. My heart is in supporting the Conservatives in Fenland and always will be.”

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But Mr Stringer told the Manchester Evening News: “It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s an insult to the people of Blackley and Broughton and is typical of how the Tories think of the north of England.

“It’s also an insult to Conservative voters. They shouldn’t have to vote for someone who can’t be bothered to go to the constituency and give them the respect they deserve.”

Cllr Tanfield claimed to a Manchester News reporter that the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard “taken her words out of context”.

She told the MEN: “I’ve been to Manchester a lot to support our other candidates and I’ve got involved.

“My family is from Manchester and I went to the University of Salford. It was an unfortunate story. I’ve actually put in a lot of effort.”

The MEN said they “understood Mrs Tanfield has failed to attend two hustings events in the constituency in recent weeks, but did take part in a campaign day on March 28 in Manchester.”

Lib Dem candidate Richard Gadsden said: “You can’t just flit in and out of Manchester. I don’t know what the Tories are playing at fielding candidates like this.”

Green candidate David Jones said: “Everybody wants to put questions to the candidates, and one can’t be bothered to turn up.”

A Conservative party spokesman said: “Michelle’s words were taken out of context and, as with all our excellent candidates; she is determined to fight to win in Blackley and Broughton.”

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