Oympic hero has MP hopes

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An Olympian who won two gold medals and rowed across the Atlantic is aiming to become the next Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle – which covers Herstmonceux, Pevensey and Westham.

It’s been confirmed James Cracknell has applied to be chosen as successor to outgoing MP Greg Barker who will step down next May.

He will find out next month if he has the backing of the local party.

The 42-year-old, who made his name alongside the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, left competition rowing to become a presenter and adventurer. He was awarded the OBE for his services to sport in the New Year Honours List of 2004.

He has faced a number of astonishing challenges including the Atlantic row with Ben Fogle, a race to the South Pole, and an ultra marathon across the Sahara desert, but in July 2010 he suffered a devastating head injury while cycling across America which he later claimed changed his personality.

He is married to TV presenter Beverley Turner and has three children. The Bexhill and Battle Conservative group will look at Cracknell’s application alongside many others which have been submitted and narrow them down to a shortlist of 11.

Chairman Cllr John Barnes admitted there had been plenty of interest and added, “He has put in for the seat, but he will be one of well over 100 applicants, maybe even 150, and we won’t know until the end of the month what will happen. He is the right age, a family man, a bit of a name, but he has got to go through the process like everybody else. There will be some people who are attracted by the name, but some will say – what does he know about politics?”

Cllr Barnes did feel it was an advantage that Cracknell had some experience in fighting for a seat having already contested recent European Parliament elections.

When the shortlist is drawn up, all possible candidates will be considered by the executive committee and the numbers reduced to a final few who will then be voted on at a meeting of up to 700 party members.

Cllr Barnes added, “The people who are doing the sift will be looking for more than a name. I suppose with him one is talking about a bit of charisma but what you want in a candidate is some get-up-and-go.”

John’s own feeling is that the candidate chosen should be effective in the constituency but also be a possible front bench speaker.

He described Greg as “a first rate” MP who will be a hard act to follow. “I would think there is a good chance of Cracknell making the last 11 – but he will be up against 10 other good people,” he added.