It’s Sharon versus Stephen for Stevenage - Labour council leader explains why she is going head to head with the Tory MP in the General Election for a third time

Sharon Taylor

Sharon Taylor - Credit: Archant

Stevenage Borough Council’s Labour leader Sharon Taylor will once again go head to head with the town’s Tory MP Stephen McPartland in a third bid to take the seat.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland - Credit: Archant

Having been narrowly defeated in the 2010 and 2015 General Elections, the 61-year-old announced on Tuesday she will be fighting for the parliamentary seat on June 8.

There had been much speculation as to whether Ms Taylor would stand again, but she told the Comet the current Conservative government’s “lack of a clear vision for a positive way forward” persuaded her to run again.

She said: “After seven years of Tory government, they’ve been digging away at the things that make this country a great place to live.

“We need better investment in hospitals, better support for businesses and education.

“There’s already a gap in attainment between Stevenage pupils and the rest of the county. We’ve been catching up well, but if the Tories continue with funding cuts I can only see that gap widening.

“We need a decent public transport system but we’ve had cuts to bus services in Stevenage. The cost of train season tickets is far too high and we’ve got a housing crisis with an absolutely critical need in Stevenage, with 2,500 people on the waiting list and people in rented accommodation they can’t afford.

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“We also need an MP who will help work towards the regeneration of our town centre rather than trying to put obstacles in the way of it.

“On Brexit, the government was reckless and irresponsible in holding a referendum when they didn’t have any idea what the shape of the country would be following Brexit – and we now need to negotiate to find the best way forward. We’ve got lots of global businesses here in Stevenage and we need to make sure they are protected during the Brexit process.”

Mr McPartland responded to the announcement, saying: “I am proud to have been the Member of Parliament for the last seven years and want to continue standing up for local people. I live in Stevenage with my wife Emma, a local primary school teacher. I listen to local people and work hard to deliver the improvements they want. The choice at this election is between strong and stable leadership in the national interest with Theresa May and the Conservatives or a weak and unstable government led by Jeremy Corbyn.”

Ms Taylor had committed to standing for the Bedwell division in Stevenage in the county council elections today and she said people could be assured of her “absolute commitment” to see out her term of office if she is also elected MP.

At the 2015 election Mr McPartland took the seat with 21,291 votes, a majority of 4,955 over Ms Taylor who polled 16,336.

In 2010 Mr McPartland polled 18,491 giving him a 3,578 over Ms Taylor.

Candidates for the other major parties in Stevenage are yet to be announced.