Labour announces candidate for Kingswood by-election

LABOUR has become the first party to declare its candidate for the Kingswood by-election.

Damien Egan, who was selected last year as the party’s candidate for the new Bristol North East seat being created at the next general election, has been chosen to contest the by-election triggered by the resignation of Conservative MP Chris Skidmore.

Damien, 40, who grew up in Kingswood and is now the elected mayor of Lewisham in London, lived in Downend, Fishponds, St George and Staple Hill as a teenager, and his first job was at Downend’s Somerfield supermarket, now the Co-op.

A Downend and Bromley Heath Parish Councillor in 2003-7 – one of the youngest councillors in the country at the time of his election – he moved to London for work and joined Lewisham Council in 2010, becoming the cabinet member for housing in 2014 and directly-elected mayor of the borough in 2018.

Announcing his candidacy today, Labour said Damien attended primary and secondary school in the constituency – Our Lady of Lourdes in Kingswood and Hanham High, now Hanham Woods.

He has family in Hanham, Emersons Green and Warmley.

The party said: “While growing up Damien lived in temporary accommodation when he and his Mum were made homeless. This experience led him into politics and he became a parish councillor in Downend when he was 21.

“As a recent Mayor for over 300,000 people he has turned around the Children’s Services, improved his local schools, won awards for his housebuilding programme, his work to support independent high street businesses and youth offending services.”

Damien said: “I’m looking forward to being able to go around the areas I grew up in, and give residents a hardworking representative who’s on their side.

“Speaking to residents in Kingswood today, it’s clear that, just like the former MP, people are fed up of this government, and ready for change.

“In just a few weeks, we’ll have the opportunity to send Rishi Sunak a message that it’s time for that change.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to work together to finally tackle the real issues we are having locally.”

Previous Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore announced he was standing down in protest at the government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which he said would “cause future harm” through the promotion of new oil and gas production, damaging the net zero commitment he had signed into law as Energy Minister.

His formal resignation was submitted on Monday, meaning that the by-election is likely to be held on February 8.

Labour’s Roger Berry was MP for Kingswood from 1992 to 2010, when Mr Skidmore gained the seat for the Tories at the end of the Gordon Brown-led Labour government, following boundary changes which moved two Labour-held Bristol wards out of the constituency.

Kingswood will be abolished at the next general election. The new Bristol North East constituency will include Mangotsfield and the Kingswood, New Cheltenham and Woodstock wards, all of which are currently part of the Kingswood constituency.

The Kingswood seat currently includes Emersons Green, part of Lyde Green, Mangotsfield, Blackhorse, Soundwell and parts of Downend, including Westbourne Road, homes off Fontwell Drive and parts of Aintree Drive, and Beaufort Road, all of which will become part of the Filton & Bradley Stoke at the next general election.

Other addresses in the Kingswood constituency will become part of the new North East Somerset and Hanham seat.