Election 2017: Sir Bob Russell back on campaign trail – former Colchester MP answers ‘pressure to stand again’
PUBLISHED: 12:56 22 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:26 23 April 2017
Former Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell has confirmed he will be the Liberal Democrat candidate for the General Election in June.
He represented the town for 18 years until his defeat to Conservative Will Quince in one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 general election.
This time polls suggest that the Liberal Democrats nationally are enjoying a revival – especially in seats where there was a substantial “remain” vote or a large number of student voters.
Mr Quince has a majority of 5,575 but with a high local profile, Sir Bob’s return to the fray means this will once again be seen as a key marginal seat. The pro-Brexit majority in Colchester was one of the smallest in the region, and the Liberal Democrats will be looking for support among University of Essex students.
He is likely to get support from Liberal Democrats from across Essex and Suffolk because Colchester is likely to be the region’s only realistic target for the party in the general election.
Sir Bob said: “I was not going to stand in the General Election planned for 2020, but with the General Election brought forward by three years I have been under a lot of pressure to stand again in six weeks’ time.
“I have given the matter considerable thought. My wife has said she will back me, as she has always done previously, for which I am immensely grateful, and pledges of support and encouragement have come from friends and party members.”
During the coalition years, Sir Bob was known as an MP with an independent voice – and was not afraid of criticising the government when he felt it was necessary.
He is 71 – but is not the oldest former Liberal Democrat to be seeking a return to the House of Commons. Sir Vince Cable is planning to stand again in Twickenham at the age of 73.
Sir Bob, who was knighted in 2012, is a former mayor of Colchester and leader of the borough council.
He will withdraw from duties associated with his honorary position as High Steward of Colchester during the General Election period.
Sir Bob will have a battle on his hands. Since his election two years ago Mr Quince has had a high profile on a number of issues – and has recently been taking a leading role in the campaign to improve rail services in Essex.