Ex Corrie star on MP shortlist

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor Former Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt is to be interviewed at the weekend for the position of Tory parliamentary candidate for the new seat of Mid Norfolk.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

Former Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt is to be interviewed at the weekend for the position of Tory parliamentary candidate for the new seat of Mid Norfolk.

The 28-year-old actor is one of 18 people from David Cameron's A-list of favoured candidates who are competing to be selected for the plum seat. Two local candidates are also still in the race.

Having turned down a place to study law at Cambridge University to star in Coronation Street, Mr Rickitt grabbed headlines when his character in the soap, Nick Tilsley, was the recipient of a gay kiss.

He is due to appear in Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Norwich this Christmas, but his commitment to politics has led to appearances on Question Time and Sunday AM with Andrew Marr.

His success in getting onto the A-list - of about 100 people - has caused some controversy inside the Tory party.

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Mr Rickitt told the EDP last night: "It has never really been a problem. I am not gay, but I am not going to make a big thing about it. I am not going to offend the gay community by slapping it in the face."

He stressed that he would give "both my arms and legs to serve Norfolk". He knew the county well through family and friends, he added, and having been brought up in a rural community wanted to represent one in Parliament.

Iain Dale - who unsuccessfully stood for the Tories in North Norfolk at the last general election - recently denounced a "witch hunt" against Mr Rickitt and said that "the hounding … both by the media and disdainful Conservatives has gone far enough. It's time to stop".

The 20 people on the Mid-Norfolk shortlist - who also include 'chick-lit' novelist Louise Bagshawe - will be whittled down to 10 by local Tory officers after interviews at the weekend. After further stages in the selection process, the winner will be announced on October 21.

The new constituency, which will include only about a third of the present seat of the same name, will be on paper a safe bet for whichever Conservative candidate is chosen.

Executive member for the Mid-Norfolk Conservative Association John Gretton said that he backed the idea of an A-list candidate, even though he had not heard of Mr Rickitt.

He said: "We need someone who will not only represent Mid Norfolk but bring us to national attention as well.

"Mid Norfolk is a jewel in the Conservative crown and we are looking for somebody very, very special, somebody who has the potential to be a cabinet minister.

"This is someone who needs to be ready for the front bench in about 10 years' time, so this may mean we are looking for youth.

"Above all, this is about getting people of real talent and ability into the parliamentary party."

But president of the association John Birbeck opposed Mr Rickitt's candidacy.

He said: "William Nunn, the leader of Breckland Council, was not put on the A-list, so what on earth is a chap with no experience of politics doing on there?"