FORMER council leader Les Jones has been selected as the Tory candidate for Dudley North.

The Conservatives have pinned their hopes of winning the marginal seat on Councillor Jones in the wake of the Afzal Amin scandal.

Speaking to the News after the announcement, Cllr Jones said: “I’m slightly bemused as it wasn’t planned. But I’m raring to go now the decision has been made and put what happened over the weekend behind us.”

He said he hoped the drama would not impact votes, adding: “I think people recognise that it was an individual who made a very silly decision and they don’t see it as party politics.

“It was just an individual who went a little bit too far to try and get elected.

“I would never go down that road. I’ll have to work hard over the next few weeks but I will not shy away from that.”

Cllr Jones said he will be focusing his campaign on tackling unemployment in Dudley North and dispelling myths about the NHS.

Dudley’s Conservative group leader Councillor Patrick Harley said Cllr Jones was an “excellent choice”.

He said: “We needed someone to hit the ground running and who knew Dudley well and they don’t come much better than Les – a former leader of the council.

“He is an excellent and credible choice and I think Les will do well and put us back in the game.”

Sitting Dudley North MP Ian Austin, who is fighting to hang onto his seat, said: “I’ve known Les a long time and I like and respect him, but it’s the Conservative government's policies that are closing our police station and the reason 400 staff at Russells Hall are facing redundancy.

“And UKIP aren't the solution either. Nigel Farage wants private health insurance and his UKIP candidate wants even more severe cuts to NHS treatment.

"I'm the only candidate that will fight for our local NHS, make education and skills our number one priority to bring new jobs and investment to Dudley and campaign to keep the police station open."

Sedgley councillor Bill Etheridge, who is UKIP's candidate for Dudley North added: "The selection of Les Jones is an example of a damage limitation campaign from a party that is desperately trying to save face.

"It is a party that has not got a snowball's chance in hell of winning in Dudley North. A vote for the Tories is a vote for Labour."

Will Duckworth, who is the Green Party's candidate for Dudley North, said: "I would like to congratulate Les on becoming the candidate. 

"He has always struck me as a decent and honest person and we need more local people like this at all levels of Government."

From our archives - see the related stories for some of the major events in Les Jones's recent political past.