GERALD Vernon-Jackson could be on course to stand against his former friend for the Portsmouth South seat in next year’s general election.
The Liberal Democrat was last night selected as the party’s candidate to contest the seat during a secret ballot at a private hustings.
He has previously been a staunch supporter and friend of disgraced Mike Hancock, defending the current Portsmouth South MP as he faced a High Court civil action from a female constituent who claimed he behaved inappropriately towards her.
Mr Hancock had protested his innocence – but apologised for his actions this summer. Cllr Vernon-Jackson has since said he was wrong to defend Mr Hancock and had believed his previous assurances he had done nothing wrong.
Now the pair could go head-to-head in the battle for the Portsmouth South parliamentary seat next year. Speaking of his victory over fellow Lib Dem prospective candidates Tamora Langley and David McBride last night, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s a real honour, but also it’s a really important job that I have been given.
‘I’m humbled. But I am also very clear of the work that I have to do to retain the trust of everybody who voted for me.
‘This is a really wonderful city that needs strong MPs to work for local families, for families across the city.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson had been the leader of Portsmouth City Council for 10 years until he stepped down in June following a loss of Lib Dem seats in the local election.
He has since made it his mission to be selected as a parliamentary candidate.
As part of his election campaign, Cllr Vernon-Jackson wants to fight for equal opportunities, campaign for better education standards and step up support for the Royal Navy.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock is currently an independent MP after having the whip withdrawn in parliament. He is also suspended from the Lib Dems after a report by QC Nigel Pascoe, ordered by the city council, into his conduct came to light.
It is not yet known whether Mr Hancock will stand for election next year to retain his seat.
Lib Dem councillor Lee Hunt, who voted for Cllr Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted and thrilled because he was the best candidate.’
But Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said: ‘The Lib Dems have made a really bad decision. I have been at the forefront of calling for him to resign given his actions over Mike Hancock.’
Cllr Donna Jones, leader of the council, said: ‘Gerald obviously has a profile in the city, but that’s not always a good thing if that profile is a negative one, but I wish him all the best.’
THE woman who had hoped to become the Lib Dem Portsmouth South candidate says she will continue to work hard for the city with Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
Tamora Langley, who is from Portsmouth, said: ‘It was a good campaign. We had a very high turnout of members. We will be working together to make sure we keep Portsmouth Lib Dem.’
Meanwhile, Baffins councillor Darren Sanders was selected as the party’s parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North.
He said: ‘It’s important we have someone who stands up for the ordinary people of this city.’