A WOULD-BE Labour MP has challenged his Tory rival to a series of debates in the run-up to the general election next year.

Mike Le-Surf, the Labour parliamentary candidate for the South Basildon and East Thurrock, laid down the gauntlet to incumbent Tory MP Stephen Metcalfe.

However, the Tory MP dismissed the challenge.

Mr Le-Surf said the debates were needed as residents don’t get the opportunity to talk face-toface with their MP and candidates as often as they would like.

While canvassing support, he said residents had shown they were disillusioned with politics.

He said: “We have to start doing things differently.

“There is currently a disconnect between many local people and those who are supposed to represent them in Parliament.

Politicians have to be accessible to the communities they represent.

“I have a different approach to politics and would welcome the opportunity to debate with Mr Metcalfe to highlight the differences between the Tory-led Government, which is relentlessly pushing hard-working residents towards disaster, and a Labour government which would address the needs and wishes of local people.”

Mr Metcalfe said he had spent the past three years engaging with thousands of people on issues, including the Felmores estate fires, and trying to find a solution to the level crossing problems in East Tilbury, by holding events, surgeries and street stalls.

He added: “Holding public debates between two parties with an audience filled with politicos from both sides will put off more of the general public with its yahboo politics.

“It is more productive to get out there, knock on doors and talk about the issues that are important to people on the door step.

“I am, therefore, focusing on getting on with the job I was elected to do by representing my constituents both inside and outside Parliament – whether that’s leading the debate on the Visteon scandal or fighting to improve education across Basildon and Thurrock.”

In the run-up to the 2010 elections, televised debates were held between the leaders of the three main political parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats.