About Kelly Tolhurst - A Truly Local Candidate


As a truly local candidate, I was born in and have lived in the constituency all my life. I come from a local family and grew up in Upnor with my mum, Christine, my dad, Morris and my sister, Katie. I attended Wainscott Primary School and then went to the old Chapter High Comprehensive School (now Strood Academy).

Once I left school, I went to work in the food industry, working for large food producers in London. I was lucky enough to be sponsored by my first major employer to complete my post graduate qualifications, at Mid-Kent College's old Horsted site. I studied 2 nights a week for 4 years whilst working in London. After a successful career in the food industry, I then went on to establish and run a marine business for 17 years, during which time, I retrained as a Marine Surveyor. This decision seemed like a natural choice, having spent my younger years helping my dad who was a local boatbuilder at his boatyard in addition to my hobby of messing around on the river in old boats and sailing.

Whilst running my business, I became involved with a fostering charity, working with looked after children. My sister, who is a social worker introduced me to working with looked after children, some of whom I worked with, I am still in contact with today. My experience with looked after children fuelled my passion and determination to fight for better out comes for looked after children since being elected.

I first got involved with local politics after campaigning with local residents to stop Borstal Recreation ground being lost to development. We successfully saved our recreation grounds and on the back of that success, set up the Friends of Borstal Open spaces group, to help look after the playing fields and Local Nature Reserve. I was then elected to Medway Council in 2011 to represent the Rochester West Ward and was made the portfolio holder for Education improvement in 2013.

While I enjoyed my time as a councillor, it was never my ambition to become the Member of Parliament, until in 2014, the sitting MP resigned as a Conservative MP and triggered a by-election. I was encouraged to put my name forward and was selected to be the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood, something that I never expected. I was determined to represent my hometowns and fight for the constituency and its residents.

I was first elected in the 2015 General Election, and it has been a privilege to serve the area that I have lived all my life. I have been fortunate enough to have experience in several roles in Government during my time as an MP. Having run my own small business, I believe that this has given me huge experience in dealing with the challenges we face.

All of the roles that I have taken up during my time, I believe that I have been well suited to due to my past experiences prior to politics. Shortly after becoming an MP, I was elected by Parliament to join the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee, which I did until being asked to serve as the Secretary of State for Business’ Private Parliamentary Secretary (PPS). Following this, I became the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, since then I have held several other jobs as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Aviation & Maritime, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Housing and Rough Sleeping, Deputy Chief Whip and finally Minister of State for Schools and Childhood until October 2022.

Since then, I have returned to the backbenches, continuing to fight for the residents of Rochester and Strood and working on the issues that matter to them the most.

It has been my pleasure to serve and I will continue to do all I can to ensure that our constituency is a great place to live.

Read my maiden speech which I gave on the 25th June 2015 click here -  My maiden speech in Parliament | Kelly Tolhurst (kelly4rochesterandstrood.com)