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Big Brother star takes on Tories in Totteridge by-election
SELF-CONFESSED teddy bear and hand-puppet obsessive Jonty Stern, from 2007’s Big Brother, has been chosen as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Totteridge in the upcoming by-elections.
Jonty, 38, is a passionate vegetarian who shares his flat with his collection of 50 stuffed toys.
He is also a keen history and Dr Who fan, speaks seven languages, and collects old coins and money.
But he claims few of the hobbies and interests for which he is known will feature in his election hustings.
Instead he will focus on road safety, sheltered housing warden services and connecting to young people.
"The main thing that drew me into this was keeping Barnet's roads as safe as possible," he said.
"I was very glad when I found out the Lib Dems shared my view. This borough is one of the worst when it comes to road accidents and deaths and the policy on road bumps needs revising."
Jonty admitted joining the Social Democrat Party (SDP), which broke off from Labour in 1981, two decades ago, but was adamant he is now 100 per cent committed to the Lib Dems.
He quit the SDP when it folded in 1988 and joined the Lib Dems in 2008.
"I like to think I would have been chosen as candidate even without Big Brother," he said.
"I believe in many of the issues the party believes in, including Nato and Europe, and I think people would be surprised by how sane I actually am.
"We used to have lots of civilised discussions about politics in the house, but they were never shown as no plates were being thrown.
"I definitely don't plan to turn up to any council meetings with a teddy bear under my arm."
Jonty is a member of the Society of the Friends of Richard III, an associate member of the Society of Friends of King Charles the Martyr and has volunteered at several Barnet museums, including the RAF Museum, in Aerodrome Road, Hendon, and the Jewish Museum, in East End Road, Finchley.
He is currently training to be a tour guide in Westminster, but his dream job is to be a history presenter on television.
Lib Dem leader, Councillor Jack Cohen, was confident the reality TV star would bring “fresh change” to local politics.
He said: “Jonty is a popular, well-known figure. People are getting disillusioned with professional politicians in Westminster and he is someone they can identify with.
“He is a man of the people. He has been through the trials and tribulations of the Big Brother house and everyone knows him. Young people are not connecting with the political process and he is on the same wavelength as them.
“I have every confidence in him.”
Mr Cohen conceded the candidate lacked experience, but said his reality TV credentials would prepare him for council politics.
“Look how council meetings are run - they are worse than the Big Brother house,” he said. “In fact, the standard of debates and discussions is often much lower.”
The Conservative candidate for the seat is Alison Cornelius, wife of Councillor Richard Cornelius.
She will replace Caroline Margo, who resigned this year after winning a nomination to stand for Hertfordshire County Council. Incumbent Totteridge councillor, Brian Coleman, will resign his position in the cabinet to take up the post of Mayor of Barnet.