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Kelly Tolhurst, Tory candidate for Rochester by-election

The Conservative Party has said its candidate for an upcoming by-election in Kent is “committed to peace” in the Middle East, despite encouraging people to “hold Israel accountable” over Gaza.

A senior spokesman for the party insisted Kelly Tolhurst “condemns violence on both sides” and is “personally committed to the two-state solution” after she was linked to the campaign to boycott Israel.

The businesswoman was nominated to stand for the Rochester and Strood contest, after a decision by Tory defector Mark Reckless to stand down and run as a UKIP candidate.

However, Tolhurst’s anti-Israel stance has raised eyebrows, after she re-tweeted several “Free Gaza” messages this summer and targeted Israeli companies with links to West Bank settlements.

The chairman of the Rochester and Strood Conservatives, Andrew Mackness, said: “Kelly will make a great MP for our great constituency, and I look forward to supporting her in the coming weeks to ensure a Conservative win and a bright future for this area.”