BATTLE lines have been drawn ahead of the Witney by-election as Conservatives rallied behind David Cameron's potential successor.

After a final hustings on Thursday night, barrister and district councillor Robert Courts was chosen as the Tory candidate.

The 37-year-old said he was "hugely honoured", adding: "I believe it is vital Witney and West Oxfordshire residents continue to have a strong local voice in Parliament and I will work tirelessly to ensure residents’ views and concerns are heard."

His selection was welcomed by former Prime Minister Mr Cameron, who pledged to help his campaign.

The announcement came as the Greens also revealed Larry Sanders, brother of US Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders – who lost out to Hillary Clinton in the race to be the Democratic Party's candidate – as their man in the contest.

Placing social justice at the heart of his election pitch, Mr Sanders said he planed to highlight the funding problems at the NHS.

He added: "This is a rich, capable and decent country. We can do better."

It means there are now at least six contenders in the poll, with Duncan Enright running for Labour, Liz Leffman for the Liberal Democrats, Winston McKenzie for the English Democrats and Lord Toby Jug for the Eccentric Party of Great Britain.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Leffman, 67, said: "As a councillor in Charlbury I enjoy being able to get things done for local people and want to be able to do that on a bigger scale.

"One issue is cuts to bus subsidies which, in this area, have left some places like Milton under Wychwood without any buses at all.

"The government doesn't understand how rural areas are affected. We need someone to stand up for rural people."

Witney is seen as a "safe" seat for the Conservatives and its selection was hotly contested locally, even attracting attention from several prominent members of the party nationally.

It is understood Mr Courts beat John Cotton, the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, and Mr Cameron's former aide Natasha Whitmill to the nomination, after they were all shortlisted as the final three candidates.

Mr Courts, a father-of-one and deputy leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, is widely expected to secure a comfortable majority, but other parties have vowed to give the Tories a tough battle.

Mr Jug, the Witney parliamentary candidate for The Eccentric Party of Great Britain, said: "I am the only candidate who admits to being mad.

"None of the other parties will, but that's honest politics."