The wife of an ex-Conservative MP has been chosen to contest his former seat at the general election.
Natalie Elphicke was selected by Tory members to be the party’s candidate in Dover and Deal.
Her husband Charlie Elphicke said he was standing down to fight three charges of sexual assault. He denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Elphicke said he regretted having to make way but was determined to clear his name and ensure a fair trial.
Mr Elphicke, who has held the Kent seat since 2010, lost the Conservative whip this summer after being charged with three counts of sexual assault against two women. He continued to sit in Parliament as an independent.
Mr Elphicke won the seat for a third time in 2017 with a majority of 6,437. His wife, a solicitor, is a former director of the party’s national policy forum as well as a local campaigner on housing and other issues.
Keith Single, chairman of the local Conservative association, said he was saddened by Mr Elphicke’s decision to stand down but respected his reasons for doing so and remained fully supportive of him.
“We have always supported him because we believe in the principle of innocence unless proven otherwise,” he said.
“Unfortunately, these protracted events have unfolded in a way that meant Charlie did not get the chance to clear his name before this election.”
He said the association thought “carefully” before selecting Mr Elphicke’s wife but he believed she was an “outstanding” candidate who would make a first-class MP.
Mr Elphicke said he was incredibly proud of what he had achieved for his constituency but his focus was now on defending himself in court.
“In my case, I have been subjected to daily falsehoods and vile abuse – from the malfeasance of cabinet ministers to the malice of Twitter trolls,” he said.
“This has had the cumulative effect of jeopardising my right to a fair trial on charges I know to be baseless.”
“I would like to thank our Conservative association, my dedicated team of staff, the people of Dover and Deal and my family for their unwavering kindness throughout this difficult time.”