The general election battle has kicked off in Kensington with Labour’s candidate accusing incumbent Sir Malcolm Rifkind of being "invisible to voters".
Dr Rod Abouharb this week released his election pledges and claimed only 17 people in 100 surveyed in the Kensington constituency could pick out their MP from a line-up of eight because he is "not visible locally".
The first-time Labour contender, who works as a lecturer at University College London, said: “People did not recognise him because he is not visible locally and does not spend time meeting constituents.
“They labelled him ‘the Honorary MP for Kensington’ and now it has stuck.
“Kensington residents need a locally-based, visible, responsive and representative Member of Parliament. As an MP, I will not take any paid directorships. Being a responsive Member of Parliament is a full-time job that I take very seriously.”
The Labour candidate is fighting hard for the seat which Sir Malcolm has occupied since the 2010 election, when the Kensington constituency was created following boundary changes, but it has always been a Conservative stronghold.
Dr Abouharb, the son of an English mother, who worked as a nurse, and a Syrian father, grew up in Cardiff.
He claims people are "fed up of the sight of MPs lining their own pockets and not listening to the electorate" and said he decided to stand for parliament because he was "tired of shouting at the television".
Sir Malcolm, who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, including as foreign secretary, hit back this week.
He defended his work in the constituency saying: “I’ve been in correspondence with a couple of thousand residents and am helping many of them. Dr Abouharb hasn’t been an MP before so he won’t know I have many engagements every week where I visit constituents and that’s part of the job.
“We’ve helped lots of people and I’m proud of my work as an MP, so I’m quite happy to take part in a beauty contest with him.”
Responding to Labour criticisms of how non-executive directorships and consultancies earn him about £262,000 a year, Sir Malcolm said: “Many MPs supplement their salary and you can easily find out how much and where.
“It’s very transparent, as it should be. I spend 70-80% of my time in constituency, which is the norm.”
One of his directorships is for Medical Alliance which won an £80m contract for cancer scanning recently and which earns Sir Malcolm £60,000 a year, which has led Dr Abouharb to question whether he is committed to a publicly funded NHS.
Sir Malcolm said he supports free healthcare at the point of delivery and it makes sense to work with the private health sector to ensure the best healthcare is provided.
The 56th UK general election takes place on May 7, 2015.