A LATE minute entry by John Reynolds has thrown open the contest to find a new leader for Cambridgeshire County Council.

The Bar Hill councillor- who was first elected to the county council 30 years ago - surprised not only colleagues with his intervention but also the three previously declared candidates for the post.

Until this week, the ruling Conservative group - who will decide the contest on Friday (April 15) - is thought to have favoured either Cllr Martin Curtis or Cllr Nick Clarke to take over.

Third candidate Mac McGuire, and former deputy to the outgoing leader Cllr Jill Tuck, was long considered the outsider.

Councillors will now have the choice of the idealistic vision of Fulbourn councillor Nick Clarke, the "proven political thinker" Martin Curtis of Whittlesey (his words) or John Reynolds who, among other responsibilities, is a member of the guided bus delivery group but unquestionably has longevity and experience on his side.

Quite why Cllr Reynolds threw his hat into the ring - and so late - was unclear but he joins many of the other leadership candidates in claiming to be best placed to challenge the Liberal Democrat opposition.

One theme which is unites most candidates is their intention to try to hurt the Lib Dems.

Cllr Reynolds believes he can end the dominance of the CCC Lib Dems in Cambridge by helping the Tories recruit "good new young candidates" while Cllr Curtis believes the Lib Dem priorities to "protect city" is "at the expense of rural areas".

Even Cllr Clarke has made the Lib Dems a key part of his leadership strategy promising to take the fight to them and isolate them further at Shire Hall.

Cllr Clarke, only 51 but described on his own blog as "retired" after recently selling his IT company, appears to have scheduled his life to create time for his council work. In recent times he has been on the police authority, worked with the Federation of Small Businesses and the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and has acted as a cabinet adviser at Shire Hall.

Each of the four contenders will have the opportunity to outline their vision for Cambridgeshire and to field questions from their colleagues before the vote is taken.

The result should be known by early evening.