Written by Andy Hughes
The General Election in the West of England: Ones to Watch
With just under a week to go until the British public heads to the polls in the General Election the significant lead in the polls which Prime Minister Theresa May held as she stood on the steps of Downing Street announcing the snap election last month has substantially narrowed.
Whilst the closing of this gap was always to be expected as polling day drew closer, the improvement in the perception of the Labour Party among voters has meant that many races on the 8th of June will now be far closer than originally anticipated.
Yet, as has been proven time and time again in elections across the UK recently, it is clear that poll results can only tell part of the story when it comes to the outcome on election day. The four constituencies below represent key constituencies or ‘Ones to Watch’ on election night.
Incumbent MP: Thangam Debbonaire MP (Lab)
Candidates: Thangam Debbonaire, Labour; Jodian Rodgers, Money Free Party Resources Shared Equitably; Molly Scott Cato, Green Party; Annabel Tall, Conservatives; Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrats.
Constituency Summary: Bristol West was arguably one of the most exciting election contests in the country in May 2015. According to activists on the ground this seat is a genuine three-way marginal, with former MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams, campaigning tirelessly to win back the seat he lost two years ago and Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato looking to win in one of the parties key target seats. However, popular incumbent MP Thangam Debbonaire will be hopeful of holding off this challenge, something which is reflected in the bookmaker’s odds, which has Ms Debbonaire as the clear favourite at 1/2.
Remarkable Prediction: Definitely one to send a camera to on election night. However, Thangam Debbonaire to be returned as MP for Bristol West after this election, albeit with a slightly reduced majority. This is likely to mean a continued emphasis on the delivery of affordable housing and the need to improve the quality and affordability of homes in the private rented sector in Bristol West.
Thornbury and Yate
Incumbent MP: Luke Hall MP (Con)
Candidates: Luke Hall, Conservative; Claire Young, Liberal Democrat; Iain Hamilton, Green Party; Brian Mead, Labour.
Constituency Summary: Luke Hall’s defeat of incumbent MP and DWP Minister Steve Webb, who had served the constituency for 18 years, was one of the shock stories from the 2015 General Election. The Liberal Democrats will be hopeful that their chosen candidate, South Gloucestershire Councillor Claire Young, will be able to re-mobilise previous Lib Dem supporters in order to regain the seat from the Conservatives in a week’s time. Both candidates have been campaigning hard during the election, particularly on development issues such as house building, the West of England Joint Spatial Plan and the protection of green spaces within the constituency.
Remarkable Prediction: The loss of Steve Webb’s personal vote coupled with the Conservatives taking a significant proportion of the 5,126 votes UKIP won in 2015 will see Luke Hall returned as MP for Thornbury & Yate. Mr Hall’s re-election is likely to see a continued emphasis on protecting the greenbelt in Thornbury & Yate and continued campaigns on the JSP allocations within the constituency.
Incumbent MP: Ben Howlett MP (Con)
Candidates: Ben Howlett, Conservative; Joe Rayment, Labour; Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat; Eleanor Field, Green Party.
Constituency Summary: Having won the seat in 2015 with a comfortable majority of 3,833 incumbent MP Ben Howlett will be hopeful of holding on to his seat on election day. However, if the polls are to be believed then there may be an uncomfortable wait for Mr Howlett next Thursday evening. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have been canvassing hard in Bath, and whilst a national polling organisation has put Bath as the 12th highest target seat for the Liberals, those within the party feel that it should be higher up the list. The Conservative’s unease in this seat is showcased by the Prime Minister’s trip to the constituency only a few days ago where she stated that Bath would “play a vital part in the Conservative’s bid to hold onto their majority” in Westminster.
Remarkable Prediction: There just has not been enough of a national Liberal Democrat resurgence to see this seat being retaken. Ben Howlett will be returned to Westminster after the 8th of June. Mr Howlett’s return to Westminster is likely to see a continued emphasis on delivering new affordable housing on brownfield sites in the constituency and a staunch defence of the surrounding greenbelt.
Incumbent MP: Kerry McCarthy MP (Lab)
Candidates: Kerry McCarthy, Labour; Theo Clarke, Conservative; Lorraine Francis, Green Party; Chris Lucas, Liberal Democrat
Constituency Summary: Bristol East as a constituency faces unique challenges with regards to issues such as housing quality and availability, employment, and health compared to its other Bristol counterparts. Prior to the election, Bristol East would have been exactly the type of seat the Conservatives would have taken on their way to the landslide victory that the polls had predicted. However, not only has the party seen their fortunes in the polls dwindle, the Conservative candidate, Theodora Clark, has faced a backlash locally for living outside the constituency and has been criticised by Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees for appearing to take the credit for a deal on the controversial Blackberry Hill Hospital development, which was struck before she announced her candidacy.
Remarkable Prediction: Turnout will be key in this constituency. Against the bookmaker’s odds, Kerry McCarthy will defend her seat successfully for the fourth time and will be returned to Westminster. Ms McCarthy’s return to Westminster will see a continued emphasis on tackling Bristol’s ‘housing crisis’ through the provision of further high-quality, affordable homes.
If you are interested in finding out more about the impact of the General Election results in key constituencies in the South West, or the policy priorities of candidates or the newly elected MPs, please get in touch with Andy Hughes or Will Morgan in Remarkable’s Western office, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 247 0154.