#ge2015 – A tale of two constituencies

With only 14 days until the General Election, I take a closer look at two constituencies that may make headlines on May 8th.

With political campaigns running wild up and down the country, I am lucky to be near two constituencies that are both highly contested; Brighton Pavilion (where I study) and Watford (my hometown). Whilst being affected by different issues, both are key marginal seats that Labour are hoping to win to sweep Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street.

BRIGHTON PAVILION

Brighton made headlines in 2010 for electing the UK’s first Green MP, Caroline Lucas. Whilst Caroline has served constituents well, being named ‘MP of the year’ in 2014, there is some animosity towards the Green council in Brighton & Hove, especially over decisions to build several towers on the seafront (including the i360), increased congestion though reducting speed limits to 20mph and, most notably of all, a series of bin strikes which left rubbish uncollected.

There had been fears that such an appalling record from a Green council might jeapordise Caroline Lucas’ seat as an MP in the town. However, it would appear (for now, at least) that this isn’t the case. On Sussex’s campus, she still attracts a cult following and remains very popular among some students. A poll conducted by my student newspaper, The Badger, found that a majority of students surveyed plan to re-elect her on May 7th.

It looks likely that the Greens will hold this seat, albeit with a reduced majority. (Seeing as Caroline’s majority is only 1,252 votes, she will be treading on very thin ice.) What Brighton might tell us is how well the Greens are doing overall. If the Greens increase their majority, it is possible they may pick up an extra seat or two. A victory for Labour would be disastrous for the party. The most likely outcome, however, is that Caroline will remain the only Green MP in the country.

CANDIDATE LIST, BRIGTON PAVILION

  • Green Party – Caroline Lucas
  • Labour Party – Purna Sen
  • Conservative Party – Clarence Mitchell
  • Liberal Democrats – Chris Bowers
  • UKIP – Nigel Carter
  • Socialist Party of Great Britain – Howard Pilott
  • Independent – Nick Yeomans

University of Sussex’s Students’ Union held a debate with the five main candidates last year, which can be found here.

WATFORD

Watford is an interesting constituency in that it is one of the only three-way marginals in the country; with Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all hoping to win this seat. Results in Watford often reflect that of the winning party, being won by the Tories from 1979-1997, taken by Labour in 1997, until being reclaimed by the Conservatives in the last election.

The current MP, Richard Harrington, has been fairly good, especially after negotiating with London Mayor Boris Johnson for the creation of a ‘Croxley Rail Link’ to connect the High Street to the Metropolitan Line. This hasn’t gone without controversy, however, as this will result in a closure of a Tube station in the area and, as a result, cause house prices to drop. Harrington also faces a backlash from unpopular decisions made by the Coalition government, such as the bedroom tax, which Labour will hope to benefit from. Moreover, parts of the town remain the poorest areas in the east of England, which may swing many over to Labour.

As previously mentioned, the Liberal Democrats are also hoping for a win in Watford and have put a strong, popular candidate forward in the form of incumbent Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill. Thornhill was re-elected for a fourth term in office in May last year (achieving over 45% of the votes in the first round), and was once described by Nick Clegg as being “one of the best mayors in this country”.

However, do not expect Thornhill to gain a seat in Westminster. Despite the Liberal Democrats coming in a close second in 2010, they will inevitably face the wrath of voters who feel betrayed by the party over broken promises, such as those made on tuition fees. Moreover, Thornhill has made unpopular decisions over relocating the Watford Market to make space for a multi-million pound renovation and plans to build housing and health facilities on a set of allotments dubbed a “green oasis” by some. This latter issue in particular has sparked outrage among Watford residents, causing a hotbed of legal and political rows! It is for this reason why I think Thornhill will miss out on a seat in Westminster.

Polls suggest a Conservative hold in Watford, but I think it is hard to predict this seat which has so often mirrored that of the governing party. We may have to wait until May 8th for this one!

CANDIDATE LIST, WATFORD

  • Conservative Party – Richard Harrington
  • Liberal Democrats – Dorothy Thornhill
  • Labour Party – Matthew Turmaine
  • UKIP – Nick Lincoln
  • Green – Aidan Cottrell-Boyce
  • TUSC – Mark O’Connor

I also couldn’t talk about constituencies without mentioning Wealden, whose Labour candidate, Solomon Curtis, is only 18 years old and a first year Sussex student! However, don’t expect a Labour win here, Wealden has been a Conservative seat ever since its inception in 1983.
Will be back with more political news soon!

Daniel

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