The Brexit Election Battleground: East of England

The Brexit Election Battleground: East of England

The East of England comprises 58 constituencies covering the historic East Anglian counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire along with Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.

The Conservatives hold all but six of the seats here, with Labour’s parliamentary presence restricted to urban seats in Cambridge and Norwich (where the Lib Dems are their main opposition) and Luton (where the Tories are their key challengers).

In 2015, the Lib Dems retained just one of their previous four seats here. They have historically had a local government strength in places like St Albans and Watford, although have never translated that into parliamentary representation in those areas.

UKIP, meanwhile, saw its sole MP in the country, Douglas Carswell, elected in Clacton.

The region could be characterised as relatively eurosceptic – Essex particularly so – having delivered a Leave vote of 56.5% at the referendum. However, that percentage was dragged down slightly by a small number of pockets of strong Remain territory around Cambridge and the Hertfordshire commuter belt.

Well-known Brexiteers standing in the region
Tim Aker MEP (UKIP, Thurrock)
Kemi Badenoch AM (Con, Saffron Walden)
James Cleverly (Con, Braintree)
Mark Francois (Con, Rayleigh)
Stewart Jackson (Con, Peterborough)
Bernard Jenkin (Con, Harwich and Essex North)
Priti Patel (Con, Witham)
John Whittingdale (Con, Maldon)
Peter Whittle AM (UKIP, Basildon South and Thurrock East)

MPs seeking re-election who voted against triggering Article 50
Clive Lewis (Lab, Norwich South)
Daniel Zeichner (Lab, Cambridge)

KEY SEATS TO WATCH

Bedford (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 52.0%)
Con: Richard Fuller (sitting MP)
Lab: Mohammad Yasin
LD: Henry Vann
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Lucy Bywater

2015:
Con: 19,625 (42.58%) – Maj 1,097 (2.38%)
Lab: 18,528 (40.20%)
UKIP: 4,434 (9.62%)
LD: 1,958 (4.25%)
Green: 1,412 (3.06%)
Ind: 129 (0.28%)

Bedford, which voted like the nation for Leave by a small margin, was snatched by Conservative Richard Fuller from Labour in 2010. He held it then, and again in 2015, with a majority of barely 1,000, although having voted for Brexit, UKIP have opted not to challenge him this time. One would expect some of their nearly 4,500 votes now to help boost his majority.

Cambridge (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 26.2%)
Con: John Hayward
Lab: Daniel Zeichner (sitting MP)
LD: Julian Huppert
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Stuart Tuckwood
Rebooting: Keith Garrett

2015:
Lab: 18,646 (36.01%) – Maj 599 (1.16%)
LD: 18,047 (34.86%)
Con: 8,117 (15.68%)
Green: 4,109 (7.94%)
UKIP: 2,668 (5.15%)
RTP: 187 (0.36%)

One of the twenty most Remain-friendly seats in England, the university city of Cambridge has very much been a Labour-Lib Dem battle since the 1990s. Labour held it from 1992 until 2005 when it was won by the Lib Dems, but in 2015 Labour’s Daniel Zeichner just managed to win it back. Zeichner was one of those who opposed the triggering of Article 50 and he now faces a re-run of the contest with Julian Huppert, the Lib Dem MP he defeated.

Clacton (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 73.0%)
Con: Giles Watling
Lab: Tasha Osben
LD: David Grace
UKIP: Paul Oakley
Green: Chris Southall
Eng Dem: Robin Tilbrook
Ind: Nick Martin
Ind: Caroline Shearer

2015:
Maj 3,437 (7.77%)
UKIP: 19,642 (44.43%)
Con: 16,205 (36.66%)
Lab: 6,364 (14.40%)
Green: 1,184 (2.68%)
LD: 812 (1.84%)

This is the scene of the famous 2014 by-election caused by Douglas Carswell’s decision to quit as a Tory MP after nine years to seek local voters’ permission to remain in the Commons as a UKIP MP. His victory gave the party its first elected MP (previously ex-Tory MP Bob Spink had taken the UKIP label but was never elected as such) and he was re-elected in 2015 as the party’s sole victor, despite its 3.8 million votes nationwide. But having endured a frosty relationship with Nigel Farage and other figures in UKIP, he announced on the eve of the triggering of Article 50 that he would be leaving the party as it was a case of “job done” as far as UKIP’s founding aim of getting the UK out of the EU was concerned. He has now professed support for the Conservatives again, but is not standing at the general election. Barrister Paul Oakley now has the uphill task of trying to defend the seat for UKIP as the defeated Tory at the contests in 2014 and 2015 – former actor and local councillor Giles Watling – will be hoping that it is a case of third time lucky.

Luton South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 54.6%)
Con: Dean Russell
Lab: Gavin Shuker (sitting MP)
LD: Andrew Strange
UKIP: Ujjawal Ub
Green: Marc Scheimann
Ind: Abid Ali

2015:
Lab: 18,660 (44.20%) – Maj 5,711 (13.53%)
Con: 12,949 (30.67%)
UKIP: 5,129 (12.15%)
LD: 3,183 (7.54%)
Green: 1,237 (2.93%)
Ind: 900 (2.13%)
Lib GB: 158 (0.37%)

The Labour MP here, Gavin Shuker, was a Remain campaigner, but opted to abstain when the triggering of Article 50 came before Parliament. It is the Labour constituency in the region which on paper the Tories are best placed to win, although it would require them to achieve a swing of nearly 7% in order to do so.

Norfolk North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 58.4%)
Con: James Wild
Lab: Stephen Burke
LD: Norman Lamb (sitting MP)
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

2015:
LD: 19,299 (39.06%) – Maj 4,043 (8.18%)
C: 15,256 (30.87%)
UKIP: 8,328 (16.85%)
Lab: 5,043 (10.21%)
Green: 1,488 (3.01%)

Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem MP here since 2001, could be in trouble. The Lib Dem logic at the Richmond Park by-election was that a strongly Remain-backing seat couldn’t be represented by a Brexiteer like Zac Goldsmith. If the party employed the same logic here, they would presumably conclude that Remain backer Lamb ought no longer be representing Leave-backing North Norfolk. There are just the three candidate contesting the seat now and while Lamb will be eyeing up the 1,500 or so Green votes, the Tories will have high hopes of scooping up the lion’s share of the more than 8,000 UKIP votes from last time. Lamb – who was notably absent from the the Commons votes on triggering Article 50 – will be hoping that his party’s views on the EU will be overlooked by voters in the seat he has fought at every election since 1992.

Norwich South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 40.5%)
Con: Lana Hempsall
Lab: Clive Lewis (sitting MP)
LD: James Wright
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Richard Bearman

This seat saw a remarkable turnaround between 2010 and 2015: in 2010, the Lib Dems gained the seat from Labour (who had held it since 1987) in a tight contest, having won less than 30% of the vote. Yet in 2015 Labour won it back – in the form of Clive Lewis – with the incumbent Lib Dem MP being defeated into fourth place behind the Greens, who have always had something of a presence here. Despite only becoming an MP in 2015, Corbynista Lewis has already managed to hold two Shadow Cabinet jobs before quitting to vote against the Third Reading of the legislation to trigger Article 50. UKIP’s failure to field a candidate may bolster the Tory vote, but given recent electoral history here, it is hard to make any predictions as to what might happen.

2015:
Lab: 19,033 (39.27%) – Maj 7,654 (15.79%)
Con: 11,379 (23.48%)
Green: 6,749 (13.93%)
LD: 6,607 (13.63%)
UKIP: 4,539 (9.37%)
Class War: 96 (0.20%)
Ind: 60 (0.12%)

Peterborough (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 61.3%)
Con: Stewart Jackson (sitting MP)
Lab: Fiona Onasanya
LD: Beki Sellick
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Fiona Radic

2015:
Con: 18,684 (39.69%) – Maj: 1,925 (4.09%)
Lab: 16,759 (35.60%)
UKIP: 7,485 (15.90%)
LD: 1,774 (3.77%)
Green: 1,218 (2.59%)
Lib: 639 (1.36%)
Ind: 516 (1.10%)

Stewart Jackson has now held Peterborough at three successive elections with a vote tally that has edged upwards each time, although his majority has varied depending on the size of the second-placed Labour vote. Brexiteer Jackson is now Parliamentary Private Secretary to Brexit Secretary David Davis and UKIP’s withdrawal from the race here provides a rich seam of more than 7,000 voters who ought to be persuadable that he is their best bet this time.

Thurrock (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 70.3%)
Con: Jackie Doyle-Price (sitting MP)
Lab: John Kent
LD: Kevin McNamara
UKIP: Tim Aker MEP
Green: No candidate

2015:
Con: 16,692 (33.68%) – Maj: 536 (1.08%)
Lab: 16,156 (32.60%)
UKIP: 15,718 (31.71%)
LD: 644 (1.30%)
CSA: 244 (0.49%)
ND: 79 (0.16%)
AP: 31 (0.06%)

In the tightest three-way race of the 2015 election, less than 2% separated the Tories, Labour and UKIP here, with the fourth-placed Lib Dems scraping just 1% of the vote. Victorious Tory Jackie Doyle-Price actually backed Remain at last year’s referendum, despite more than seven in ten of her constituents voting Leave, although her embracing of Brexit has been seen as the teller from the Government whips’ office announcing the result of key votes on the triggering of Article 50 in the Commons chamber. She faces the same UKIP challenger, local councillor and MEP Tim Aker, in what is technically UKIP’s top target seat (after Clacton, which they are trying to defend).

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia