The 2019 Election Battleground: East of England

The 2019 Election Battleground: East of England


Comprises 58 constituencies covering the historic East Anglian counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire along with Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. Aside from Remainer pockets around Cambridge and its environs, Norwich North and the Hertfordshire commuter belt, this is pretty solid Brexit-backing territory.

Leave voteshare at the 2016 referendum: 56.5%

2017 seat tally (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 50 (-2)
  • Labour: 7 (+3)
  • Lib Dems: 1 (-)
  • UKIP: 0 (-1)

2017 voteshare (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 54.6% (+5.6)
  • Labour: 32.7% (+10.7)
  • Lib Dems: 7.9% (-0.4)
  • UKIP: 2.5% (-13.7)
  • Green: 1.9% (-2.0)

Seats to Watch

Bedford (51.95% Leave)
With a Leave vote almost identical to the national result in 2016, the 2017 election in Bedford saw Labour’s Mohammad Yasin narrowly defeating Tory Brexiteer Richard Fuller. Fuller is now set for a parliamentary return in the safer climes of neighbouring Bedfordshire North East (where Alistair Burt is retiring), but Yasin’s 789 majority is vulnerable to a swing back to the Tory candidate Ryan Henson of less than 1%.

Cambridge (26.23% Leave)
With the highest Remain vote of any seat in the region, this is very much a battle between Labour and the Lib Dems. Sitting Labour MP Daniel Zeichner starts with a majority of more than 12,000, with Lib Dem candidate Rod Cantrill needing a swing in excess of 11% to take the constituency.

Cambridgeshire South (38.49% Leave)
Heidi Allen entered Parliament as Conservative MP for this seat in 2015 but her anti-Brexit views left her increasingly at odds with the party and in February 2019 she joined The Independent Group (later Change UK), even serving as its interim leader. During the course of the year she then sat as an Independent and as part of a fledgling group of Independents before finally defecting to the Lib Dems. She has opted not to contest the seat herself, although helped negotiate the deal which saw the Greens stand aside for the Lib Dems in this and many other seats. Former journalist and Boris Johnson adviser Anthony Browne is defending the Tory majority of nearly 16,000, while Ian Sollom dons the yellow rosette and would need a swing of nearly 17% to win here.

Hertfordshire South West (46.20% Leave)
The constituency covering the towns of Chorleywood, Berkhamsted, Rickmansworth and Tring has safely returned Conservatives ever since its creation. But the incumbent since 2005, ex-Cabinet minister David Gauke, lost the Tory whip (along with 20 others) over his decision to vote against the Government and hand over the Commons agenda to anti-Brexit forces in September and he is now contesting the seat as an Independent. The Tory majority of nearly 20,000 will be defended by Gagan Mohindra and Gauke’s chances of pulling off a shock win are further hindered by the fact that he is facing both Labour and Lib Dem opposition from Ali Aklakul and Sally Symington respectively.

Ipswich (56.52% Leave)
Labour’s Sandy Martin defeated Tory MP Ben Gummer here by 831 votes here in 2017, but a swing of less than 1% back to the Tories would see a victory for new Conservative candidate Tom Hunt. Hunt – who has signed the Stand Up For Brexit pledge – wrote for BrexitCentral about his campaign here.

Luton South (54.60% Leave)
Labour have won this seat at every general election since 1997, but the Labour MP re-elected in 2017, Gavin Shuker, was one of the seven anti-Brexit, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs to form The Independent Group/Change UK in February 2019. He is now seeking re-election as an Independent, while the newly-selected Labour candidate seeking to defend Shuker’s majority of nearly 14,000 is Rachel Hopkins, the Leave-voting daughter of outgoing Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins. Donning the Tory rosette will be Parvez Akhtar, while there is no Lib Dem on the ballot paper: having lost their deposit and attained barely 1,000 votes in 2017, they have given Shuker their backing.

Norfolk North (58.40% Leave)
The only Lib Dem seat in the region is now an open race after the retirement of former minister Sir Norman Lamb, who was not a fan of his party’s Brexit stance – unsurprising given that his constituency saw the highest Leave vote of any Lib Dem-held seat in 2016. The long-standing popular local MP bequeaths a majority of barely 3,500 for new Lib Dem candidate Karen Ward to defend as she seeks to push the party’s Revoke Article 50 message in an area where virtually six out of ten voters backed Brexit at the referendum. The new Tory challenger Duncan Baker has signed the Stand Up For Brexit Pledge.

Peterborough (61.31% Leave)
The Top Tory target in the region, gained for Labour in 2017 by (the later jailed) Fiona Onasanya and held by Lisa Forbes for the party in the by-election following Onasanya’s recall earlier this year. Forbes held the seat with less than 31% of the vote, with the Brexit Party’s Mike Greene coming in second following Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit as promised, the Brexit Party’s triumph in the European election and May’s announcement that she was quitting as Tory leader and Prime Minister midway during the campaign. Following her replacement with Boris Johnson and without the chaotic backdrop of June’s by-election, Conservative candidate Paul Bristow (who wrote about his campaign for BrexitCentral here) is aiming to win the seat where he grew up at his second attempt, although the continuing presence of Greene on the ballot paper is a complication in what has historically always been a straight Tory/Labour fight.

St Albans (37.83% Leave)
The top Lib Dem target in the region: Jo Swinson’s party have fancied their chances in this Remain-voting city for many a general election but have never yet succeeded (although Labour snatched it when Tony Blair was at the height of his powers). Brexiteer Tory Anne Main is defending a majority of 6,109 and Lib Dem candidate Daisy Cooper would need a swing of more than 5% to take it.

Thurrock (70.26% Leave)
On paper this would have been one of the Brexit Party’s top targets in the country: a seat which registered a Leave vote of more than 70% in 2016 and where UKIP came within a whisker of winning it in 2015 when the Tory, Labour and UKIP candidates all notched up more than 30% of the vote. But with the Brexit Party not challenging sitting Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, the more than 10,000 votes bagged by UKIP in 2017 are up for grabs and Doyle-Price will have high hopes of significantly increasing her 345 majority over Labour, whose candidate from 2017 John Kent is on the ballot paper again.

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

Photocredit: Gary Campbell-Hall