Battleground Broxtowe: Could HS2 decide marginal seat?

Potential HS2 train design Image copyright HS2
Image caption The possibility of Toton being a HS2 hub station has divided candidates in Broxtowe

The East Midlands battleground seat of Broxtowe has a reputation for being the touch and go constituency.

In the last general election, the Conservatives' Anna Soubry took the Nottingham suburban seat from Labour with a majority of less than 400. But after five years of austerity, the outcome in this election is too difficult to call. That's why it is so sensitive.

Just ask Nick Palmer, the Labour candidate who hopes to win back the seat he lost in 2010.

"Broxtowe is a very moderate, traditional constituency," he told me. "Last time, I lost by less than one per cent."

His strategy?

"There were 17% who voted Liberal Democrat and I hope to get a lot of those people, plus the Greens and even some Conservatives."

Defence minister Anna Soubry, a former TV presenter and barrister, has one big message in her election brief.

"We've had a record fall in the number of people claiming unemployment benefit. It's halved in five years," she said.

"Prices are coming down and wages catching up. People get it and they know it's because we've taken some difficult decisions."

A key election issue is whether the HS2 high speed rail hub should be based at Toton Sidings in Broxtowe.

Image caption UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Labour and the Conservatives were represented at the BBC Radio Nottingham debate

"I really don't feel Anna Soubry's represented the interests of the constituents on this. She's simply embraced it," Mr Palmer told an election debate, broadcast on BBC Radio Nottingham.

Ms Soubry responded: "Do you want an MP who will stand up for saying 'we want HS2 hub coming to Toton', and I say 'absolutely.'"

The Liberal Democrats' candidate Stan Heptinstall, a former Broxtowe mayor, also backs HS2.

"It's an opportunity to develop the economy of the whole of the East Midlands and the local area. The people in Broxtowe will benefit enormously."

On this issue, the Greens and UKIP make strange bedfellows.

"The impact environmentally for Toton would be disastrous," said David Kirwan, the Green Party candidate.

"The additional transport and traffic around the area would make Toton unidentifiable from where it is today."

UKIP's Frank Dunne challenged the value for money of the project.

He said: "It's going to be very, very expensive . If you look at the turmoil and problems of the tram scheme in Beeston, just imagine what the carnage of HS2 - if it goes ahead - would cause."

Could HS2 swing it one way or the other? It is one of those constituencies where any one of its voters could decide who'll be Broxtowe's next MP.... it'll be that close.

Image caption The tram works have caused major disruption in parts of Nottinghamshire

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