Election 2015: The East's ones to watch

 

As the party conference season gets underway it's become very clear to us that all the parties have moved into general election mode.

There may still be 600 or so days to go and there are important European elections next year, but with all the main spending decisions for this parliament now taken - the politicians are focussing their attention on 7 May 2015.

Ballot box Key issues help form the election battle lines

Over the summer the parties have been hiring extra staff, the candidates have been selected in the key seats, MPs have been told to do more with their local media and there are suddenly more "big name" visits to the key seats which will determine the outcome of the next election.

From now on all speeches, visits and policy announcements need to be seen through the prism of the general election.

Andrew Sinclair, political reporter for the East of England, has taken a look at the 13 seats in the region that we think will be the main ones to watch between now and polling day.

Some of them are interesting because they're marginals, others because they will be the battle ground for some of the key issues at the next election and some because they've got high profile MPs.

Do you agree with our choice - are there others we should add?

Norwich South: Simon Wright (LD) - majority 310

The most marginal seat in the region and the biggest upset in the region at the last election when the Liberal Democrats took the seat from former home secretary Charles Clarke. One of the reasons they did so well was because of the large student vote which liked their opposition to any increase in tuition fees .

Simon Wright voted against the increase but his party's change of heart on the issue and the Lib Dems being in government with the Conservatives mean that he will struggle to hold onto his seat. Labour are already campaigning hard here. If they don't take Norwich South there will be a very long inquest.

Waveney: Peter Aldous (Con) - majority 769

The second most marginal seat in the region where the Labour candidate is former minister Bob Blizzard.

The town has been hit by the decline in fishing but benefitted from the growth of offshore energy production. But there is a lot of deprivation here. Living standards and the economy will feature high in people's list of concerns.

Cambridge: Julian Huppert (LD) - majority 6,792

Another Liberal Democrat under pressure. Julian Huppert has maintained a high profile ever since becoming MP in 2010 and has often voted against the government on issues like tuition fees, so-called anti privacy legislation and Syria. He hopes his independent stance will keep him in with voters who have already given the Lib Dems several bloody noses in local elections.

The continued economic growth of Cambridge means the economy may not be as a big an issue here as it is in other places. But Cambridge used to be a Labour seat and despite the strong majority, the party has put this on its target list.

Harlow: Robert Halfon (Con) - majority 4,925

This has always been a seen as a classic swing seat. Whoever wins here normally goes on to form the government. Labour has already put in a lot of effort into campaigning here and Ed Miliband has visited Harlow more than anywhere else in the region. The party took back control of the local council last year.

Robert Halfon has made a name for himself as a campaigning MP. He forced the government to delay or scrap fuel duty increases on three occasions. He recently stood up to Tesco when it closed its local distribution centre and he's now attacking the water companies over the amount they pay their directors. If he holds on he will play a key role in reshaping the Conservative party.

Peterborough: Stewart Jackson (Con) - majority 4,861

Another Labour target seat held by another independently minded high profile MP.

Stewart Jackson has often voted against the Government particularly over the issue of Europe. This constituency is at the centre of the debate on immigration. UKIP have quite a presence here and could affect the outcome of the result in this seat.

Mid Bedfordshire: Nadine Dorries (Con) - majority 15,152

There's very little chance of this seat changing hands but it's held by one of the Conservatives' most high profile and controversial MPs. Not afraid to speak her mind Nadine Dorries has been a thorn in the leadership's side calling David Cameron and George Osborne "posh boys". She upset many in her party by disappearing into the Australian jungle for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

A known euro-sceptic she's been rumoured on more than one occasion to be about to join UKIP. Yet despite all the negative stories about her she claims to be more in touch with ordinary voters than most politicians. It'll be interesting to see what happens to her majority.

Wellingborough: Peter Bone (Con) - majority 11,787

The seat that's often regarded as being at the heart of Middle England. This is where issues like immigration, the cost of living and Britain's role in the world often play big.

Peter Bone is a notorious euro-sceptic and party rebel but he says he's the one who's really in touch with the views of middle England. Wellingborough is also centre of the haulage industry, the issue of fuel costs and transport infrastructure are also major talking points.

Ipswich: Ben Gummer (Con) - majority 2,079

It was once said that for anyone to form a government they need to win Ipswich which is why this key marginal is already being heavily targeted by the parties. A commuter town with a growing university, the cost of living and the poor rail service to London are major issues.

Milton Keynes South: Iain Stewart (Con) - majority 5,201

Part of the M1 corridor - an area of high business and housing growth. The politicians often refer to people who live here as being "aspirational middle England". Hard working people who've worked hard to get to where they've got to and who want to better themselves and their family. The debate about living standards will be big here. It's another seat that Labour has got its eye on.

Colchester: Sir Bob Russell (Lib Dem) - majority 6,982

One of the safest Lib Dem seats in the country and held by one of the region's most well known MPs . The first Lib Dem to be elected in the East, Sir Bob is now a party grandee who will play a key role in setting the future direction of his party after the next election.

Luton South: Gavin Shuker (Lab) - majority 2,329

Labour's smallest majority in our region which Conservatives failed to take last time round. If there is any sign of the Conservatives picking up support and winning over new voters it will be here.

Vauxhall used to be a major employer, now it's the airport and printing works so this seat is a good barometer for the economy. Gavin Shuker, already a junior shadow minister, is seen as a rising star within the party. If he's re-elected he'll play a role in Government... or in rebuilding Labour after another election defeat.

Great Yarmouth: Brandon Lewis (Con) - majority 4,276

A traditional Labour seat which the Conservatives won in 2010 for the first time in 13 years. The town has some of the worst levels of deprivation in the country and unemployment has gone up since the last election, but it's starting to come down.

The government has put in an enterprise zone to encourage new businesses and the port has done well from the growth in offshore wind energy. Brandon Lewis is a rising star in the Conservative Party and as local government minister he's had several run-ins with the Labour run council. UKIP has won several council seats here, that could have an impact on who wins here.

North West Cambs: Shailesh Vara (Con) - majority 16,677

With such a large majority Mr Vara probably won't lose his seat. But what makes North West Cambridgeshire interesting is that it contains the town of Ramsay - the only council in the country to be run by UKIP.

With immigration a big issue in the Fens, this is classic UKIP territory. The party now has a strong presence on the county council, if it can't do well here in the general election it could be seen as a sign that support is waning.

 
Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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