General Election 2015: 'Exciting' South East campaign

House of Commons Image copyright PA
Image caption The campaign for the 2015 general election is under way

The phoney war is over - parliament has now been dissolved, and the battle for votes at the general election on 7 May is officially under way.

Here in the South East we're set for one of the most exciting and unpredictable election campaigns in a generation.

There are 29 seats across the South East. The map is predominantly blue with 25 of the seats held by the Conservatives.

The only exceptions are the two yellow Liberal Democrat seats of Lewes, which is held by Norman Baker, and Eastbourne, represented by Stephen Lloyd.

Rochester and Strood has one of only two UKIP MPs in the country. Mark Reckless will have to fight hard to retain the seat for his party.

He won the seat for the Conservatives in 2010 with a majority of 10,000. This was reduced to just under 3,000 at last November's by-election which was triggered by his defection.

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Image caption Mark Reckless won the Rochester and Strood by-election after defecting to UKIP from the Conservatives

The South East also has the country's only Green MP - the former party leader Caroline Lucas who is determined to hold on to Brighton Pavilion.

She won by just 1,252 votes, making it the most marginal seat in the South East.

It was previously held by Labour and the Tories who are targeting the seat this time round.

Labour hopes

Labour has made much of its desire to win back support in the South East but it has a big task on its hands as the party doesn't have any seats in Kent or Sussex.

It is also targeting key marginal constituencies around Brighton.

There will be a real battle for Hastings and Rye. It's currently held by Conservative MP and Energy Minister Amber Rudd - who has a majority of 1,993 and is being challenged by Labour candidate Sarah Owen.

Image caption Brighton Pavilion is one of the most marginal seats in the South East

So which of our seats will be hardest fought over during the next few weeks?

The polls suggest the Liberal Democrat vote has slumped since 2010 - which could be bad news for Stephen Lloyd and Norman Baker.

The Lib Dems may have been in coalition with the Conservatives for the past five years but the gloves will be off when it comes to the general election.

In fact, David Cameron and George Osborne were turning the suspected arson attack that destroyed Eastbourne Pier into an electioneering opportunity when they visited the remains and announced a £2m grant to help the local economy.

And the Tories know they are vulnerable in coastal communities such as Hove, where the incumbent MP Mike Weatherley is standing down, Brighton Kemptown and Hastings and Rye - which they won last time with majorities of less than 2,000 votes.

Whatever the result, we're guaranteed a colourful campaign.

Image caption Laura Sandys' seat of South Thanet will be fought by Nigel Farage and Al Murray, aka The Pub Landlord

David Cameron promised to "throw the kitchen sink" at Rochester and Strood during last autumn's by-election campaign - so it would be no surprise to see him back in the constituency, which the party is desperate to win back from UKIP.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage says his party's "fox is in the Westminster hen house" so all eyes will be focused on his campaign for election in the Kent seat of South Thanet where his opponents include stand-up comedian Al Murray, in his guise as The Pub Landlord.

Which politicians will be toasting success on Friday 8 May and which ones will be forced to drown their sorrows?

Well, that's for you the voters to decide.

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