Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A Look @: East Sussex

East Sussex is a lot more interesting electorally than its western counterpart. But at the last Council elections not much changed at all. The Conservatives stayed in control of the council with 29 of the 49 with only one seat changing hands in the whole authority. Currently the Conservatives hold three of the five Parliamentary seats with the other main parties sharing the remaining two. The Tories will be eying a clean sweep but the conduct of their own MPs has meant they'll need to watch their backs at the same time.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Hastings & Rye

Michael Jabez Foster




CON Gain


Norman Baker




LD Hold


Nigel Waterson




LD Gain

Bexhill & Battle

Gregory Barker




CON Hold


Charles Hendry




CON Hold



Michael Jabez Foster, who is not to be confused with Worcester MP Michael John Foster, produced a shock in 1997 by coming from third to take Hastings & Rye with an 18.5% swing. He has managed to consolidate this Labour gain over subsequent elections but he is looking at risk this time around. The boundary commission have slashed his notional majority in half following the transfer of a Conservative ward, Brede Valley, into the constituency. However, Foster is a popular MP and only has a minor expenses issue relating to mortgage payments whilst Parliament was dissolved during the last election campaign. The Conservative candidate Amber Rudd will be quietly confident with Ashcroft's money and the new wards behind her. Labour will fight tooth and nail for this but I don't think they'll have enough to hold. When the tide turns this seat could well slip back into Labour's hands but for now, Tory Gain.

Norman Baker narrowly won Lewes in 1997, taking the seat off the Conservative incumbent. The Lib Dem MP has subsequently increased his majority and he looks good to hold the seat again in May. Baker is one of the most tenacious MPs, and his campaign for transparency of his colleagues travel expenses led the independent to ask if he was 'the most hated man in Westminster'. However, Baker was branded a 'hypocrite' following revelations that he'd been claiming rent on an office he owned. I imagine Baker has enough about him to defend this large majority especially as his claims were found to be in accordance with the rules. Former Lewes councillor Jason Sugarman may be able to exploit this issue to defeat an otherwise popular MP, but it will be a tough ask to secure the swing required; Lib Dem Hold.

Despite the small majority in Eastbourne the
Conservatives have held the seat for 98 of the last 100 years. The Liberal Democrats were the only other party to win here in a 1990 by-election following the assassination of the then MP Ian Gow by the IRA. Nigel Waterson won the seat back in the 1992 General Election but he has not registered the large majorities enjoyed by his predecessors. This seat has been a prime target for the Lib Dems for twenty years but the have not managed to unseat Waterson. This year could be different as the MP has been hitting the headlines nationally and locally for all the wrong reasons. In January 2008 it was reported that Waterson was arrested for allegedly assaulting his teenage children. More recently he's had a former Conservative MP back his Lib Dem opponent and the former Chairman of his constituency party claim Waterson doesn't like 'mixing with the ordinary voter'. According to the former Chairman, Waterson himself is not confident of his chances so it's difficult for us to be! Lib Dem PPC Stephen Lloyd has an open goal here and I'd imagine his party will be disappointed if they fail yet again to make the breakthrough. I think he'll manage it but as an Argyle fan I've seen plenty of open goals missed…! Lib Dem gain.

The fun doesn't stop in East Sussex! Bexhill and Battle has been a safe Tory seat since it's creation in 1983 but that doesn't make it boring. It was represented by Chris Wardle who after announcing his intention to stand down in 2001 had the whip withdrawn for backing UKIP's Nigel Farage to replace him. Gregory Barker held the seat for the Conservatives whilst Farage came in a poor fourth. Barker himself has not been your run of the mill MP. In 2006 the father of three left his wife for a male interior designer. Considering the sort of seat he's representing this might play out worse than his second home flipping. Either way, I'd imagine the Lib Dem candidate Mary Varrall will be able to reduce Barker's majority but probably not enough to unseat him. This seat has also attracted the attention of former Conservative donor Stuart Wheeler's new Trust Party which could make this interesting. Barker will probably hang on but it could be an seat to look out for; Tory Hold.

Finally, a relatively uninteresting seat. Wealden has been Conservative since its creation in 1983. Current MP Charles Hendry took over in 2001 and increased his majority at the last election. However, Hendry hasn't come out of the expenses scandal smelling of roses as it was revealed he claimed over £7,000 to pay for 'servants' in his second home. He's paid back almost £500 of this but it's certainly ammunition for the Liberal Democrat candidate Chris Bowers, a Lewes Councillor. He's another who I think has a big enough majority to survive but expect it to be considerably reduced; Tory Hold.


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