Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Look @: Essex (Part I)

This post will look at the southern seats in Essex covering the unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea as well as the constituencies in between. For central Essex click here and for the North Essex seats click here.

At the last General Election Labour held the two seats in Thurrock but this year the Conservatives will be aiming to gain both in May. However, they lost control of unitary authority in 2007 and they currently hold only two more council seats than Labour. This will give Labour hope of holding at least one of their seats in Thurrock. In Southend-on-Sea the Conservatives currently run the council with 27 of the 51 seats. The Liberal Democrats are establishing themselves as the main opposition on the council, making small gains in the last 5 years.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




Andrew MacKinlay




LAB Hold

Thurrock E & Basildon S

Angela Smith




CON Gain

Basildon & Billericay

John Baron




CON Hold

Castle Point

Bob Spink




CON Gain

Southend West

David Amess





CON Hold

Southend E & Rochford

James Duddridge




CON Hold


Thurrock will be a tightly fought marginal. Andrew MacKinlay won the seat from the Conservatives in 1992 and he has managed some impressive majorities in the subsequent elections. But in 2009 MacKinlay announced his decision to retire from Parliament citing his 'disillusionment with Parliament' as the main reason. This is unfortunate for Labour as they'd have had a very good chance of holding this with MacKinlay as their candidate. Instead, Thurrock Councillor Carl Morris has a tough task on his hands to hold this open seat for Labour. The boundary commission have cut the notional majority by 1000 votes and they have a large BNP vote to defend against. In fact, there was a lot of speculation that Nick Griffin considered running for this seat before settling on Barking. Emma Colgate will be running for the nationalist party and if she takes enough votes off Labour then the Conservative PPC Jackie Doyle-Price could take the seat for the Conservatives without increasing their vote by much. A high BNP vote is probably necessary for a Tory gain as this seat has already seen an 11% swing to them since 1997. But the BNP appear to be having internal problems, with Colgate seemingly in the middle of it all. With this in mind I think Labour might just make it, but it's going to be an interesting one to key an eye on; Labour Hold.

Angela Smith in Thurrock East & Basildon South, not to be confused with the Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith, looks to be in a lot more danger. The 3000 majority she secured in her old Basildon constituency at the last election has been significantly reduced leaving the Conservatives with an excellent chance of a gain. They have selected Stephen Metcalfe here and he'll be hoping to retake a seat the Tories lost in the 1997 landslide. I think he'll manage it; Tory Gain.

John Baron is another Essex MP to see his majority drastically cut. Having won his Billericay seat by over 11000 votes he is defending the new Basildon & Billericay constituency with a notional majority of only 4500. Luckily for Baron this is a Conservative year and so this shouldn't be a problem. His real worry should be the fact he broke the expenses rules by re-mortgaging his house which will give Basildon Councillor Allan Davies some hope of gaining the seat for Labour. Without knowing how much expenses scandal will affect the vote in seats like these the safe bet is that Baron will hang on but there's potential for a surprise here; Tory Hold.

The MP for Castle Point Bob Spink has had a lively term. He came under fire during his re-election campaign in 2005 after he took out a controversial immigration advert in the local paper. This wasn't the end of his problems with the Conservative leadership which ultimately led to the whip being withdrawn, or resigned depending on who you believe! Spink then became the first UKIP MP…or did he?! He has since claimed he never actually joined the anti-EU party and is currently considered an Independent. If nothing else he has succeeded in turning a safe seat into one to watch! The Conservatives will be confident of 'holding' the seat with Rebecca Harris as their candidate but with Spink running too he could split the right wing vote. This will give Julian Ware-Lane a chance of sneaking a cheeky gain for Labour. Personally I can't see the majority of Conservatives in this seat switching to Spink so the only danger for Harris is that his presence lets Labour in. For that to happen, Spink and Harris would need to equally share the Conservative vote from 2005 and Ware-Lane hold Labour's vote steady. What's more likely is Harris will comfortably beat Spink and the Labour vote will drop resulting in a Tory Gain/Hold.

South Essex is another area of the country where, despite the implausibility of this statement, there must be something in the MPs' water! David Amess became the third MP for Southend West in 1997 holding a seat the Conservatives have won since its creation in 1997. His seat is fairly safe thanks largely to the almost equal split in Lib Dem and Labour support, although recently the former are becoming more established as the main competition in Southend. But Amess has managed to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The MP endured a disastrous trip to the USA after he joked to immigration officials that Osama bin Laden had packed his bags. Closer to home, Amess dived into a hairdressers to avoid being questions on why he had claimed so much on second home expenses despite being a commutable distance from Parliament. But the reality many in his constituency will turn out and vote for the Conservative candidate, and as this will be Amess he will probably win. Those wanting to switch parties will have to decide between Tom Flynn for Labour and Peter Welch for the Lib Dems. I doubt they'll back one to the extent that Amess will be in trouble; Tory Hold.

Rochford & Southend East's MP James Duddridge has been a lot quieter than some of his local colleagues. The seat was created in 1997 and Duddridge became its second MP in 2005 after Teddy Taylor stood down. Duddridge has been implicated in the expenses row but probably not to the extent that Kevin Bonavia will be able to buck the trend and take this constituency for Labour; Tory Hold.


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