Cheshire is a large county, with 11 constituencies. It is split into four unitary authorities: Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington. Therefore I have divided it into three posts. Two constituencies, Tatton and Eddisbury, actually cut across local government boundaries, so I have included them in the areas in which the majority of them fall in. Cheshire East is home to the Winterton's, a pair of married Conservative MPs who are standing in the wake of their expenses which they used to pay rent for a flat they already owned. Even David Cameron branded their behaviour as "indefensible". Therefore the expenses scandal is no doubt particularly visible here. Nonetheless, besides Crewe and Nantwich this is traditional Conservative territory. Cheshire East council is currently Conservative held. 59 Conservatives, 12 Liberal Democrats, 6 Labour, 3 Middlewich First and 1 independent councillors sit on the unitary council.
Crewe and Nantwich
*Crewe and Nantwich MP Gwyneth Dunwoody died in 2008 leading a by-election in the seat. The by-election was won by Conservative candidate, Edward Timpson.
Congleton is the constituency of Lady Ann Winterton husband of Nicholas Winterton (who we will talk about later). The Winterton's expenses caused them to reach national attention during the expenses scandal. Nonetheless, Ann maintained a large majority in 2005 despite already demonstrating somewhat gaffe prone behaviour. In 2001 she made a joke about Pakistanis which was badly received. In 2004 she made a joke about the Morecambe Bay cockling disaster that was similarly poorly received, and led to her suspension from the Conservative Party until she apologised. In September 2005 she was condemned yet again for making comments on her blog, which included the statement that the UK was "thankfully a predominantly white, Christian country." Suffice to say the Conservative Party is now doubt glad to see the back of Ann! The Conservative candidate is Fiona Bruce, a councillor in Warrington who has a reputation as a dedicated campaigner. Labour candidate David Bryant is a former professional rugby player for the London Wasps. However, I suspect he will come third to Liberal Democrat candidate, Peter Hirst, a Doctor and councillor for the town of Midwich. With the Lib Dem surge and the legacy of Ann Winterton Hirst may be able to pull off a shock win on election night, and Ladbrokes gives him odds of 8/1 compared to 50/1 for Bryant. Nonetheless the Conservatives have a superb candidate here and considering that the gaffe prone Ann was successfully elected in 2005 I think this is the type of seat that almost votes Conservative on instinct. A Conservative Hold.
Crewe and Nantwich was the constituency of legendary Labour backbencher Gwyneth Dunwoody, who held this seat from 1974 until her death in 2008. Dunwoody was the longest serving female MP in British history, and well known for her fiercely independent streak. Her death in 2008 led to a by-election. Dunwoody's popularity had hidden the fact that while Crewe is very Labour leaning Nantwich is much more Conservative and the by-election was bitterly fought between Dunwoody's daughter, Tamsin Dunwoody, and Edward Timpson a former lawyer for the Conservatives. In the end Timpson won the seat on 17.6% swing, more than twice what he needed to win the constituency, on a turnout only a couple of percent lower than that of the 2005 election. The by-election win was a grand victory for the Conservatives; it was their first gain at a by-election since 1982 and their first by-election gain from Labour since 1978. Nonetheless, by-elections exist on a different set of rules to general elections, and this seat is very much in play on May the 6th. Timpson's expenses are probably best described by the man himself: "My expenses are very boring. I rent a small, single-bed flat from the same letting agent as 4,000 other people in London, and I don't claim for personal food or furniture. If I did choose to swing a cat in my bedroom, the cat would come off pretty badly." The Labour candidate is David Williams a trade union official and former election agent for Gwyneth Dunwoody. While I think that Timpson will not score the huge swing he did in the by-election I think the by-election reveals that Crewe and Nantwich is much more Conservative than the notional majority suggests. My view is that the large majority is a reflection of the popularity of Gwyneth Dunwoody rather than the popularity of the Labour Party and I suspect that Timpson will be returned unheeded. Conservative gain.
Macclesfield is the constituency of the other half of the Wintertons: Sir Nicholas Winterton. Nicholas is almost as gaffe-prone as Ann. A Tory grandee he was accused of slapping a female MP on the bottom. In 2010 he stated during an interview on BBC Radio 5 that he travelled first class on a train, because people who travel in standard class were a "totally different type of people". Sir Nicholas had held the seat since 1971 and prior to that it had been held by the Conservatives since 1918. Therefore, despite Sir Nicholas' issues I suspect that the advantage lies with David Rutley, a former Asda director, and advisor to Conservative cabinet secretary William Waldegrave. Rutley suffers a worrying challenge from Brendan Murphy, a former Conservative PPC in Hazel Grove and Vale of Clywd, and former councillor in Macclesfield who is running as 'The Macclesfield Independent'. Ladbrokes gives odds of 16/1 on a victory by Murphy. That said Murphy's victory is unlikely, though he could potentially divide the Conservative vote and allow through Adrian Heald, the Labour candidate, or in the wake of the Liberal Democrat surge, Lib Dem candidate Roger Barlow, a professor of particle physics. Independent challenge, and Nicholas Winterton aside I think that this seat would vote Conservative under almost any circumstance. Conservative hold.
Tatton is only mostly in Cheshire East, it crosses constituency boundaries. It is held by Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne. With his high national profile and large majority Osbourne is as close as certain as you get to being sure to win this constituency. Conservative hold.