Monday, 3 May 2010

A Look @: Cumbria

Cumbria is a very rural area, but befitting its status as the most North-Westerly county in Britain it has been a strong area for Labour. However it is home to a lot of marginal seats. Cumbria council currently has 38 Conservative, 24 Labour, 16 Liberal Democrat, 6 Independent and 1 Socialist People's Party councillors. Unusually Cumbria county council is run a Conservative/Labour coalition.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Barrow in Furness

John Hutton




CON Gain


Eric Martlew




CON Gain


Jamie Reed




LAB Hold

Penrith and the Border

David MacLean




CON Hold

Westmorland and Lonsdale

Tim Farron




LD Hold


Tony Cunningham




LAB Hold

Barrow in Furness is currently the seat of John Hutton, once a rising star in the Labour Party. Hutton has served as Defense, Work and Pensions, and Business minister. A Blairite, Hutton quit the cabinet during an attempt to force out Brown in the summer of 2009. The combination of the failure of this attempt, and Hutton's reduced majority, thanks to boundary changes, probably contributed towards Hutton's decision to stand down, though he gave the reason that he wishes to contribute on his second career as an author. Hutton's replacement as Labour PPC is John Woodcock, a former advisor to both Hutton and Gordon Brown. His selection caused some controversy in local circles due to the view that candidates were being 'parachuted in' from London. The Conservative candidate is John Gough who was selected in an open primary (where ANY member of the public can vote for the candidate). This means he is both more familiar to the general public than usual, and can claim to be outside the usual party machine. The last local election resulted in 6 Conservatives, 3 Labour, 2 independents and the single Socialist People's Party representative being elected. Gough is no doubt boosting his local credentials on the ground in contrast to his Labour opponent, and while I think that this one will be very close I suspect Barrow in Furness is a likely Tory gain.

Carlisle MP Eric Martlew is standing down this time. He has been MP for Carlisle since 1987, and the seat was previously held by Labour since 1970. Martlew's expenses claims are not super-clean but are not overly terrible either. Both Labour candidate Michael Boaden and Conservative candidate John Stevenson are local councillors. The last local elections gave 7 seats to both the Conservatives and Labour alike, with 2 Lib Dems and a single independent. My feeling is that this one will be, like Barrow in Furness, very close, but I think that this will be a Conservative gain as well.

Copeland is the constituency of Labour MP Jamie Reed. Reed is a keen supporter of nuclear power, which is good, because the Sellafield nuclear power station is in his constituency and its biggest employer. Reed's expenses appear in order. Conservative opponent Chris Whiteside has only recently moved to the area, and will no doubt be accused of carpetbagging like others in the area. Reed has a healthy majority and unless there is a sudden Tory surge in the final days of the campaign I think it is very likely Labour will hold the seat.

Penrith and the Border is the safest of the seats in Cumbria. Current MP David MacLean is standing down after 27 years in the Commons due to worsening Multiple Schlerosis. MacLean was an old-school Thatcherite who was well known in recent years for putting forward a bill that would have excluded the Houses of Parliament from Freedom of Information Act requests, this would have kept their expenses secret. MacLean himself flipped his second home. Tory PPC Rory Stewart, a former diplomat and Harvard professor was selected in an open primary, but his selection caused controversy as a local Conservative activist claimed all six people on the primary shortlist were 'unrepresentative' of the constituency and that the list had been drawn up in an 'undemocratic' manner. Stewart's chief opponent is Peter Thornton, a Liberal Democrat councillor. I think the odds here underplay the Lib Dems chances in the wake of the surge in the polls and considering the local issues at play, nonetheless a majority of more than 9,000 should be enough to guarantee Stewart's victory, though this could be a surprise upset on the night. Conservative hold.

From the safest seat we move onto the most marginal. Westmorland and Lonsdale was won by the Conservatives in 1997 and 2001 but the Liberal Democrats just squeaked through a victory, with a 267 vote majority, (though boundary changes have notionally increased by 600) in 2005. MP Tim Farron is currently the Lib Dem's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Spokesman. Farron has a reputation in Liberal Democrat circles as being a highly effective and energetic campaigner and for being a solid speechmaker. Farron, then Home Affairs spokesman, resigned from the Liberal Democrat frontbench in 2008 in order to vote against party lines in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a fact that can only help him in a traditionally Conservative seat like this one. Farron's chief competition is Conservative candidate Gareth McKeever, a former chief executive for Morgan Stanley. I suspect that McKeever may be accused of not being local enough, and financial services magnates are not the most popular people right now! Combine this with Farron's reputed campaigning skills and the wider ramifications of 'Cleggmania' and I would not be surprised if Farron increases his majority. A Lib Dem hold.

Workington has been held by Labour since 1918 bar a 3 year gap caused by a Tory by-election win in 1976. The Labour MP is Tony Cunningham who is a government whip. Cunningham was so sure of his expenses he actively invited his constituents to look at his. A potential spoiler on Cunningham is Martin Wingfield, standing for the British National Party. The BNP tend to attract more Labour voters than any others, and Wingfield is prominent within the BNP, having edited their paper and that of the National Front. The BNP also do well in the North West, one of their 2 MEPs is from the region. Nonetheless Conservative candidate Judith Pattinson, a long-time local Conservative activist, appears unlikely to defeat the popular Cunningham. Labour hold.

1 comment:

  1. Voting tactically in Cumbria: the guide