With the General Election looming, Rob Allaway, managing director of Thames Tap partner DevComms has weighed up the key parliamentary constituencies in the three main counties of the Thames Valley. While Brexit will define the election nationally, there are significant local issues, including the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and HS2, which may play a part in the way people decide to vote. Here’s his assessment of Berkshire.
The results for Berkshire constituencies could be amongst the most interesting in the region with high profile incumbents, including a former Prime Minister.
In Berkshire, the Bracknell seat has been held by Dr Phillip Lee for nine years. He was voted in as a Conservative but crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems in September this year, in protest at how Brexit was being delivered. This was a well-publicised and significant move as it left the Prime Minister without a working majority.
However, instead of defending his Bracknell seat, the Lib Dems are fielding him in Wokingham against long standing, high profile MP John Redwood. This is a bold but strategic move by the Lib Dems given that Wokingham voted Remain in the 2016 referendum and Eurosceptic John Redwood would be a significant political scalp.
In the constituencies of Reading East and Reading West, we have sitting MPs with low majorities which would suggest these seats are particularly vulnerable.
Labour’s Matt Rodda took Reading East from the Conservatives in 2017 by a slim margin of around 3,700 votes. Reading voted Remain in 2016 but with Labour’s position on Brexit being unclear, the Lib Dems may see this as a seat where they could make some inroads.
In Reading West, incumbent Alok Sharma held the seat in 2017 with a majority of under 3,000 votes. Labour’s Rachel Eden, who previously fought Ed Vaizey in Wantage in 2017, is standing against him. With no Brexit party candidate (the party will not stand in Conservative-held constituencies), a low majority and the 2016 referendum result, this seat is a potential risk for the Conservatives.
In contrast, in Maidenhead, former Prime Minister Theresa May would appear to face little threat – the seat has always been Conservative.
In Slough, a Labour stronghold, since 1997, incumbent Tan Dhesi will stand again. With a convincing 17,000-vote majority achieved at the 2017 election (an increase of 14 per cent on the 2015 result), it would take a sizeable swing and a challenge from a strong candidate to unseat him.
Conservative Richard Benyon is not defending his Newbury seat, which could go Lib Dem. Barrister and former journalist Laura Farris, daughter of former Newbury MP Michael McNair-Wilson, is Conservative candidate. West Berkshire councillor Lee Dillon is standing for the Lib Dems in the seat which the party held from 1993 to 2005.
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