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Topline Analysis

The Conservative Party dominates parliamentary representation in the Eastern region, holding 52 of the 58 seats. Labour hold four, the Liberal Democrats one and former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell holds a seat in Clacton.

UKIP have previously tried to gain a foothold in the region, but may well see their support fall away completely as soft UKIP voters return to the Conservatives following the EU Referendum result. The impact on the local party structures will be significant, and one which they will be unlikely to recover from.

Although the Tories will certainly be targeting the remaining seats in the region, another interesting story is the four ultra-safe Conservative seats which will set the lucky Conservative candidate up with a job for life in the Commons. With four current Cabinet attendees, three former Cabinet members and five current ministers currently residing in the region, ambitious candidates will have been eyeing vacant seats.

Eastern Region in Numbers

In Depth

With all but five of the 47 voting areas in the Eastern region voting for Brexit, Conservative MPs will be looking to secure even larger majorities, rather than worry about any anti-Brexit backlash or Liberal Democrat resurgence.

A number of party grandees are standing down in the region, with selections being made to replace Sir Simon Burns in Chelmsford, Sir Eric Pickles in Brentwood and Ongar, Sir Alan Haselhurst in Saffron Walden and Peter Lilley in Hitchin and Harpenden.

Douglas Carswell’s defection to UKIP, subsequent flip-flopping and finally his decision to not stand in this election has been the prime feature of the Clacton contest. The seat had one of the highest leave votes in the country, attracting the interest of Arron Banks. However, his decision not to stand means the seat is likely to be won by Giles Watling who standing again for the Conservatives after fighting the previous by-election.

Traditionally a bellwether seat, Ben Gummer has been steadily increasing his majority in Ipswich since ousting Labour in 2010. Despite the seat voting strongly for leave, Gummer’s efforts to improve local transport infrastructure and the weak UKIP machinery in the town will surely see the Remain supporting minister returned for a third time.

Labour’s two MPs in their only stronghold in the region, Luton, face a threat from the Conservatives. Kelvin Hopkin’s personal vote and 7,520 majority in Luton North should see him returned to the Commons, but Gavin Shuker’s 5,711 majority in Luton South will come under severe pressure as the majority of UKIP’s votes which saw them to third place in 2015 will likely revert back towards the Conservatives. Labour’s other two seats in the region, Cambridge and Norwich South also look vulnerable to Liberal Democrat and Conservative gains respectively.

The Liberal Democrats have traditionally fared well in some of the region’s towns, which should see Norman Lamb returned in North Norfolk. They also held the student-heavy city of Colchester for 18 years until a combination of the Party’s stance on tuition fees and the Coalition saw Will Quince take the seat for the Conservatives. Former MP Sir Bob Russell is standing again, and will hope to squeeze the Labour vote to make inroads into the Conservative’s majority.

Seats in focus

Norwich South

Incumbent
Clive Lewis (Lab)
2015 Majority
7,654
EU Referendum Result
59.8% remain

A key seat to watch on 8th June will be Norwich South, currently held by Labour’s Clive Lewis. Should Labour lose this seat – one of its most significant gains in 2015 – it would signal a very bad night for the party, and remove from the PLP a figure considered by some to be one of Labour’s rising stars. The seat has changed hands between the Liberal Democrats and Labour over recent years, with Liberal Democrat Simon Wright winning a 310 vote majority over former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke in 2010, only for the seat to return to Labour with a 7654 majority in 2015. In 2015, the Lib Dems were pushed into fourth place, behind the Conservatives and the Greens. The Greens have a strong presence in the town, and viewed the seat as their number one target in 2015 due to Wright’s small majority. With a large student population, and a strong remain vote, Lewis could be punished for Labour’s Brexit position, despite resigning from the Labour frontbench in order to vote in line with the views of his constituents on the Article 50 Bill. His overtures about holding a second Referendum on the EU exit deal are a clear indicator of his concerns.

Cambridge

Incumbent
Daniel Zeichner (Lab)
2015 Majority
599
EU Referendum Result
73.8% remain

Perhaps more so than any other, the battle for Cambridge will be viewed through the prism of last year’s EU vote. Ferociously Remain, nearly four out of five voters backed staying in the EU, and the city’s strong academic and cultural links with the continent, not to mention the 20,000-strong student population, may just sway the vote back in favour of the Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is clearly aware of this and will be visiting the city at least once more ahead of June 8th’s vote to support Julian Huppert, who held the seat under the Coalition. The incumbent MP, Labour’s Daniel Zeichner, only won the seat with a 599-vote majority in the last election and his party’s more nuanced position on Brexit could cost him come election day.

What to watch for

If Norwich South and Luton South both fall to the Conservatives, it will be a strong indicator of a catastrophic night for Labour.  

If there is a Liberal Democrat victory in Colchester, the Lib Dem fightback will be well and truly on.

 

Norman Lamb is defending a healthy majority in North Norfolk, but a Conservative victory would show the party benefitting strongly from the consolidation of the Brexit vote in their favour.
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