The county of Bedfordshire in the East of England is divided into the six Parliamentary constituencies, of which three were won by the Conservatives in 2017 and three by Labour. The area of Central Bedfordshire is a Tory stronghold that contains the three constituencies of Bedfordshire Mid, North East and South West; all of which are strong Conservative safe seats with majorities ranging from 14,000 to almost 21,000. All three constituencies fall under the unitary authority of Central Bedfordshire Council and recently reaffirmed their support of the Conservatives by voting in 41 Conservative Councillors out of a possible 59 in the May 2019 local elections. In contrast, the two constituencies in Luton have been safe Labour seats since the 1990s, although both did vote to leave the European Union in 2016, along with every other constituency in the area. All eyes, however, are currently fixed upon the constituency of Bedford itself, which is a marginal seat that has swung back and forth between the two main parties since the 1990s and is likely to be a very close result.
Cratus prediction – Labour hold. Left-winger Kelvin Hopkins has held the seat with a strong majority since 1997 and this will likely continue despite his stepping down. Sarah Owen is a GMB trade unionist and a member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC). She previously ran in the 2015 election against Amber Rudd in Hastings, so has experience of campaigning. The Conservatives have a weak electoral base in Luton and it would have to be a simply awful result for Labour nationally for this seat to be competitive.
Cratus prediction – Labour hold. Despite the Liberal Democrats standing down and endorsing Gavin Shuker, it is expected that Labour will win. They have held the seat since 1992 and had a comfortable majority at the last election. Rachel Hopkins has also been described as supportive of Brexit which might assist Labour in a constituency where the majority voted to Leave in 2016. Hopkins is the daughter of the retiring Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins.
Cratus prediction – Conservative Hold. Mid Bedfordshire is a Conservative safe seat which has been held by the party since 1931 and by Nadine Dorries since 2005. Rhiannon Meades, a Welsh born singer and actress, did manage to increase Labour’s vote share by 12.6% at the 2017 general election and is running again, however, it is highly unlikely that such a wide gap can be closed. Firm Eurosceptic Dorries is also well known for her current Ministerial role in the Department of Health and from her brief appearance on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”.
Cratus Prediction – Conservative hold. The constituency was created in 1997 and has always been held by the Conservative Party. Richard Fuller is also well known in the area as he served as the Conservative MP for the neighbouring constituency of Bedford from 2010-2017, before unexpectedly losing to Labour. Unlike outgoing MP Alistair Burt who was a prominent Europhile, Richard Fuller is a strong supporter of Brexit and campaigned for Leave in 2016. When considering how strong the Conservative majority is and that the Remain vote will be divided, it is widely expected that Richard Fuller will return to Parliament for this new seat.
Cratus Prediction – Conservative hold. The constituency was created in 1983 and has always been represented by a Conservative MP, with the incumbent Andrew Selous taking over from Sir David Madel in 2001, who held the constituency since its establishment. The Labour party did reduce the Conservative’s majority by nearly 4,000 at the 2017 General Election, however Selous still retained a sizable majority and with his strong Brexit-supporting credentials, is highly likely to be returned to Parliament.
Cratus prediction – Conservative Gain. Bedford is a marginal seat that is currently held by the Labour Party, however, just a 0.81% swing in the vote could change this. Bedford has a well-developed town centre, but with a considerable amount of social housing and higher rates of poverty than neighbouring areas. The town also has a fast railway link to London and is situated close to Milton Keynes, so is a popular residential area for commuters.
The seat was represented in Parliament by Labour from 1997-2010 and was then won by the Conservative Richard Fuller, who is now standing in North East Bedfordshire. The incumbent MP, Mohammad Yassin unexpectedly won for Labour in 2017 and is hoping to secure a second victory, although the race will undoubtedly be very close.
Despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats polled at just 5.9% in the 2017 general election, they have been gaining ground locally and elected 15 councillors to Bedford Borough Council in May of this year. This was more than any other party and since 2009, the Liberal Democrat Mayor of Bedford has also been re-elected three times. Their candidate Henry Vann, does therefore, have a chance of competing quite strongly, but this is likely to split the Remain vote. The Brexit Party is also running against the Conservatives to the same effect; however, they do not have as much standing locally as the Liberal Democrats, so their presence may be less impactful and divide the Leave vote less.
Cabinet ministers Liz Truss and Steve Barclay have also been out in Bedford campaigning for Ryan Henson, who is seen as a young, enthusiastic new Conservative candidate who has strong ties to Bedford and is also an East Herts District Councillor. The Labour Party have also been campaigning strongly and encouraging people to vote tactically for them in order to stop the Tories. The extent to whether this strategy will translate into actual tactical voting is uncertain, which is why the odds seem to slightly favour the Conservatives; but nothing is certain.