The county of Buckinghamshire is traditionally regarded as a true-blue Conservative heartland. Historically it includes some of the safest Conservative seats in the country, several of which have not been anything but Conservative since the 1920s. However, this year’s General Election sees some interesting contests involving some high-profile names on either side of the Brexit divide. Moreover, it remains to be seen how the retirements, and in one case defection, of well-known incumbent MPs alongside the deeply controversial issues of Brexit and HS2 will impact on the Conservative Party’s standing with its traditional supporters.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. Theresa May’s former de facto Deputy Prime Minister Sir David Lidington is standing down but new Conservative candidate Rob Butler, a former TV presenter, should easily hold the seat.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. This will be the first General Election in Buckingham contested by the major political parties since 2005 following outgoing Speaker John Bercow’s retirement. Conservative Greg Smith who was previously the Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council is the clear favourite to succeed Bercow. Smith is a deeply Eurosceptic opponent of HS2. The Liberal Democrat candidate is the former Conservative Cabinet Minister Stephen Dorrell who has recently joined the Party.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. Former Secretary of State for Wales, Dame Cheryl Gillan, is the longest-serving female Conservative MP and barring any unforeseen political earthquakes will be comfortably re-elected. Labour candidate Matt Turmaine is a Watford councillor and contested Watford at the 2015 General Election. Liberal Democrat candidate Dan Gallagher will be looking for a strong second place finish in a seat which was 55% Remain voting.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. Former Defence Minister Mark Lancaster who saw his majority reduced by nearly 8,000 in 2017 is standing down with Aylesbury Vale Councillor Ben Everitt taking over. Everitt works for the Institute of Chartered Accountants and can be expected to take a close interest in financial services issues if elected. Labour candidate Charlynne Pullen is a former Islington councillor who secured a strong result when first contesting this seat at the 2017 General Election. She cannot be totally discounted but if the opinion polls are close to being accurate this should be a Conservative hold.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. Milton Keynes has a slightly smaller Conservative majority of the two Milton Keynes seats but with an incumbent MP restanding and a larger Leave vote, this position could be reversed. Labour candidate Hannah O’Neill is the Deputy Leader of Milton Keynes Council and secured a strong swing in her favour in 2017 but unless the national picture changes in Labour’s favour this seat seems most likely to be retained by Government Whip Iain Stewart.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. This seat is currently represented by arch-Eurosceptic and Chairman of the European Research Group, Steve Baker, who has cultivated a high media profile during the Brexit process. Wycombe town itself is increasingly multi-cultural and in the long-term this seat looks like a plausible Labour gain. However, with the Conservatives ahead by double digits in the national polls Baker looks set to be re-elected.
Beaconsfield is a place long associated with the Conservative Party as Benjamin Disraeli took the title Earl Beaconsfield following his ennoblement. It was also the seat where Tony Blair lost his only election. Over the generations, this area of South Buckinghamshire which includes the extremely affluent towns of Gerrards Cross and Marlow has been one of the strongest Conservative seats in the country.
However, the decision of Brexit opponent Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield’s MP since 1997) to stand as an Independent candidate means that a closely fought campaign is now taking place. The local Conservatives overlooked local candidates to select American-born Ealing councillor Joy Morrissey to stand against Grieve. Morrissey had previously been in the final three for the Conservative nomination for Mayor of London. Grieve has been supported by the Liberal Democrats who have stood down their candidate. The key to Grieve’s chances of success will be the extent to which he can attract Remain-voting Conservatives to his campaign. However, the constituency was only very slightly Remain-voting and it seems likely that Grieve will be hampered by the Greens and Labour fielding candidates to deny him a straight contest with the Conservatives.
Away from Brexit, the constituency is at the eye of the storm when it comes to HS2 with areas of the constituency on the line of route. Furthermore, there are also the usual concerns around the development of the Green Belt in a constituency which borders Greater London.
In short, with a Conservative majority of over 24,000 to defend, Morrissey is very much the clear favourite. How far Grieve is able to eat into this will be a good indication of whether Buckinghamshire really does want to get Brexit done.