Hampshire’s 18 constituencies have been dominated by Conservative MPs for a long time, with currently only two non-blue seats: Southampton Test – held by Labour’s Alan Whitehead since 1997 – and Portsmouth South, where Stephen Morgan beat the Conservatives in 2017 to win the seat for Labour. Similar to many other parts of the country, the Conservatives took a hammering in this year’s local elections, when voters took their discontent about the handling of Brexit out on local Councillors. This time it will be the parliamentary candidates who are on the receiving end and with the UK still a member of the European Union, the issue is likely to be high on the electorate’s agenda.
North to south, the 18 Hampshire constituencies are: North East Hampshire, Basingstoke, North West Hampshire, Aldershot, Romsey & Southampton, Winchester & Chandler’s Ford, Meon Valley, East Hampshire, New Forest West, New Forest East, Southampton Test, Southampton Itchen, Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Portsmouth North, Portsmouth South and Havant.
We have made a selection of the most interesting ones; at present we don’t expect big changes in any of the other constituencies.
Cratus prediction – Conservative hold. Southampton Itchen voted strongly to leave the EU (60%) and it is likely that those voters who want to ‘get Brexit done’ will turn out in force to back the Conservative candidate, Royston Smith. The latest YouGov poll (MRP) predicts that Mr Smith will not only hold the seat but increase his majority over Mr Letts; 49% vs 39% respectively. That said, the Labour party has been doing well in Southampton with the current administration gaining seats from the opposition Conservatives and increasing their majority in May’s election. Simon Letts is a well-known local politician having served as the Leader of Southampton City Council. With Labour pledging to scrap tuition fees, University of Southampton and Solent University students in the constituency’s halls of residence may help boost Labour votes – but if that will be enough to win the seat remains to be seen.
Cratus prediction – Labour hold. Although the current Leader of the Council (Vernon-Jackson) and the former Leader (Jones) are standing, the incumbent Stephen Morgan is on track to hold the seat for Labour. According to YouGov Morgan is set to win 42% of the vote.
Winchester is a constituency which is firmly on the Liberal Democrat target list, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a strongly Remain-voting area; 60% of voters said they wish to stay in the EU. With the Conservatives working towards ‘an orderly exit‘ from the block, and the shambles created in the process, it is thought that the local electorate may prefer to forthwith be represented by a more likeminded party. Moreover, incumbent Steve Brine – albeit a remainer himself, who had the whip removed for rebelling against the Government in the vote for the Benn Act – has since backed Brexit legislation and got reinstated to defend his 10,000 majority.
Secondly, in this year’s local elections the Liberal Democrats eventually won control of Winchester City Council, beating the Conservatives after having steadily increased their number of seats for a number of years, forming a Lib Dem administration for the first time since 2003. They even snapped up a seat in Hiltingbury, a ward in Chandler’s Ford that was previously thought of as a Conservative stronghold. The Lib Dems now seek to repeat this victory in the general poll.
The candidate selected to get the job done is Paula Ferguson, who currently serves as a first-time Winchester City Councillor with a 60% vote share. Green party representative Andrew Wainwright agreed to step down and encourage his roughly 850 supporters to back Ms Ferguson, in a bid not to split the left-wing vote and hand the electoral advantage to Mr Brine. That said, Ms Ferguson will need an awful lot more votes to overturn Mr Brine’s 10,000 majority. It would have been helpful if Labour had agreed to back the national ‘remain alliance’; the 6,000 votes they won in 2017 would have come in very handy indeed. But they did not, which might mean that it is eventually Labour who determine the outcome in Winchester; the first-past-the-post system may well strike again. Recent criticism of the local Lib Dems for distributing campaign material which mimics a local newspaper will also not be helpful to Ms Ferguson’s cause.
Cratus prediction: Conservative hold.