August By-election Report

Cratus 2019 General Election Guide – Oxfordshire

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Oxfordshire is comprised of six constituencies: Banbury, Henley, Oxford East, Oxford West & Abingdon, Wantage and Witney. Traditionally, the Oxfordshire countryside is strongly Conservative whereas Oxford West & Abingdon is a Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginal and Oxford East is a safe Labour seat.
The key issues in Oxfordshire are of course Brexit- all constituencies bar Banbury voted to Remain in the EU, as well as housebuilding and planning. Indeed, the local elections in May saw the toppling of the Conservative administrations in Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils over their Local Plan management.
Seat Summary and Candidate List

Banbury
  • 2017 Result: Conservative Majority of 12,399
  • EU Referendum: 50.35% Remain, Leave 49.65%
  • Incumbent: Victoria Prentis (Conservative) is re-standing
  • Candidates: Victoria Prentis (Conservative), Suzette Watson (Labour), Tim Bearder (Liberal Democrats), Ian Middleton (Green)

Cratus Prediction: Conservative Hold. The Conservatives have held the seat since 1922, and with it having been only marginally in favour of Remain, it will most likely stay Conservative. The Liberal Democrat Candidate is an Oxford County Councillor whose mother is a Liberal Democrat MEP.

Henley
  • 2017 Result: Conservative Majority of 22,294
  • EU Referendum: 56% Remain, 44% Leave
  • Incumbent: John Howell (Conservative) is re-standing
  • Candidates: John Howell (Conservative), Zaid Maram (Labour), Laura Coyle (Liberal Democrats), Jo Robb (Green)

Cratus Prediction: Conservative Hold. The seat was previously Boris Johnson’s prior to him being elected Mayor of London and he retains a property in Thame. Despite recent Liberal Democrat advances at a local government level, this seat has been Conservative since the 1880s and is unlikely to change at this election.

Oxford East
  • 2017 Result: Labour Majority of 23,284
  • EU Referendum: 67.47% Remain, 32.53% Leave
  • Incumbent: Anneliese Dodds (Labour) is re-standing
  • Candidates: Louise Staite (Conservative), Anneliese Dodds (Labour), Alistair Fernie (Liberal Democrats), David Williams (Green), Roger Carter (Brexit Party)

Cratus Prediction: Labour Hold. Even in a Conservative landslide, Oxford East is likely to remain Labour. The only Conservative to win the seat in modern times was former Conservative Mayor of London candidate Steve Norris at the height of Thatcherism. Given the strong Remain vote, it appears unlikely that the Conservatives will be repeating that feat on this occasion.

Wantage
  • 2017 Result: Conservative Majority of 17,380
  • EU Referendum: 53.54% Remain, 46.46% Leave
  • Incumbent: Ed Vaizey (Conservative) is standing down
  • Candidates: David Johnston (Conservative), Jonny Roberts (Labour), Richard Benwell (Liberal Democrats)

Cratus Prediction: Conservative Hold. Ed Vaizey’s departure should not put the seat at risk with its majority being the size it is. Prior to his candidacy, New Conservative candidate David Johnston was the Chief Executive of a social mobility charity for ten years and was awarded an OBE. The charity focussed on helping pupils from low-income backgrounds get places at university and in certain professions. Social Mobility and Education could well be high on his list of priorities in the event that he becomes an MP on 12 December.

Witney
  • 2017 Result: Conservative Majority of 21,241
  • EU Referendum: 53.66% Remain, 46.34% Leave
  • Incumbent: Robert Courts (Conservative) is re-standing
  • Candidates: Robert Courts (Conservative), Rosalind Bolger (Labour), Charlotte Hoagland (Liberal Democrats)

Cratus Prediction: Conservative Hold. David Cameron’s former seat is likely to be beyond the Lib Dems’ grasp unless the Conservatives have a far worse night than the polls are predicting.

Key Seat Profile: Oxford West & Abingdon
  • 2017 Result: Liberal Democrats Majority of 816
  • EU Referendum: 61.97% Remain, 38.03% Leave
  • Incumbent: Layla Moran (Liberal Democrats) is re-standing
  • Candidates: Cllr James Fredrickson (Conservative), Rosie Sourbut (Labour), Layla Moran (Liberal Democrats), Allison Wild (Brexit Party)

The Oxford West and Abingdon seat came was first contested in 1983, and since then has only been held by either a Liberal Democrat or Conservative.

In 2017 the Liberal Democrats managed to regain the seat from former Health minister Nicola (now Baroness) Blackwood- to whom they had lost the seat in 2010. Prior to 2010, the Lib Dems had held the seat since 1997, when former front-bench Lib Dem Evan Harris beat the Conservative candidate hoping to fill former Tory Cabinet minister, John Patten’s vacated seat.

Oxford West & Abingdon partially encompasses the district councils of Cherwell, Oxford City and Vale of White Horse. Each of these authorities have a different party in administration: Cherwell- Conservative, Oxford City- Labour and Vale of White Horse- Lib Dems. There has been some controversy around Local Plans with the new Liberal Democrat administration in Vale of White Horse. The administration was swept to power on the back of opposition to the outgoing Conservative Local Plan, deciding to reluctantly adopt the Plan in recent weeks.

One would expect Brexit to be a bigger issue between candidates, and something the Lib Dems will want to focus the campaign on in the area. The constituency voted firmly in favour of remaining in the EU), thus the ‘Get Brexit Done’ narrative will be unlikely to yield positive responses for the Conservatives in the constituency.

Labour’s lack of electoral success in the area demonstrates that they do not have a strong enough power-base outside of Oxford City to contest the seat, and therefore the race is between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. The Conservative candidate, James Fredrickson, was previously the Cabinet Member for Economic Development on the West Berkshire Unitary Authority. Layla Moran is the Lib Dems’ spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as well as Education- her focus is mainly on Education however, having been a teacher previously.

In such a strongly Remain constituency in a Brexit election, it is likely that the Liberal Democrats will hold the Oxford West & Abingdon seat and are likely to increase their majority even if they fail to win elsewhere in Oxfordshire. Cratus Prediction: Liberal Democrats Hold.

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