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TCW Election Watch: Hexham, Wells, Chelsea and Fulham


THIS is the last in our series of readers’ reports from their own constituences. Many thanks for all the readable and interesting entries.


Current MP: Guy Opperman (Conservative) 9,236 majority

Main challenger: Penny Grennan (Labour)

Johnny Dubb writes: I am writing again as I was taken aback on Saturday to find that defending Hexham incumbent Guy Opperman was off campaigning 40 miles down the road in Bishop Auckland, for a fellow Conservative.

Two things immediately came to mind.

1. Guy has taken his electorate for granted to the extent that he can neglect his own patch and go off campaigning somewhere else. His majority is 9,236. Although I previously described Hexham as a safe seat, this majority is not impregnable. His Labour opponent is a well known local and the party are throwing plenty of resources at the campaign. Labour are offering FREE STUFF, including public-sector pay rises and zero student fees, both attractive to the public-sector-employed middle class of this area.

2. This adds to my conviction that the Tories are determined to stop the Brexit Party gaining a foothold in Parliament, even at the risk of gifting Labour extra seats, therefore endangering their majority and Brexit.

Admittedly, Bishop Auckland gave useless Labour MP Helen Goodman (famous only for laughing at Kate Hoey in the HoC) only a 502 majority in 2017, so on the face of it the seat is fair game. However, with a strong BXP candidate in the race, the Leave vote is now split and Labour may well win again.

In Hexham, the BXP of course stood down, therefore Guy has no such worries (he obviously thinks!)

The only conclusion I can draw is that the Conservatives, actively competing with guaranteed Brexit-voting BXP candidates, while quietly refilling their own quota of Remainer MPs, are aiming for another Remain-voting House of Commons.

Footnote: TCW’s Michael St George has posed the question of whether a Con-Dem coalition is feasible? Yes it is. We know from experience that the Lib Dems love nothing more than the leathery smell of the interior of a ministerial limo. Like any other mangy moggy, they are powerless in the grip of this political catnip.


Current MP: James Heappey (Conservative)

David Raynes writes: Wells is one of those odd West Country seats where only Conservatives and Lib Dems need apply. Anyone else is wasting their deposit and/or their time.

It was particularly careless of David Heathcote-Amory to lose the seat to the LibDems’ Tessa Munt in 2010. That followed local disgust at him having to pay back almost £30,000 in the expenses scandal.

Allegedly more than £300 was for ‘manure’ for his garden, something that in a rural county like Somerset is a glut on the market and very often free.

The current LibDem candidate, Tessa Munt, was a well-liked and good constituency MP. Both she and her Conservative successor James Heappey have worked the constituency well.

Heappey, an ex-Army Officer, is what you would expect from that description. He voted Remain, he says (after suggesting otherwise to me), but has been loyal to the government since. He has had a strong focus on helping local business and particularly on broadband. The likeable Munt also has a strong personal following, so an interesting battle.

Wells is a key seat in the LibDem/Tory, West Country & national contest. Even before Nigel Farage withdrew his candidate, the gossip in the pubs was that a vote for anyone but the Conservatives might get us Corbyn. Socialism does not go down well here, where there is much small business and fierce entrepreneurialism, including plenty of farming and support to that industry.

The LibDems have apparently put a huge effort into Wells, with four or five times the campaign literature through my door from them compared with the Tories. Curiously the LibDem campaign material never mentions their bizarre policy on legalising cannabis. I know Tessa Munt; I do not think she believes in it herself but then from the exchanges I have had, I doubt that Vince Cable did or does, either.

I expect James Heappey to squeeze in again. If he does not, the country is in serious trouble.


Current MP: Greg Hands (Conservative)

A constituent writes: The Chelsea and Fulham constituency came into being in 2010 and has only ever had one MP, the Conservative Greg Hands, who has retained a solid majority. He is a conscientious and decent enough man, except for his former avidly Remain proclivity. He led the Remain campaign in Chelsea & Fulham before the referendum and voted for Jeremy Hunt in the leadership election, and now has done a screeching U-turn. A typical Tory, he is not one to rock the party boat, I suspect. He might placate me by agreeing that the abortion time limit should be lowered but don’t expect him to climb on a box and make an issue out of it. 

He has been putting it out there how he is ‘determined to respect the result of the Referendum and work to seek an exit deal with the European Union’. He has been party to some of the committee planning, he tells us. Something that won’t go down very well with his LibDem rival, the larger-than-life former superwoman and controversial businesswoman, Nicola Horlick. Nor indeed many of my avid cosmopolitan liberal and EU-loving Remainer neighbours. 

The would-have-been Brexit Party candidate, the young, personable and decent Jeremy Maddocks, would have got my vote and split Greg’s vote further. He was running a great street-level campaign – old-style face-to-face politics – until he disappeared in the great Brexit Party dump only to be parachuted into the even less likely Labour seat of Mitcham and Morden.

I wanted a Brexit Party presence to hold the Tories’ feet to the fire, but it is not to be. Like so many others I feel disenfranchised but I suppose the truth is that I will hold my nose very hard tomorrow and give the lucky Mr Hands my vote.

Boris’s enticement of ending the BBC’s licence fee tipped it for me. He’d better keep to it. Sooner rather than later if he really means to ‘Get Brexit (not BRINO) Done’.

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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