Monday, April 15, 2024
HomeElection WatchTCW Election Watch: Hastings and Rye, East Lothian

TCW Election Watch: Hastings and Rye, East Lothian


MORE constituency reports with the election campaign in its last two weeks. See below for how to submit your own report on the choice of candidates you have, which of them you plan to vote for and why, what you think of their chances and your stance on Brexit.


Outgoing MP: Amber Rudd (Conservative)

Chris McGovern writes: In 2017 Amber Rudd, then Home Secretary, retained her Hastings and Rye constituency with a majority of just 346 over Labour. This time around the seat is a prime target for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour, after all, won the seat in 1997 and held it until 2010. 

Since I was a candidate for James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in 1997, it is a general election that I remember well. My 2,511 votes may have been 14,356 short of winning the seat but they brought me closer than any other Referendum Party candidate to achieving success. Crucially, for the constituency, it was enough, along with a few hundred UKIP votes, to remove the sitting Europhile Tory MP.

So, where are we today in Hastings and Rye? Rudd has stepped down and the Conservative candidate, Sally-Ann Hart, has quite a battle on her hands. It so happens that the Labour council in Hastings is an exception to Labour’s rule of misrule. They have been running local affairs with an element of competence. 

Sally-Ann Hart can still be optimistic. The fishing community in Hastings understands how much it has been betrayed by our membership of the EU. Furthermore, there will not be a Brexit Party candidate to diminish the Tory vote. 

Hastings, though, has changed much in recent years. Pockets of real deprivation remain but the old town has been gentrified with escapees from London, in particular, having a noticeable presence. It is positively trendy in parts.

The trendiness has a downside for the Conservatives. A rather unattractive political face of Extinction Rebellion is showing itself in the constituency. The Hastings Observer has reported that the Tory candidate turned down an invitation to an Extinction Rebellion election debate. Her agent was concerned for her safety.

It takes some courage, these days, to participate in the democratic process. 


Current MP: Martin Whitfield (Labour)

Gary Oliver writes: This large constituency combines former mining communities near Edinburgh with more genteel and affluent towns and villages.

East Lothian was one of six Scottish constituencies which in 2017 Labour wrested back from the SNP, gaining 36 per cent of the vote and a majority of just over 3,000.

The first campaign leaflet through my letterbox read: ‘Re-elect Martin Whitfield’. This saved me having to check the name of the sitting Labour MP, who since his election has failed to cross my radar.

Whitfield assures voters that ‘he will never be a cheerleader for Brexit or independence’; otherwise, his priorities are local issues. Sensibly, he avoids mention of Jeremy Corbyn.

Attempting a political comeback for the Nationalists is Kenny MacAskill, fondly remembered in Libya as the Holyrood justice secretary who in 2009 approved the compassionate release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

In 2017 the Conservatives received almost 30 per cent of the votes and came only 3,500 behind the Labour winner. That marked improvement was due largely to former leader Ruth Davidson: at the last election she headed an effective pro-Union campaign against another independence referendum. Under caretaker Jackson Carlaw MSP, the Scottish Tories are rudderless.

The 2017 result deceptively hints at a three-way marginal. However, the recognisable MacAskill will almost certainly reclaim East Lothian for the SNP, probably by a comfortable margin.

Scottish Labour is tanking: support is reported to have fallen to 16 per cent. Incumbent Martin Whitfield should exceed that pitiful poll; nonetheless, if the Labour’s national slump is as forecast, he might even struggle to finish ahead of the Conservative candidate Craig Hoy, a councillor in the county.

As in both 2015 and 2017, the Liberal Democrat is likely to forfeit his deposit. It will take even less time to count the vote for UKIP. Sadly, there is no Brexit Party candidate. Mercifully, no one is standing for the Scottish Greens.

Finally, diversity auditors will be appalled that East Lothian is a contest between five middle-aged white men. How long before this is outlawed?

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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