General Election 2019: Five Nottinghamshire seats to watch

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By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter

As is the case at every election, Notts has some of the key bellwether seats in the country, and with some high-profile candidates – and resignations – all eyes will be on the county.
We’ve had a look at where the big stories are most likely to be in the wee hours of Friday, December 13.

The parties have all got another couple of weeks to finalise their candidates, and this may well change the dynamics of these seats, especially if a ‘leave alliance’ between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives materialises.

Equally, a pro-remain pact could shift the balance significantly in some seats.

It doesn’t take a political boffin to know that the state of British politics is very fluid, and everything could change between now and polling day. But we’ve had a look at the seats as they stand, to look at where the most interesting stories could be.

Ashfield

Even the Ashfield Independents didn’t really think they would do as well as they did at the last local elections, where they won 30 out of 35 seats. In some wards, they were winning more than 90 percent of the vote – virtually unheard of in democracies.

But general elections are very different to local ones, and there’s a reason there are very few independent MPs in the House of Commons.

This was the closest seat in the county last time round – just 441 votes between Labour and the Conservatives.

Gloria De Piero has decided not stand again for Labour in Ashfield.

But with the rise of the Ashfield Independents, and in a strongly Brexit-leaning area, this could even become a four-way marginal between Labour, the Conservatives, Ashfield Independents, and the Brexit Party.

If this does pan out, you could well see an MP elected with a very small percentage of the vote. Perhaps even 30 percent could be enough.

On the other hand, the Conservatives were a long way off in May, so this could revert to being a straight Labour versus Ashfield Independents battle.

The only thing we do know for certain is that Ashfield will have a new MP – Gloria De Pierro is standing down after nine years in the job.

Broxtowe

With one of the most high-profile remainers as the sitting MP, this was always going to be an interesting one to watch.

Add into the mix the fact that the area voted to leave (54.6 percent), and that Labour only lost the seat by 863 votes last time round, and this becomes an electoral highlight.

The sheer number of times Jeremy Corbyn has visited this seat in recent years is a bit of a give-away that Labour really fancies this one.

Last time, the seat was a straight Labour versus Tory race, the two parties winning more than 90 percent of the vote between them.

But the presence of Anna Soubry, and the likely presence of a Brexit Party candidate could see the vote split four ways.

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Anna Soubry resigned from the Conservative Party and joined a new Independent Group over the Government’s handling of Brexit.

Rumours are rife of a pact between pro-remain parties here with suggestions that some could – albeit reluctantly – step aside to give Anna Soubry a better chance of holding the seat.

We won’t know how much truth there is behind these rumours until November 14, when candidate lists have to be confirmed.

Generally, winning a seat involves having a large team of foot soldiers ready to knock on doors and deliver leaflets, so if Anna Soubry can win without one of the large parties behind her to provide this, it will be a remarkable achievement.

Mansfield

One of the biggest results at the last election in 2017 was Ben Bradley winning the former mining town which had been red for so many years.

It voted by a huge margin to leave the EU – 70.9 percent – and Mr Bradley’s views on Brexit have shifted from campaigning to remain all the way to aligning with the anti-EU Euroepan Research Group, where he finds himself now.

With such a high percentage of leavers, the Brexit Party could well come into play here, especially given their candidate. Well-known former Mayor Kate Allsop, who represented the Mansfield Independent Forum while mayor, is this time expected to stand for Nigel Farage’s outfit.

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Mansfield Conservative MP Ben Bradley achieved one of the shocks of the last election by winning Mansfield from Labour.

If this does happen, then in such a marginal seat, which party she takes votes from could well decide it. Labour – buoyed by winning the mayoral election in May by just two votes – will quietly fancy their chances of taking this one back.

But if Mansfield elections in recent times are anything to go by, this one could be very, very close. Expect a late finish.

Rushcliffe

It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Ken Clarke being the honourable member for Rushcliffe.

But after Ken finally decided to retire after 49 years on the job, leafy Rushcliffe is about to get a new MP.

Mr Clarke has enjoyed a large majority for much of his time as MP, but this was squeezed hard at the last election by David Mellen, now leader of the city council.

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Mr Clarke has been Rushcliffe MP since 1970.

It’s always hard to gauge how much of the large majority stemmed from the personal vote for such a well-known and respected man. The area was the only constituency in Nottinghamshire which voted to remain (57.6 percent) so the Lib Dems and Labour will be hoping to reduce the majority at the very least.

But the results of the local elections in May would suggest that they’ll have their work cut out to gain it. Of the 44 seats, Conservatives won 29, Labour won seven, Independents won three, the Liberal Democrats won three and the Greens won two.

Bassetlaw

There was uproar in certain Labour circles when a London-based pro-remain candidate was parachuted into what traditionally should be a safe seat for Labour.

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Labour MP John Mann will not stand again for Labour in Bassetlaw.

Winning an election is much easier when you’ve got unified and organised local parties, and plenty of Labour voices in Bassetlaw are far from united after the move. Sally Gimson will replace John Mann as the Labour candidate, but whether or not she replaces him as the Bassetlaw MP remains to be seen.

It would take a swing of just under five thousand votes to move this seat from red to blue, but in an area where almost seven in 10 voted for Brexit (67.8 percent) this could provide one of the shocks of the night.

It’s fair to say that if the Conservatives are winning seats like this, it will look like a very good night indeed for them.

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