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What can we learn from the 2017 general election in Preston?

Posted on - 11th June, 2017 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - News, Opinion, Politics
Mark Hendrick was re-elected as the city's MP Pic: Preston City Council
Mark Hendrick was re-elected as the city’s MP Pic: Preston City Council

Preston’s seen two elections in the space of a month – and what we learned from the county elections transferred into the general election.

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The city has a seat which is some 20,000 voters short on the Boundary Commission’s average for a seat to have – and it means a straight fight between the Conservatives and Labour is unlikely.

Thursday night’s results showed Labour’s stronghold is mighty safe in the city – with the trend in the Lancashire County Council elections continuing. Labour is very good at getting their vote out in the urban areas of the city and this is what saw Mark Hendrick’s vote share increased.

National media had ramped up fears of UKIP voters switching to the Tories. This didn’t happen. Labour won them back. At least in Preston.

Usually incumbent MPs see their majorities fall – but Mark Hendrick has seen his majority increase for three straight elections.

In 2010 he had a majority of 7,733, in 2015 of 12,067 and it now stands at 15,723 votes.

The Conservatives saw their number of votes increase by just shy of 2,000 with Kevin Beaty running a fairly light touch and non-offensive campaign. The Tories know their heartlands are in the North of the city – and this is where Preston’s political future gets interesting.

Read more: Watch as Preston’s general election result is announced

In 2020 the Boundary Commission is proposing to have the size of the constituency increased to follow the city council boundary – rather than having Fulwood hived off into the Wyre and Preston North constituency as it currently is.

Fulwood and the surrounding areas are Tory leaning, with the Western areas of the city being the only areas to give Kevin Beaty a sizeable vote out of any of the districts it means of the 20,000 additional votes the fight for Preston would become much, much, closer.

There was one huge victory at this election – and that was voter interest – with the highest turnout since the 1997 general election when Tony Blair swept to power. The number of people voting in the city was back up above the 60 per cent mark. A victory for democracy and politics.

A big casualty of the night was the UKIP vote. The UK Independent Party certainly seems to have lost its reason for being since the EU Referendum. Simon Platt saw the party’s votes fall from a lofty 5,139 in 2015 to just about holding onto third place (1,348) votes against the Liberal Democrats’ Neil Darby.

Read more: What Prestonian’s made of the boundary changes for the city

The Boundary Review is also expected to make South Ribble tighter to call – as the likes of Bamber Bridge move out of the Ribble Valley constituency – and into South Ribble to match their local authority status and boundary. These Labour-supporting areas mean Seema Kennedy’s increased 7,000-odd votes majority could be overthrown by a strong Labour candidate.

The general election itself felt as if two-party politics had returned to the UK after the recent rise and fall of the Lib Dems and UKIP – and in Preston and South Ribble a two-party race between the Tories and Labour means both seats are likely to be very interesting to watch in 2020.

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