A turbulent election day? The five key races to watch in the South East

Lauren Whipp

Head of Planning and the Built Environment

Happy Election Day! As people across the country head to their polling stations, we have examined the key races to watch in the South East of England, in our final blog in the election series. Generally considered a Conservative heartland, the Conservatives could see some seat losses across the South East, with Labour, Lib Dems and even the Green Party set to make some gains. We have analysed the five races to watch in the South East below.

  1. Worthing

The race in Worthing will be a key watch for both the Labour and Conservative Parties. Demographic changes, resulting from more younger people moving into the area, mean that the Labour Party could take control of the Council, something which would have seemed incredibly unlikely 10 years ago. As recently as 2016, Labour held no seats in Worthing, but now the Party holds the same number of seats as the Conservatives, meaning that the Council is currently under No Overall Control. If Labour or the Conservatives gain two additional seats, it will take outright control of the Council.

Key issues that could potentially tip the vote in Labour’s favour include concerns over a lack of affordable housing, issues with attracting shoppers to the High Street following the pandemic, and a general feeling that the Conservatives are out of touch with the aspirations of younger people in the town. Similarly, national issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis could play a significant part in the outcome.

  1. Southampton

Southampton City Council was Labour controlled for nine years before the Conservatives took Control of the Council in 2021. Currently, Southampton has 25 Conservative Councillors, 22 Labour Councillors and one vacant seat. A small change in the seat numbers could alter the control of the Council.

Again, national issues are likely to influence the race and it is anyone’s for the taking. With the cost-of-living crisis being high on the agenda for many voters, there is a chance that Labour could be the big winner when the count comes in.

  1. Portsmouth

Portsmouth City Council is currently under No Overall Control, with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems holding a significant number of seats, with 17 and 15 seats, respectively. Labour has seven seats and there are two Portsmouth Independents Party members. Currently the Council is run by a Lib Dem minority administration, which believes that it will gain seats across the city today.

Parking is a significant local issue in Portsmouth, which the local Conservative Group Leader says is a failure of the current Liberal Democrat administration. He believes that this will lose the Lib Dems votes across the city. The opposition parties will have certainly been campaigning on key local issues such as this in the lead up to the vote today, but who will be the big winner when the vote is called tomorrow?

  1. Woking

Similar to Portsmouth, Woking Borough Council is currently under No Overall Control. The Conservative Party has 13 councillors currently and the Lib Dem Party has 12, neither of which is sufficient to hold a majority on the Council. Currently the Council is run by a minority Conservative administration.

The Liberal Democrats will be hoping to make some gains in Woking, although the Party isn’t optimistic about its chances at taking Overall Control of the Council. The group will, however, be hoping to take more seats than the Conservatives and take over the leadership of the Council with a minority administration.

Local issues will of course play a huge role in the result of the election, with one prominent issue being the increase in high-rise buildings in the town centre. The Conservatives have argued that this is a reasonable response to the housing crisis and will provide much needed homes in a sustainable location. Opposition parties will however be seeking to use objection to these developments to their advantage and have stated that small, cramped flats are not the answer to solving the housing crisis, and the Council should focus on building larger homes for families.

  1. Crawley

Finally, Crawley, in Sussex, is also a key battleground in the South East. Currently, the Conservative Party holds 18 seats, and Labour holds 16, with one Independent and one vacant seat. With 19 seats required to hold a majority, any small changes in the number of seats could tip the scale in either Labour or the Conservatives favour.

A YouGov poll carried out today, suggests that, whilst Labour is set to make some significant gains generally, the result in Crawley is too close to call and it could easily swing to Labour controlled or Conservative controlled or No Overall Control.

PLMR will be closely monitoring the results tomorrow across the country, so please visit https://plmr.co.uk/electionshub/ for all the latest election news as we update throughout the day.

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