General Election: The Seats To Watch In The East of England

General Election: The Seats To Watch In The East of England

Tim Miller

Managing Director - PLMR Genesis

For years the East of England has resembled a deep shade of blue on the political map. In recent times, the region has provided safe ground for the Conservatives with just a handful of Labour MPs elected in constituencies such as Norwich South and Cambridge. But with the national polling picture painting a bleak picture for the Conservatives, after 14 years in government, there is an increasingly strong likelihood that Labour and the wider opposition parties can make real inroads come 4th July.


More so at this election than at others in recent times, the East of England will be a key geography to watch on election night as any swings in these seats across the region will give an indication of the national picture. So, here’s everything you need to know midway through the election campaign in the region.


Changing Faces In The Region


Even before votes are cast, we know there will be a significant churn of MPs with many long-established names having decided to stand down and move on from their parliamentary careers.


This includes current and former cabinet members including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock (West Suffolk), former Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Chloe Smith (Norwich North), Minister of State in the Department for Work and Pensions Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds), former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Sir Brandown Lewis (Great Yarmouth) and former Minister of State for Health Will Quince (Colchester).


Richard Bacon MP, who has served South Norfolk since 2001, is also standing down and Conservative MP Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) announced he was defecting to Labour and won’t be contesting the next election. So, regardless of what happens on election night, we are going to see many new faces representing the region.


Cabinet Seats To Watch


There are two sets of seats to watch. Firstly, those held by some of the most well-known names and voices within the Conservative Party. Most have historically been seen as safe seats but the results will highlight two things. First, an indication of the overall performance of the Conservatives on the night and, second, the future shape of the party after the election should the party be thrown into a leadership contest.


Key seats include those of former Prime Minister Liz Truss who is contesting her South West Norfolk seat and defending her 26,000 majority, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Braintree) with a 24,000 majority, Former Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) with a 20,000 majority and Priti Patel (Witham) with a 18,000 majority.


James Cleverly and Priti Patel, in particular, have been touted as potential future leaders whilst Truss remains a powerful and influential figure given her positioning as the leader of the ‘Popular Conservative’ grouping within the party.


Labour’s Targets In The East


The second set of constituencies to watch are those which are being heavily targeted in the election and will dictate the political makeup of the Commons. They will also give an indication of the size of Labour’s majority if the current polls prove to be accurate.


Ipswich, currently held by the Conservatives, has switched back and forth between Labour in recent elections. This time around it’s a key target for the Labour Party and a must win for the party. Peterborough is also another key target for Labour. The party lost the seat to the Conservatives in 2019 by a slim majority of less than 3,000.


Similarly, Watford, which has been held by the Conservatives since 2010, currently has a small majority of around 4,000. These are the types of seats Labour has to win convincingly to secure a sizeable Parliamentary majority.


Smaller Party Opportunities


The Liberal Democrats are running a highly targeted campaign, focussing on a handful of seats. The Cambridgeshire area is their main focus and it’s no surprise that’s where they launched their election bus.


South Cambridgeshire is set to be a three way split with the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour and will be a mini battleground for the wider election. The Party is also targeting St Neots & Mid Cambridgeshire, and Cambridgeshire East but these will need swings of over 10,000.


The Greens are also seeking to win their first MP in the East of England. Waveney Valley, a newly created seat in Diss, Norfolk is one of the Pary’s core targets. National opinion polls have been broadly stubborn for the party but this election is one of their best opportunities.


Reform UK is also aiming to split the Conservative vote with candidates standing across the region. Arguably the biggest ‘bombshell’ of the campaign thus far was the news that Nigel Farage would throw his hat in the ring and stand in Clacton, Essex. He is seeking to become an MP for the first time in eight attempts by overturning the Conservatives 24,000 majority. Whilst Reform’s ability to win seats is very limited (aside from potentially in places such as Clacton), their ability to split the Conservative vote and allow Labour to come through the middle is one of the central preoccupations keeping CCHQ awake at night.


Manifestos and Regional Policies


The East of England is a significant contributor to the UK economy but the region is often overlooked. From its diverse energy sector, thriving hospitality industry and innovations in agriculture there are huge opportunities for businesses.


To facilitate discussions on these key issues, PLMR is running an insights webinar Path to Power: What role can the East of England play in the General Election 2024?


This event will see PLMR’s Head of Public Affairs, Simon Darby, facilitate a panel discussion on what businesses within the region desire from the next government and, more broadly, what role the East of England can play in the future growth of the UK.


He will be joined by a panel including:


  • Jackie Sadek – Chair, UK Innovation Corridor
  • Candy Richards – East Anglia Development Manager, Federation of Small Businesses
  • Paul Simon – Head of Public Affairs & Strategic Communications, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce


The event will take place on Wednesday 26th June between 12.30 – 1.30pm.


You can register attendance via the online link here.


You can see a full list of all the candidates standing in the election on PLMR’s Candidates Portal.

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