Southampton Itchen: A Highly Contested Seat

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Inching closer to the date of the General Election on the 12th of December, Southampton Itchen is one of the most contested seats in the country, marking it as a key territory for all major parties.

The current MP, Conservative Royston Smith was first elected in 2015, after long-standing Labour MP John Denham stood down. In 2017, Smith won the vote to become MP of Southampton by just 31 votes, a stark reminder of how every vote can matter.

Running for Labour, Simon Letts won 21,742 votes in 2017 and Liberal Democrat Eleanor Bell won 1,421 votes, whilst UKIP and the Green Party received 1,122 and 725 votes respectively.

Smith and Letts will be vying for the seat after weeks of canvassing, with Kim Rose returning to represent UKIP, Liz Jarvis running for the Liberal Democrats and Osman Sen-Chadun for the Greens.

For many voters, just as in 2017, this election will be centred on Brexit, after 60.29% of the Southampton Itchen population voted to leave the EU in 2016. Smith, echoing the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stressed the need to ‘get Brexit done’ and leave the EU on the deadline of the 31st of January 2020.

Jarvis, on the other hand, is said to be ‘very concerned’ about the impact of Brexit on the economy and jobs in the local area, as well as the travel industry. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to repeal Article 50 thus ending the Brexit process altogether if elected into Parliament.

Taking a different stance, Rose claimed that ‘only a vote for UKIP is a vote to honour the referendum result’.

In August, Letts emphasised the need to ‘bring both sides together’ with Brexit, as Labour has ruled out the possibility of no-deal in their manifesto and plan on putting the deal they reach with the EU back to the public in a second referendum.

Of course, there are other issues at stake. Housing and homelessness seem to be at the top of the list, with hundreds of flats expected to be built across Southampton Itchen, whilst many residents are said to be concerned about the level of homelessness in the city.

With the city centre set for development to attract new businesses and retain students, pollution, education and economic growth are also expected to be important factors for voters, as well as other issues, like the NHS.

Smith said that he wants to make Southampton ‘safer’, more ‘prosperous’ and a city of which ‘we can all be proud’, whilst Jarvis has said she’s ready to fight for better mental health provisions for young people and is opposed to further NHS cuts.

Letts has promised more police presence in the city and said that housing, education and employment rights were amongst his priorities, whilst Sen-Chadun has public transport and sustainable energy at the top of his list.

An attractive battleground, where Letts said ‘every vote is going to count’, it is no surprise that Itchen has attracted both Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Visiting St Mary’s stadium, in November, Corbyn pledged that Labour would create ten new national parks and plant two billion trees in the UK if the party wins the election.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson visited the Associated British Ports in Southampton earlier this month, stressing the importance of ‘getting Brexit done’ and claiming that the city would benefit from the money the country would be receiving after Brexit.

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