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- Political Profiles: Steve Brine, Royston Smith, Alan Whitehead and Caroline Nokes
The University of Southampton’s Highfield campus sits within the boundaries of the Southampton Test constituency. Meanwhile, the constituency of Winchester encompasses the Winchester School of Art. I will proceed to shortly summarise the records of MPs who represent Southampton students.
Southampton Test is the seat currently held by the Labour Party’s Alan Whitehead MP, who has held it since 1997. In 2017, Whitehead’s majority increased from 3,810 to 11,508. He gained 27,509 votes (58.7%) in a turnout of 66.8%.
During his years in Government, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Whitehead largely voted with the whip, although he made two significant rebellions. Firstly, he voted against renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system (unsurprisingly, due to his previous membership of Southampton’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). Secondly, he voted against the Iraq War.
In Opposition, Whitehead has been a member of several select committees and Groups, including the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, which he currently sits in. In 2016, he supported Owen Smith during that year’s Labour Party leadership election. He is also a member of the UK Parliamentary (Men’s) Football Team.
The constituency of Winchester is the seat of Steve Brine MP, a Conservative and Unionist who has held the seat since 2010. In 2017 he held it with a majority of 9,999. Brine received 29,729 votes, which was 52.0% of those cast, in a turnout for his constituency of 78.8%.
During the Coalition years of 2010-2015, Brine almost always voted on the Government’s side. However, Brine has since rebelled a little more often, such as voting against investigations into the Iraq War. He also voted against same-sex marriage. After having campaigned to Remain in the European Union, Brine has since voted consistently against continued membership, as part of voting with the Government. In March 2019, he resigned from the Government (in which he had been a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health with special responsibility for public health and GPs) due to his disagreement with the Government’s Brexit policy.
Southampton Itchen has been represented by Conservative and Unionist MP Royston Smith since 2015. In 2017, Smith held the seat with a majority of just 31, meaning this seat is not safe for the Conservatives. Smith received 21,773 votes (46.5%) in a turnout of 65.2%.
Royston Smith MP is in favour of leaving the European Union and campaigned for Brexit during the referendum. He was one of 72 Conservative MPs who, personally deriving an income from renting out properties, voted against a January 2016 amendment proposed by Labour which would have required private landlords to make their homes ‘fit for human habitation’.
Romsey and Southampton North
The final of the four local constituencies, Romsey and Southampton North, is the seat of the Conservative and Unionist Party’s Caroline Nokes, as it has been since its creation in 2010. Caroline Nokes MP held the seat in 2017 with a majority of 18,006, having received 28,668 votes (57.1%) of those cast, in a turnout of 74.7%.
Caroline Nokes MP was first voted into Parliament in 2010 and her maiden speech was on the topic of a High Skilled Economy. In 2014, she was declared the ‘most responsive MP’ by an independent survey of all 650 constituency MPs (completed by the think tank mySociety), in which she gave a ‘response rate of 100%’. During the EU referendum of 2016, Nokes backed Remain. However, following the result, she voted with the government on its Brexit position. Since Boris Johnson MP became Prime Minister, Nokes has returned to the backbenches.