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Comment: Will the Lib Dems Break Through the Surrey ‘Blue Wall’?

Published on: 23 May, 2024
Updated on: 25 May, 2024

By Martin Giles

The political map of Surrey could undergo its biggest change in living memory on July 5 when all the general election votes have been counted in Surrey’s 12 constituencies.

A poll published by You Gov in early April showed the Lib Dems to be in the lead in five Surrey constituencies, constituencies normally regarded as part of the Conservative “true-blue heartland”. Such is the unpopularity of the Conservatives nationally after 14 years in power, according to consistent poll results, Liberal Democrat ambitions to break down the “blue wall” might be realised.

Knowing a general election had to come this year the Lib Dems have been campaigning very actively for some time. They will be hoping for two “Portillo moments” if Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove are toppled.

Guildford Dragon editor was interviewed by the BBC News on factors that might affect election results here in Surrey. Click on image to view (at 10 mins 16 secs into the recording).

Jeremy Hunt told me just three weeks ago that he was not confident of winning and that Conservatives in this area were the underdogs. “It is the tightest battle I have ever fought,” he said. But the Conservatives will not be giving up and the Lib Dems will not want to succumb to complacency.

See: Jeremy Hunt Admits He Is Not Confident of Winning at the Next General Election

Nothing is certain locally. Margins are narrow and many Surrey seats could, unusually, go either way, Conservative or Lib Dem. Traditionally some voters return to the party in power as elections approach concerned about the possible effects of change. If so, that might save some Tories, they might be pinning their hopes on it.

Other parties are very unlikely to see any victories in the county but could play a key part by taking votes away from the favourites. Disillusioned Conservatives might vote for Reform UK and The Greens might take votes from Lib Dems or Labour.

Guildford General Election result 2019 – Wikipedia. The Lib Dems reduced the Conservative majority to just over 3,000.

And where will Anne Milton’s 4,000 votes go, garnered when she stood as an Independent having fallen foul of Boris Johnson and been deselected in 2019.

Anne Milton campaigning in 2019.

The former Conservative MP said today: “It’s hard to predict where the people that voted for me in 2019 will vote this time.

“Quite a few told me they would not have voted if I hadn’t stood, some wanted to support me because I had made a political stand, some because they were unhappy with Boris Johnson’s behaviour and quite a few Labour voters because they were unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn.

“So there are 4,000 odd votes up for grabs!”

Lib Dems have claimed for some time, with evidence, that the Labour Party would be happy to take the foot off the gas with campaigns here, tacitly encouraging tactical voting to oust Conservatives.

See: Guildford and Ash & Godalming Constituencies Are Non-Priority for Labour

All the existing 11 Surrey seats are held by the Conservatives but boundary changes have been made making results even more unpredictable. And we now have a new seat, Farnham and Bordon, that unusually straddles the Surrey/Hampshire county boundary.

Guildford’s current general election candidates for the announced general election on July 4. Other candidates may be nominated.

Traditionally, it is national issues that dictate the result of general elections and perhaps the main motivator will simply be that the country is tired of the Conservatives after 14 years including the cock-ups and the scandals.

But there have been some stand-out local issues that could dictate some voters’ choices:

  • Planning: Local Plans, unpopular development and inadequate infrastructure
  • Water supply problems in Guildford and Waverley and sewage discharges
  • Local NHS GP appointment waiting times
  • Local council finances – especially in Guildford and even more in Woking

And if it is true that “it is the economy stupid!” how well off or poor are people feeling? Do they still feel they are suffering from recent inflation and the cost of living crisis or has more recent news of inflation down to 2.3 per cent made them think that perhaps the economy has turned a corner and we should not risk change?

Two subjects that are getting less air-time are immigration, despite record levels in recent years, and defence, even though the world, with so many flash points, seems a far more dangerous place than it did in 2019.

Dragon reader Anthony Mallard commented this morning, having listed some strengths and weaknesses of the national parties and their candidates: “Am I alone in facing this conundrum when deciding whether to vote or for whom I should vote?”

There will be others unsure, just like Anthony, and the candidates will know it. Some votes are definitely still up for grabs. Stand by for some intense campaigning.

What do you think? Which issue is the most important to you? Did you vote for Anne Milton in 2019? If so, who will you vote for now? Please use the Leave a Comment feature below…


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Responses to Comment: Will the Lib Dems Break Through the Surrey ‘Blue Wall’?

  1. Anne Rouse Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 9:42 am

    Can I correct a misconception regarding Labour taking it’s foot of the gas during the election.

    This is absolutely untrue – we are determined to show voters what a Labour Government can do and give Guildford voters the chance to vote for an MP who is in the government. Why would we vote for someone in opposition?

    During our conversations in Guildford we have spoken to many voters who are disillusioned with the Tories nationally and the Lib Dems locally.

    We need residents of Guildford to vote for an MP they want, not just one to keep the Tories out which seems to be the only promise the Lib Dems can keep.

    Anne Rouse is the chair of Guildford Labour.

  2. S Collins Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 10:03 am

    Anthony, if you don’t vote you can’t moan about it afterwards.

  3. H Trevor Jones Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 10:18 am

    I will be looking for a candidate that is most likely to encourage rapprochement with the EU, eventually at least rejoining the single market and customs union, so as to cut all the new barriers and tariffs and coming visas for trade and travel across the Channel and the Irish Sea that have arisen since Brexit.

    As things stand, that appears to me to be the Lib Dem candidate Zöe Franklin, whom I’ve met several times and who appears to be a good candidate in her own right too, and who evidently has the best chance of getting elected for Guildford to unseat the Conservatives. (That doesn’t mean I’d necessarily vote Lib Dem in a council election.)

    All parties want good schools, hospitals and train services, so it does seem to me that attitudes to Europe should be a major dividing line, but perhaps another is a softer stance on immigration than adopted by Conservatives, where the simplest way to stop small boats must be to allow people to come on proper big ferry services for a price that undercuts people-smugglers, but not then waste money putting them in detention centres.

    • John Lomas Reply

      May 24, 2024 at 5:15 pm

      “eventually at least rejoining the single market and customs union,”

      This must not happen until the EU drops its aims of a federal states of Europe.

    • John Perkins Reply

      May 24, 2024 at 10:33 pm

      The barriers, tariffs and visa requirements have not “arisen” – they are imposed by the EU.

      Good schools, hospitals and train services are not synonymous with Europe.

      The membership fee for the UK would be £30-40 billion per annum with no rebate. It’s possible to buy many schools and hospitals for that.

      Any candidate campaigning to rejoin the single market and customs union would have to explain why they wanted to disregard the view of 17.4 million voters.

      How tedious it is to have this argument raised again and again over the past eight years.

  4. Stuart Barnes Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 12:01 pm

    The so called Conservatives deserve to lose anyway. It is very sad but the only party that now seems worth a vote is Reform.

  5. Sarah Gillinson Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    The Labour Party is fighting for every vote in Guildford.

    I, as the Labour Party candidate, am fighting for every vote in Guildford.

    It is not true that the Labour Party is tacitly endorsing tactical voting.

    We are fighting for every vote because only the Labour Party, and a Labour MP for Guildford, can address local priorities for change.

    Labour has costed plans to tackle all of the issues that you rightly say are top of the list for Guildford residents:
    – New Towns with affordable housing, GPs, schools and roads built in as standard
    – Legislation and fines to hold water companies to account for the state of our rivers
    – 40,000 new appointments a week as a first step to tackling NHS waiting lists

    It’s time for change in Guildford. Only a Labour government and a Labour MP can deliver it. We are fighting for that privilege in Guildford.

    Sarah Gillinson is the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford

    • Ben Paton Reply

      May 24, 2024 at 10:30 pm

      I guess that people would dearly love to find a plausible alternative to vote for. Sadly, the Labour Party in Guildford uncritically approved the 2019 Conservative Local Plan. It has said that it has no interest in revising it. It has no plan to build council houses. It has no plan to protect the Environment, the Green Belt or farm land.

      It has put forward no plans for “sustainable” development ie housing near to jobs and mass transport and essential infrastructure.
      Its approach has been “more development and more housebuilding is better than less” – regardless of the quality or the location or the sustainability of the housing.

      Such lack of principle is unlikely to win support from anyone who lives near Blackwell Farm, or Gosden Hill Farm or Three Farms Meadow [aka the former Wisley Airfield] or near to the choke points on the A3.

      • H Trevor Jones Reply

        May 26, 2024 at 9:14 pm

        Ben Paton’s comments may or may not be good advice for how to vote in local elections, but are they relevant to a Parliamentary election? I wish people would vote on local issues in local elections and national issues in national elections and not assume the same party is best in all cases.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      May 26, 2024 at 11:56 am

      Labour has made no secret that it plans to remove constraints on building in what is left of the green belt. No thanks. In Guildford, we have already suffered irrevocable harm to our villages thanks to the local Tories’ disastrous Local Plan.

      What magic wand will Labour wave to produce the doctors to take the 40,000 new appointments promised? Or will they have first year medical students take the appointments? Such promises are a con.

      No, the only way to fix the NHS is for more money, from a massive tax hike, which no party will admit. I worked for many years in Canada, where the health system is based on the NHS, but is properly funded through high taxes. I was happy to pay 51 per cent of my income in taxes, due to their amazing health care system.

  6. Anthony Mallard Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 3:39 pm

    I totally agree with the viewpoint of S Collins. Let me then make a plea to the candidates, give me a good reason to vote for you. Tell me what you really stand for, not what your central offices tell you to say. Will you stick to your principles, if elected or will you as Mrs May remarked today be one of those individuals who start with good intentions but as evidence has it, be one of the many people in politics who think it is about them, their ambitions, their careers and not about the people they serve. Being a member of Parliament is about public service. Give me a good reason to vote for you.

    I look forward to seeing, hearing and perhaps reading what the candidates have to say.

  7. Jim Allen Reply

    May 24, 2024 at 4:30 pm

    Regrettably, the current political landscape presents a limited selection of options. The national parties seem to be rallying behind the slogan, “Best of a bad choice, again.”

  8. David Roberts Reply

    May 26, 2024 at 6:17 pm

    With friends like Gove, who needs enemies? His department’s decision to approve 1,800 new houses in Wisley (with 500 more likely to follow) effectively torpedoes the re-election chances of one of his own former acolytes, Angela Richardson MP.

    The Economist’s election model had already assessed that she is “highly likely” to lose.

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