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Conservatives look safe in Harwich and North Essex

PUBLISHED: 07:30 23 November 2019

Harwich International Port is a major feature of the constituency. Picture: Hutchison Ports

Harwich International Port is a major feature of the constituency. Picture: Hutchison Ports

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Harwich and North Essex is a fairly new seat, created in 2010 and combining the industrial area around the port with typically rural towns and villages on the border with Suffolk.

Manningtree station is a busy centre for commuters - but they need to see more improvements after the introduction of new trains . Picture: JOHN DAYManningtree station is a busy centre for commuters - but they need to see more improvements after the introduction of new trains . Picture: JOHN DAY

Sir Bernard Jenkin has been MP since the seat was formed - having previously sat for the former North Essex seat. It is a mixture of port-related business at one end of the seat and typically rural voters living in villages and small towns elsewhere.

General elections in this part of the country have rarely caused too much excitement - and this time doesn't look that different!

What are the issues in the seat?

Brexit and Trade:

Bernard Jenkin, Conservative candidate for Harwich & North Essex. Picture: BERNARD JENKINBernard Jenkin, Conservative candidate for Harwich & North Essex. Picture: BERNARD JENKIN

Unlike its neighbour Felixstowe across the Stour/Orwell estuary, Harwich and Parkeston Quay do mainly rely on trade with the near continent for their prosperity.

There are daily ferries to the Hook of Holland and there are inevitably questions about how Brexit will affect this.

Early indications are that Harwich could benefit from problems that may be faced at Dover and other Channel Ports - with hauliers preferring to use the longer, but less-congested, crossing to Holland instead.

Transport links:

Harwich and North Essex Labour candidate Stephen Rice with Jeremy Corbyn. Picture; HARWICH AND NORTH ESSEX LABOUR PARTYHarwich and North Essex Labour candidate Stephen Rice with Jeremy Corbyn. Picture; HARWICH AND NORTH ESSEX LABOUR PARTY

North Essex is becoming an increasingly commuter-focussed area with people travelling to London or other Essex and Suffolk towns for work.

Both road and rail links need improvement - and politicians need to recognise the need to improve these links.

Promises to improve the A12 south of Colchester will be welcomed by many, but the fact that these improvements are still likely to be a decade away will be a cause for concern for many travellers.

Manningtree is becoming an increasingly busy station and the car park extension there will be welcomed by many commuters - but the new trains promised by Greater Anglia cannot come soon enough and politicians need to keep up the pressure on Network Rail to update the track on the main line to London.

Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Beckett. Picture: GREGG BROWNLiberal Democrat candidate Mike Beckett. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Development:

Colchester is one of the fastest growing large towns in the country and this is having a significant effect on its neighbouring constituencies, including Harwich and North Essex.

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As the number of homes on the edge of the town increases it puts strain on the services provided across the whole area - what infrastructure (schools, surgeries, hospitals etc) will be needed to cope with the increased population?

Who is standing in Harwich and North Essex?

Sir Bernard Jenkin, Conservative. MP since 1992, first for Colchester, then the "old" North Essex seat (excluding Harwich) and since 2010 for this new seat. He had a majority of 14,356 in 2017.

Stephen Rice, Labour. He has lived in West Mersea in the seat for 30 years and is a well-known figure for his community work in the area.

Mike Beckett, Liberal Democrat. Manager of Colchester Food Bank.

Peter Banks, Green. He is also from Mersea, where he is a town councillor, and is a musician and anti-nuclear activist.

Tony Francis, Independent.

Richard Browning-Smith, Independent.

What will happen on December 12?

Sir Bernard Jenkin is almost certain to return to Parliament with another five-figure majority. Now one of the Tories' "Knights of the Shires" he is a keen Brexiteer and member of the European Research Group who played a key role in the EU debates over recent months.

Labour has a strong core of support in the immediate area around Harwich among the heavily-unionised port workers' community.

Under the old boundaries when Harwich and Clacton were in the same constituency Labour's Ivan Henderson was MP from 1997 to 2005. With the current boundaries that seems extremely unlikely to be repeated this year.

The Liberal Democrats have at least managed to retain their deposit in the last two general elections here - and that would appear to be their realistic aim this time around while the Green Party and Independent candidates will have a real battle on their hands to attract votes here.

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