West Suffolk isn’t a contest, more a coronation in 2019 General Election
PUBLISHED: 07:30 30 November 2019
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West Suffolk is one of the largest constituencies in the county geographically – and is unusual in that a significant proportion of its population doesn’t have a vote (they are US citizens stationed at the two air bases).
Formed in 1997, it has never returned anything other than a Conservative MP and it is being defended by current Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Issues in the Constituency:
Future of USAF Mildenhall: The Obama administration announced in 2015 that the huge Mildenhall Airbase in West Suffolk would close by 2023. It is a major employer of local staff and its US personnel bring millions of pounds of spending money in to the local economy.
The Trump administration has delayed the closure by a year - and is "reviewing" the plans. If the base does close it will open a massive hole in the local economy and finding a new use for the massive site would be a major issue for the whole area. The US is planning to invest in the nearby Lakenheath airbase.
Exploiting the "Cambridge effect:" West Suffolk is very near Cambridge, one of the UK's most prosperous and dynamic cities.
Newmarket has already seen a rise in property prices thanks to this and the wealth generated by the horseracing industry - and it is starting to give a boost to places like Mildenhall and Haverhill.
However there are dangers that extending this prosperity will make it increasingly difficult for those on modest incomes to live in the area - so supporting a genuine balance in negotiations with government is vital.
Improving transport links: The completion of the A11 dualling between Mildenhall and Thetford a few years ago was a major success for the area - but the stretch of road to the A14 at Newmarket is need of an upgrade and improvements to several dangerous junctions.
Train links in the area are not great - there is no scope to build a second platform at Newmarket to increase capacity and neither Mildenhall nor Haverhill are on the rail map.
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Crime: There have been drug links to some of the towns in the area, partly due to county lines links to London and large cities in the Midlands.
There is also concern about rural crime from large scale agricultural thefts to illegal gatherings in some remote areas, especially in the depths of Thetford Forest which straddles the county boundary.
Who is standing:
Matt Hancock, Conservative. The Health Secretary has been MP for West Suffolk since 2010. After a succession of ministerial posts under David Cameron, he was promoted to the cabinet by Theresa May and became Health Secretary last year in the fall-out after the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
Claire Unwin, Labour. A youth worker who says she is standing to defend the NHS, schools, social care and to ensure there is no need for food banks.
Elfreda Tealby-Watson, Liberal Democrats: She is standing for West Suffolk for the third time. She believes West Suffolk would benefit if the UK stays in the EU.
Donald Allwright, Green Party: A software engineer from Haverhill, he says he became disillusioned with the main parties and is concerned about that young people get a raw deal from society.
What will happen on December 12?
There really is no contest here, apart from that among the smaller parties to retain their deposits. Mr Hancock has seen his majority rise at every election since he was first elected and it would be a huge shock if it fell below 10,000 this time.
He seems to have spent most of the last few weeks in other parts of the country sending Tweets about his national campaigning as a cabinet minister.
During most of its existence the Labour Party has come second in this seat and with demise of UKIP and the Brexit Party's decision not challenge in Conservative-held seats, that seems likely to continue in this election.
But in truth it is difficult to imagine the election in West Suffolk will cause much of a ripple in the national political picture - apart from noting that the Health Secretary will be returning to his place on the House of Commons' green benches.
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