A new poll by Stonehaven offers an interesting insight into the political map of Somerset. The poll is one of the first we have seen that uses the new constituency boundaries.
The predictions are surprising in some places and less so in others. With the new constituency boundaries in place our patch will include seven constituencies (replacing the previous five). These are Frome, Bridgwater, Wells and Mendip Hills, Glastonbury & Somerton, Yeovil, Taunton & Wellington and Tiverton & Minehead.
The predictions are interesting in as much as they throw out a few surprises. Though no one will be surprised to see that Tiverton & Minehead is being called for the Conservatives. They have already selected the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger. The suggested winning margin though is less than 1,000 votes.
More of a surprise perhaps is that Tessa Munt is predicted to lose out to James Heappey in Wells and Mendip Hills. The predicted margin is again tight just some 1,500 votes. What seems to us to be spurious, is the prediction that Labour will get 11,000 votes in a seat they have never been serious players. There is yet to be a Labour candidate declared for the constituency.
In Yeovil it may be unfair to suggest that calling the seat for sitting MP Marcus Fysh is a surprise. However that said his own party tried to deselect him and he is facing a popular and young LibDem rival in Adam Dance. Stonehaven call it for the Conservatives with a margin of 1,500 votes.
Equally odd is the suggestion that traditionally Labour Bridgwater will also be retained by the Conservatives. Their candidate is Bristol based Sir Ashley Fox. Labour have yet to select their candidate. Even so the predicted margin of in excess of 6,000 votes seems especially surprising.
Having just won Somerton & Frome for the LibDems, the seat will disappear at the next election. It is not yet clear if Ms Dyke will go for either Frome or Glastonbury & Somerton. However both are called for the LibDems in this latest poll, so perhaps it won’t matter.
However Faye Purbrick, who lost out in Somerton & Frome is definitely standing for Glastonbury & Somerton for the Conservatives. She will be disappointed by polling that suggest she would lose by over 6,000 votes. But given the result in Somerton & Frome, you can’t rule it out as a surprise prediction.
Much of the excitement caused by the poll amongst LibDems has been the possible defeat of Rebecca Pow in Taunton & Wellington. The Stonehaven poll suggests a nearly 2,000 vote win for LibDem candidate Gideon Amos. Ms Pow is a Minister of State at DEFRA has been involved in the sewage outlet issue. That said once again the Labour vote figure looks suspiciously high at 10,000 in a seat where they have not done well for a long while. Mr Amos who shares his rival’s love of publicity was quick to jump on the polling figures. Mr Amos said: “The Conservative Government has taken the votes of people in Taunton and Wellington for granted and run vital services into the ground. People write to me about the delays in treatment, the impossibility of seeing an NHS dentist, soaring prices and mortgages and filthy sewage being pumped into the Tone. This poll shows the momentum is with the Liberal Democrats in Taunton and Wellington.”
Mr Amos has been knocking on the door at both the 2017 and 2019 elections steadily building his vote and support. With Ms Pow a member of an unpopular government, this result would not be a massive surprise.
The Frome seat though is a surprise. There’s always been a strong Green and Labour vote in Frome and 4 of the 6 Somerset Councillors are currently Greens. Also the new constituency will take in the traditionally Labour mining areas of Radstock and Midsomer Norton. The pollsters though see it as a three way slog between Conservatives (14,300), Labour (11,400) and Lib Dems (19,100). Certainly the Labour vote in Somerton & Frome collapsed after local candidate Sean Dromgoole was deselected, but this will be a seat that Labour will hope to do much better in. The Green Party are also predicted to do well with over 6,000 votes, which given their strength in Frome could well be an underestimate.
Of course a poll is just a poll. But this is interesting stuff and if accurate would see our 7 constituencies split 4 Conservative and 3 LibDem. There’s a long way to go before we find out for real though.