The two leading contenders for the Hastings and Rye seat in next month’s General Election (only two weeks away now) on Thursday June 8 were busy in Rye last weekend.
And Churches Together in Rye and District have arranged an election hustings on Saturday, June 3, at St Mary’s church (at the top of Lion Street), from 7pm to 8:30pm. All candidates have been invited.
To table a question (by 7pm Thursday, June 1) please contact Canon Richard Orchard, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 01797 225916, 7 Love Lane, Rye, TN31 7NE. At present this seems to be the only hustings in Rye.
The Labour candidate Peter Chowney was photographed (above) in the High Street while the Conservatives’ Amber Rudd swept swiftly down Station Approach from Cinque Ports Street preceded by her bodyguard (identifiable by her earpiece), with Rother Councillor Lord Ampthill following behind – and then she vanished out of sight, probably to canvass.
As Sarah Owen, Labour’s local candidate in 2015, is not standing again, Peter Chowney – leader of Hastings Borough Council and a long-term Hastings resident – is Labour’s newly selected candidate.
Hastings and Rye was regarded as a safe Tory seat from 1983 to 1992, but Labour’s Michael Foster ousted Jacqui Lait in 1997 (after only one term) with a swing of 18.5 per cent. He then held the seat in 2001 and 2005, but was ousted by Amber Rudd in 2010. The Tory front-bencher and current Home Secretary then increased her majority in 2015 to nearly 5,000 over Labour’s Sarah Owen.
In 2015 the Liberal Democrats represented by Nick Perry (standing again this time) saw their vote nosedive from 7,825 to 1,614 while UKIP came third with 6,786.
But the Greens, who came fourth ahead of the Liberal Democrats in 2015, are not standing this time, and UKIP’s votes may move elsewhere. Other voters may shift too if they believe the Brexit vote was not what they thought they had voted for.
This constituency, regarded as a Labour/Tory marginal after Labour’s wins between 1997 and 2005, and the Conservatives’ wins in 2010 and 2015, is therefore very much up for grabs and hard to predict safely.
UKIP votes may or may not switch to the Tories, while the Greens’ absence may help Labour. However an increased Liberal vote from “Brexit Leavers” who have had a change of heart may assist Amber Rudd.
However, as Home Secretary, Amber Rudd will be preoccupied with the aftermath of the Manchester massacre, and how to cope with current threat levels after cuts in both the police and armed forces.
This may boost her public image, but it might – in her absence – also help Labour’s well established local candidate who has been tackling issues at first hand in this (statistically speaking) deprived area.
Photo : Gerard Reilly