Tories can feel safe in Suffolk Coastal in 2019 General Election but there’s a keen battle for second place
- Credit: Jim Ellis
Suffolk Coastal is a seat where the result looks like a foregone conclusion – but dig beneath the surface and there is an interesting contest brewing.
It is a contrasting seat - stretching from the outskirts of Ipswich to the coastal towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold. But while it is seen as relatively wealthy, there are challenges below the surface.
Suffolk Coastal issues:
Sizewell development: The Sizewell power stations on the North Sea coast have always been controversial, but both Sizewell A and B had a high level of local support because of the jobs and skills they brought to the area - and the perceived risk was quite low.
However the proposals for Sizewell C have prompted concern among those who supported earlier stations because of its impact on the coastal environment and marshland next to the Minsmere Bird Reserve. There are also big fears about the impact on local roads.
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On the other hand, many people are keen to see the work a new power station would bring to the area.
Trade links through Felixstowe: As a deep water port carrying freight from around the world, Felixstowe is not expected to be as affected by Brexit as the channel ports - but there is some cross-North Sea traffic and changes over the next few years are bound to have some effects.
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There are also concerns about the road and rail links to the port and whoever is MP will need to talk to Highways England and Network Rail to find ways of making it easier to access the port.
Housing: House prices in Suffolk Coastal are among the highest in the county and there is a shortage of rental properties, especially affordable rental properties.
Although there are high-skill, highly-paid jobs in the Martlesham area, around Sizewell and associated with the Port of Felixstowe there are many people who currently find it very difficult to find good quality homes in Suffolk Coastal.
And in some of the coastal resorts like Aldeburgh and Southwold the influx of wealthy second homeowners has meant local people have been effectively frozen out of the housing market.
The development of new homes in the Martlesham area is also putting pressure on existing communities and the facilities that they need.
Transport links: The rejection of proposals for a four villages bypass on the A12 between Wickham Market and Saxmundham was a major blow for the whole of east Suffolk - new solutions to improve links around the area need to be explored.
There also needs to be more pressure to improve rail links on the East Suffolk line to Lowestoft and Felixstowe - improving the track so Greater Anglia's new trains can significantly cut journey times.
Who is standing?
Dr Therese Coffey: Conservative MP since 2010 and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions since September.
Cameron Matthews: Labour candidate. He is from Felixstowe and is a firefighter. Came second when he fought the seat in 2017.
Julia (Jules) Ewart: Liberal Democrat. A leading member of the Suffolk EU Alliance, she is fighting what is now a LibDem target seat.
Rachel Smith-Lyte: Green Party. Member of East Suffolk Council.
Tony Love: Originally chosen as Brexit Party candidate, when they stood back from Suffolk Coastal at the start of the campaign he decided to fight on as an Independent pro-Brexit candidate.
What will happen on December 12?
Like all other Suffolk rural seats there is no question that the Conservatives will win this. Dr Coffey will probably end up with another five-figure majority.
All the interest here will be in where the other candidates finish - especially the battle for second place.
Labour has come second in the last two general elections, but in 2010 it was the Liberal Democrats who were runners-up and Mrs Ewart has fought a very energetic campaign this time around.
Her party sees Suffolk Coastal as its best prospect in the county - but it is some way away from seriously challenging the Conservatives for the parliamentary seat.
However Labour's vote should not be under-estimated. The party can rely on the votes of people working in the Port of Felixstowe and at Sizewell - and has had a strong presence in Leiston and Felixstowe. It won't challenge Dr Coffey but could still finish second here.
The only question for the Greens and Mr Love is whether they can save their deposits - that could be a challenge for them.