Clacton will go to the polls for the second time in six months, but can UKIP repeat October’s landslide victory?

The Election count in Clacton gets underway in October

The Election count in Clacton gets underway in October - Credit: Archant

Last October Clacton provided a historic by-election result when UKIP won its first ever elected MP in the form of Douglas Carswell, writes Will Lodge

The sitting MP had defected from the Conservatives two months’ earlier, but emerged victorious again when the seaside town went to the polls.

Now political commentators will be watching with interest to see if UKIP can repeat the landslide they won in October.

It is likely to be a much closer affair this time around.

Outside of the bubble of a by-election, where protest voting tends to become more prominent, and away from the surge UKIP experienced in the second half of 2014, the Tories will be looking to regain the seat they had staunchly held for a number of years.

Indeed where national campaigning will come to the fore and where the whole government is at stake people may not be so willing to vote UKIP. The predicted local growth in support for the party has thus far been fairly muted, with only three district councillors defecting, and it is important to remember local elections are also taking place in Tendring.

However Mr Carswell has represented Clacton for 10 years now without any major incidents and is likely to poll well as a respected constituency MP.

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Conservative candidate Giles Watling will be looking to do much better than he did in the by-election, and with a longer campaign – not delayed for the party by a time-consuming primary to choose the candidate – should have an opportunity to do so.

Will immigration be a big campaign topic for the area? To some extent.

However over the years Clacton, Frinton and Walton has seen more complaints about internal migration – people moving up from London – than from Europe and further afield, and this international immigration will not be any bigger an issue than anywhere else in the country.

Poverty, particularly child and fuel poverty, could be a big influence, with the Rush Green and Jaywick areas scoring particularly poorly on government poverty indices. There has been some national focus recently on improving conditions in coastal communities which have seen better days, and promises for this to continue could be well received.

The usual talking points of education and the NHS may also be decisive, with school performances on the up in the constituency and concern over the Clacton maternity unit’s future. With a generally older population any manifesto pledges on pensions or other elderly benefits could also prove a vote-changer.

Whatever is said during the election campaign, Clacton will definitely be one to watch on May 7 and is likely to be the most interesting count of the night in Essex, other than perhaps Thurrock. If the result comes early it may prove to be a barometer for the rest of the nation.

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