Stourbridge General Election profile: Who will challenge Margot James MP?
Continuing our series on the election battles in Staffordshire and the Black Country, today we examine Stourbridge.
The constituency in its current form was created in 1997 after the abolishment of the Halesowen and Stourbridge seat.
The Stourbridge seat, as it stand today, is one of a quintet of constituencies covering Dudley and takes in the south west of the borough.
The town of Stourbridge is a bustling shopping area, while other places of note in the constituency include Cradley, Lye, Wollaston and the affluent neighbourhoods of Norton and Pedmore.
Unemployment in Stourbridge is on a par with the average for the West Midlands, with the most recent figures showing the out of work figure at around four per cent. Before it was established, the seat’s forerunner, Halesowen and Stourbridge, was a Conservative stronghold.
Stourbridge was won by Labour’s Debra Shipley in 1997 and the party held the seat in the next two General Elections.
However, in 2010, Conservative Margot James took the seat with a majority of just over 5,000.
She retained Stourbridge in 2015, extending her majority over Labour to 6,694.
The 59-year-old is originally from Coventry and is a highly successful businesswoman, having headed the European arm of a multi-national healthcare consultancy.
She previously served as a councillor in Kensington & Chelsea and came third in her first attempt for Parliament in the Labour stronghold of Holborn and St Pancras in 2005.
Labour has finished a clear second in the last two polls in Stourbridge.
There was a large vote to leave the EU in Dudley, with 67.6 per cent backing Brexit.
- Business Minister Ms James returns to defend the seat this year.
- This year Labour have selected Pete Lowe, who until last week was the leader of Dudley Council. He is Stourbridge born and bred and made his first bid for Parliament at the last General Election, where he polled 31.5 per cent of the vote.
- The Lib Dem candidate is Chris Bramall, who is no stranger to Stourbridge having contested at every General Election. A councillor in Norton, his best performance came in 2010 when he received 16.4 per cent of the vote, although his share dropped to just 3.3 per cent in 2015.
- Ukip came third in 2015 when Euro MP James Carver won 16.9 per cent of the vote. He has since quit his position as the party’s foreign affairs spokesman and is not standing for Parliament this year. Glen Wilson, chairman of Ukip’s Stourbridge branch, fills the breach.
- The other candidate is the Green Party’s Andi Mohr.
Best odds: Cons 1/200, Labour 25/1, Lib Dems 200/1, UKIP 200/1, Green 500/1
Prediction: Conservative hold with an increased majority
Labour’s Pete Lowe put in a credible performance in 2015, taking almost a third of the vote.
Following that election he vowed to return and he has been true to his word, although this may prove to be at least three years too early for him to make any inroads into the Tory majority. He has had his own issues to deal with on a local level of late following the Tories seizing control of Dudley Council after cutting a deal with UKIP.
A fiercely proud Stourbridge lad, there is no doubt that Wolves fan Mr Lowe has plenty of supporters on his home patch.
However, attempting to overhaul a Conservative majority of almost 7,000 looks like an impossible task. The smart money is on Ms James to extend her majority. She has built a solid reputation as constituency MP and is highly regarded by her party.
Ms James is also likely to benefit from any collapse in the UKIP vote. That party quadrupled its vote share in the constituency in 2015, but could well see a significant drop off this time around as questions persist over its role in the post-Brexit world. It is hard to imagine the Lib Dems making any impact in Stourbridge, despite party stalwart Chris Bramall continuing his run of contesting every General Election there since 1997.
By the time the final votes have been counted we should expect Ms James to have retained Stourbridge and increased her majority beyond the 8,000 mark.