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Wolverhampton South West General Election profile: Will tables be turned in city seat?

By David Banner | Politics | Published:

Wolverhampton South West was once a Tory stronghold that has been a marginal seat since the 1997 General Election.

Former Labour MP Rob Marris, inset, is not standing in the 2017 election

It is made up of the city centre and the west and south-west parts of Wolverhampton, including the university and the Civic Centre and St Peter’s, Graiseley, Park, Penn, Merry Hill and Tettenhall.

When it was created in 1950 the seat was won by Enoch Powell for the Conservatives, who would hold the seat for the next six elections before departing for the Ulster Unionist Party.

Nicholas Budgen then held it for the Tories from 1974 until he was defeated by Labour’s Jenny Jones in 1997.

The city centre is at the heart of the Wolverhampton South West constituency

Since then it has been one of the country’s most marginal seats. Rob Marris defended it for Labour in 2001 and 2005, before Paul Uppal won the seat for the Tories in 2010 with a majority of 691.

At the last General Election, Mr Marris turned the tables on the same Conservative rival with a majority of 801. However, the Labour MP decided to stand down at the 2017 election.

The constituency is generally split between three distinct areas. The affluent suburbs of Tettenhall strongly favour the Tories, Penn and Merry Hill tend to be mixed, while the inner city areas favour Labour.

The Wolverhampton EU Referendum result and the constituency outcome from 2015

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Unemployment in Wolverhampton South West is lower than in other areas of the city, with figures from December 2016 putting the number of people out of work on six per cent.

Wolverhampton voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, with 62.6 per cent backing Brexit.

Who are the 2017 election candidates for Wolverhampton South West

  • Mr Uppal returns for the Tories this year. He has previously served as chairman of the All Party Urban Development Group and was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Willetts at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills during his last stint as an MP.
  • After Mr Marris decided to retire prior to the election, Labour selected Birmingham nurse Eleanor Smith as their candidate. She is a long-standing Labour activist who became the first ever black woman president of Unison in 2011/12.
  • UKIP came third in 2015 with 10.7 per cent of the vote. Wolverhampton branch chairman Rob Jones is their candidate this year.
  • The Lib Dem candidate is Sarah Quarmby who has served as chairman of the Young Liberals group in the West Midlands.
  • Andrea Cantrill will again represent the Greens, having finished fourth with 2.6 per cent of the vote last time.
  • Jagmeet Singh is running as an independent candidate. He received national attention in 2015 when he interrupted a BBC television programme to protest against media coverage of violence against Sikhs.

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Who can we expect to win?

Best Odds: Cons 2/7, Labour 4/1, Lib Dems 100/1, UKIP 200/1, Green 250/1

Prediction: Wolverhampton South West to swing back to the Tories

From the moment the General Election was called, Wolverhampton South West was highlighted by the strategists at CCHQ as a winnable seat.

It will almost certainly have featured near the top of party’s target constituencies.

The seat has thrown up a pair of classic battles between Labour’s Rob Marris and Conservative Paul Uppal in the last two elections, with each of them tasting victory once.

This year the Tories will benefit from Mr Uppal’s decision to stand again, as conventional wisdom suggests that in a snap election it is better to put forward a known face rather than a new candidate.

Following Mr Marris’s decision to retire, Labour turned to Eleanor Smith, who has fought a campaign heavily centred on NHS cuts. This is without doubt a two-horse race, with no other party gaining more than 16 per cent of the vote for the last 20 years.

Even UKIP’s rise in 2015 only saw them poll just over 10 per cent, while the Lib Dems appear to have vanished from Wolverhampton’s electoral map.

It leaves us with an intriguing shoot-out between Labour and the Conservatives.

Mr Uppal will be hoping that his party’s creaking national campaign has not done too much damage to his hopes of winning the seat.

Conversely, Ms Smith will have been given a boost by Labour’s resurgence in the polls.

This could be closer than the odds suggest, but expect Mr Uppal to win the seat back for the Conservatives.

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