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Walsall General Election preview: Vaz, Hughes and Morton hoping to hold onto seats

Walsall | General Election 2019 | Published:

We preview the three general election seats in the Walsall borough: Walsall South, Walsall North and Aldridge-Brownhills.

Votes are counted in Walsall after the 2017 election

The three seats in Walsall borough have gone in very different directions at recent general elections.

While Aldridge-Brownhills has swung strongly towards the Tories, Labour has firmed up its grip on Walsall South.

It is the seat of Walsall North which has been of most interest over the last three elections, with the Tories finally taking it in 2017 for the first time in nearly four decades.

But will the results be the same this time around? We take a closer look.

Walsall South

The last time the Conservatives held Walsall South the Watergate scandal was in full flow and Fonzie had just made his debut on our TV screens in Happy Days.

Since Labour’s victory in the first of two elections in 1974, Jeremy Corbyn’s party has stubbornly held onto the seat, with Valerie Vaz’s victory in 2017 making it a dozen wins on the spin.

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Valerie Vaz is hoping to hold onto her Walsall South seat for Labour

Who are the Walsall South election candidates?

  • Valerie Vaz, Labour*
  • Gary Hughes, Brexit
  • Gurjit Kaur Bains, Conservative
  • John Macefield, Green
  • Akheil Mehboob, Independent
  • Paul Harris, Liberal Democrat

What was the 2017 Walsall South election result?

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  • Valerie Vaz, Labour - 25,286
  • James Bird, Conservative - 16,394
  • Derek Bennett, UKIP - 1,805
  • Anna Wellings Purvis, Liberal Democrat - 587
  • Turnout - 65.55 per cent

What are the odds? (From Betfair at time of writing)

  • Labour 4/9, Conservatives 7/4, Liberal Democrats 100/1, Brexit 25/1, Green 100/1

She has now held the seat at three consecutive elections since Bruce George stood down in 2010, extending her majority last time out by nearly 3,000 votes to 8,892.

The result was seen as a shock in some quarters, with the bookies tipping Ms Vaz to lose her seat in the days leading up to the election.

The 64-year-old is the sister of disgraced former MP Keith Vaz, and has served as the shadow leader of the House of Commons since October 2016.

Valerie Vaz won with a majority of almost 9,000 over Tory James Bird in 2017

She is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and is an advisor to the Queen on matters of state, having been appointed to the Privy Council earlier this year.

In the election campaign Ms Vaz has backed a series of pledges for pensioners, including guaranteeing the winter fuel payment and free personal care.

She is also behind a rather quirky election leaflet, which depicts a cartoon of qualified solicitor and Cambridge University alumni Ms Vaz booting a Rolls Royce containing Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg as it attempts to enter Walsall South.

It features the message: “Valerie stands up for the many – not for the privileged few.”

Valerie Vaz's quirky election leaflet

Her main opposition will come from Gurjit Kaur Bains, a councillor from Kent who has family in Walsall South.

The 28-year-old is a committed Brexiteer who was an advisor for Vote Leave ahead of the EU referendum and has previously worked for Priti Patel.

She also worked on Dominic Raab’s Tory leadership campaign.

So far her campaign in Walsall South has packed a punch, with boxing superstar Amir Khan coming to the constituency to endorse her.

Walsall South Conservative candidate Gurjit Kaur Bains with Amir Khan

The daughter of immigrants, she has reached out to Asian communities in the area, addressing groups of worshippers in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, and is campaigning for more support for young people in Walsall South.

The Brexit Party also has representation in the constituency, with Gary Hughes hoping the area’s large Leave vote will help him at the ballot box on December 12.

The 59-year-old former policeman, who is Walsall born and bred, wants to revitalise the town centre by supporting local businesses and increasing the police presence.

Walsall Council worker John Macefield, for the Greens, is targeting rough sleeping and addiction in his campaign, as well as drawing attention to the climate emergency.

Other candidates are Lib Dem Paul Harris and Akheil Mehboob, who is standing as an independent.

The constituency is at the heart of an area traditionally focused on manufacturing.

It includes the town of Darlaston and the council wards of Bentley, Paddock, Palfrey, Pheasey Park Farm, Pleck and St Matthew’s.

Walsall North

Eddie Hughes’s victory over David Winnick came as the high UKIP vote from 2015 collapsed, with the majority of those votes turning blue.

The result had been widely predicted ahead of polling day, and it would be a major upset if he were not to extend his majority of 2,601, let alone lose the seat.

Conservative Eddie Hughes, right, won Walsall North from Labour's David Winnick, left, in 2017

The fact that he is long odds on with the bookies has a lot to do with the strong pro-Brexit feeling in the constituency, with more than seven in 10 people backing Leave in the referendum.

Who are the Walsall North election candidates?

  • Eddie Hughes, Conservative*
  • Mark Wilson, Green
  • Gill Ogilvie, Labour
  • Jennifer Gray, Liberal Democrat

What was the 2017 Walsall North election result?

  • Eddie Hughes, Conservative - 18,919
  • David Winnick, Labour - 16,318
  • Liz Hazell, UKIP - 2,295
  • Isabelle Parasram, Liberal Democrat - 586
  • Turnout - 56.74 per cent

What are the odds? (From Betfair at time of writing)

  • Conservatives 1/14, Labour 11/2, Liberal Democrats 100/1, Green Party 100/1

Mr Hughes was a councillor in Birmingham before being elected to Parliament. He campaigned for Brexit and is a supporter of Boris Johnson’s EU withdrawal deal.

A former chairman of Walsall Housing Group, Mr Hughes has vowed to prioritise housing in the constituency during his next term, and is at the forefront of the Conservatives push for more affordable homes.

Labour candidate Gill Ogilvie, right, on the campaign trail with party chairman Ian Lavery

During his time in office he has helped to secure £36 million for an upgrade the A&E department at Walsall Manor Hospital, and £25m for a new railway station in Willenhall.

His main challenge comes from Labour’s Gill Ogilvie, who says she voted for Brexit and is supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to negotiate a new deal before putting it to a people’s vote.

A supporter of Mr Corbyn, she is union backed and was previously a GMB regional organiser for Birmingham and Solihull council employees. Key issues in her campaign include education, jobs, the NHS and Universal Credit.

Jennifer Grey is standing for the Lib Dems in Walsall North

Other candidates are Lib Dem Jennifer Gray and Mark Wilson for the Greens, who is a councillor in the Solihull ward of Smith’s Wood.

As Remainers, they could face an uphill battle that is made doubly difficult by tactical voting websites urging people to support the Leave-voting Labour candidate.

The seat is made up of the towns of Bloxwich and Willenhall, as well as the neighbourhoods of Birchills, Leamore, Blakenall, and Short Heath.

Aldridge-Brownhills

It is often described as the seat of two halves but Aldridge-Brownhills has been a solid Tory seat for the last 40 years.

Wendy Morton will be aiming to extend her already large majority in her constituency on the edge of Walsall.

Wendy Morton smiles after holding onto Aldridge-Brownhills for the Conservatives in 2017

She was elected in 2015 and comfortably defended the seat two years later by a margin of more than 14,000.

Who are the Aldridge-Brownhills election candidates?

  • Wendy Morton, Conservative*
  • Bill McComish, Green
  • David Morgan, Labour
  • Ian Garrett, Liberal Democrat
  • Mark Beech, MRLP

What was the 2017 Aldridge-Brownhills election result?

  • Wendy Morton, Conservative - 26,317
  • John Fisher, Labour - 12,010
  • Ian Garrett, Liberal Democrat - 1,343
  • Mark Beech, Monster Raving Loony Party - 565
  • Turnout - 66.8 per cent

What are the odds? (From Betfair at time of writing)

  • Conservatives 1/100, Labour 25/1, Brexit 25/1, Liberal Democrats 66/1, UKIP 500/1, Green 500/1

In the past voting intentions have been difficult to predict as Aldridge is predominantly an affluent residential community, while Brownhills is an ex-mining industrial town.

But in the last two elections voters have flocked to towards the Conservatives, with the party taking 52 per cent of the vote in 2015 and 65 per cent in 2017.

David Morgan is the Labour candidate in Aldridge-Brownhills

Around two-thirds of voters in Walsall backed Brexit at the 2016 referendum.

The seat has been held by the Conservatives since 1979.

Sir Richard Shepherd was the MP for 36 years between until 2015.

Mark Beech is once again standing for the Monster Raving Loony Party

Labour came close on a couple of occasions to taking the seat at the height of Tony Blair’s popularity, falling short by around 2,500 votes in 1997 and 3,500 votes in 2001.

Standing for Labour this time around will be David Morgan. Ian Garrett is the candidate for the Lib Dems and Bill McComish is in for the Greens.

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