How is Harrogate election shaping up with less than a week to go

When all four of the candidates faced each other and the public in Harrogate earlier this week for the first and, so far, only time, there may have been one unsaid question hovering at the back of their mind.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 9:29 am

Is this really a three-horse race or even a two-horse one?

Organised by environmental pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate with the support of Churches Together, the General Election Climate Hustings event for the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency was held at Wesley Chapel.

Taking part were Andrew Jones (Conservative), Judith Rogerson (Lib Dem), Mark Sewards (Labour) and Kieron George (Yorkshire Party).

Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency representatives at an election hustings for students at Harrogate Grammar School.

Ironically, the Green Party was absent, after it made a pact not to contest certain seats with the Lib Dems or Plaid Cymru.

The Lib Dems have been bullish about their prospects this time around after coming second in 2017 with 23.5% of the vote, so much so, that party stalwart Vince Cable turned up in Harrogate earlier this week.

There has never been a Labour MP in Harrogate and Knaresborough, but Mark Sewards, who also stood for Labour in 2017 achieved the party’s best result in decades with 20.1% of the vote.

But, if the seat of Harrogate and Knaresborough was to change hands at the General Election next Thursday, December 12, it would the biggest sea change in votes since 2010 when the Conservative incumbent Andrew Jones took the seat from the Lib Dems with a swing of 9.1%.

The Tory candidate took 55.5% of the vote last time and is hoping to win for the fourth time in a row.

There are three parliamentary constituencies which are in or cross over into Harrogate: Harrogate and Knaresborough, Selby and Ainsty and Skipton and Ripon.

They all elected Conservative MPs in the last General Election, held in June 2017.

The Conservatives took the largest share of the vote across the region – 59.0% in total, ahead of Labour with 27.5% and the Lib Dems with 9.1%.

This contrasted with the picture in the European Parliament elections this May, the most recent occasion on which the country went to the polls, when the Brexit Party took 31.8% of the vote in Harrogate’s local authority area, the largest share.

The Lib Dems finished second, with 27.1%, and the Greens third with 12.8%.

Yorkshire and the Humber – the EU consituency in which Harrogate lies – returned three Brexit Party MEPs, one Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one Green to Brussels in May.

Turnout was, however, much lower in those elections – while 73.9% of the electorate came out to vote across the three constituencies in 2017, just 42.5% did in the local authority for the European Parliament elections this year.

Both those turnouts, however, were beaten by that for the referendum on the topic which may still come to dominate next week’s general election: Brexit.

Many commentators think that a decision between leaving and remaining in the European Union will form the basis for many voters’ choices in polling booths , rather than traditional party lines.

The major parties have each made significantly different pledges for the UK’s departure from the EU.

While the Conservatives have said they will push through a departure on the terms of the deal Prime Minister Boris Johnson has negotiated, the Labour Party has said it will agree a closer alignment with the EU and hold a second referendum on its deal against the option to remain.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to immediately revoke Article 50, keeping the UK in the EU, while the Brexit Party will pursue a “no-deal” departure.

The Brexit referendum in 2016 brought more voters to the polls across the UK than any referendum or general election in 24 years.

In Harrogate, 78.9% of the electorate voted, with a small majority in favour of remaining in the EU, with 51.0% of the vote.

EU Referendum

(Harrogate 2016)

Remain: 48,211 (51.0%)

Leave: 46,374 (49.0%)

General Election 2017

Harrogate & Knaresborough

Conservative: 31,477 (55.5%)

Lib Dems: 13,309 (23.5%)

Labour: 11,395 (20.1%)

Independent: 559 (1%)

Selby & Ainsty

Conservative: 32,921 (58.7%)

Labour: 19,149 (34.1%)

Lib Dems: 2,293 (4.1%)

UKIP: 1,713 (3.1%)

Skipton & Ripon

Conservative: 36,425 (62.7%)

Labour: 16,440 (28.3%)

Green Party: 3,734 (6.4%)

Yorkshire Party: 1,539 (2.6%)

General Election 2015

Harrogate & Knaresborough

Conservative: 28,153 (52.7%)

Lib Dems: 11,782 (22.1%)

UKIP: 5,681 (10.6%)

Labour: 5,409 (10.1%)

Green: 2,351 (4.4%)

Selby & Ainsty

Conservative: 27,725 (52.5%)

Labour: 14,168 (26.8%)

UKIP: 7,389 (14%)

Lib Dems: 1,920 (3.6%)

Green: 1,465 (2.8%)

TUSC: 137 (0.3%)

Skipton & Ripon

Conservative: 30,248 (55.4%)

Labour: 9,487 (17.4%)

UKIP: 7,651 (14%)

Lib Dems: 4,057 (7.4%)

Green Party: 3,116 (5.7%)