ELECTION - Heat is on to win in Harrogate and Knaresborough

Ballot box
Ballot box

The General Election campaign has now become a full blown race among the candidates in the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency as the countdown begins to a pivotal polling day.

With 28 days to go until voting on Thursday, May 7, there are five candidates in this key seat.

There are five candidates. One of us is going to be MP

Andrew Jones

Tonight (Thursday) will be their first open forum together on a panel at the Harrogate Advertiser Hustings. All are welcome.

After months of election preparation, the interest is mounting among voters too.

For the Parliamentary Prospective Candidates (PPCs), the number of votes for each of them is too difficult to predict.

“This is an exciting year,” said returning officer Wallace Sampson, who will oversee the election locally.

“It’s very difficult to predict an outcome.

“It’s important for every resident to exercise their democratic right to vote.”

The Harrogate seat traditionally sees a high turnout on polling day – with 71.2 per cent of the electorate voting in the last election.

Conservative Andrew Jones is defending the seat he secured in 2010 with a majority of just 1,039 over the Lib Dems.

It was the narrowest victory in the history of the constituency.

“It does feel like a race,” said Mr Jones. “There are five candidates. One of us is going to be MP.

“After a long build-up, I’m glad the election campaign is finally under way.

“There’s so much at stake - we are going to be choosing a Government and a local champion for our area.”

Lib Dem PPC Helen Flynn said the campaign had stepped up “massively” this week.

“It’s fairly frenetic!” she said. “No two days are the same. It’s become a total frenzy of activity.

“Harrogate is a key marginal seat – there is a lot of interest here. Who knows what the results will be – we’re going all out to win.”

Shan Oakes, PPC for the Green party, said she has seen a sea-change in attitudes in recent weeks.

“People are ready for something different,” she said. “We’ve had some fascinating conversations on the doorstep and everybody is interested.”

Jan Williams, Labour PPC, said excitement about the upcoming election is palpable.

“It’s hotting up,” she said. “This last leg is really very exciting. I’m looking forward to putting some good splodges of red among the flags on display.”

And UKIP PPC, David Simister, said this is when the final race begins.

“It’s stepping up,” he said. “Polling cards are in the post. Election boards are up. Hustings are beginning.

“We’ve got everything to win. And until polls close at 10pm on May 7, there’s still everything to play for.”

- The Harrogate Advertiser is staging the district’s first open ‘hustings’ tonight, April 9, to give residents the chance to quiz all five of the candidates.

Doors open at the Cedar Court Hotel at 5.30pm for a 6pm start. All are welcome to attend.