The election will bring political change to the South East

With the General Election scheduled for 4 July and Labour still enjoying significant poll leads over the Conservatives, the South East is looking set to be a key electoral battleground, and the national result could have significant implications for the region.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are targeting seats in the South East, with even previously impregnable Conservative strongholds looking vulnerable if the polls remain as they are. 

In the 2019 election, the Conservatives won 54% of the vote across the border South East region, but some pollsters are predicting that vote share could almost halve, with a massive loss of seats across the region.

The South East could also be home to the 2024 ‘Portillo Moment’ where key government figures lose their seats. If Labour can maintain its 20-point lead, then Cabinet Members Jeremy Hunt (MP for South West Surrey), Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) and Gillian Keegan (Chichester) will all be looking nervously over their shoulders.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the region is also seeing a large number of incumbent MPs standing down – 21 (at the time of writing), and 16 of them Conservatives, have confirmed they will not seek re-election across Kent, Surrey and Sussex, which means that there will be even more change come election day.

So, what does all this change mean for the region? Well, there will certainly be a lot of new faces in the constituencies after the election and almost certainly a lot more representing Labour and the Lib Dems.

With change comes some uncertainty. Many businesses will know their local MP and will need to establish new relationships with whoever takes their place, but this also creates opportunity. 

New MPs will be looking for opportunities to get out in their constituency to meet local businesses and employers, which can create publicity for your business. The average MP stays in post for almost 12 years, so getting in early with a congratulations letter and an invite to visit can be a prudent step.

A change of national government, should Labour win, will also impact the South East, most notably on house building.

Labour has pledged to deliver 1.5m new homes over the next parliament as part of its ‘Getting Britain Building’ Mission, and whilst some of them will be delivered in new towns, demand for homes continues to outstrip supply across the South East. At the same time, planning applications are refused more often than elsewhere in the country, with Mole Valley in Surrey having the highest number of applications (77%) refused in the whole country.

With Labour promising planning reform and the reintroduction of local authority housing targets, a new generation of housebuilding might be on its way for the South East.

Elsewhere, whilst ‘levelling up’ (albeit under a different name) will remain a priority for a new Labour administration, the focus on getting the UK economy growing again should be positive news for the region.

The South East region contributes almost 15% of the UK’s GDP, which rises to 38% when combined with London. Labour has promised economic stability, a new industrial strategy and increased support for businesses, all of which must be welcomed, though the reality of what will be possible given the fiscal constraints remains to be seen.

The exact outcome for each constituency and nationally remains to be seen, but one thing looks certain – political change is coming to the South East.

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