*Updated 31.10.19 with additional candidate information*
Bedford and the rest of the UK will be heading to the polls on Thursday 12 December as Parliament voted yesterday (Monday) to hold a general election.
As a marginal seat – in the last two elections, less than 1,100 votes have made the difference between Labour and the Conservatives – Bedford & Kempston can expect visits from senior members of all the major parties, lending their support to each of the local candidates.
With Alistair Burt MP standing down in the forthcoming election, this leaves the previously safe Tory seat in North East Bedfordshire up for grabs.
In a statement to the Bedford Independent, Mr Burt said, “I welcome the decision by the House to hold a General Election.
“We have to move from the current deadlock and clear the decks for a sensible and pragmatic Brexit, with the best deal we can make with the EU for the benefit of the whole UK. I am not standing again to be elected, and will support whoever is selected by my Party to fight for the NE Beds seat.
“It’s not a done deal for any political party across the country, and every Party will be setting out their programme in the forthcoming days giving Bedfordshire residents the opportunity to help decide on the country’s future.”
A marginal consituency
“The Bedford parliamentary constituency can expect to have a lot of media attention,” said former journalist, Mike Smithson of politicalbetting.com.
“It is a highly marginal seat with a history of swinging between the Conservatives and Labour. Back at the last general election in June 2017 it was one of the unexpected Labour gains and returned the seat to the party that had been held by Patrick Hall from 1997 to 2010.
“What could make it interesting this time is that the Lib Dems, who won most seats in the council elections in May and who have held the elected Mayoralty in the borough for a decade, might also compete strongly.
“The national polls show that the Tories and Labour have dropped sharply since the general election while the Lib Dems are currently polling far higher than that which they achieved in 2017.
“Tory hopes that they might recover the seat lost two years ago are not encouraged by the fact that in the May local elections, the party did not win a single council seat in the Bedford and Kempston parliamentary constituency.
“Brexit will be a dominant factor of the campaign and the Lib Dems are going to work hard as the part that unequivocally is for remaining in the EU with the Tories unequivocally for Leave. What that leaves Labour is harder to say.”
What the candidates are saying…
As soon as the election date was announced, Bedford Borough’s political candidates were setting out their stall to potential voters.
Flying the pro-remain flag, the Lib Dems parliamentary candidate for North East Bedfordshire, Daniel Norton said: “Boris Johnson has missed his ‘do-or-die’ deadline and failed to ram his awful Brexit Bill through Parliament. We need to get Johnson out of office, unlock the gridlock in Parliament and give people the chance to vote to stay in the EU.
“We have successfully taken no-deal off the table and now the public have the chance to elect a Liberal Democrat Government who will revoke Article 50 or to increase the number of MPs who support a People’s Vote.
“The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of Remain and have led the campaign to stay in the EU for the past three years. In Bedfordshire we have a great opportunity to stop the Conservatives following fantastic success in the local and European elections earlier this year.”
Bedford & Kempston’s LibDem candidate, Henry Vann exclusively told the Bedford Independent, “The Liberal Democrats are the largest party on the Council in Bedford and Kempston, and the Conservatives have no council seats within the Constituency.
“Our surge in May’s local elections earlier this year has put us in with a real chance of winning.
“People know that locally, the Lib Dems have a solid track record – securing services at Bedford Hospital, campaigning to protect vital health services, protecting our environment and winning extra funding for our schools.
“With new recruits joining us from the Conservatives and Labour, and recent door-knocking in Bedford being hugely positive, there is no doubt that we could see a real sea change in Bedford and Kempston in this election and the Lib Dems are now in with a chance of winning.”
On the question of Brexit, Henry added: “Brexit or not, it is clear this Government does not have a majority or mandate to pursue a damaging hard Brexit that was not on the ballot paper three years ago.
That is why we have taken no-deal off the table and are offering the public the chance to elect a Liberal Democrat MP who will fight hard for Bedford and Kempston.
The Government is in disarray and the Labour Party doesn’t know if it is coming or going. The Lib Dems will be offering the people of Bedford and Kempston a sensible, principled option at the upcoming General Election.
“Bedford is a diverse town with residents from across Europe and further afield; we must not turn our back on Bedford’s history and heritage and we must speak up for and fight for our local communities and our European colleagues, neighbours and friends. It is clear who those who wish to remain or those who back a people’s vote should vote for in this election: The Liberal Democrats.”
Bedford and Kempston MP, Mohammad Yasin said, “It is a privilege and honour to serve as your Member of Parliament.
“I have done everything in my power to meet the challenges we have faced and bring about successes as an opposition MP but now there is a chance to fundamentally change Bedford and Kempston, and the UK for the better.
“Together we have protected vital services at Bedford Hospital and Putnoe Walk-in Centre. At the last election I pledged to save these services and with your support, we did just that. Local services, which local people value and cherish most, will always be my priority.
“These are services we have seen decimated under a Conservative government which is long past its time. Brexit may have dominated headlines but cuts to healthcare, education and policing are blighting lives here in Bedford and Kempston.
“We need our public services back and they must be properly funded. Only the Labour Party will ensure Bedfordshire Police have the resources they need to keep your family safe. The Tories took 20,000 police off the street and levels of crime are rising. Labour will bring community policing back to our streets. Labour will also fund youth and rehabilitation services to tackle the causes of crime.
“As a commuter, I understand the impact railway chaos is having on peoples work and family lives. I have spoken out, lobbied and represented rail users at the highest level and will continue to speak out against cuts to rail services. Labour will bring our railways back into public ownership, so they are run in the interests of passengers, not private profit. The Tories do not want to listen, but I will not stop fighting for passengers.
“This election is a clear choice between the local Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston and the Conservatives.
“Bedford has been my home for 27 years. I have raised my family here and depend on local NHS services, schools and council services like my constituents.
“The Tories have a candidate from Hertfordshire who supports Boris Johnson’s disastrous Brexit plans. I believe Bedford and Kempston residents should have their say over any deal.
‘Regardless of the election, Bedford will continue to be the place I call home and I will continue to stand up for our towns.’
North East Bedfordshire Labour Party has announced Julian Vaughan as their parliamentary candidate.
Julian was re-elected as candidate, having almost doubled Labour’s vote share and increased its percentage of the vote to 28.5% in the same constituency in the 2017 General .
Although a political adversary, even the incumbent MP for NE Bedfordshire, Alistair Burt, has paid tribute to Julian’s work in the constituency. In a recent Westminster Hall debate he said, “Julian has been of great and genuine help with user groups and, particularly, in assisting those of us campaigning for better disability access at Biggleswade Station.”
Julian said, “I will work across political divides for the benefit of the community and to ensure that NE Bedfordshire has the infrastructure it so desperately needs. I recognise the urgency in dealing with the looming climate emergency and I will prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable in our community and make sure that all constituents are treated with dignity and respect.”
The Conservative party candidate for Bedford and Kempston, Ryan Henson said, “This election will shape our country for years to come. In Bedford and Kempston it will be a straight contest between Labour and the Conservatives.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate – who has blocked Brexit at every turn and achieved nothing in 2.5 years as our MP – or me – a working class, comprehensive school educated, first time candidate, committed to getting Brexit done so that we can unite our town, unite our country, and move forward together.
“I am proud to call Bedford my home. That’s why I will be spending the next 6 weeks doing what I have been doing for the past 18 months – working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, in rain, sleet, or snow, campaigning with all my heart, to persuade you, your family, and the people of Bedford and Kempston to lend me their support on polling day.
“Together with anyone reading this who wants to make a difference, I believe we can offer the positive change Bedford and Kempston needs and deserves as we prepare to enter the 2020s.”
Luton and Bedfordshire Green Party has chosen Adrian Spurrell to be their parliamentary candidate for the General Election.
Adrian lives in Kemspton, where he moved to from Milton Keynes in 2016. Since then he has become active in a number of local charities and organisations and is a trustee/director of CVS Bedford, Sight Concern Bedford, Bedford Credit Union and The Kempston Charities as well as being the lay member on the local CCG Joint Prescribing Committee.
Awaiting a response from the North East Bedfordshire candidate for the Brexit Party, Amanda Hunter.