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Election 2017: Constituency Profile - South West Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:33 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:20 01 June 2017

Sugar beet harvest, north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Sugar beet harvest, north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Elizabeth Truss maintained a tradition stretching back more than 50 years when she won South West Norfolk, with a majority of almost 14,000, in 2015.

For the seat - reckoned to be one of the largest geographically in the country - has returned a Conservative to Westminster at every election since 1964.

Ms Truss polled 25,515 votes last time around, followed by Paul Smyth (UKIP) with 11,654, Peter Smith (Lab) with 8,649, Rupert Moss-Eckardt (Lib Dem) with 2,217 and Sandra Walmsley (Green) with 2,075.

In a snap election Theresa May hoped would buy her a stronger majority to negotiate Brexit, the ripples from Britain’s impending departure from the EU could rock a few core votes in South West Norfolk.

In a predominantly rural constituency, the future of farm subsidies are likely to loom large not only on the minds of farmers.

For EU money also helps conserve rare species like the stone curlew and protect vital habitats.

With beet country stretching across to the western boundaries of the seat a stone’s throw from Wisbech, the future of a crop which is the bedrock of farming, is also high on the agenda. As well as jobs on the land, beet bankrolls spin-offs ranging from road haulage to the giant Wissington sugar factory. All shelter under punitive EU tariffs stopping sugar cane producers selling their product at a price to challenge our farmers’ raw material.

As well as savouring sugar tariffs, many farmers - particularly on the western Fenland fringes of the seat - fear they would struggle to harvest seasonal crops if the migrant labour pool of EU nationals dried up.

While the rural economy awaits the finer detail of Brexit with baited breath, those living in the three main towns of Thetford, Downham Market and Swaffham have fears over how major developments will impact on every day infrastructure like GPs and schools.

More funding for the NHS and education, along with services such as home care will doubtless be high on the wish lists of voters from all parties. So will big-ticket items like the long awaited improvements to Ely North junction, which would enable half-hourly trains between Downham and London, and improvements to the A47.

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