Marginal Waveney looks tough for Labour in general election contest
- Credit: Archant � 2007
Waveney is the most marginal seat in Suffolk. Two years ago Peter Aldous, who won it for the Conservatives in 2010, increased his majority to 2,408.
But this time around it could be an even tougher nut for Labour to crack because of the strength of the Brexit feeling in the area.
Most of Waveney is the urban centre of Lowestoft – Suffolk's second-largest town and a community that can sometimes feel rather remote because of its poor road and rail links.
This is a community with a fair level of urban poverty – it is a seat that Labour won comfortably three times between 1997 and 2005.
But it is a community that voted very strongly for Brexit, and where UKIP were very strong over the last few years – their candidate attracted more than 7,500 votes two years ago.
Following the European referendum and the subsequent collapse of UKIP in local elections, much of that vote appears to have gone to the Conservatives.
The Tories are also campaigning hard on the fact that they have started preparatory work on a third river crossing in Lowestoft – an ambition local politicians from all parties have been advocating for decades.
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Over recent years the isolation of Lowestoft has been eased by improvements to the East Suffolk Rail Line which now has its first hourly service in history and the start of work to upgrade the A12 north of the town.
There is hope that new 'energy coast' businesses will boost prosperity in an area which has seen considerable stagnation over recent years, especially with the decline in the fishing industry and the slump in traditional seaside holidays.
Outside Lowestoft the Conservatives are stronger in traditional market towns Beccles and Bungay – although there is a strong Green Party presence in Beccles.
In May's county council elections Labour lost all but one of its councillors in the constituency – including Sonia Barker who had just been chosen to stand for the party in the general election.
The omens do not look good for the party – but Labour were boosted by a visit from Jeremy Corbyn at the start of the campaign and it is sure to be another tight contest. However this time around the Tories do appear to be favourites here.
There are six candidates standing for election in the Waveney constituency:
Peter Aldous – Conservative. Before being elected as MP for Waveney in 2010, he worked for 27 years as a chartered surveyor.
As MP he has campaigned for Government investment in Waveney, securing funding for the third crossing, Beccles Southern Relief Road, the hourly rail service to Ipswich, a through service to Liverpool Street from 2019/20 and the Lowestoft Flood Defence Scheme.
Away from work Mr Aldous follows most sports, including playing squash and being a season ticket holder at Ipswich Town Football Club.
Sonia Barker – Labour. She has been a teacher across high schools in Waveney as well as a NHS advocate giving her a wide experience of young people, families and their needs.
She is leader of the Labour Group on Waveney District Council and was the Labour spokesperson for education and skills on Suffolk County Council until losing her seat in May.
She said: 'Young people will build a strong economy that provides us all with a safe future. A future where we can provide for pensioners and those in need through no fault of their own. A future for the many, not the few.'
Jacky Howe – Liberal Democrat. She is campaigning to invest almost £7bn in schools and colleges, double the number of businesses that take apprenticeships, triple the early years pupil premium, extend free school meals to all primary school students and support the party's Rent to Own policy.
She said: 'Liberal Democrats will also give children in the Waveney area a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life. This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind.
Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw – Green. She lives in Beccles with her husband and two children and has just been elected to Suffolk County Council.
She is eager to be part of creating a more equal and compassionate world and this led her to join the Green Party in 2013. She is particularly concerned with how our public services are being run.
She said: 'Our school children and teachers are suffering with top-down imposed tests and standards which threaten to destroy creative thinking. Mental health issues have risen in our schools without the resources to help those that suffer.
Bert Poole – UKIP. A member of Suffolk County Council until losing his seat in May. He was chairman of Lound Parish Council for four years.
He said: 'Locally more than 63pc voted to leave the EU in last year's referendum. This was only possible because of the efforts of UKIP over an extended period.
'We need more jobs for those people who have houses, not more houses for people who do not have jobs.'
Allyson Barron – Independent. A previous business owner, she is passionate about grassroots development and empowerment of families.
She has been involved with a wide range of community work, including as chairman of Signpost East Suffolk up to April 2017, supporting the implementation of successful projects such as FoodBank East Suffolk and Dreamworx Youth Projects.
The Waveney seat was officially formed in 1983 – but its boundaries are similar to the former Lowestoft seat. There have been changes with the loss of areas including Southwold and Halesworth to Suffolk Coastal over recent years.
1945-1959: Edward Evans (Labour).
1959-1987: James Prior (Conservative).
1987-1997: David Porter (Conservative).
1997-2010: Bob Blizzard (Labour).
2010- : Peter Aldous (Conservative).
Peter Aldous (C) 22,104
Bob Blizzard (L)19,696
Simon Tobin (UKIP) 7,580
Graham Elliott (G) 1,761
Stephen Gordon (LD) 1,055
Candidates 2017: Peter Aldous (C), Sonia Barker (L), Jacky Howe (L), Elfrede Bramley-Crawshaw (G), Bert Poole (UKIP), Allyson Barron (Ind).