General Election 2015: In focus - Gravesham
PUBLISHED: 10:16 02 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:16 02 April 2015
In the second part of our General Election 2015 round up, we focus on who is standing in Gravesham and what they see as the main issues in the borough...
If the developers are to be believed, by the 2020 general election, Gravesham could be on the cusp of becoming a world class entertainment destination with the infrastructure to match.
According to attraction bosses, the £2 billion London Paramount Resort on the Swanscombe Peninsula could create around 27,000 jobs and revitalise the area.
There are also plans for a garden city in Ebbsfleet and the redevelopment of the Gravesend Heritage Quarter, putting development on the political agenda. Good news for many but raising concerns over erosion of the Green Belt.
But will this economic galvanisation make political waves?
The seat has been under the control of Tory Adam Holloway since 2005, where he scraped through with a tiny majority of just 654 votes. By 2010, this had swelled to a more comfortable 9,312.
But it hasn’t always been blue – and Gravesham is one of those bellwether constituencies which swing with the trend of the nation.
Since its inception in 1983, whichever party led the country won here.
Incumbent Mr Holloway will be up against Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi of the Labour Party, who is also the lead member, for business and the community on the Labour-controlled Gravesham Borough Council.
Mark Lindop is representing the Greens, and Sean Marriott is standing for Ukip.
Mr Holloway is tight-lipped about his chances. He said: “A concern is that if enough good Conservative voters decide to vote for Ukip, they could take enough votes from me to create an opening for Labour. I don’t see enough people voting for Ukip for them to win here themselves though.”
Ukip’s candidate Sean Marriott is more direct, saying: “We are feeling really confident. I think we’re getting an excellent response and we have a good chance of winning.
“I see this as a race between the Tories and Ukip – people are turning away from Labour, seeing them as responsible for years of uncontrolled immigration.”
For Labour’s Mr Singh Dhesi, it is not so cut and dried. He says: “I think it will be very interesting, and I have been campaigning every day, meeting local people.
“We are quietly confident that we will keep the council and assist in getting a Labour government.”
One issue that Labour, Ukip and the Conservatives all agree with is the squeeze on public services.
Mr Singh Dhesi says: “Housing is a key concern for many of us.
“Along with a lot of the other developments that are going on, we have to have the necessary infrastructure in place to support more housing - school places and health services. A key thing for me is ensuring we can house everyone without overlooking the existing communities.
“We do need to build more housing to meet growth, but we must protect our Green Belt while we are doing so.”
The Green Party’s Tim Lindop agrees this is a huge concern for many voters. He says: “I would say, we must oppose Gravesham council’s Strategic Green Belt Review.
“Other issues are the redevelopment of the Gravesham Heritage Quarter, the Paramount theme park project and the Ebbsfleet garden city.”
According to Ukip’s Mr Marriott, squeezes on housing is part of a bigger issue. “Everyone I have been talking to,” he says, “has mentioned mass immigration.
“Because of uncontrolled numbers of people coming into the country, the issue is top of the agenda. There are job shortages, and over crowding, and possible issues for young people looking at apprenticeships.
“They could be displaced by people with more experience coming to the country from abroad.”
For Mr Holloway, many of the local concerns are centred on national issues, with the economy topping the bill. He says: “The Paramount park is a great thing for the area; we have to make sure that the right infrastructure and transport systems are in place to bring in workers.
“I wouldn’t say this is an election issue though. I would say the electorate is more focused on the economy, which underpins everything, including job opportunities.”
Mr Singh Dhesi disagrees, seeing the local issues as the ones that affect constituents.
He says: “Street lights are a massive worry for many local people, and we want to see them switched back on – it is a matter of safety.
“A lot of money has been spent to save a little bit of money with this whole lighting debacle – it is important to address these specific concerns of residents.”
All the candidates mentioned the NHS, with the Green’s Mr Lindop saying: “On both a local and national level I oppose the creeping privatisation of the NHS.”
In addition to general NHS concerns, Mr Marriott says there are problems with seeing GPs, something he says Ukip would deal with by “limiting services to those who have paid taxes for five years”.
School places have seen a squeeze, with the Green Party voicing concerns over the privatisation of the education sector.
Labour agree more school places are needed “particularly at primary level”.
Full list of confirmed candidates:
Sean Marriott (Ukip)
Mark Lindop (Green)
Adam Holloway (Con)
Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi (Lab)
Past general election results for Gravesham:
Adam Holloway (Con) (48.5%) 22,956
Kathryn Smith (Lab) (28.8%) 3,644
Anna Arrowsmith (Lib Dem) (13.3%) 6,293
Geoffrey Clark (Ukip) (4.8%) 2,265
Steve Uncles (Eng Dems) (2.1%) 1,005
Richard Crawford (Green) (1.4%) 675
Alice Dartnell (Ind) (1%) 465
Majority: (19.7%) 675
Adam Holloway (Con) (43.7%) 19,739
Chris Pond (Lab) (42.2%) 19,085
Bruce Parmenter(Lib Dem) (10.7%) 4,851
Geoff Coates (Ukip) (1.9%) 850
Christopher Nickerson (Eng Ind ) (1.4%) 654
Majority: (1.4%) 654