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Constituency profile: Telford - A genuine three-horse race, say bookies

Telford | News | Published:

Ever since it was first created by splitting the old Wrekin constituency in two, Labour has held power in the Telford constituency.

Each day this week we'll be profiling the six constituences that make up the Shropshire Star region; Telford, Wrekin, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, North Shropshire and Montgomeryshire. Today we look at Telford.

This year, David Wright faces his toughest fight yet to keep hold of power, having seen his majority decline in each election since he first won in 2001.

Ladbrokes regards Telford as "a genuine three-horse race", with Mr Wright the favourite at 2/7, followed by Conservative Lucy Allan at 7/2, and UKIP's Denis Allen slightly further out at 8/1.

Results from 2010:

DAVID WRIGHT (Lab) 15,974

Tom Biggins (Con) 14,996

Phil Bennion (Lib Dem) 6,399

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Denis Allen (Ukip) 2,428

Phil Spencer 1,513

Labour majority 978

Turnout 63.6 per cent

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  • Telford has been held by the Labour Party ever since the constituency’s creation prior to the 1997 election, when it was spun off from the larger Wrekin seat.
  • Despite its name, Telford doesn’t run along the same constituency boundaries as the town of Telford. It includes Priorslee, Ketley, Madeley, Dawley, and old Telford Development Corporation housing estates such as Sutton Hill, Woodside and Brookside.
  • Since the last election, the constituency has undergone major changes – not least the completion of the Southwater development beside the town centre, and the extension to the International Centre which has gone alongside it.
  • At the same time, the number of people classed as unemployed has declined, from 3,400 to 2,100. The number of people who are in employment or self-employed has risen from 41,100 to 44,800.
  • Former television journalist Bruce Grocott was the first person to hold the new Telford seat after winning by a majority of 11,290 in 1997. He later relinquished his role as he was elevated to the House of Lords, becoming the chief whip, and paving the way for David Wright to take the reins in his home town.
  • Telford is now the most urban, industrially-focused constituency in the county, thanks in no small part to the rise of its three major industrial estates – first Halesfield, then Stafford Park and Hortonwood – in the 1960s. Half a million square metres of factory space were opened between 1968 and 1983. [/breakout]

After beginning his time in parliament with a majority of 8,383 in 2001, Mr Wright won by 5,406 votes in 2005, but then only 978 in 2010, scraping past Conservative candidate Tom Biggins.

The Tories clearly see an opportunity to snaffle a seat which they have never before held, and have sent various big names from the party to Telford to try to secure votes.

The party's campaign for this election was launched in Telford, and the likes of George Osborne and Culture Secretary Sajid Javid are among a throng of cabinet members to have made their presence felt on the patch since then.

Ms Allan has suggested that after holding the seat for 14 years, complacency has crept in for Mr Wright, but he, naturally enough, refutes that suggestion, and says he is focusing on his own campaign.

Given that the seat is considered a potential three-way contest, however, that could work against Ms Allan.

If UKIP finds it picks up a great number of votes in Telford, that could well come at the expense of the Conservative Party.

On the other hand, plainly the main governing party sees an opportunity in the town, and would not be throwing the resources it is at what is considered a dead duck.

The turnout in Telford has traditionally been low by Shropshire's standards, too, so there remains potential to sway disaffected voters who have previously steered clear of the ballot box.

The Liberal Democrats achieved their best-ever showing in Telford at the last election, with more than 6,000 people backing the party, but have yet to name a candidate to fight the patch.

Odds of 100/1 suggest that whoever does take on Telford with a yellow ribbon will be fighting a near-unwinnable battle.

As in other parts of the county, talk in Telford has already centred on the future of A&E provision in Shropshire.

Telford is the biggest town on the patch, Mr Wright says, and as a result it is entirely reasonable that a unified A&E is based in the town. The rapidly changing face of Telford will also be a significant issue. The first phase of the Southwater development is now complete, and is widely regarded as a resounding success. But with the population on the rise, and investment pouring into the town from various sources, the issue of providing housing stock and development land will continue to be high on the agenda.

Bruce Grocott, the former Wrekin MP, became the first person to win the Telford seat in 1997, winning with a majority of more than 11,000.

He stepped down in 2001 when he was elevated to the House of Lords, since when Mr Wright has been the incumbent MP.

  • Keep up with all the Shropshire and Mid Wales election news at www.shropshirestar.com/election

This seat has never been tighter, and it is hard to make a firm prediction for how this seat will play out come May 7. A succession of opposition candidates have come and gone in Telford, but never managed to dislodge Labour.

Will the red rosettes still be waved in the air come election night? Or has the party finally met its match?

Telford is one of the 10 marginal seats most at risk for Labour

Meet the candidates:

David Wright

David Wright shows pride in his local roots. Having been born in Oakengates, and with him still living in the town, he has headlined his campaign website From Telford, For Telford.

Having worked on regeneration for Sandwell Council for 13 years, he called time on his career to stand for parliament in Telford, and won the seat for the first time in 2001 after Bruce Grocott moved on to enter the Lords.

He is hoping to demonstrate the importance of the NHS – and has a countdown "to save the NHS" on the front page of his website.

He also hopes to use his role to end paid-for parking outside the local hospital.

Mr Wright's long reign over Telford has provided the basis for his key opponent's campaign to overhaul him.

Lucy Allan

Lucy Allan, a former Durham University student, spent the early part of her career working as a chartered accountant with PWC, before undertaking a Masters degree in employment law and setting up an advocacy and advice service for employees, Workplace Law Ltd.

She has suggested during early trade-offs between candidates that her Labour opponent is growing 'complacent' in his role, and hopes to run her campaign on the basis of providing a breath of fresh air for the constituency.

She's certainly well backed, having welcomed Tory ministers including Chancellor George Osborne, Francis Maude and Sajid Javid having already swept through town to back her bid to overturn the three figure majority facing her.

Ms Allan describes herself as "a traditional Conservative who believes in helping people help themselves", and warns that Telford is a "must win seat in the national campaign to deliver a Conservative majority in 2015".

However, the bookies say that Telford is a three-way fight, meaning that there's another party to be given serious consideration in the running.

Denis Allen

Ukip's Denis Allen was posted to the staff of the RAF Junior Command and Staff School at RAF Tern Hill in 1969.

Mr Allen has lived in the county since then, and entered politics as a Conservative councillor in North Shropshire in 1978.

He is no stranger to contesting general elections, having stood on behalf of the Referendum Party in North Shropshire in 1997 – winning 3.4 per cent of the vote – then for Ukip in 2010, when he scooped 5.9 per cent.

He was expelled from the Conservative Party in 2008 – he cites "trumped up charges" relating to his opposition to membership of the EU – and was Ukip's county chairman between 2010 and 2014.

Peter Hawkins

The Liberal Democrats will have some catching up to do, given the party has still to name its prospective candidates for the seat.

That means that the Green Party is already fourth in the running for the seat, in the party's first ever attempt on the constituency.

Freelance journalist Peter Hawkins will compete in Telford, having grown up in the county before moving away to live in other parts of the country, and in France.

"Telford has been let down locally and nationally by planning rules that let developers call the shots and not the local authority,"

Mr Hawkins said. "We will seek to change this."

  • Follow the campaign six days a week in the Shropshire Star newspaper, round the clock on at shropshirestar.com/election where we will carry breaking news and by signing up to our email newsletter.

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