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The Wrekin General Election preview: Hospital and housing developments at centre of campaign

By Mark Andrews | Telford | General Election 2019 | Published:

Once a key marginal, The Wrekin has looked to be fairly solid ground for the Tories in recent years. But only time will tell how the ongoing row about accident and emergency services at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital will impact on the race.

The Wrekin candidates

The constituency in its present form was created in 1997, and was held by Labour's Peter Bradley until Mark Pritchard took it for the Conservatives in 2005 with a slim majority of 945.

Mr Pritchard has held the seat ever since, winning with comfortable majorities round about the 10,000 mark at the past three elections.

But Labour candidate Dylan Harrison will be hoping that the controversy about A & E services at Princess Royal Hospital will boost his campaign. Mr Pritchard fiercely opposed the plan to centralise Shropshire's blue-light emergency services at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital when it was announced in 2017, and last year asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock to step in. Mr Hancock declined to halt the scheme, but did amend it to include an 'A & E local' service at the Telford hospital which would operate in core hours.

This has sparked a fierce debate about what 'A & E local' would actually involve, and the row has far from gone away. Mr Harrison has unashamedly put the hospital at the centre of his campaign, posting under the Twitter name @Dylan_PRH4Me.

It will be the second time Mr Harrison, a social work team manager at Telford & Wrekin Council, has challenged Mr Pritchard in the seat, with the pair having previously clashed two years ago.

Dylan Harrison

The Liberal Democrats have also spoken out against the £312 million scheme, which would see the Princess Royal Hospital focus on planned care. The party's candidate Thomas Janke has described the 'A & E Local' plans as unacceptable, and said the Liberal Democrats would increase income tax by one per cent to provide the NHS with more funds.

The other political hot potato of the campaign is a controversial proposal to build 6,000 new homes around Tong, Shifnal and Albrighton. The plans have put Mr Pritchard on a collision course with Tory-run Shropshire Council. In October he called on housing minister Robert Jenrick to step in to block the scheme, which he described as 'economic vandalism'. He also accused Shropshire Council of 'hawking the site around the West Midlands'.

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In a constituency which voted 59-41 to leave the EU, Brexit will undoubtedly influence the vote.

Mr Pritchard described himself as a 'reluctant Remainer' in the 2016 referendum, but has since said the result of the vote must be delivered and supports Boris Johnson's deal.

By contrast, Mr Janke, a councillor from Newport, has put stopping Brexit at the centre of his campaign. The former soldier says there will be more money to spend on the NHS if Britain remains in the EU.

Tim Dawes will be fighting the seat for the Green Party, and has pledged that he will fight to re-open the Wellington-Newport railway line if elected. The line closed as part of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, but Mr Dawes said reopening it would reduce the amount of traffic on the roads. He has also called for an increase in the state pension, and said the hospital shake-up should be scrapped.

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Once key marginal held for 15 years by Conservatives

Tory Mark Pritchard will once more go head-to-head with Labour’s Dylan Harrison for The Wrekin seat.

Once a key marginal, it has been held by Mr Pritchard for 15 years, with strong majorities a the past three polls. They will be joined in the contest by two new candidates, Liberal Democrat Thomas Janke and the Green Party’s Tim Dawes.

The seat in its present form was created in 1997, with parts of the previous Wrekin constituency moving into the newly-created Telford seat. It covers the market towns of Wellington, Newport and Shifnal, urban areas such as Dawley and Leegomery, as well as smaller rural villages including Albrighton, Tong, Lilleshall and Cosford.

Mark Pritchard

Conservative Mark Pritchard has held the seat since 2005.

The 53-year-old ex-footballer has campaigned on animal welfare, preserving the countryside and asked the Health Secretary to step in over the A&E row.

Dylan Harrison

Dylan Harrison is a 51-year-old social work manager at Telford & Wrekin Council who lives in Newport.

A father-of-three, he is calling for the 24-hour A & E service to be retained at the Princess Royal Hospital.

Thomas Janke

Liberal Democrat Thomas Janke is also calling for a full A&E service to be retained at Princess Royal Hospital.

The former soldier lives in Newport, sits on Telford & Wrekin Council and is involved with military charities.

Tim Dawes

Green Party candidate Tim Dawes has put public transport at the centre of his campaign.

He is calling for the railway line between Wellington and Newport to be reopened, and is opposed to the Future Fit hospital shake up.

Constituency with high number of older voters has recently stayed blue

The Wrekin is a horseshoe-shaped constituency, which takes in parts of northern Telford and surrounding towns.

It lost its main urban centre in 1997, when the majority of Telford became a separate constituency.

Its main urban spots are Wellington, Donnington and Hadley, but it also takes in Shifnal, Newport and Albrighton. The only woman to have represented a Shropshire constituency, until Lucy Allan took hold of Telford in 2015, was Edith Picton-Turbervill.

She sat from 1929 at a time when women were just starting to make a breakthrough into public life. She lost her seat in 1931. The seat has consistently swung between Labour and the Conservatives over the last century, but in recent times returned to Mark Pritchard with a solid majority.

He is now the first Conservative to have held a seat for four successive terms. The seat is home to a higher proportion of older people than other parts of the country. Around 20.6 per cent of the population is over 65, compared with 16.4 per cent nationally.

Since the end of the Second World War, The Wrekin has been represented by nine different MPs, compared to four who have held Shrewsbury.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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