With the election now not far away, we look at the constituencies of some prominent MPs who currently hold offices, or shadow offices, relating to health and social care, and their possible outcomes on election night.
First there is current Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. According to polling, Jeremy Hunt’s handling of the junior doctor’s strike has dented his popularity in the country as a whole. However, it appears not to have harmed the likelihood of his holding his seat. In 2015 he won his constituency of South West Surrey with 59.6% of the vote. And although there has been a well-publicised campaign to unseat him by National Health Action Party representative Dr Louise Irvine, with controversial talks of support from a cross-party alliance, it seems unlikely to overturn the local support for Mr Hunt.
Minister of State for Health Philip Dunne also appears to be assured of a safe return to the Commons, having won his seat of Ludlow with a majority of 18,929 in 2015.
Other members of the current ministerial team at the Department of Health are facing less straightforward contests, however. Nicola Blackwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health Services, won her seat of Oxford West and Abingdon with an increased majority in 2015. However, 70% of people in Oxford voted to stay in the EU, so if the Liberal Democrats’ pitch to position themselves as the ‘party of Remain’ against the Conservatives were to succeed, they might mount a strong challenge to her – their candidate came second in 2015, and the Greens have stood down in their favour this time round. Nationally, however, this approach appears not to be working, and this may be reflected in Oxford West and Abingdon – Electoral Calculus give the Conservatives a 91% chance of holding it, although YouGov’s new and somewhat controversial forecasting model calls the seat as a ‘toss-up’. Ms Blackwood’s track record of campaigning to remain in the EU may also assist her.
Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, David Mowat, could also face a tight re-election race. His seat in Warrington South is seen as a bellwether, and often indicates national voting trends. YouGov currently forecasts the seat as leaning slightly to Labour, while Electoral Calculus give Mr Mowat a 2-in-3 chance of being re-elected. However, UKIP are not fielding a candidate, and last time received a 6.9% share of the vote – if Mr Mowat can pick up a good proportion of ex-UKIP votes, his re-election seems likely.
Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, is in a safe seat, having received a 53% share of the vote with a majority of 18,385 in her Totnes seat at the 2015 election.
Shadow Secretary for Health, Jon Ashworth, similarly has a very safe seat. He won his constituency, Leicester South, in 2015 by a majority of 17,845, gaining 59.8% of the vote. This is another seat where UKIP are not standing, but Mr Ashworth’s majority is such that it is very hard to see the Conservative candidate prevailing even with the support of the seat’s 2015 UKIP supporters.
An MP who is at significant risk of losing their seat is Norman Lamb, current health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, and previously a health minister in the Coalition Government. He won his seat, North Norfolk, by a majority of 4,043 votes in 2015, and is being targeted by the Conservatives at this election, UKIP again standing aside in their favour. YouGov and Electoral Calculus both predict it as a Conservative gain. A strong vote in the region for Brexit, of 58.9%, is another indicator that the Liberal Democrats may struggle to hold the seat.
The Green Party do not have a health representative, and while UKIP is represented on health and social care issues by Suzanne Evans, she is not standing in this election.
Notes: All data from previous elections has been taken from Electoral Commission at https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/our-work/our-research/electoral-data