The latest poll suggests the political battle for Thanet South is nip and tuck after Conservative Lord Ashcroft recalculated his polls when a discrepancy came to light.
Rather than a five-point Conservative lead as previously reported from the polls taken in November, the results actually show a much tighter race between the former UKIP, now Conservative Craig Mackinley, and UKIP’s Nigel Farage for the seat currently held by Conservative Laura Sandys.
In good old-fashioned Bruce Forsyth style, the scores on the doors are:
Interestingly, the figures pre-date the decision by Pub Landlord Al Murray to throw his hat into the ring as leader of the Free United Kingdom Party, which, if he lasts the course and doesn't call time ladies and gentlemen please, can only confuse matters and attract protest voters.
It’s clear that locally UKIP or Conservatives will be pitching themselves head-to-head and arguably trying to out-do each other in terms of their respective stance on immigration and the welfare state.
Given Al Murray’s celebrity status and popularity among younger voters, and those looking to make a protest, if he lasts the course and actually does stand on the day, then Labour may be the overall beneficiary.
In terms of what local issues will play out during the Election, the current consultation on the possible sites for 12,000 new homes by 2031 has many in the local community rattled, with the residents of Westgate and Birchington already speaking out.
Although the vast majority of the demand for new housing is being led by migration to the area from London and the rest of the UK, this will undoubtedly stoke the immigration debate.
Education and the skills level on the Island will also be under the spotlight. The issue was heightened when figures were released showing that only 13 per cent of pupils at the £20m Marlowe Academy achieved five A* to C grades including Maths and English at GSCE, way below the Government’s 40 per cent target.
On a more positive educational note, the well-respected East Kent College (which happens to be a client of ours) is to open a Technical School for 14-16 year olds interested in a more vocationally-based education in September 2015. The new school will offer early years and childcare and catering and hospitality training, alongside a core curriculum at the College’s Broadstairs campus.
The future of Manston Airport may become a local issue that impacts on the outcome, with the conservatives and UKIP both eager to see it re-open. In contrast the local Labour group, which controls Thanet District Council, seems highly reluctant to go down the Compulsory Purchase Order route with interested party RiverOak.
Not surprisingly it appears Will Scobie, the Labour PPC, has sought to distance himself from some of his colleagues in the ruling party at Thanet District Council.
Given that Laura Sandys is stepping down at this election all we can say for certain is that we’ll wake up on May 8 to discover there’s a new MP for Thanet South.
Will the local residents be rolling out the barrel for a beer drinker with the victor downing a pint or three? Only time will tell.
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