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General Election seats to watch: South-east England

This part of the country could deliver some of the biggest surprises of election night.

People walk along the pier in Hastings, East Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)
People walk along the pier in Hastings, East Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Ian Jones, PA

Few seats are likely to change hands in south-east England at this election, but the region still has its fair share of fascinating contests.

In Beaconsfield and Guildford, candidates who won as Conservatives in 2017 are now trying to win as independents.

Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton face tough battles to hold on to their constituencies, especially as their former party has put up candidates to stand against them.

The pair split from the Conservatives in protest at Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy and spent the final weeks of the last parliament sitting as independents.

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(PA Graphics)

Beaconsfield and Guildford are traditionally safe Tory seats – but might voters buck the trend on December 12 and pick someone for their personal convictions rather than their political label?

There is one Labour seat in the region that the Tories are targeting: Canterbury, which would change hands on a swing of 0.2% and where Rosie Duffield is defending a majority of just 187.

When she won the constituency in 2017, she became the first Labour MP ever to represent Canterbury.

Tactical voting might help Labour hold on, though the result is likely to be very close.

The Liberal Democrats are contesting the seat, despite the party’s original candidate deciding to stand down to try to boost Ms Duffield’s chances.

The other seats in play in south-east England are all Conservative defences.

The party is hoping to hold off challenges from Labour in the likes of Crawley, Milton Keynes North and Milton Keynes South, and from the Liberal Democrats in Lewes and Winchester.

In Southampton Itchen, the Tories are defending a majority of only 31.

It is Labour’s number one target in the whole of the country, and a swing of 0.04% would be enough for the party to take back the seat they represented from 1992 to 2015.

There is also Hastings & Rye, which was won by Amber Rudd in 2017 by a majority of 346.

In the dying days of the last parliament, she followed her colleagues Mr Grieve and Ms Milton out of the Conservatives to become an independent, but unlike them she is not standing at this election.

A tiny swing of 0.4% is all Labour needs to win a seat they previously held from 1997 to 2010.

PA

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