Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Inside the most marginal constituency in the UK

According to Government figures, 83,320 people lived in the constituency in 2018, with 70,436 people of voting age.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s local candidate Stephen Gethins (Jane Barlow/PA)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s local candidate Stephen Gethins (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Jess Glass, PA

With the General Election only a day away, PA examines the tightest race in the UK.

The 2017 snap election brought many surprises and slim majorities, however the title of the most marginal constituency was taken by North East Fife, held by the SNP with a majority of just two votes.

The eastern Scotland constituency needed three recounts due to the close calls before incumbent MP Stephen Gethins won by the slim figure.

bpanews_64fc2acc-c044-4821-8db8-f77f1bd82637_embedded248536636
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon gives her party’s candidate for North East Fife Stephen Gethins a haircut (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, took the rural constituency in 2015 after it was held by the former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell between 1987 to 2015.

In 2019, the seat is being contested by four parties including Mr Gethins and the SNP – Wendy Chamberlain, for the Liberal Democrats, Tony Miklinski representing the Conservatives and Wendy Haynes for Labour.

According to Government figures, 83,320 people lived in the constituency in 2018, with 70,436 people of voting age.

The diverse constituency, with both urban and highly rural areas, had a 71.3% turnout of registered voters, higher than the UK average of 68.8% at the 2017 general election.

“It’s a constituency that I’ve been lucky enough to represent since 2015, it’s a very diverse seat in the EU referendum it was very heavily Remain. it’s been a great seat to represent,” Mr Gethins told the PA news agency.

The SNP candidate took the seat with a majority of more than 4,000 in 2015, reduced to the single-figure majority ahead of the Liberal Democrats at the last election.

“If I had a pound for every person who said either they were our two votes because they hadn’t voted, or having voted somewhere else, I’d have enough money for another leaflet run,” Ms Chamberlain, who was not the 2017 candidate, said.

bpanews_64fc2acc-c044-4821-8db8-f77f1bd82637_embedded248477349
(PA Graphics)

When asked about how it felt to face the slim majority on election night two years ago, Mr Gethins said: “It was fine. We’d had a baby that week so it wasn’t the biggest thing that happened to me that week so it gives you a little bit of perspective.

“Standing for election is an incredibly important thing and it’s your job on the line, but when you’ve just had a new baby arrive as well obviously that’s the most important thing to have happened and the election is the second-most important thing.”

The SNP candidate said his campaigning style had changed after the 2017 election, but not as a result of his slim victory.

Mr Gethins said: “You make a mistake by trying to fight the last election campaign, I think you should try and fight the current election campaign each time and a lot of things have happened over the last two years, things are dramatically different now than they were two years ago.

“It’s a different campaign. If every election campaign was just like the last one we wouldn’t get very far.”

The Liberal Democrats selected Ms Chamberlain 18 months before the announcement of the General Election, part in response to the slim majority.

“In some ways it’s a short campaign but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and you have to be working hard all year around,” she said.

bpanews_64fc2acc-c044-4821-8db8-f77f1bd82637_embedded248929286
(PA Graphics)

Both candidates said Brexit and Scottish Independence were the two biggest issues for voters.

Mr Gethins said: “The biggest issue is Brexit because the biggest employer in the constituency is the university of St Andrews, but also the food and drink industry.

“Brexit is not some political debate that happens far away, it’s something that has a real impact on folks jobs here and also has an impact on the key industries around here as well.”

Ms Chamberlain also said: “In some ways lots of things have changed but in other ways nothing has really in terms of in 2017 it was Theresa May looking for support for what she was trying to do with the Brexit strategy she had.

“In some ways this is another election about Brexit.

“Here in Scotland we are still dealing with what happened since the 2014 independence referendum as well, so in some ways the discussion points are the same as they were in 2017.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph