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Gloucestershire Business News

General Election 2024: Gloucestershire changes its colours

Gloucestershire has woken up to a radically new political landscape this morning, with overnight news that all-blue political map has been transformed to what is largely a patchwork of red and yellow.

As the dust settles, the county now has six seats, plus one (South Cotswolds) which also straddles Wiltshire. Before today, all of these areas were blue. 

Now, of the seven seats up for grabs, three have been taken by Labour, three by the Lib Dems and just ONE retained by the Conservatives.

In an almost unthinkable scenario, deep in (upper case C) Conservative Cotswold country, the Lib Dems chomped the former slice of the seat that includes Cirencester, Tetbury and Malmesbury, with Dr Roz Savage beating Tory MP James Gray to win the new South Cotswolds constituency with a clear-cut majority of nearly 5,000 votes – and a 16.3% surge to the middle ground. Mr Gray felt the chill of a 23.5% drop.

A few miles north, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown was the only Conservative success story of the night, having clung on amid a 24.7% drop in support to take the new North Cotswolds seat and continue his 32-year career in Westminster.

However, the loss of Wotton-under-Edge and Dursley from Sir Geoffrey's former patch (both towns now joining the Stroud constituency in line with the latest boundary changes), appears to have added crucial momentum to the campaign from Dursley MP and GP Dr Simon Opher, who has now booked an appointment in Westminster as part of Keir Starmer's landslide administration.

Dr Opher signed off Siobhan Baillie, who won the seat for the Tories in 2019 amid a Labour-Green voting split. This time around, the Greens again saw a respectable vote here (5,729), but local apathy and antipathy for the government turned into a 20% drop in support for Ms Baillie with her support more than halved amid a drop from 31,582 in 2019 to 14,219.

Against this, Labour's 4.7% boost was therefore sufficient for the seat to once again be a Labour stronghold. Close to half of the turnout backed Dr Opher (that's 46.4%) and gave him a thumping majority of 11,000.

But bigger bombshells were yet to explode overnight as the central belt of the county returned its verdict: urban voters felled both the Conservatives' Richard Graham (Gloucester) and Justice Minister Alex Chalk (Cheltenham).

Alex McIntyre (with 16,472 votes) edged ahead of Richard Graham (on 13,041) in Gloucester to take the city for Labour and confirm the mantra that this is a Bellwether seat where the result is always consistent with the nation's final wishes.

Despite a coherent and strong local campaign from Mr Graham, who has been in parliament since David Cameron took the helm in 2010, Alex McIntyre's platform cut through to achieve a 0.8% swing to Labour. As per the misfortunes of incumbent MPs throughout the county, any post mortem of what went wrong will not fail to focus on the impact of Nigel Farage's Reform offensive as the insurgent choice: here in Gloucester, that party saw an uptick of 16%.

Next door and to the north, incumbent Tory Laurence Robertson was fighting to avoid that very threat, but with Cameron Thomas taking Tewkesbury for the Lib Dems (on 20,730 votes), Mr Robertson's 14,468 votes simply didn't stack up – especially in the light of Reform seeing 6,000 supporters tick a box, a political phenomenon which is largely being gauged as an act of far-right protest against Rishi Sunak.

Mr Robertson can perhaps console himself in the knowledge that both his and Reform's vote would nevertheless have still have fallen short by 262 votes.

As Tewkesbury's new representative in Westminster, Mr Thomas will also have a fellow Lib Dem next door in Cheltenham after Max Wilkinson's princely win in the Regency town: with 25,076 votes, Mr Wilkinson delivered a verdict on Justice Minister Alex Chalk with a new majority of 7,210 votes and a 4.7% swing to the Lib Dems.

Also running out of political road – and again a moment for national focus on Gloucestershire as the night unfolded – Forest of Dean MP and Transport Minister Mark Harper was ousted.

This was perhaps the most dramatic result of the evening. Polling 16,095 votes, some campaigners may have clung on in hope that Mr Harper might just avoid hitting the buffers, but Labour's Matt Bishop muscled in with just 278 votes more, at a final count of 16,373.

Again, significantly for Mr Harper, Reform here took 8,194 votes, which largely explained a loss of support for the MP that exceeded -26%.

And as we saw in Stroud, the Forest of Dean's verdict also saw that the Green vote, of 4,735, was almost enough to ensure Labour's bid was derailed. Almost.

Across every postcode of our county, the radical extent of change reflects the bigger national picture. WIth 648 of the final 650 seats counted this morning, the implications are obvious for both Conservative and Labour, but it was also a night which saw a resurrection for the Lib Dems, a quadrupling of presence for the Green Party and a new voice in parliament for Nigel Farage's reconstituted UKIP project, Reform.

As to the implications for business in our county, we will see. But a statement sent to Punchline-Gloucester.com from Dr Simon Opher speaks for the three new Labour MPs we now have and the government they will be part of delivering.

Dr Opher said: "Many people will have voted Labour for the first time in this election or for the first time in a while. To them I say 'I will not let you down'. With this Labour Government I will do everything I can to deliver the change you voted for. To restore hope. To rebuild our NHS, restore our environment, decarbonise our energy, protect the climate, support our schools and young people, revitalise our high streets, bring back the buses, cut the cost of living and deliver the affordable homes you need."

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