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Kent general election: The Dover and Deal constituency and the candidates standing

Until only weeks ago, Dover had been a Conservative stronghold since they ejected the Labour Party from government in 2010. However, the parliamentary seat is now one of only two in Kent held by Labour - but not yet through any direct choice from voters.

Natalie Elphicke MP defected from the Conservatives to Labour on May 8, after holding the seat since the 2019 election.

The Port of Dover is a gateway into Kent
The Port of Dover is a gateway into Kent

The highly controversial move seemed to foreshadow a foregone conclusion - the Labour Party are predicted to easily conquer the bellwether seat at the ballot box on July 4.

Labour’s Mike Tapp has been working the constituency since he was selected as the candidate over a year ago. Whereas, in the wake of Ms Elphicke’s defection, the local Conservatives only chose their candidate on May 31 - selecting Stephen James, the chair of Folkestone & Hythe Tory Party.

The coastal constituency has tended to be held by the party of national government at any given time, and was a Tory safe seat under Margaret Thatcher.

It was reclaimed by Labour during the 13 years of ‘New Labour’ from 1997 to 2010, before then returning to the Tories.

Dover is in many ways a picture postcard of British coastal decline. Despite hosting the busiest passenger port in the UK, it has higher than average unemployment and the town centre is awash with empty shops.

A map of the Dover and Deal constituency
A map of the Dover and Deal constituency


Aside from the general economic downturn, immigration is an issue of major public interest. Sitting directly opposite Calais, many small boats are either towed to Dover or land there. The local government district - which is bigger than the constituency - voted to leave the EU, with 62% in favour.

Healthcare is also a major local issue. The average age in the constituency was 52 at the 2021 census, higher than the south east average. Buckland Hospital in Dover is run by the ailing East Kent Hospitals Trust - one of the worst performing in England on staff surveys. Late last year it was revealed the trust had record levels of long waits in A&E.

The constituency’s main settlements are Dover and Deal. Unlike many Kent constituencies its boundaries aren’t changing much in this election. The only difference in the electoral area is that the village of Worth and its environs are being absorbed into Dover, having formerly been in South Thanet.

The polls have Labour’s Mike Tapp well ahead, which is unsurprising given predictions of a landslide victory for his party nationally and the constituency’s penchant for governing parties.

Whether or not Labour’s solutions to the issues animating this Kent bellwether will actually work remains to be seen.

The candidates for Dover and Deal are:

The full list of candidates

Mike Tapp, Labour

Stephen James, Conservative

Howard Cox, Reform

Penelope James, Lib Dem

Christine Oliver, Green

Steve Laws, English Democrats

Sylvia Petersen, Heritage Party

Colin Tasker, Workers Party of Britain

Geoffrey Lymer, Independent

Ash Payne, Independent

Awaiting details

Chris Tough, Independent

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