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Kent general election: The Folkestone and Hythe constituency and the candidates standing

Folkestone and Hythe has traditionally been the safest of safe, true blue seat. Held by a Conservative since it was formed in 1950, the constituency remained a Tory stronghold even in the period when Tony Blair’s Labour party scored its 1997 landslide and other east Kent seats turned red.

Things could, however, be set to change come July 4. With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour consistently ahead in the national polls, analysis by pollsters predicts there’s a strong chance the incumbent MP – Conservative Damian Collins – could be unseated by his Labour challenger, Tony Vaughan.

Old High Street in the Creative Quarter, Folkestone
Old High Street in the Creative Quarter, Folkestone

A victory for Labour in this coastal constituency, which covers the main towns of Folkestone and Hythe as well as the more rural Romney Marsh, would represent a significant shock. When the seat was last contested in 2019, the Conservatives won with a thumping majority of 21,337. Damian Collins, who has represented the constituency since 2010, claimed a 60.1% share of the votes cast. His nearest challenger, Labour’s Laura Davison, received just 24%.

But since 2019 there have been signs of change in the local political landscape. At the local elections in 2023, the Conservatives lost control of Folkestone and Hythe District Council as voters returned just five Tory councillors in the 30 seats up for grabs.

The big winners were the Greens and Labour, who won 11 and 10 of the contested wards respectively. The result meant the local authority became the first in Kent to be led by a Green administration.

While local issues are likely to take a back seat to national concerns at a general election, there are constituency-specific matters which have driven the change in power at the Civic Centre. People locally have backed the Greens in increasing numbers due to concerns over the dumping of sewage in local waters, and opposition to development plans – such as the proposed Princes Parade scheme, now axed by the Green administration – have also seen voters move away from the Conservatives.

Boundary changes since the 2019 election may also help make the constituency more competitive this time around. The redrawing of the Westminster map has seen the more heavily rural wards of North Downs East and North Downs West – where support for the Conservatives would traditionally be strong – transferred to the neighbouring Ashford constituency.

The new Folkestone and Hythe constituency
The new Folkestone and Hythe constituency


This increases the importance of the urban centres, where in recent years many younger voters - statistically more likely to back Labour - have moved during the ongoing regeneration of Folkestone as an attractive destination for young families and creatives priced out of the capital.

The fortunes of Damian Collins, who is once again standing for re-election, will likely rest on the scale and efficiency of tactical voting. The Liberal Democrats have previously considered themselves the main local challenger to the Conservatives, but with the Greens and Labour dominating the local council it could come down to whether the voters coalesce around a single candidate in a bid to unseat Mr Collins.

Labour, having come second in both 2017 and 2019, is urging supporters of the Greens and Liberal Democrats to lend their votes in a bid to defeat the Conservatives. If true blue Folkestone and Hythe does return a Labour member to parliament on July 4, it would surely be a sign that Sir Keir Starmer is destined for Downing Street with a thumping Commons majority.

The candidates for Folkestone and Hythe are:

The full list of candidates:

Tony Vaughan, Labour

Damian Collins, Conservative

Marianne Brett, Green Party

Bill Wright, Reform UK

Larry Ngan, Liberal Democrats

Momtaz Khanom, Trade Union Socialist Coalition

David Allen, Fairer Voting Party

Andy Thomas, The Socialist Party of Great Britain – awaiting profile

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