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Kent general election: The Maidstone and Malling constituency and the candidates standing

Maidstone and Malling is a new constituency, created as a result of the 2023 boundary review.

As it is being fought for the first time, past history is not necessarily a good guide to the outcome this year.

A view of Maidstone
A view of Maidstone

However, the new constituency comprises part of the Maidstone and Weald constituency - which has been held by the Conservatives ever since it was created in 1997 - combined with part of the former Tonbridge and Malling constituency, which again has been held by the Conservatives since its inception in 1974.

On the face of it, therefore, the Tory candidate, Helen Grant, who until last month had represented Maidstone and the Weald, has good reason to be optimistic.

But things might not be that straightforward.

The boundary changes have seen Mrs Grant lose Weald villages like Headcorn, Marden and Staplehurst, which were traditionally seen as Conservative strongholds, while the new constituency now includes areas such as Leybourne and East Malling, which, in local elections at least, have favoured the Liberal Democrats.

It is also not clear who the natural opponent to the Conservatives will be.

The area covered by the new Maidstone and Malling constituency
The area covered by the new Maidstone and Malling constituency

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Looking at the results of general elections so far this century for Maidstone and the Weald, the Liberal Democrats have come second twice - in 2010 and in 2015, while Labour came second the other four times: 2001, 2005, 2017 and 2019.

However, it was a Liberal Democrat, Peter Carroll, who came closest to unseating Mrs Grant in 2010, when he came within 6,000 votes of her total.

Additionally, there has been the recent rise in fortunes of the Green Party in Maidstone.

At the time of the last general election in 2019, there were no Green councillors on Maidstone council.

But since May, the Green and Independent Alliance has become the largest political group and now runs the borough in partnership with the Liberal Democrats.

The new constituency takes in West Malling
The new constituency takes in West Malling

Another unknown is the performance of the Reform UK candidate Paul Thomas. Most people expect his votes to come at the expense of the Conservatives, but the party has been doing its best to make a wider appeal to voters and to attract those who don’t usually bother with politics.

Some pollsters are convinced that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party has done enough on the national stage to win over the area’s 73,000 voters, with Electoral Calculus predicting a Labour win over the Tories.

On the other hand, UK Polling Report has the Conservatives winning.

No-one knows how much the election will be decided by national issues and how much by local concerns.

The biggest issue locally is housing and traffic.

The new constituency will take in the full length of Hermitage Lane with its multiple large housing developments and consequent traffic congestion.

Some 840 new homes are currently under construction at The Poppies site in Aylesford, and 1,300 have been suggested by the East Malling Trust for its land.

Yet residents already complain of difficulty securing a doctor’s appointment or registering with a dentist.

Hermitage Lane also contains the Gallagher’s site where there is currently a bid to greatly extend the ragstone quarry into a neighbouring area of ancient woodland known as Oaken Wood. The Green party candidate Stuart Jeffery has very much made the defence of the woodland his own cause célèbre.

Meanwhile, a bid to register Bunyards Farm in Allington as a village green, which would prevent a planning application for another 435 homes from going ahead, has been closely associated with Lib Dem County Cllr Chris Passmore.

The constituency also contains Invicta Park Barracks, which the Conservatives have marked for closure.

There is a lot of goodwill towards Maidstone’s servicemen, especially from the town’s large Nepalese community, which may toll against the Tories.

In short, Maidstone and Malling has the potential for a surprising result, but no-one should underestimate the Conservatives, who always seem to have a better-organised campaign than their rivals and had the advantage of knowing when the election was to be called.

The candidates

Awaiting details

Yolande Kenward, Independent

The full list of candidates:

Gary Butler, British Democrats

Maureen Cleator, Labour

Helen Grant, Conservative

Stuart Jeffery, Green

Yolande Kenward, Independent

David Naghi, Lib Dem

Paul Thomas, Reform UK

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