The problem with this idea, however, is that it ignores the fact that a British general election is in fact 650 different elections. When voters go to the polls, they are choosing a Member of Parliament (MP) to represent their constituency in the House of Commons. However, the party (or coalition of parties) that has a majority of MPs then forms the government which runs the country. Voters therefore have a potential conflict between choosing a local representative, and their preferred Prime Minister or ruling party. This can produce surprising results in some constituencies, which buck the national trend. One constituency that may spring such a surprise in 2017 is my own, Thurrock.
An unstable seat
Things are not as simple as that, however. The voters of Thurrock are not focusing on May’s mantra that a vote for a Conservative candidate is a vote for her team, for a strong and stable national government. Instead, they are looking at Doyle-Price’s record as a local representative over the last seven years- and finding her wanting.
Thurrock has a long record of independent-minded MPs who do not always toe the party line, and instead try to work for their constituents’ wishes. Doyle-Price, on the other hand, is viewed as a typical ‘machine politician’, brought in from outside to fight a winnable seat, and seeking to advance her career within the Conservative party. Certainly, she has rarely rebelled against her party’s leadership, and in 2015 was rewarded with a job as a whip, ensuring other MPs voted how the leadership wanted them to.
Not in my back yard
Doyle-Price herself as defended her record in opposing things that would be bad for Thurrock, such as a proposed new bridge across the river Thames that has been in the pipeline for years. This would cut through a swathe of Thurrock, knocking down homes and bringing even more traffic, to that caused by the existing Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Despite fierce local opposition, the government announced recently that the option to go through the middle of Thurrock would go ahead. Doyle-Price says she will continue to fight it, but voters highlighted how she had promised in the past that she already had effectively stopped it. This election could not have come at a worse time for Doyle-Price- and Labour and UKIP are making her suffer.
Both parties have chosen local candidates- Labour’s is former Thurrock Council leader John Kent, and UKIP’s is the returning Tim Aker. Both are running as local champions who will stand up for Thurrock and against the crossing. Aker also makes much of the fact that he is a Brexit supporter at heart, where Doyle-Price supported Remain in the referendum. At this stage, the election in Thurrock remains too close to call, and an illustration of the fact that, much as the party leaders may wish to define an election around certain issues, the voters often have different priorities.