NOW the nomination deadline has passed, analysis can begin on what promises to be a fascinating General Election race in Colchester.

Four candidates have thrown their hat into the ring - Mark Goacher (Green), Martin Goss (Lib Dem), Tina McKay (lab) and incumbent Will Quince (Con).

At the last General Election in 2017 the vote threw up a few surprises.

A positive swing of 19 per cent to Labour saw them move into second place, around 5,000 votes behind Mr Quince.

The development led to Jeremy Corbyn’s party officially declaring the town a target seat for the next election.

But a lot has happened in the two years since.

Labour has selected a new candidate, Tina McKay, to lead the charge. 

Mr Quince is the only leave backing candidate on the ballot and his party have been buoyed in the polls by the appointment of new PM Boris Johnson.

The Lib Dems now have a fresh candidate in the form of Colchester Council cabinet member Mr Goss and a well-known history of election success in the town.

And the Green Party, with respected councillor Mark Goacher, are certain to win votes in the age of the climate crisis.

With the three major parties having cause for optimism, some experts believe the race is too close to call.

This includes John Bartle, a professor of Government at the Essex University.

He said: “The way it looks from the outside given 2017’s results is that the three major parties must have a reasonable expectation of taking the seat.

“This takes us back to Colchester in 1997 when it became a three way marginal. On that occasion Sir Bob Russell won by a few votes.

“After that, Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems to keep the seat away from the Conservatives until 2015.

“In 2017 there was a lot of excitement around Jeremy Corbyn and Labour were well ahead in Colchester.

“However the history of the constituency is that it has been either Conservative or Lib Dem.

Way back in 1945 was the last time Labour held the seat.

“It would be foolish of anybody to make a prediction with any degree of confidence.”

Many are saying next month’s vote should be billed as a “Brexit Election”.

And while this is certainly a simplistic view, the UK’s potential exit from the EU will certainly play a significant part in the minds of voters.

Colchester voted narrowly to leave in 2016, 53.6 per cent to 46.4 per cent, but Mr Bartle said leave voters in the town only have one realistic option this time around.

“The Brexit Party are not standing and so the Conservatives have that to their advantage and can hope to collect the leave vote.

“They must also think the political tide is turning into many people just wanting to get it over with.

“But there are massive amounts of other national factors which will play a part.”

Mr Bartle expects promises on things like the NHS, police funding and cash for schools to have a big impact on the outcome, particularly now it seems austerity is finally over.

He says the most important decisions in the race for Colchester could be made miles away when the parties release their manifestos.

“National issues will play a big part in the election in Colchester,” he said.

“At the moment what is interesting is both major parties are signalling an end to austerity.

“There really is all to play for nationally and that means all to play for at a local level in Colchester.”

Mr Bartle said after 2017’s election, most political pundits were being extremely wary of trusting the opinion polls.

And he expects December 12’s vote could be another “volatile”


“It seems to be the Conservatives are in a comfortable position but during the campaign in 2017 Labour made up 13 or 14 points in the polls,” he said.

“There is a famous saying that a week is a long time in politics, but at the moment it seems a day is long time in politics.

“The Conservatives are ahead in the national polls. In Colchester, the information we have is more limited.

“I expect who wins in the town will come down to the ability of the parties to get people out on the streets campaigning.

“I think it will remain that way until right up at the end of the campaign.

“It is a very, very difficult one to call and I would not like to hazard a guess.”

There are many interesting battles hotting up across the wider area as well.

The Harwich and North Essex constituency includes swathes of the Colchester borough - including Dedham, Wivenhoe and Mersea.

Veteran Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin will hope to retain his seat, where he had a 14,000 majority in 2017.

His opponents are: Peter Banks (Green), Michael Beckett (Lib Dem), Richard Browning-Smith (Ind), Tony Francis (ind) and Stephen Rice (Labour).

Some political heavyweights are also hoping to be re-elected in constituencies in the nearby districts.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is the incumbent candidate in Witham. Conservative Ms Patel, who had a huge 18,000 vote majority at 2017’s poll, is up against James Abbott (Green), Martin Ebodor (Lab) and Sam North (Lib Dem).

In the neighbouring Braintree constituency, Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly received 63 per cent of the vote two-years-ago.

Mr Cleverly is up against Jo Beavis (Ind), Alan Dorkins (Ind), Joshua Garfield (Lab), Dom Graham (Lib Dem) and David Mansell (Ind).

Mrs Beavis, who is a former Conservative county and district councillor, has the backing of the district’s Green Party.

Maldon will be contested by Colin Baldy, (Lib Dem), Janey Band (Green), Stephen Capper (Lab) and incumbent John Whittingdale (Con).