The south-west London seat where every vote counts

The south-west London seat where every vote counts

The sedate surroundings of the local ponds, the locals sipping coffee nearby and the ducks sleeping in the sun hide a very real battle going on in Carshalton.

This leafy part of south-west London is the Liberal Democrats’ top target in the country – a key brick in the so-called “blue wall” that they aim to knock out on 4 July by unseating the Conservative candidate who won here in 2019 by just 629 votes.

Carshalton and Wallington, as the constituency is known, had been a Lib Dem stronghold for 22 years – former MP Tom Brake winning in 1997 and holding on until the last election.

The man who beat him then was Conservative Elliot Colburn – and he’s standing again, his main opponent this time, the Lib Dems’ Bobby Dean.

‘It never gets done’

But both may have their work cut out convincing voters here. We bumped into Alex, Lesley and Liz on their daily dog walk around the ponds.

Two weeks out from polling day, Alex still hasn’t decided who to vote for, Liz is fed up with politicians in general, labelling them “all liars”, and Lesley says she just doesn’t believe any of the political promises that are made.

What will motivate them to get to the polls?

Lesley, Liz and Alex

Lesley, Liz and Alex spoke to the BBC [BBC]

“In every election,” says Alex “the NHS is top of the board for every party”.

“‘We’ll fix the NHS’ they say and every election it’s the same bloody thing: it never gets done.”

Locally, one of the biggest issues is St Helier Hospital.

Lesley tells us: “I’ve been in there in the last couple of weeks seeing friends, and it’s just falling apart – it is literally, so something does need to be done.”

For years there have been promises to rebuild its crumbling buildings.

It is part of the government’s New Hospitals Programme, with promises of a new hospital being built in nearby Sutton by 2030.

So far, though, no full business case has gone in and no planning permission either. Finishing a new hospital by 2030 looks a challenge.

There are clear differences between the two leading rivals on what should happen to St Helier.

Elliot ColburnElliot Colburn

Conservative Elliot Colburn won the 2019 election by just 629 votes [BBC]

Elliot Colburn is backing the plans for a new hospital on a new site in Sutton. He says it’s the most important local issue.

He said: “By far, one of the most common things I get on the doorstep is the NHS and by far it’s most commonly St Helier hospital and people are recognising the work that we’ve put in.

“They’re recognising that the Lib Dems aren’t committing to this – I’m the only local candidate that is.”

Bobby DeanBobby Dean

Lib Dem Bobby Dean is hoping to become an MP [BBC]

His Lib Dem rival Bobby Dean, unsurprisingly, has a different view.

He said: “The difference between our position and the Conservative position is they want to close A&E and maternity services at the St Helier site and move them and we want that new building to be on the St Helier site and that’s what residents want too.”

Both candidates tell me they’re getting a good reaction on the doorstep, as they go into the last two weeks of campaigning.

Both also say they’ll continue knocking doors until the polls close at 22:00 BST on 4 July.

In key marginal seats like this, every vote could count.

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