Constituency focus: Erith and Thamesmead
PUBLISHED: 17:26 28 April 2015 | UPDATED: 09:42 30 April 2015
Will austerity help Labour to victory?
THE seat of Erith and Thamesmead has only ever known one colour.
Since its creation in 1997 it has been through two MPs - but both from the same party.
Labour’s John Austin reigned from its inception until opting to step down ahead of the 2010 election. Since then, Teresa Pearce has picked up the torch and will be defending her seat.
And while it seems unlikely she will let it slip from his grasp on May 7, her majority is far from big enough to ensure restful slumber over the coming two weeks.
The constituency itself was amalgamated from chunks of the former Woolwich and Erith and Crayford seats, which were split up following a boundary review.
Mr Austin, the Woolwich MP, shifted over and secured another term.
However, the years have not been kind to Labour since it swept to power in 1997 under the New Labour banner waved with such enthusiasm by Tony Blair.
For that first outing, Mr Austin romped to Westminster with a comfortable 17,424 majority.
But over the years, that has dwindled.
In 2010 - the first for Teresa Pearce - the number was just 5,703. It’s a figure which makes a swing to the Right entirely plausible, and the kind of statistic to make most opposition candidates optimistic about their chances. Conservative Party candidate Anna Firth is no different.
“I’m confident in what I can do for people here, and what I can deliver,” explains Mrs Firth.
She continued: “There’s all to play for here as the seat has been swinging to us since its creation.
“I’m getting good feedback from people when I’m out, but I’m certainly not taking the voters for granted.”
Topics such as housing, growth and jobs are, as in most areas in the south east and beyond, high on the political agenda.
One particular issue which impacts on voters in the area is likely to be transport into central London with almost 60 per cent of people in the area taking the daily commute.
Transport is high up Mrs Firth’s list of pledges to the electorate.
She told KoS: “It’s a disgrace that rail fares recently rose by two per cent, while service for commuters into London Bridge has fallen through the floor.
“I intend to continue lobbying the rail minister for a 50 per cent rebate on season tickets and a complete freeze on rail fares until the building work is completed.”
Trains are also on Labour candidate Teresa Pearce’s hit list. She told KoS that train operator Southeastern was “at fault” and she would keep pressure on them to invest in their customers.
One key transport issue, says Mrs Firth, it that it has lacked the investment it needs to grow.
She told KoS the areas fortunes could be revived if transport were made a bigger priority.
She said: “One of my key priorities is to lobby for Crossrail to be extended to the area so that it benefits the many, not the few. Making Erith and Thamesmead more accessible to central London will help bring jobs, investment and growth to the area, and that’s something I’m passionate about.”
That’s something Liberal Democrat candidate, Simon Waddington appears to agree with, saying the area needs ‘sustainable economic growth’.
And growth will be needed, as while parts of the constituency are relatively affluent, there are pockets of serious deprivation.
Teresa Pearce believes the austerity approach of the Coalition government will win her support. She explained: “What began as a policy of welfare reform has started to affect more and more people.
“Many public sector workers have lost their jobs as a result of cuts, while firefighters have seen their pension terms changed for the worse. So many people have been impacted that there is quite a large group who want to vote against this Government.”
Like most south London seats, housing is also uppermost in the minds of prospective MPs - though Green Party candidate Ann Garrett said that it must be ‘opposed on green sites’.
Ms Pearce said: “Even though housing is cheaper here than much of London, it’s still out of most peoples reach.
It’s changing the dynamics of the area; we used to be a ‘settled’ area, but now we’re seeing a much more transient population. It’s a huge issue here.”