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Warwick and Leamington natural territory to mop up Tory revival; Warwick and Leamington Labour majority: 3,398 Swing required: 2.8% 36th Tory target seat.

The depth of the Conservative election defeat four years ago was marked by the loss of a constituency which party officials had assumed was nigh-on impregnable.

Warwick and Leamington, once represented by Sir Anthony Eden, had returned Tories as far back as anyone could remember.

Sir Dudley Smith MP, a Minister in the 1970s, under Ted Heath, was regarded as a permanent fixture having held the seat for 29 years, but a ten per cent swing against the Conservatives proved to be his undoing.

The seat was taken by Labour candidate James Plaskitt with a 3,398 majority.

Warwick and Leamington, two of the most prosperous shire towns in the Midlands, would seem natural territory to mop up a Tory revival, if such a thing is going to happen.

Warwick, with its world-famous castle and fine Tudor buildings, is a natural tourist trap. Leamington Spa, made famous by the Prince Regent, has a wealth of Georgian architecture, excellent shopping but its genteel image has suffered in recent years. The town, with a large ethnic minority population, has pockets of deprivation and has been courted by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Leamington remains one of the country's most prosperous business centres and is high on the list of retail spending.

In addition to losing their parliamentary representation, Conservatives long ago lost overall control on the district council and county council.

Mr Plaskitt, intelligent and likeable, appears to many as the archetypal New Labour candidate.

The Conservative choice this time is David Campbell-Bannerman, a 40-year-old business consultant and relative of the former Liberal prime minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

Born in India, Mr Campbell-Bannerman harbours an ambition to write film scripts. He says he could fit writing in around his duties as an MP.

Linda Forbes carries the Liberal Democrat hopes in the constituency, while union activist Claire Kime is battling for the Socialist Alliance.

1997 General Election result:

James Plaskitt (Lab) 26,747 (44.5%)

Sir Dudley Smith (Con) 23,349 (38.9%)

Nigel Hicks (Lib Dem) 7,133 (11.9%)

V Davis (Ref Party) 1,484 (2.5%)

P Baptie (Green) 764 (1.3%)

G Warwick (UK Ind) 306 (0.5%)

M Gibbs (Eng Dem) 183 (0.3%)

R McCarthy (Nat Law) 125 (0.2%)


The candidates: James Plaskitt (left) labour, David Campbell-Bannerman (right) Conservative, Linda Forbes (extreme right) Liberal Democrats, and Claire Kime (not pictured) Socialist Alliance.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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