Advertisement

Welcome to The Conversation: The hurdles Cheltenham voters must overcome in the election

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent

In this strange election campaign, where politicians are urging people to support their opponents, and lifelong loyalties are being thrown aside, there are some old certainties to be found in Cheltenham.

As it has been for seventy years, this seat will be fought over between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. It’s a wealthy town. Lots of votes here will be cast by people who have been well-educated and who are now in decently-paid jobs.

Cheltenham likes to market itself as a ‘festival town’.

The place comes to a standstill in the spring because of the horse-racing, but it also hosts a jazz festival and a literature festival.

People have mixed views in Cheltenham over the political direction the UK should take. Credit: ITV News

While lots of the town’s livings are made in the rural economy, there are big local employers in the IT and education sectors, and a large commuter population.

The Georgian spa town is a nice place to come back to after wearing yourself out making lots of money in the city.

All of which makes for a battle royal at this election between Lib Dem supporters who desperately want to stay in the European Union, and Brexit supporters who have had their faith in the Tories renewed by Boris Johnson’s promise to get Brexit done.

Last time Britain headed to the polls, Cheltenham stayed Tory blue - although its parliamentary representative, Alex Chalk, only had a majority of 2,600 over the Lib Dems. From 1992 until 2015 this was a Liberal Democrat seat - and now it's one they're keen to win back.

Come the referendum on European membership, Cheltenham voted to stay: 56.2% of this country town opted to remain in the European Union.

At No 131, the very smart hotel on Cheltenham’s promenade, the battle lines are drawn - even though the hotel has no political affiliation.

In the restaurant there are old-fashioned ’county’ Conservative customers who may not have always been hard-core Brexiteers, but are now convinced that it is time to move on.

They are being looked after by hotel managers who desperately want to stay in the EU, fearful of the economic disaster they think will surely follow Brexit.

Don’t be fooled.

Behind Cheltenham’s genteel Georgian facades, there is a fierce fight in this campaign over the sort of country Britain should be.