THE outcome of Colchester's vote in the general election is too close to call, a Westminster expert has said.

As the first week of general election campaigning draws to a close, there’s one question on everyone’s minds: who is going to be Colchester's next MP?

Tim Fenton, who spent more than a decade working as a political correspondent for the BBC, thinks it is all to play for in Essex but says Colchester will be a close call.

Strong support for the Liberal Democrats in the city and the Conservatives fielding a high-profile candidate in ex-Olympian James Cracknell could mean the outcome isn't as clear-cut as pollsters are predicting.

Braintree and Witham Times: Candidate - James Cracknell is hoping to win for the Conservatives in ColchesterCandidate - James Cracknell is hoping to win for the Conservatives in Colchester (Image: PA)

Mr Cracknell is going up against Labour's Pam Cox and Liberal Democrat candidate Martin Goss, both long-standing city councillors.

Green Party candidate Sara Ruth and Reform UK's Terence Longstaff are also fighting for every vote in the city.


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Other seats like Thurrock, where Dame Jackie Doyle-Price is defending a majority of almost 11,500 votes in the wake of the local elections where Labour gained control of Thurrock Council, will be harder to judge, Mr Fenton, 64, said.

Clacton is another area to keep an eye on, with rumours swirling earlier this year that Nigel Farage hoped to stand in the seaside town for Reform UK.

Mr Farage ruled himself out of standing for election on Thursday but said he will “do my bit to help” the party’s campaign.

Braintree and Witham Times: Speech - Reform UK leader Richard Tice launching the party's general election campaignSpeech - Reform UK leader Richard Tice launching the party's general election campaign (Image: PA)

“You can’t underestimate how important elections are to MPs,” Mr Fenton, now a senior journalism lecturer at Essex University, said.

“Even MPs who have big majorities and are pretty well settled and established and in most other areas of their lives come across as fairly confident will still be fairly concerned about what will happen on the night.

“I think it would be difficult for Reform to get a lot of candidates through but there are bits of Essex where the performance of Reform will be an interesting element.”

He said the Conservatives’ campaign won’t be helped by “the visuals of Rishi Sunak in the rain which were not good” and a speech in Downing Street which “seemed to be a bit underwritten and a little bit underprepared”.

Braintree and Witham Times: Campaign - Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer set out his first six steps for change during a visit to Essex this monthCampaign - Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer set out his first six steps for change during a visit to Essex this month (Image: PA)

With Labour’s 20-point lead in the polls as the election was called, every seat lost to another party from the Tories will strengthen Sir Keir Starmer’s position.

Mr Fenton presented BBC Essex’s election night special in 1987 when the Tories successfully defended every seat it held in Essex and snatched Thurrock from Labour to make Essex a “true blue” county.

Essex is in a similar position going into the election on July 4, with all 18 of its MPs being Conservatives before parliament was dissolved on Friday.