General Election: Penrith and The Border constituency profile

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Castle Park, Penrith
Castle Park, Penrith

Constituency: Penrith & The Border (including Eden District, City of Carlisle wards of Brampton, Great Corby and Geltsdale, Hayton, Irthing, Longtown and Rockcliffe, Lyne and Stanwix Rural, and Allerdale District wards of Warnell and Wigton)

Population: 81,895

Electorate: 66,731

Breakdown: More than 50 per cent of the population are aged over-45 and it has the second largest percentage (99 per cent) of white residents in England and Wales. Currently ranked third for the percentage of people working in agriculture (7.8 per cent).

Key industries/employers: As one of the UK’s largest and sparsely populated constituencies, rural agriculture remains the key employer. However it also has one of the highest percentages of self-employed people in England and Wales and there are sporadic manufacturing hubs centred around the key communities of Penrith, Longtown and Wigton.

Issues likely to be key to voters' decision: Rural economy, low incomes, fuel poverty.

Sitting candidate: Rory Stewart (Con).
Polymath and adventurer Stewart, 44, served with distinction in the Foreign Office before being selected as candidate for Penrith and The Border in 2010.

Other candidates: Lola McEvoy (Lab): Kerryanne Wilde (UKIP); Doug Lawson (Green); Neil Hughes (Lib Dem); Jonathan Davies (Independent)

2015 figures:
Con (26,202, 59.7%), Lab (6,308, 14.4%), UKIP (5,353, 12.2%), Lib Dems (3,745, 8.5%), Greens (2,313, 5.6%). Turnout 67.4%

Previous holders of the seat for the last four general elections:

  • 2001: David Maclean (Con), majority 14,677
  • 2005: David Maclean (Con), majority 11,904
  • 2010: Rory Stewart (Con), majority 11,241
  • 2015: Rory Stewart (Con), majority 19,894

How constituency voted in Brexit referendum:

  • Leave: 16,911
  • Remain: 14,807

Analysis:
Two years ago Rory Stewart increased his majority by over 8,000 votes, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest he and the Conservatives will not reinforce their traditional stranglehold on England’s largest constituency in June.
While it still has problems inevitably associated with a largely rural economy and an ageing population, unemployment is among the lowest in the country and recent years have seen a steady growth in younger, self-employed professionals – many of whom have chosen to relocate the area.
Indeed it is indicative of the changing face of the constituency that one of the most common complaints these days is about broadband speeds in isolated areas.
Stewart inherited his safe seat from the long-serving David Maclean, but to his credit he has refused to sit on his laurels. He has taken a keen personal interest in the constituency, famously walking the length of the River Eden to meet his constituents, and being an active supporter of local farmers and artisan producers.
In 2015, what opposition the Conservatives faced came from Labour and UKIP.
This time the Lib Dems will hope to make a post-Brexit dent on Stewart’s majority – the Eden area only narrowly voted to Leave – but in reality constituency neighbour Tim Farron will hold out little hope of his party’s apparent resurgence making any impact at all on an all-but impregnable seat.