CASTLE Point is turning out to be one of the most hotly contested seats in the country, let alone south Essex.

The seat is seen as a two-horse race between incumbent Conservative MP Rebecca Harris and Ukip challenger Jamie Huntman.

A survey by respected Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft put Mr Huntman, who is Ukip’s leader on Essex County Council, just one percentage point behind Mrs Harris, who took the seat at the last election.

Labour’s Joe Cooke, who served for 11 years on Castle Point Council, and the Green Party’s Dom Ellis are expected to come a distant third and fourth in the seat.

Ukip hasmade no secret of the fact that Castle Point is one of its top target seats and largerthan- life party leader Nigel Farage launched the anti-EU party’s general election campaign on Canvey in February.

Party bigwigs, including its first elected MP, Clacton’s Douglas Carswell, and the national media descended on the Movie Starr Cinema, where Mr Farage set out the party’s stall.

Ukip is throwing everything at the contest, which it sees as one of its best chances to establish a foothold in the House of Commons, and Mr Farage will return to Canvey for a “traditional town hall meeting” with the party faithful at the Paddocks on Saturday, April 11.

A Conservative candidate has won Castle Point every election since the constituency’s creation in 1983, except for 1997, when it was taken by Labour.

But the seeds of Ukip’s seemingly unstoppable rise could be seen when controversial rightwing Tory MP Bob Spink defected to the anti-EU party in 2008. He then resigned the whip and stood as an independent a fewmonths later.

Ukip had five Ukip members on Castle Point Council, until Ron Hurrell resigned from the party last week. All represent wards on the mainland, but the party believes it has a groundswell of support on Canvey too.

Canvey Island Independent Party, which has 14 borough councillors, has thrown its considerable weight behind Ukip and its members are campaigning on behalf of Mr Huntman.

Mrs Harris is already feeling bruised after a series of personal attacks, and the campaign proper has only just begun.

The Conservatives have a good support base in Castle Point and the party is expected to send its big guns to support Mrs Harris, but will it be enough to fend off the challenge from Ukip?


  • Protecting the green belt
  • Out-of-date infrastructure and a third road off Canvey
  • Greater flood protection
  • Affordable housing for the young
  • A lack of high-quality jobs in the borough to stop the brain drain


THE seat was created in 1983, mostly from the former South East Essex seat, and includes Canvey, Hadleigh, South Benfleet and Thundersley.

All but one General Election since has been won by the Tories.

Labour lifted the seat in the 1997 landslide election when it went on to form the Government. Tory Bob Spink won it back in 2001, but subsequently resigned from the Conservative Party on 22 April 2008. He briefly joined UKIP, but resigned the whip shortly afterwards and sat as an Independent MP.

In 2010 Mr Spink lost to incumbent MP Rebecca Harris.

Ukip could figure strongly here. Nigel Farage announced it as a target he thought they could win when he visited it in May after the party’s success at the local elections.