General Election 2024: Who will win Surrey showdown as Jeremy Hunt fights to avoid defeat by Lib Dems

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Lib Dem candidate Paul Follows (PA)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Lib Dem candidate Paul Follows (PA)

Millions of voters will go to the polls this week to elect the new Government. The Standard is looking at key battlegrounds in London and beyond, and has published an interactive map for races in the capital. Here we turn the spotlight further afield in Surrey on:

Godalming and Ash

Estimated declaration time: 3.30 am

Candidates for main parties (in alphabetical order):

Graham Drage - Reform UK

Paul Follows - Liberal Democrats

Jeremy Hunt - Conservatives

Ruby Tucker - Green

James Walsh - Labour

Summary: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is battling to avoid becoming one of the “Portillo moments” of the 2024 election if he is deposed in the new seat of Godalming and Ash, which is a top target for the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Hunt had represented South West Surrey since 2005 but that constituency was scrapped in the latest boundary changes.

He admits to facing a “knife edge” battle to win the new seat in the face of a Liberal Democrat push to claim one or more high-profile scalps on July 4.

In a reference to then-cabinet minister Michael Portillo’s shock election loss in 1997, Mr Hunt told The Sun on Sunday: “If I want to avoid a Portillo moment we have to win the argument with people, not just in this constituency but up and down the country.”

But his main challenger Paul Follows, a local Lib Dem councillor, is urging supporters and Tory waverers: “Let’s turn the ‘Portillo moment’ into the ‘Hunt Moment’!”

Wards: Alfold, Cranleigh Rural and Ellens Green; Ash South and Tongham; Ash Vale; Ash Wharf; Blackheath and Wonersh; Bramley, Busbridge and Hascombe; Chiddingfold and Dunsfold; Cranleigh East; Cranleigh West; Elstead and Thursley; Godalming Binscombe; Godalming Central and Ockford; Godalming Charterhouse; Godalming Farncombe and Catteshall; Godalming Holloway; Milford; Pilgrims; Shalford; Shamley Green and Cranleigh North; Tillingbourne; Witley and Hambledon.

New constituency of Godalming and Ash (Google Maps)
New constituency of Godalming and Ash (Google Maps)

I’m not sure if I’m in this constituency: Here’s how you can check

Boundary changes impact: Mr Hunt still had a notional majority of about 10,000 in the new seat, based on the 2019 results. His family came from Godalming and he grew up in Shere, which is also part of the new constituency.

But any local boy advantage is outweighed by his prominence as Rishi Sunak’s right-hand-man in the outgoing Cabinet, and the Lib Dems are also playing the local card in putting up Godalming-area councillor Mr Follows.

YouGov MRP poll prediction: Liberal Democrat gain.

Evening Standard view: Mr Hunt has ploughed £100,000 of his considerable business fortune into his constituency party to try to ensure he doesn’t become one of the most high-profile victims of the 2024 election.

It remains closely fought, but YouGov now sees a Lib Dem gain as more likely since its first MRP poll early in the campaign. Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has been particularly active around Surrey, and insists: “People like Jeremy Hunt are very much to blame for the mess of our economy.”

Click below to see more key seats across London: