'We hold Jeremy Hunt close in our hearts': On the streets of Surrey town with major constituency change

Boundary changes in the upcoming General Election mean that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s constituency will cease to exist and be divided up into others.

Over half (58.8 per cent) of the current South West Surrey constituency will go to the new Farnam and Borden seat, losing 43,300 voters to East Hampshire. Hunt will no longer represent

Farnham and Haslemere at the next general election are towns affected. So SurreyLive headed down to Haslemere to see ask voters at random how they feel, with less than a week to go until the big day.

"Jeremy Hunt is loved around here, you can ask anyone," declared Sophie Russell, a 22 year-old retail worker who asserted the Chancellor was a well-liked MP. Sophie, who recently launched her own dog walking business, said: "He cares, so not being able to vote for him is sad. But, we all hold him deep here [pats heart]."

Retired printer Derek Heighley only had good things to say about Hunt too. He said he "Did the job quite well". But perhaps the greatest endorsement came from John Brooke, a retired fire officer who praised Hunt's work with the Royal Surrey Hospital, where he was treated for cancer. John lamented: "I think if he would've stayed, I would've voted for him."

Read more: Surrey General Election candidates 2024: Every candidate standing including Guildford, Woking, Reigate, Staines and Dorking

A sunny view of Haslemere's high street, with trees and shops and cars and people.
Local Sophie Russell said: "Jeremy Hunt is loved around here, you can ask anyone." -Credit:Charles Elliman

Jeremy Hunt had been the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey following his election in 2005, when he captured over half the constituency's vote and proceeded to win each future contest. The Chancellor's popularity peaked in 2015, but his secured majority of 28,556 declined to only 8,817 in 2019.

Asked how she felt about not being able to vote for Jeremy Hunt, Psychotherapist Liz Craven, 52, asserted: "I don't really care, to be honest. It doesn't matter who they are, they're all going to do the same thing, aren't they." Meanwhile, Jonathan Stephen, 44, was never a voter of Hunt's and said: "I'm glad we might have the chance for change locally."

Although South West Surrey had been Conservative from its creation in 1983, YouGov's most recent poll reports Farnham and Bordon's fate is very much in the balance, with the Liberal Democrats poised to deliver a strong challenge.

A metallic bust of Queen Elizabeth 1st.
A bust of Elizabeth 1st stands in the town, which the Spanish Armada beating Virgin Queen granted a charter to in 1596. -Credit:Charles Elliman

Asked if he could win in his constituency, Mr Hunt told the Times CEO Summit in London: “Genuinely in my seat I think it’s too close to call.

“I have a very middle class electorate in Surrey, very highly educated and actually they have been very mobile voters for all my time in Parliament, so I think it’s very hard to call. I still meet a lot of people who say they haven’t yet made up their mind.

“So I genuinely don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve had the conversation with my kids, I may not be an MP after the election, and that’s OK, that’s democracy, all that sort of stuff.”

Meanwhile, locals in Haslemere were also asked about education; a strong topic in an affluent area home to private schools, such as the Royal School Haslemere, St Ives School and Amesbury School. Director of a sustainable advertising company, Mark is conflicted between his desire to vote for Labour and the party's pledge to charge VAT on private school fees.

Mark said: "My kids are in private school, I pay for them, I work like a dog to pay for them." The company director continued: "I know a family, they've got four kids and they've already taken two kids out of primary school."

If VAT was charged on private school fees, a termly boarder at, for example, the Royal School Haslemere would pay an extra £2,547 on their regular £12,288. Pressed on concerns independent schools might even have to close due to an exodus of pupils, Keir Starmer said to Sky News: "There's no evidence to show these schools will close. They don't have to pass the cost on to parents."

Back on the streets of Haslemere, Dr Martha Geiger, Chair of Strategic Development and Institute Manager of the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa at the London School of Economics, was generally positive about Labour's plans for private schools. The sociologist said: "I don't feel it is an equitable system here. I really feel like it enforces a class divide, which I think is problematic and should be looked at."

Dr Geiger, who wrote her PhD thesis on the intersections of class, gender and labour between humans and non-human animals, also called for more research funding. Keen to stress the impact of underfunding to and redundancies in higher education, the doctor asserted: "There's so much research that needs to be done, here locally, but also abroad and I don't feel like this government is funding enough research. I feel like it has pivoted too much towards some of the Conservative agendas."

The candidates for Farnham and Bordon are:

  • Greg Stafford, Con

  • Khalil Yousuf, Lib Dem

  • Ged Hall, Reform

  • Claire Matthes, Green

  • Alex Just, Lab

  • Don Jerrard, Hampshire Independents