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GENERAL ELECTION: County candidates prepare for battle
BATTLE lines have been drawn across Oxfordshire as Gordon Brown today finally named May 6 as the date for the General Election.
The county’s crunch constituency is set to be Oxford East, where long serving Labour MP Andrew Smith defends Oxfordshire’s smallest majority of just 963.
Liberal Democrat candidate Steve Goddard will be hoping wrestle it from Labour.
The seat will be a key target for his party as it bids to play kingmaker in the event of a hung parliament.
Mr Smith expects a tough battle and said: “Compared with some previous elections, local factors might matter more this time around, including the local perspective on national issues.”
Across the rest of the county, incumbent MPs defend substantial majorities.
But the nation’s eyes will fall on Witney, where Conservative Party leader David Cameron hopes to defend his seat, take his party to a national victory and install himself in Downing Street as Prime Minister.
Liberal Democrat Evan Harris is protecting a majority of more than 7,000 in Oxford West and Abingdon as he bids to retain his seat – and help his party paint Oxford yellow on May 6.
Ed Vaizey, a key Conservative figure and shadow minister for culture, defends the Wantage constituency and fellow Conservative Tony Baldry will be hoping for a seventh election victory in North Oxfordshire.
In Henley, Conservative MP John Howell defends a majority of 10,000 gained in a 2008 by-election following Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron made his first election speech, calling it “the most important general election for a generation”.
Earlier in the day, Mr had visited Buckingham Palace to formally ask the Queen for a dissolution of Parliament – firing the gun on four weeks of campaigning.
Back at Downing Street he said the election date had “been the worst-kept secret of recent years” and vowed to fight on the values instilled in him by his parents.
But if the election date was a foregone conclusion, the result remains one of the hardest to call in decades, with a hung parliament a real possibility.
In that event, the Liberal Democrats could find themselves as crucial to any bid to form a government.
Party leader Nick Clegg has insisted the election is not a two-horse race.
He added: “This is a choice now between the old politics of the two old parties and something new, something different, which the Liberal Democrats offer.”
candidates have until April 20 to declare their nominations. To be eligible to vote on May 6, residents must be registered to vote by April 20
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