Regardless of the outcome the country wakes up to on 13 December, there will be plenty of new faces in Parliament before Christmas. More than 70 MPs are not re-standing at this General Election – from political stalwarts like Ken Clarke, to the more recent heavy-weights of Philip Hammond and Tom Watson.
A few days before the public go to the polls, we look at some of the rising stars we can expect to see walking the halls of Westminster.
Danny Kruger – Devizes
Running in the constituency of former Energy Minister Claire Perry who is standing down to become President of COP26, Danny Kruger is a shoo-in for the safe Conservative seat of Devizes.
Boris Johnson’s Political Secretary since July, Danny is no stranger to the corridors of power having also served as David Cameron’s chief speechwriter, drafting the speech that led to the totemic ‘hug a hoodie’ phrase. In recent years he has played a role in helping to launch the Government’s Civil Society Strategy and working on the UK’s post-Brexit replacement to EU structural funding programmes. He also spoke with Labour MPs to get them to back Johnson’s renegotiated deal. He has a keen interest in prison reform and supporting young people, having previously founded two charities with these issues in mind.
Given his previous experience and strong credentials both in and out of politics, it’s likely that he’ll find his way into a government department soon after the election.
Andrew Griffith – Arundel and South Downs
The Arundel and South Downs seat was previously occupied by Nick Herbert and is a traditional Conservative seat, having only ever returned a Conservative MP since its creation in 1997.
Originally brought into Number 10 as Boris Johnson’s Chief Business Adviser to help build bridges with business, Andrew’s experience as Sky’s COO and CFO adds to his credentials as a future safe bet when the Prime Minister seeks to build his team.
His energetic character, experience and closeness to Johnson during the pre-election days mean it’s entirely possible that he’ll be fast-tracked after the election. This could see him move to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for International Trade or the Cabinet Office at the heart of Number 10.
Laura Trott – Sevenoaks
This is a safe seat formerly occupied by former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon; the constituency voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
A former Sutton Trust ambassador and Camden councillor, Laura gained her political spurs working for Francis Maude in the Cabinet Office under David Cameron’s premiership. She was very much part of Cameron’s modernising project and ended up in the Number 10 Policy Unit. She has covered a huge range of policy areas during her career and is well-connected inside Westminster. All these factors mean she’s a good tip to be a fast riser.
She’ll comfortably take the safe Sevenoaks seat, and with a view to the longer term of the parliament, Laura’s abilities and experience could be drawn on as Johnson develops his team.
Sarah Owen – Luton North
The seat was vacated by suspended Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins who announced he was standing down after the election was called. A safe Labour seat since Kelvin’s election in 1997, it’s not expected to change hands in 2019.
The new Labour candidate, Sarah Owen, has significant experience within the Party and trade union movement and is well-liked. She’s currently the GMB Union’s political officer, holds a coveted spot on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee and is chair of Chinese for Labour. A former NHS care worker, she has led the GMB’s campaign on domestic abuse in the workplace.
With her already strong Labour and union credentials and a safe seat on her hands, expect Sarah to be an influential member in the new Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) intake.
James Murray – Ealing North
London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing since 2016, James beat a fellow Deputy Mayor in the race for selection in Ealing North and gained the backing of the influential Unite Union. James grew up locally and is taking over from veteran Labour MP Stephen Pound in this safe West London seat.
Generally considered as sitting on the ‘soft left’ of the Party, James was previously a councillor in Islington where he became friends with Jeremy Corbyn. A housing specialist, he led Islington’s Housing and Development for six years before joining City Hall. During his time there he managed to double the rough sleeping budget and increase the level of affordable housing.
James’ already heavy housing portfolio and experience in City Hall will no doubt cement his place as an authority on housing matters in the new PLP and may well mean a quick ascent to the frontbench.
Florence Eshalomi – Vauxhall
One of the most Remain constituencies in the country, Vauxhall voted nearly 80% in favour of staying in the EU. The irony that it was represented for 30 years by Labour’s most Eurosceptic MP, Kate Hoey, has caused tensions locally. Unsurprising then that Vauxhall Labour Party chose ardent Remainer Florence Eshalomi as its candidate after Hoey announced her retirement.
Another of the projected new PLP intake to have started their career at City Hall, Florence is an Assembly Member in the Greater London Authority and Labour’s transport spokesperson. In a stark departure from other selections she was not the Corbynistas’ choice of candidate and is linked to vocal Corbyn-sceptic organisation Progress.
Expect the overwhelmingly moderate PLP to welcome Florence with open arms. They’ll see her as a key ally in the increasingly likely scenario that Corbyn does not secure a majority.
Max Wilkinson – Cheltenham
If the Liberal Democrats stand any chance of mounting a revival, they must win back the town of Cheltenham. The seat went to the Conservatives for the first time in 23 years in 2015 but backed Remain in the EU referendum.
The candidate tasked with winning the constituency back is Max Wilkinson, a Cheltenham-based local journalist turned PR consultant. Max is passionately pro-European and a strong advocate of policies to tackle climate change – an interest that has seen him consistently promote sustainable transport solutions during his time as a local councillor.
So far, his pitch has been aimed at the ‘progressive Conservatives’ of the Gloucestershire seat – people who have previously been loyal to the Party but now feel disillusioned by its recent change in direction. With the Liberal Democrats improving their vote share among Remainers, Max looks set to gain this Cotswolds spa town.
Munira Wilson – Twickenham
Hoping to replace former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable in the leafy London suburb of Twickenham is Munira Wilson.
Munira’s initial stint in politics saw her become a campaign organiser for the Liberal Democrats ahead of the 2005 General Election, before going on to work for Nick Clegg. Since then she has worked in the private sector where she is currently the Corporate Affairs Director for a multinational pharmaceutical firm.
As an expert in health policy, expect her to pay close attention to the healthcare plans of the next government. We know from her time as a councillor on Richmond Borough Council that she is a strong and passionate campaigner, who has been vehemently opposed to a third runway at Heathrow and supported better rail links for the area.
Kenny MacAskill – East Lothian
Kenny MacAskill is a political ‘big beast’, having served as Cabinet Secretary for Justice for seven years and a member of Holyrood’s ‘Class of 1999’ (those who served in the first session of the Scottish Parliament). Part of his old Scottish Parliamentary seat extends into the Westminster seat he hopes to win back for the SNP against Scottish Labour’s Martin Whitfield.
In recent years, he has been one of few SNP figures to stick his head above the parapet to openly criticise the policies and approach of his party’s leadership and is strongly associated with former SNP Leader Alex Salmond and the Party’s Home Affairs Spokesperson Joanna Cherry who is regarded as a future leadership contender.
With the SNP polling so strongly in Scotland, and Scottish Labour languishing in the political doldrums, the chances of a political comeback for Kenny are high.
John Nicholson – Ochil and South Perthshire
John Nicholson is no stranger to the House of Commons having won East Dunbartonshire from Jo Swinson at the 2015 General Election, serving as his party’s Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, before subsequently losing the seat to her in 2017. Amidst claims from the Scottish Conservatives that he has been ‘parachuted in’ to the constituency, he is one of the SNP’s most effective communicators and frequently appears in the media to provide the Party’s perspective.
A former BBC and ITV anchor man, Nicholson resumed his broadcasting career at TalkRadio following his defeat in 2017 and views the seat held by Luke Graham as a prime opportunity to return to the Commons.
Alyn Smith MEP – Stirling
Originally a lawyer by trade, Alyn Smith has an extensive political career – first as an adviser to an SNP MSP and then to the SNP group at Holyrood, before being elected to the European Parliament in 2004 where he was subsequently re-elected in 2009, 2014 and 2019.
Alyn currently serves as President of the European Alliance Group in the European Parliament and is one of the Party’s most high-profile politicians in Scotland. He only requires a swing of 0.2% to take the seat from the Scottish Conservative incumbent Stephen Kerr and Stirling is one of the Party’s top target seats.
With thanks to Halogen Communications for their insights on the SNP candidates