Jeremy Hunt has been selected as the Conservative candidate for the new Godalming and Ash constituency – meaning he will no longer represent Farnham and Haslemere after the next general election.
The South West Surrey Conservatives Association announced Mr Hunt had been selected as its candidate for the new Godalming and Ash constituency, where the Chancellor has his family home, on Saturday afternoon.
It comes after the Boundary Commission confirmed plans late last year to cut his current South West Surrey constituency in half.
The plans are to create a new cross-border ‘Farnham and Bordon’ constituency, which incorporates Haslemere and Liphook, with the remaining portion of South West Surrey forming a new ‘Godalming and Ash’ constituency, incorporating Cranleigh to the south and Milford to the west.
Speaking to the Herald for an interview published earlier this month, Mr Hunt said: "The boundary changes have been a nightmare for me because they have essentially cut the seat in half and it has been like asking a parent to choose between one of their two children. I was thinking about it over Christmas and will make a decision this month."
Mr Hunt has been the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey since 2005. Throughout his tenure, he has consistently been re-elected with comfortable margins.
In the 2005 general election, he won the seat with a majority of 5,711 votes. In the 2010 general election, his majority increased to 16,318 votes. In the 2015 general election, his majority further increased to 28,556 votes.
However, in the 2017 general election, his majority reduced to 21,590 votes and at the last general election of 2019, it was cut to just 8,817 votes as the Lib Dem vote surged.
Much has changed in national politics since the 2019 poll, and Mr Hunt's decision to stand in the ‘Godalming and Ash’ constituency again pitches him against his old Lib Dem adversary Paul Follows.
Mr Follows polled 39 per cent of the vote to Mr Hunt's 53 per cent in 2019 – and the Lib Dem councillor for Godalming has increased his profile since the general election, after becoming leader of Waverley Borough Council’s ruling coalition.
Mr Follows has already been confirmed as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West Surrey by the Lib Dems. And he might even consider himself the favourite should Mr Hunt run against him, after a YouGov MRP poll suggested the South West Surrey MP would have lost his seat had an election been held in June last year.
Mr Hunt did though rule out moving to a 'safer seat' once the Boundary Commission changes were confirmed, and in the end, has chosen to stand in the area he currently resides – his family home is in the village of Hambledon.
It leaves the race to represent Farnham, Haslemere, Bordon and Liphook in parliament wide open.
The Conservatives have long been able to count on a historic power base in Farnham and Haslemere, and the rural areas in between. But both Farnham and Bordon town councils have fallen to independent groups in recent local elections, while Haslemere Town Council is run by the Lib Dems.