Tucked just inside the M25, the west London town of Uxbridge was, until last month, the parliamentary home of a former prime minister.
Boris Johnson held Uxbridge and South Ruislip for the past eight years before dramatically quitting the Commons.
Formed in 2010 by blending the former seats of Uxbridge and Ruislip-Northwood, the constituency has never had a Labour MP. Uxbridge has only had two dating back to 1885.
Labour’s candidate Danny Beales is hoping to change all that when voters head to the polls on 20 July. His party is eager to demonstrate ballot-winning potential ahead of a hotly anticipated general election next year.
One might think that the downfall of Boris could make this an easy win for Labour.
But according to a recent poll, Labour is only narrowly ahead by eight points.
Speaking to voters, it appears that local issues, rather than the antics of the former PM, will play a more important role in how they vote in the upcoming election.
High up the list of local talking points is the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or ULEZ.
Conservative candidate Steve Tuckwell, 54, and seemingly everyone I stop and talk to are united in opposition against the policy.
“I think ULEZ is disgraceful in this neck of the woods,” Tom Meredith, 77, a retired builder, says. “Sadiq Khan, all he’s doing is generating money for himself.”
Beales certainly has his work cut out for him.
Speaking after a hustings event organised by the Hillingdon Chamber of Commerce, Beales, who is currently a councillor in Camden, tells City A.M. the campaign is a “tough battle”.
“That’s what we always expect,” he adds. “I grew up here, [we’ve] never had a Labour MP in my life.”
“They’re throwing everything at it but I think we’re running a strong campaign with a hopeful, positive message,” he said.
Beales and Tuckwell are slugging it out over a series of hyper-local issues.
Beales’ campaign is focused on health, with a pledge to support the local hospital, and crime, promising to save Uxbridge police station from closure – a local campaign that has been rumbling on for years.
But it is the hatred of ULEZ putting Beales under pressure, forcing him to be slightly critical of Khan’s plans.
Uxbridge residents, he insists, are “in favour of clean air but it needs to be done in a socially just way”.
Beales wants to see the government invest in the scrappage scheme to support people in replacing more polluting vehicles with cleaner alternatives.
But there are other issues too.
Cabbie Nitin Khosla, 41, wants the government to put in more parking spaces in the town centre to boost the high street’s desirability.
Meanwhile at a hustings last week, one woman was emphatic about the issues facing schools in the
borough thanks to a lack of special educational needs support and placements.
Gone but not forgotten
While Boris might not be key in dictating the result, residents aren’t shy in sharing their feelings about him.
Phlebotomist Carol, 64, and 73-year-old retiree Diane are enjoying a coffee on the high street. Maybe it’s the caffeine, but neither are shy with their praise for the ex-PM.
“I thought he was quite genuine,” Carol says. “He came over quite well, he did quite a bit for Uxbridge which was good. The vaccines I’m sure were down to him to some degree.”
“I think a lot of people think it’s time for a change but I don’t know if it’s a good change.”
Diane is even more emphatic: “I’m not moving over. We’ve always been Tory.”
“The Liberal Democrats – that’s a waste of a vote to my mind. Obviously Boris didn’t behave himself during Covid which was wrong, but with everything else he was alright,” she said.
Their words will be music to the ears of Tuckwell. The former school governor, who was also born and raised in Uxbridge, is trying to pitch himself as the local man, dubbing Beales the ‘Camden candidate’.
We chat as he shows me around one of the town’s shopping centres. “This is a very special area to me,” he told City A.M.
“I wouldn’t raise a family here if I didn’t think it was a great constituency. We’ve got vibrant town centres, RAF Northolt, we’ve got good business here, good transport links in and out of London,” he said. “But what I would say is that the people of this constituency have been ignored. I want to be the MP that is their voice and their voice can be heard by voting for me.”