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Most Likely Lib Dem Wins Are In Places Worst Affected By Sewage Spills

3 min read

The vast majority of seats the Liberal Democrats are expected to win on Thursday are among the constituencies worst affected by the ongoing sewage spill crisis.

Analysis has found that 42 seats – nearly 80 per cent of the total number of seats Ed Davey's are party are most likely to win at the General Election, according to recent polling – were among the worst half of seats in the country for sewage dumping.

PoliticsHome identified the 55 seats the Liberal Democrats were most likely to gain on Thursday, according YouGov's most recent MRP survey, that had recorded constituency-level sewage spill data.

Eight were among the 25 worst affected seats in the country. That included, West Dorset, subject to 3,864 sewage spills last year, and North Cornwall, home to 3,874 spills last year.

In the last few years major water companies discharging sewage into the country's lakes and rivers has grown to become one of the dominant national political issues — particularly in areas containing bodies of water and natural beauty like the Lake District.

Taking tougher action against the water companies has been a major Lib Dem policy for months and has featured heavily in the party's campaign.

At the very start of the campaign in May, Davey used a paddleboard in Lake Windermere as part of his bid to draw attention to the issue alongside the local Lib Dem MP Tim Farron. A few weeks later, Davey swam in the North Sea off the coast of North Norfolk — a key target seat for the party.

“For years, the Conservatives have been turning a blind eye to filthy sewage dumping in their own backyards while allowing water company bosses to line their pockets,” a Liberal Democrat spokesperson told PoliticsHome.

“More and more people recognise that the Liberal Democrats have led the way on campaigning for tougher action to stop this filthy practice.”

In March, industry data submitted to the Environment Agency showed that raw sewage was discharged into waterways for 3.6m hours in 2023 by England’s privatised water firms, more than double the figure in 2022.

Because the UK is reliant on self-monitoring by water companies to determine the environmental impact these releases have, which investigations have found in the past are routinely being underestimated or misrepresented, the true impact of the issue is likely much larger than what is reported.

As concern about water quality has grown, the impact on people’s health has become a bigger talking point, too.

In May, an outbreak of a waterborne parasite infected the water supply in the town of Devon, leaving dozens of locals sick. Just weeks later, 11 shellfish production zones in neighbouring Cornwall were forced to close after “very high” levels of e-coli – attributed to local sewage spills – were detected.

Polls from as early as last year have shown that over half the population will weigh the government’s handling of sewage spills into how they vote at the election,” said Henry Swithinbank, policy manager at Surfers Against Sewage.

And more recent polls have consistently shown that the policies to deal with the amount of sewage entering our rivers and seas are the most popular amongst voters.

"During our Election hustings tour around the country from Edinburgh to the Gower and all along the south coast what we have been hearing on the ground has consistently backed up these kind of findings. The public are simply outraged at the state of our waterways.”

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