Shefford’s last Mid Bedfordshire MP wears a red rosette – and the Labour Party has said it is ready for “a competition” on the Herts and Beds border.

Voters in Shefford, Chicksands and Clifton, who have just been to the polls, will help Hitchin decide its MP at the next general election.

Alistair Strathern represents the town on the Labour benches in Westminster, having overturned the 24,664-vote majority which former Conservative minister Nadine Dorries secured in 2019.

His win on October 19 means the future Hitchin constituency, which will cover Shefford, is part-red, part-blue.

Other parts of the new constituency are represented by the Conservatives.

The Comet: Shefford boundary

Stotfold’s MP Richard Fuller enjoyed a majority of 24,283 in his North East Bedfordshire patch almost five years ago.

The Hitchin and Harpenden seat, which will be split up after the boundary review, is represented by Bim Afolami who finished 6,895 votes ahead of the Liberal Democrats at the last general election.

Labour councillor Ian Albert has claimed the new Hitchin seat is now a “classic Tory-Labour marginal”.

He said: “I think it will be a competition, but only Labour can beat Bim Afolami in this seat and this is absolutely clear from what was an absolutely incredible result in Bedfordshire.”

In Hitchin and Harpenden, Labour finished third at the last general election, 10,865 votes behind the second-place Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Albert said the Liberal Democrats could be onto a winner in Ha

The Comet: Labour councillors Ian Albert, Dave Winstanley and Val Bryant who represent Hitchin Bearton wardrpenden, which will join a new seat with Berkhamsted and Tring, “but not in Hitchin”.

The Hitchin Bearton councillor claimed door-to-door data, which party candidates collect when they canvass in their neighbourhoods, suggests Hitchin is going to take in “the parts of Mid Bedfordshire that voted strongly for Labour”.

The Comet: Shefford

He said: “Most people recognise and know from looking at their wallets and bank accounts that they are poorer than they were 13 years ago.

“We are focused on resolving the housing crisis, resolving the problems in our schools in Hertfordshire because we have fantastic teachers who I know are struggling to afford the basics in their classrooms, resolving the lack of a plan for social care, resolving the lack of places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“We think Hitchin will have its first Labour MP for 50 years – the first since Shirley Williams.”

All eyes on Herts and Beds

Labour activists have made Hitchin’s corner of the home counties a headline-making battleground this year.

Think tank Labour Together said that if Keir Starmer wants to pick up the keys to Number 10, his party must win over the “Stevenage Woman” – mums-of-two in their 40s who live in a town or suburb and feel “Westminster politics has delivered too little, for too long”.

Stevenage is a bellwether seat and voters in the New Town have never returned an opposition MP in the constituency’s 40-year history.

And voters in Hitchin are no strangers to headline-making MPs.

The Comet: Alistair Strathern signs in Henlow Camp

Under its old boundaries, Robert Cecil represented the town in Westminster between 1911 and 1923.

The Conservative minister and later Nobel Peace Prize winner was one of the architects of the League of Nations – the United Nations’ predecessor.

Shirley Williams represented the constituency between 1964 and 1974 – her first of three stints in the Commons.

Baroness Williams was the town’s last Labour MP, but she left the party to become one of the “Gang of Four” who set up the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981.

The new Hitchin-with-Shefford seat will take in local government wards represented by 11 Conservative, 10 Labour and seven Lib Dem councillors.

Bim Afolami, the Conservative incumbent, has said he is “fully committed to representing Shefford, Chicksands, and Clifton with the same dedication” as “shown in Hitchin and Harpenden for the past six years”.

The Comet: Bim Afolami

He said: “I will continue to be an accessible MP, always working towards enhancing the well-being of our local community.”

On his website, Mr Afolami has a six-point plan for Hitchin and the surrounding villages – including opposing Luton Airport expansion, delivering more jobs and apprenticeships, improving healthcare and opening up an eastern entrance to Hitchin’s Thameslink station.

The Liberal Democrats have chosen Hitchin Priory councillor Chris Lucas to stand at the next election.

“It’s all to play for,” Cllr Lucas said.

“There are no guarantees at all that Labour – or the Conservatives – are going to win the next Hitchin poll.

“We are going to be taking this very seriously.”

The Comet: Chris Lucas, Liberal Democract

Cllr Lloyd pointed out the Liberal Democrats almost doubled their vote share between 2019 and 2023 in Mid Bedfordshire – from 12.6 to 23.1 per cent.

He said: “The new Hitchin seat makes sense because when you have knocked on doors in Shefford, Clifton, Chicksands, Meppershall, people always say they are closer to and have more affinity with Hitchin than they do Bedford or Luton.

“The local issues are the same either side of the border – the NHS particularly how hard it is to get an appointment at the doctors and dentists and the cost of living crisis is never far away from the conversations most people are having.”

The next general election will take place before the end of January 2025.