Borders ballot box battles expected to be fierce

GORDON Brown's trip to meet the Queen has triggered what should be two exciting General Election battles.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will have to fight fiercely to defend their respective patches of the Borders.

The Lib Dem's International Development spokesman Michael Moore is defending a majority of 5,901 in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

And the carbuncle of a seat that is Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, Scotland's only Conservative at Westminster - and hence shadow Scottish Secretary - David Mundell has a safety net of just 1,738.

Moore's main challenge comes from the Conservative camp in the person of John Lamont who already represents a third of the constituency at Holyrood.

Lamont secured Roxburgh and Berwickshire at the Scottish Government elections in 2007 when he ousted the sitting Lib Dem favourite Euan Robson.

Lamont and Moore clashed at the General Election of 2005 - Moore saw his party's vote drop by 5 per cent while Lamont increased the Tory share by 6.8 per cent.

Labour and the SNP start well down the field and this is effectively a two-horse race.

Sole Conservative target of Labour's boot

But Labour are very much to the fore in Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale - a seat born out of boundary changes made ahead of the last general election.

The seat sweeps from through Peeblesshire, into south Lanarkshire and on into the rural areas of Dumfriesshire in an arc that stretches from Walkerburn, West Linton, to Lockerbie, Moffat and Langholm.

In 2005 it became the Conservative's only foothold in Scotland - they lost neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway to Labour.

Their victory saw Tweeddale without a Liberal MP for the first time since David Steel's victory in 1965.

Mundell lines up against the chair of the Scottish Labour Party, part time primary school teacher and daughter of Baron Chelwood who was a Tory MP for 29 years.

In 2005 because of boundary changes, this was notional 11.4 per cent boost for the Conservatives and a drop of 4.6 per cent for Labour.

The Liberal Democrats finished third and their banner will be carried this time round by Tweeddale councillor and Borders Council election supremo Catriona Bhatia, whose father is the former Liberal Leader and Borders MP, David Steel.

The opening salvos the Borders battle were fired within minutes of the Prime Minister leaving Buckingham Palace.

Mundell said the phoney war was over and that Britain was crying our for a change of government and a fresh direction.

Lamont confirmed his view that the election was a clear choice between Brown and David Cameron - a vote for any other party, he maintained, would help keep Brown in power.

WHERE THE VOTES WENT IN 2005

BERWICKSHIRE. ROXBURGH AND SELKIRK

Michael Moore (Liberal Democrat) - 18,993 (41.8%)

John Lamont (Conservative) - 13,092 (28.8%)

Sam Held (Labour) - 7,206 (15.9%)

Aileen Orr (SNP) - 3,885 (8.6%)

John Hein (Liberal Party) - 916 (2%)

Graeme McIver (Scottish Socialist Party) - 695 (1.5%)

Peter Neilson (UK Indpendence Party) - 601 (1.3%)

Majority - 5,901 (13%)

Turnout - 45,338 (63.3%)

DUMFRIESSHIRE, CLYDESDALE AND TWEEDDALE

David Mundell (Conservative) - 16,141 (36.2%)

Sean Marshall (Labour) - 14,403 (32.3)

Patsy Kenton (Liberal Democrat) - 9,046 (20.3%)

Andrew Wood (SNP) - 4,075 (9.1%)

Sarah McTavish (Scottish Socialist Party) - 521 (1.2%)

Antony Lee (UK Independence Party) - 430 (1%)

Majority - 1,738 (3.9%)

Turnout - 44,616 (67.6%)