THERE are less than two weeks to go until the general election, and the battle in Hampshire is now on.

On December 12, thousands of people will head to the poll to elect a new Parliament in the third national vote in the last five years.

This year, Conservatives are going all-out to ensure that their comfortable majority in the New Forest does not change.

Both New Forest East and New Forest West have seen a Tory majority for the last 22 years.

Sir Desmond Swayne has represented New Forest West since boundary changes resulted in the former constituencies of New Forest and Romsey and Waterside being abolished in 1997.

Two years after retaining his seat in the last general election, Sir Desmond is striving to be re-elected once again.

In 2017, Sir Desmond received 33,170 votes – 23,431 more than his closest challenger, Labour candidate Jo Graham.

Issues in the district include unaffordable house prices, and the increasingly difficult struggle faced by young people who want to remain in the area where they grew up.

Other issues include the large number of animals killed or injured on Forest roads every year. Campaigners want the 40mph speed limit on all unfenced roads reduced to 30mph to cut the carnage.

Brexit and climate change are among the other issues being raised on doorsteps across the district.

Sir Desmond, who was formerly Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, during his time as leader of the opposition in 2005–10, has said that Brexit is a key priority to him.

He stated that “the New Forest and the country voted to leave the EU” and that there should be “no more” renegotiations or referendums.

The Conservative candidate is also pledging to increase the Employment Allowance “by up to £1,000” as well as increase the R&D tax credit rate from 12 per cent to 13 per cent and increase the Structures and Buildings Allowance from two per cent to three per cent.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the New Forest’s economy,” he said.

Sir Desmond’s rivals this year include Labour candidate Jo Graham, who received 9,739 votes in the 2017 general election.

Jo, who has lived in Ringwood for the last 17 years, has said that social justice and protecting the environment are two key pledges she is committed to.

She also mentioned reversing the growth of “wealth inequality” and “fixing” Brexit.

Jo said that New Forest West is a “prosperous area” but there are many issues in the constituency.

She said: “For many here housing is unaffordable, jobs are low-paid or insecure and the services we rely on are fraying at the edges.

“As an MP, these are the issues that would be most important to me – working for a fairer, more confident and happier Britain.”

In 2017, the Liberal Democrat representative Terry Scriven received 4,781 votes.

This year, Jack Davies will be standing against the three opposition Parties.

Mr Davies has said that affordable housing is a big issue to him and is something he “aims to tackle” over the next four years.

He also raised this issue on environmental issues stating that he is “keen to make New Forest District Council greener by focusing on recycling initiatives and the fight against litter”.

Mr Davies also expressed that he does not support leaving the EU claiming that “it is damaging both to our economy and to our stature within the international community” and therefore opposes to leaving without a deal.

“While a confirmatory vote between the three major options is not an ideal solution, it would be the best way of breaking the impasse we find ourselves at,” he said.

“If politicians cannot agree, it should be the people that decide.”

Standing for the Green Party this election is Nick Bubb, who has taken over from 2017’s representative Janet Richards.

Janet received 1,454 votes in the last election.

This year, Mr Bubb, who for the past six years has worked with the FFI to protect the natural world, is campaigning to promote the importance of environmental issues as well as education, healthcare, affordable housing and a socially responsible financial system in the area.

Although a “strong remainer”, Nick, who has lived in the New Forest for 10 years, has recognised the public’s decision to leave the EU.

But the Green Party candidate believes that “with such enormous disparity of views on how that should be achieved” that the public should have the right to vote on whatever deal is negotiated for Britain’s departure.

Nick and his team have said that they are entering the election with the intention of “mounting the most serious challenge yet seen in the area”.

With only a few days left before the general election registrations to vote are now closed.

On December 12 there will be 44 polling stations in the New Forest open from 7am to 10pm.

Residents who have registered to vote are expected to receive their polling card soon.

Last year, 49,627 people turned out to vote in New Forest West.

Experts say turnout is difficult to predict as there are several factors that impact people’s desire to vote.

In 2016, 72.2% of the British public turned out to vote in the Brexit referendum.

Some may think the turnout will be high again next week given that this has been described as the Brexit election.

But others suggested that the numbers could drop this year as people will have to cast their ballot when the nights come earlier and the weather is colder.