Hampshire & Isle of Wight

General Election 2019: Southampton - from the Mayflower to Brexit

Dock cranes in Southampton Image copyright Stuart Martin/BBC
Image caption Southampton is one the biggest container ports in Europe

The docks are the heart of Southampton. Four-hundred years ago The Mayflower sailed from here to found the New World.

There were high hopes too, when White Star's Titanic left Berth 44 in 1912.

People here have learned to take things in their stride; to be patient while they wait for a storm to pass, but also to take an opportunity when it is presented.

Brexit could go either way, and business people are very aware of the dangers. But it is the people of Southampton who will decide the fortunes of the city's two MPs - one Labour and one Conservative. Both are campaigning hard.

Labour points out the challenges the city faces. This city has seen the death of old industry - shipbuilding at the Vosper Thornycroft yard has long gone, the Ford Transit factory closed as production moved to Turkey.

Image caption There have been some big money developments in Southampton, as much industry has left

There are pockets of poverty alongside the new coffee shops, Universal Credit seen as a scourge, schools talk of a lack of aspiration, nothing to lift people up.

On the big estates and in tower blocks, however, you do hear words of respect for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They like his attitude even if they question his motivation, or ability to deliver.

Image caption The election counts will take place at the city's guildhall

Whilst waiting times for a doctor or hospital appointment are worrying, they see money going in. The police are recruiting again.

The other parties are standing too - but Lib Dems, Brexit and UKIP are being squeezed in the battle between the big two. The Greens may keep their loyalists.

A city by the sea cannot help but worry about climate change, and air pollution too with plans to expand the airport and a clean air zone scrapped.

But the true divide is on Brexit. Southampton knows we are at that moment of departure, either casting off the ropes and braving the global trade winds or thinking again and staying in a familiar port.

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