Tory heartlands worst hit by unemployment

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THE DEVASTATING effects of mass unemployment have hit the Tory heartlands of the South of England harder than in Labour seats, according to figures produced for Conservative MPs.

The highest percentage increase in unemployment since the 1987 election has been suffered by South West Surrey, the constituency of Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health.

Unemployment in her constituency has risen by 139.5 per cent, according to a survey of unemployment by constituency produced by the Conservative Central Office research department.

The other top 10 seats for percentage increases in unemployment since the 1987 general election are all Tory. They are: Buckingham (George Walden) 132.4 per cent; Horsham (Sir Peter Hordern) 128.7; Crawley (Nicholas Soames, minister for food) 126.6; Guildford (David Howell) 125.8; Newbury (formerly held by Judith Chaplin, who died yesterday) 125.3; Mole Valley (Ken Baker, former party chairman) 120.7; Wealden (Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith) 120.6; Mid Sussex (Tim Renton, former chief whip) 116.6; Hertford and Stortford (Bowen Wells) 115.5.

Unemployment in the Prime Minister's constituency in Cambridgeshire has risen by more than 50 per cent since the 1987 election, but the figures show a fall in the percentage unemployed in the Labour strongholds since the 1987 election. Falls were registered in 59 of the 72 Scottish seats, including a drop of 33.1 per cent in Monklands East, the seat of John Smith, the Labour leader; and a fall of 21.5 per cent in Dunfirmline East, the seat of Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor.

A Labour spokesman said last night that the apparent fall in unemployment in Labour seats was due to the high level of unemployment they suffered in the first wave in the early 1980s.

Most of the Cabinet have been hit by rises in unemployment since the 1987 election. After Mrs Bottomley's constituency, the Cabinet league table for unemployment is:

2. Tony Newton, Leader of the House (Braintree) 102.2 per cent; 3. Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade (Henley) 97.4 per cent; 4. Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Tunbridge Wells) 90.7; 5. Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security (St Albans) 84.2; 6. Douglas Hurd, Foreign Secretary (Witney) 80.1; 7. Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Enfield Southgate) 64.0; 8. John Patten, Secretary of State for Education (Oxford West and Abingdon) 63.4; 9. John Major (Huntingdon) 54.7; 10. Norman Lamont, Chancellor (Kingston-upon-Thames) 50.0; 11. John Gummer, Minister for Agriculture (Suffolk Coastal) 43.1; 12. John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport (South Norfolk) 35.8; 13. Kenneth Clarke, Home Secretary (Rushcliffe) 15.7; 14. Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment (South West Norfolk) 13.3; 15. William Waldegrave, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Bristol West) 12.2; 16.

Four other Cabinet ministers have seen unemployment fall in their seats. They are: Peter Brooke, National Heritage (City of London and Westminster), -1.0 per cent; Malcolm Rifkind, Defence (Edinburgh Pentlands), -13.4; Ian Lang, Scotland (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale), -13.7; and David Hunt, Wales (Wirral West), -17.3.

The shadow Chancellor last night accused Mr Major of being 'uncaring and neglectful' about the unemployed. Mr Brown said Mr Major had written to a voter in Wiltshire and suggested he should try finding work in France to make use of his language skills.