Harwich saw one of the most unlikely Labour gains at the 1997 election by a margin of just over 1,000. But for the intervention of the Referendum Party, Conservative Iain Sproat might well have held on to his seat, as his eurosceptic rival received nearly 5,000 ballots.
The constituency covers a coastal strip in the north eastern corner of Essex, and has an important place in maritime history. Harwich was the first landfall for the ships which defeated the Spanish Armada, and was the site of a naval dockyard, which was arranged to be built by the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys, who himself served as MP for Harwich.
Today, it is still an important European ferry terminal, with a relatively new high speed ferry link to the Hook of Holland.
In addition to the port of Harwich, the constituency also includes the seaside resorts of Clacton, Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze. Frinton is the most genteel of the Essex coastal resorts, priding itself on its lack of commercial activity. It is in marked contrast to its neighbour, Walton, where there are chip shops, candy floss stalls and amusement arcades, and Clacton.