This is the fuller version of the edited section in The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2017, that I prepared for the marvellous Dr. Robert Waller.
The election in the South West of England was thought to be one where, outside of a few pockets of (often declining) Labour support , the battle for seats would be between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats; as with so much commentary concerning this election, this proved to be fairly off the mark. From the old Hampshire redoubts of Bournemouth, up through Wiltshire and down to the mineral mining village of Constantine in Cornwall, the beginnings of a Labour revival not seen since the 1960s is the story of June 2017. Labour are now second in 32 constituencies, with Independent candidate, Claire Wright, second in Devon East. It is hard to believe that the Liberal Democrats have had MPs in 18 seats here.
There are 55 constituencies, covering the traditional counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset (plus Bournemouth and Christchurch), Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire.
Before the election, there were 51 Conservative MPs and 4 Labour MPs, the Liberal Democrats having lost all 11 of their seats at the 2015 General Election. If there was to be a revival of fortunes for Mr. Farron’s party, this was thought to be the place where it would be strongest.
In the event, they managed to regain only one seat, that of Bath from the Conservatives. Labour held its 4 seats and gained 3 (Stroud, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Bristol North-West), while the Conservatives continue to hold the vast majority of seats with 47 MPs, losing the 4 afore-mentioned seats.
So far so simple, but not really, as Labour did not only hold their seats, 2 of which (Bristol West and East) were at some point during the election campaign seen as at risk, but they piled on the votes to significantly increase their majorities. Their vote share in Bristol West went up a stunning 30.3% for the gloriously named Thangam Debbonaire, to 65.9% and an unbelievable 47,213 votes (37,336 majority) on a 22.15% swing from Green to Labour, where the Green Party candidate’s challenge saw them fall to third place. The former Lib Dem MP, Stephen Williams, saw his vote fall from 18.9% to 7.3% into 4th place. The Conservatives’ Annabell Tell grabbed the runner-up slot on the basis of her vote share falling the least. This constituency had seen a 12% increase in voter registration since December of 2016, the 6th highest in the UK.
In Bristol East, the straight Labour-Tory fight saw the Tory vote rise a pleasing 3.7%, only for it to be overshadowed by Labour’s Kerry McCarthy’s vote share going up by a massive 21.5%, an 8.9% swing mainly due to the 15.5% that UKIP had taken at the 2015 Election (with no candidate this time) going to Ms McCarthy. A 60.5% share of the vote and a majority of 13,394 makes this old seat of Tony Benn and Stafford Cripps feel safe for the foreseeable future.
Bristol South was very similar for Labour (60.1%, up 21.7%, 7.7% swing) over the Tories (30.7%, up 6.3%), with the Green, Lib Dem and UKIP vote falls going mostly to Labour’s returned Karin Smith.
Bristol North West is Labour’s gain in the city, and a serious disappointment for the Tories who will have hoped that the fact that most of their local councillors are from this ward and that former MP (2010-17) Charlotte Leslie had built up a healthy share of the vote in 2015, made this a shoo-in against an apparently unpopular Labour Party. Not so, with a swing of 9.15% to Labour’s Darren Jones, the losing candidate in 2015, giving him a 4,761 majority. Ms Leslie has a higher share of the vote than when she was first elected in 2010 and must have assumed that the UKIP vote from 2015 was there for the taking but, as we shall see again and again, this was not to the advantage of the Conservatives, and her share of the vote fell by 2.1%
The outer Bristol seats of Filton and Bradley Stoke (Labour up 15.1%), Kingswood (Labour up 9.9%) and Somerset North (Labour up 12.3%), Somerset North East (Labour up 9.9%) showed decent swings to Labour, but with the Conservative vote also rising, they were never in any danger. Labour will be most disappointed in Kingswood not to have done better in a seat held for them by Roger Berry from 1992 to 2010, but the loss of the Bristol wards of Hillfields and Frome Vale at the pre-2010 boundary changes has made it a very different seat and the Tory vote rose by 6.6%. It is notable that Filton and Bradley Stoke (Con maj: 4,182 8.3%) is now a more winnable seat for Labour than Kingswood (Con maj: 7,500 15.4%). Thornbury and Yate, which, along with Filton and Bradley Stoke, replaced Northavon constituency in 2010, was formerly a Liberal Democrat seat held by Steve Webb, whose stint as a Pensions Minister in the Coalition government of 2010-15, destroyed his political career. The Liberal Democrat’s Claire Young will have hoped to close the gap but saw her party’s share of the vote fall further back to 31.4%, losing 6.5%. Defending Conservative, 30-year old Luke Hall, will be delighted and, I suspect, greatly surprised to find himself with 55.3% of the vote and a 12,071 majority. A swing of 10.35% of the vote to him from 2015 will, no doubt, be a little due to the double incumbency effect: the effect of the former MP not fighting the seat again plus the defending MP having first term recognition. Labour’s Brian Mead will be pleased to take 12.1% of the vote (+4.3%), whilst the Green’s Ian Hamilton took only 1.2% (-1.5%). UKIP did not stand this time and their 10.6% of the vote may have gone largely to the Conservatives, but it is difficult to tell, given the tactical unwind of the past voting patterns. I assume a lot of voting churn. In Somerset North East, media darling and middle-aged fogey, Jacob Rees-Mogg was comfortably returned as Conservative MP with 53.6% of the vote (+3.9%), but doesn’t appear to have been the main recipient of the UKIP’s not standing, and he suffered a 3% swing to Labour. Still a longshot aim for Labour, he has a 10,235 majority.
The only bright light for the Liberal Democrats in the whole of the South West was their regain of Bath from the Conservatives’ Ben Howlett, only 2 years after losing the seat. It was a remarkable victory for former Rochdale Conservative councillor (later Rochdale Liberal Democrat leader), German-born Wera Hobhouse, with a swing of 9.8% from the Conservatives and 47.3% of the vote, up a remarkable 17.6% on 2015. She was only selected at the beginning of May after the former candidate, Jay Risbridger, stood down due to family and work commitments. This is a city that was unhappy with the vote to leave the EU and saw a 9% increase in voter registration, the tenth highest in the UK. If Brexit had an effect, this is one of the seats where it was most pronounced against the government. Mr Howlett, a staunch remainer, paid the price for Brexit but won’t have been helped by unfounded allegations of sexual assault that had been made against him and subsequently dropped; his vote fell to 35.8% (-2%). Labour will be pleased not to have been squeezed, seeing a small increase in their share of the vote (14.7% + 1.5%). The Greens saw their vote drop from 11.9% to 2.3%, going over en masse to the Liberal Democrats in a tactical switch. UKIP did not stand, who knows where their 6.2% went, although the turnout dropped here by 1.2%, so maybe many stayed at home.
In Gloucestershire, Labour will be delighted and surprised with their regain of Stroud which, after a 7 year hiatus (otherwise known as Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael) sees the return of David Drew, who had previously announced his retirement from politics having failed to regain the seat in 2015. A seat that had seemed to be steadily drifting away from Labour saw a 9.3% rise in share of the vote and 29,994 votes received, up 7,047 since 2015; this is the single largest number of votes that Mr Drew has ever received, even in 1997 when first elected. Mr Carmichael must have thought that a slight vote rise (45.9% +0.2%) would have seen him through, but he lost by 687 votes. This is an exceptional year with the Lib Dems (3.2%), Greens (2.2%) and UKIP (1.6%) as deposit losing also-rans, their fall in vote share mostly appearing to favour Mr Drew. This seat is still trending Tory, which makes this result exceptionally good for Labour.
In Cheltenham, the Liberal Democrats put a lot of effort and achieved one of their rare large vote increases, up 8.2% on 2015 giving former MP Martin Horwood 42.2% of the vote, but it was not enough to catch the defending Conservative, Alex Chalk, from holding the seat in the Conservative interest, with 46.7% of the vote (+0.5%), a majority of 2,569, and a deep sense of relief. Labour’s Keith white will be happy not to have been squeezed and to have seen his party’s vote rise by 2.2% to 9.5%, while the Green candidate, Adam Van Coevorden, saw his party lose its deposit (1.6% -3.4%). UKIP did not field a candidate this time and it would be interesting to see a breakdown of where their 7.1% vote went.
Tewkesbury saw Laurence Robertson safely home (as Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, so interesting times ahead) with 60% (+5.5%) of the vote and a stonking 35,448 votes, with the only other point of interest being Labour’s continuing consolidation in second place, up 7% to 21.8%, reaffirming their dislodgement of the Liberal Democrats as the main, if distant, challengers here. It is hard to believe that the Liberal Democrats took 35.5% of the vote here in 2010, slipping down to 13.5% this time after their vote collapsed in 2015. In The Cotswolds, 25-year veteran Tory MP, Geoffrey Clinton-Brown saw a 4.1% increase in his vote and he received a massive 36,201 votes. The addition of Minchampton ward in 2010 made this more strongly Conservative, but this is nevertheless an impressive result. The Liberal Democrats continue to fall back here with Andrew Gant slipping into third place behind Labour’s Mark Huband, who saw the party improve on their disastrous 4th place in 2015 to take 17.9% (+8.7%). The UKIP fall in the vote (-8.9%) probably split evenly between the Tories and Labour with the fall in the Liberal Democrat and Green votes largely going to Labour.
In the constituencies of Gloucester and Forest of Dean, Labour’s hopes of a return to winning ways fell short: a vote share rise in the City (+8.6%), was not enough to chase down the sitting Conservative, Richard Graham, who saw a rise of 5% in his own vote, whilst in the Forest, the massive rise in Labour’s vote share (+11.3%) still only put them at 35.9%, a long way behind former Government Chief Whip Mark Harper, on 54.3%, a big jump of 7.4%. Both seats saw a big fall in the UKIP vote, switching mostly to Labour, although significantly to the Tories as well. These are the sort of seats in which Labour should be closer if they are to win power again.
In Wiltshire, the Conservatives’ James Gray held on comfortably in North Wiltshire where they achieved a 0.5% swing to them from the second-placed Liberal Democrats, now 22,398 behind, having had high hopes in this seat back in 1997, 2001 and 2005 (indeed, Hugh Pym, Health Editor of BBC News came within 3,787 votes in 2001). Mr Gray had a 60.3% share of the vote (+3.1%), with the Lib Dems on 17.7% (+2.1%) and Labour breathing down their necks with 17.5% (up 7.7% and their highest share of the vote in this constituency, renamed from the old Chippenham seat in 1983, since 1970). This seat was radically reorganised in 2010 and should have been worse for Labour, so some achievement. UKIP’s vote collapsed (11.5% to 1.6%) and Labour appears to have been the main beneficiary, whilst the Green and Independent candidates lost their deposits. In Chippenham (the newly created constituency in 2010, not the old one, which was renamed in 1983 as North Wiltshire), which includes the market towns of Bradford-on-Avon and Melkaham, a turnout of 75.5% saw Conservative Michelle Donelan achieve a 5.5% swing from the Liberal Democrats to achieve a majority of 16,630. She was somewhat flattered by a split opposition which, at this election, came only from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, with UKIP and the Greens not putting up candidates this time. The Liberal Democrat’s Helen Belcher must have hoped that the disastrous swing that unseated the former Liberal Democrat incumbent, Duncan Hames, in 2015, would have begun to unwind, but she saw her party’s vote fall by a further 3.8% to 25.6%, whilst Labour’s Andy Newman saw his previous vote grow from 4,561 to 11,236 (19.7% +11.4%), in only 2 years. Labour appears to have gained most from the absence of a UKIP candidate at this election. Ms Donelan has come a long way from the 15 year-old schoolgirl who gave a speech at the 1998 Conservative conference – it didn’t do William Hague too much harm (well, that is subjective…). Neighbouring South West Wiltshire saw another seat where the Tories took 60% of the vote (+7.3%), with former minister Surgeon Commander Andrew Murrison RNR being returned with a majority of 18,326, although he suffered a swing against him to Labour’s Laura Pictor of 2.9%, who saw her party’s share of the vote almost double to 26.5% (+13.1%), a share of the vote not seen in this area since the old Westbury seat in October of 1974, with Labour not having achieved second place since 1970. For the Liberal Democrats, this was an unmitigated disaster, with the party so long the main challengers in this and previous seats, seeing their appalling 10.6% of the vote in 2015 fall further to 9.8% this time. UKIP, who placed second in 2015, did not field a candidate this time and the majority of their vote appears to have swung behind Labour. The Green and Independent candidates lost their deposits. Salisbury saw Minister John Glen hold his seat with a reduced majority of 17,333, after a swing of 3.85% to Labour’s Tom Corbin, but he will not lose too much sleep after gaining 58.1% of the vote (+2.5%), whilst Mr Corbin will be thanking his near namesake for helping his vote rise to 25.5% (+10.2%), Labour’s best result here since 1970. For the Liberal Democrats, total disaster: having been the main challenger, if always the bridesmaid, for four decades, they slipped to 4th in 2015 when their vote collapsed from 36.9% to 10.1%. The collapse of the UKIP vote to 2.2% (-9.9%) seems to have favoured Labour the most, but the Liberal Democrats made a small advance of 1.2%. Mr Corbin has a consolation prize of having been elected to the City Council, along with his wife Caroline, on 4th May. In neighbouring Devizes, Minister of State Claire Perry achieved 62.7% of the vote (+5%), and a 21,136 vote majority over Labour’s Imtiyaz Shaikh, who will be pleased to have put Labour in second place with an 8% rise to 21%. In third place, Chris Coleman for the Liberal Democrats achieved a disappointing 9.3% (+1.2%): in a seat where Labour and the Liberal Democrats often tussled for the claim to be main challenger, with the Lib Dems the usual victor, this is very worrying for the party. UKIP saw their vote collapse, managing only 3.4% (-12%), with the Conservatives probably equally sharing their redistributed vote with Labour, whilst Labour probably picked up the 2.6% drop in the Green vote. The Green and Wessex Regionalist candidates lost their deposits.
The Seats of Swindon North and Swindon South are seats Labour need to be gaining if they are to be in government and, again in this part of the South West, they failed to advance enough. They came close in the South, with a swing of 3.45% putting them within 2,464 votes of regaining the seat they lost to Solicitor General Robert Buckland in 2010. He will be delighted to be back with 48.4% of the vote (+2.2%) whilst Labour’s Sarah Church will be able to console herself with an increase of 8.1%, gaining the lion’s share of the UKIP vote collapse of 9.5% and most of the Green drop of 2.1% (both candidates lost their deposits). Stan Pajak for the Lib Dems managed only 4.1% (+0.4%). In the North, defending Conservative, Justin Tomlinson, will be pleased to have held the seat with an 8,335 majority, down from 11,786 in 2015, and 53.6% of the vote (+3.3%). Labour’s Mark Dempsey managed a 3.65% swing from the Tories, but that was mostly due to the collapse in the UKIP vote (2.8% -12.5%) which saw his vote share this time rising by 10.6% to 38.4%, gaining 6,587 more votes than when he stood in 2015. Liberal Democrat flag-bearer, Liz Webster, managed a small increase in the vote (+0.3%) but, along with UKIP’s Steve Halden and the Green’s Andy Bentley, she lost her deposit. We see again that in urban seats the UKIP vote did not go to the governing party, as many expected, but mostly to Labour.
It is hard to believe that Weston-Super-Mare was represented by the Liberal Democrat’s Brian Cotter from 1997 – 2005, and that they came only 2,691 votes from retaking the seat in 2010, because after the shattering collapse in their share of the vote in 2015, dropping from 39.2% to 10.4% and fourth place, they continued to decline this time, seeing their vote fall back to 9.2% for their candidate, Mike Bell. In 2015, Labour’s Tim Taylor snatched a narrow second place over UKIP (18.3% to 17.8%); this year, he nearly doubled the Labour share, gaining 32.7% (+14.4%) and seeing the number of Labour votes rise from 9,594 to 18,438. Their highest ever number of votes in this or it predecessor constituencies, and the highest percentage of the vote achieved since a straight-fight with the Tories’ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing in 1959. For returned MP, former minister John Penrose, he will be pleased to see his vote rise 53.1% (+5.2%), although his majority fell from 15,609 to 11,544, as opposition support coalesced around Mr Taylor. UKIP saw their vote fall to 3.4% (-14.4%), with the Green Party’s Suneil Basu taking 1.6% (-3.4%). Yet again, Labour are the main beneficiaries of the UKIP collapse.
In neighbouring Wells, former Liberal Democrat MP, Tessa Munt, was widely believed to be in with a fair chance of regaining the seat she held from 2010-15, having taken it from long-term Conservative MP and former minister, David Heathcoat-Amory. In the event, and despite increasing the party’s share of the vote to 37.6% (+4.9%), she managed only a 0.45% swing from the Conservatives’ Major James Heappey, who held the seat with a majority of 7,582, only 3 votes less than 2015. He managed to increase his share of the vote to 50.1% (+4%), so will be feeling fairly satisfied. Labour will be happy to have seen their vote rise to 11.7% (+5.1%) with the Christian Peoples’ Alliance candidate, Lorna Corke, managing only 0.5%. UKIP, who came third in 2015 with 9.9%, and the Green Party, who had 4.1% last time, did not stand this time (the latter to help Ms Munt).
Somerton and Frome used to be part of the sea of Liberal Democrat yellow that made up this part of Somerset, with David Heath representing the seat from 1997 until he stood down in 2015, to be replaced in the yellow corner by former MP for Newbury, David Rendel (who sadly died from cancer a year later). 2015 was a disaster for the Liberal Democrats here, as in much of this region, and they saw their vote fall from 47.5% to 19.4% (-28.1%), with the Conservative candidate, David Warburton, gaining the seat with an enormous 18.3% swing. By all accounts, a thoroughly decent bloke and former composer, Mr Warburton was untroubled this time, achieving a further swing to him of 1.2%, achieving a massive 22,906 majority, with 57% of the vote (+4%). Mark Blackburn, for the Liberal Democrats, managed to slightly increase the party’s share to 21% (+1.6%), but will be feeling the heat from the Labour Party, whose candidate, Sean Dromgoole, managed to more than double the vote to 17.3% (+10%). Theo Simon, for the Green Party, took 3.2% (-5.8%), whilst Independent, Richard Hadwin, took 1.6%. UKIP, having placed third in 2015 with 10.7% of the vote, did not stand this time, and much of their vote appears to have gone to Labour.
Yeovil, former seat of Liberal Democrat Leader, Paddy Ashdown, is another seat where the his party fell back, rather than challenged, with sitting Tory MP, Marcus Fysh, re-elected with a big rise in his party’s share of the vote to 54.5% (+12%), whilst Jo Roundell Greene (Lib Dem), saw her party’s position slip back to 29.7% (-3.4%). Labour’s Ian Martin took 12.5% (+5.4%) while the Greens’ Robert Wood took 1.8% (-2.1%), with Independent candidate, Katy Pritchard, taking 1.5%. When coalition Government Minister David Laws lost this seat for the Lib Dems in 2015, it was a big shock, but they must have hoped for a bounce this time, so the party’s continuing unravelling is a concern for them in this most heartland of seats, which they had held since 1983. With UKIP not standing this time, their 13.4% seems to have mostly favoured Mr Fysh.
Completing the stretch of former Liberal Democrat-held seats in Somerset, Taunton Deane, with its predecessor seat, Taunton, has swung from Conservative to Liberal Democrat for 20 years, with Jackie Ballard winning for the LDs in 1997 (2,443 majority), losing it to Adrian Flook of the Conservatives in 2001 (235 majority), Jeremy Browne regaining the seat for the LDs in 2005 (573 majority), then holding it fairly comfortably in 2005 after boundary changes (3,993 majority), and then the 2015 nightmare for the yellow camp, with a 16.8% swing to the Conservatives candidate, Rebecca Pow, and Rachel Gilmour (replacing Jeremy Browne) seeing the party’s vote fall to 21.3% (-27.7%). This time, there was something of a regrowth for the Liberal Democrats to 27.7% (+6.3%), but only a marginal 0.75% swing from the Conservatives. UKIP’s Alan Dimmick saw his party’s vote slump to 2.3% (-9.7%), with the Green’s Clive Martin taking 1.8% (+2.7%). Whilst the latter’s vote may have gone to help the Lib Dem representative, Gideon Amos, the UKIP vote seems to have moved around a bit, with Labour seeing a significant rise to 15.4% (+6.1%).
Bridgwater and West Somerset is represented by Ian Liddell-Grainger, who replaced Tom King in the old Bridgwater constituency (boundary changes in 2010) at the 2001 General Election; now Baron King of Bridgwater, the former MP served in the Cabinet in Departments of State, most notably in Defence. Mr Liddell-Grainger is the great-great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. He held this seat with a share of 55.1% (+9.2%), whilst Labour local councillor Wes Hinckes achieved 28.6% (+11%). The town of Bridgwater itself has a long radical tradition with James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, proclaimed King on the Cornhill in Bridgwater in 1685; as history attests, it didn’t go well for him or nine locals. In 1785, it was the first town in Britain to petition the government to ban slavery, and, in 1896, trade unionists in the brick and tile industry were cleared by troops from the town after a number of strikes – the Riot Act was read and barricades forcibly cleared. From 1938 – 45, the constituency was represented by an Independent Progressive (and sometime Common Wealth) MP, Vernon Bartlett. So, a Labour town, with a Conservative MP due to West Somerset and outer Sedgemoor Council wards. The Liberal Democrats slipped back to 10.9% (-1.6%), whilst Simon Smedley for UKIP, who were second in 2015, fell to fourth place with 3.6% (-15.6%), with the vote splitting fairly evenly between Mr Liddell-Grainger and Mr Hinckes, whilst some appears to have stayed at home, this seat saw a drop of 2.3% in turnout. Kay Powell, for the Green Party, took 1.8% (-3%). A swing of 0.9% to Labour, a majority of 15,446.
Except for a shock by-election gain by the Liberal Democrat Diana Maddock in 1993, which went back to the Tories in 1997, Christchurch constituency has been safely Conservative since its creation in 1983, the Tory vote share was 67.1% then, and is 69.6% now (+11.5% since 2015). The major change is that Labour have replaced the Liberal Democrats as the main challenger, with their candidate, Patrick Canavan, taking 19.9% of vote (+10.3%), with the Liberal Democrats back a distant third on 7.9% (+1.4%). Chris Rigby for the Green Party achieved 2.6% (-1.7%). Christopher Chope, who gained the seat in 1997, and previously spent 9 years as MP for Southampton Itchen, will be delighted with his 25,171 majority. Surprisingly, UKIP did not defend their second place and 21.5% share of the vote from 2015, and the vote appears to have split fairly evenly between Mr Chope and Mr Canavan.
Among the “Slap your face with your hand” results of the general election, were those in the two Bournemouth divisions, where Labour managed to achieve their highest ever vote shares of 35.6% (East) and 36.2% (West). In 2015, Labour lost its 3 seats on the borough council, and the Conservatives took 52 out of 54, with only a Green and Independent candidate holding off the blue tide. In Bournemouth East, lecturer Dr Mel Sample saw an 18.9% vote increase (17,284 votes, up from 7,448 in 2015), to finish 7,937 votes behind Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood, who took the Conservative share of the vote up to 51.9% (+2.7%). The Liberal Democrats’ Jon Nicholas came a long way back in third place with 6.5% (-1.9%), having been main challengers since 1983, they regularly got around a third of the vote here. UKIP’s David Hughes was unable to defend his 16.5% from 2015, falling to 2.9% (-13.6%), with his vote solidly going to Labour. Greens’ Alasdair Keddie took 2.5% (-4.7%), with an Independent on 0.6%. A similar picture in Bournemouth West, where veteran local Labour figure, David Stokes, saw his vote rise by 18.5% (16,101, from 7,386 in 2015), finishing 7,711 votes behind Conor Burns, Conservative MP since 2010. Labour have usually been third in this seat since 1983 (although Mr Stokes took second place in 2001) with a fairly strong vote as it includes the Kinson wards which often elect Labour councillors, though in 2015 it was behind UKIP. The Liberal Democrats Phil Dunn saw his party’s vote fall back again to 6.6% (-1.3). UKIP put up no candidate this time, and the 18.5% they received in 2015 matches the rise in the Labour vote; however, given the drop in the Green vote for their candidate, Simon Bull, more likely going to Labour, one can imagine the 5.3% rise for Mr Burns (who took 53.5%), was largely from UKIP. The Pirate Party’s Jason Halsey didn’t get much from the seaside with 0.9%.
Next door Poole has the distinction of the highest unemployment in the County of Dorset, with the centre and north of the town being in the Index of Multiple Deprivation, whilst the ward of Canford Cliffs has Sandbanks on the coastline with multi-million pound properties. Oil extraction, insurance, care and retail industries are based in the town, and it is a tourist rich area. So, no surprise that Conservative MP, Robert Syms, was returned for the sixth time with 57.9% of the vote (+16.6%). Whilst Labour don’t have any councillors in Poole, they have often managed to poll quite strongly at General Elections, with local man, Peter Watt (briefly Labour Party General Secretary), taking second place in 2005. The surprise is that they came second this time with 29.4%, a huge rise of 16.6% on 2015, with 14,679 votes up from 6,107, their highest share of the vote since 1970, and highest number since 1983. After the disastrous collapse in vote share in 2015 (a drop of 19.8%), the formerly strong Liberal Democrats fell further from 2015 to 8.9% (-2.9%). UKIP did not defend their second place from 2015, and their 16.8% seems to have split more for Labour, with the drop in Green support to 2.6% (-2%) likely to favour them as well. A Demos Direct Initiative candidate, Marty Caine (remember the late great comedienne?) taking 1.1%. A swing to Labour of 4.4%.
Dorset Mid and Poole North is a seat that had only the three man parties standing. Not much to see, except to say it is another former Liberal Democrat seat that has slipped further from their grasp: held by Annette Brooke from 2001-15 (rarely comfortably), Conservative Michael Tomlinson gained it in 2015 with 11.2% swing. Any hope that Vikki Slade (who defended the seat in 2015) had of regaining the seat seems forlorn, as her vote slipped back slightly (-0.7%), whilst Mr Tomlinson saw his vote rise to 59.2% (+8.4%). Bringing up the rear in the red colours, Labour’s Steve Brew will be happy to more than double his vote share to 13.3% (+7.4%). No Green Party or UKIP candidates this time, with the latter’s 12.2% seemingly splitting fairly evenly, whilst the former’s 2.8% probably went towards the Lib Dems and Labour. Swing to Conservatives of 4.5%, majority of 15,339.
In neighbouring Dorset North, the main point of interest is that Labour candidate came second, for the first time in the history of the party fighting this seat. Conservative Simon Hoare successfully defended his seat with a massive 64.9% (+8.3%), Labour’s Pat Osborne took their highest ever share of the vote with 18.6% (+9.7%), with the Liberal Democrat’s Thomas Panton only managing to raise their historically low share of the vote in 2015 to 13.6% (+1.9%), this in a seat the Liberal Democrats were only 4.2% behind the Conservatives in 2005. The Green Party’s John Tutton took 2.9% (-2.8), while UKIP did not defend the seat where they came second in 2015, their 17.1% of the vote then apparently redistributing fairly evenly between the top two. Swing of 0.7% from Conservative to Labour, majority of 25,777.
On the Jurassic Coast, Dorset South was a Labour seat between 2001 and 2010, with Jim Knight (now Lord Knight of Weymouth) going on to hold several government posts. The Labour vote is concentrated in the borough of Weymouth and Portland, but has been balanced by wards from Purbeck district and Owermoigne ward from West Dorset. The seat was made more Conservative by the addition of the gloriously named Creech Barrow ward from Purbeck District and, with Labour slipping back against the Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats in recent local elections, Richard Drax, the Conservative MP since 2010, was never likely to feel under threat. He took a very comfortable 56.1% of the vote (+7.2%), whilst Labour’s Tashi Warr took 33.6% (+9.4%). For the Liberal Democrats, Howard Legg took 5.9% (-0.1%) and Jon Orrell, for the Greens, took 4.4% (-0.3%). UKIP didn’t stand, with their 15% last time seemingly splitting fairly evenly between the Tories and Labour. A 1.1% swing from Tories to Labour, with an 11,695 majority.
Along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset West, long term MP and ex-minister, Oliver Letwin, took 55.5% of the vote (+5.5%), with the Liberal Democrat’s Andy Canning runner-up with 23.5% (+1.9%). Labour’s Lee Rhodes saw his party vote share go up to 18.3% (+8.3%), their best since October, 1974, whilst Kelvin Clayton of the Green Party was the only one to lose votes with 2.7% (-3%). UKIP did not defend their 12.5% from 2015, and Labour appears to have picked up a slight plurality of those votes. Hard to believe that this was a very close seat for Mr Letwin, with the Liberal Democrats pushing him hard in election after election. He will be very happy with a majority of 19,091, with a swing to him from the Liberal Democrats of 1.7%.
In North Devon, former Armed Forces Minister Sir Nick Harvey’s hopes of regaining the seat he held for the Liberal Democrats for 23 years, but lost in 2015, were dashed, despite a closer result than in many former Liberal Democrat seat in the South West. He saw his share of the vote go up to 38% (+8.6%), but failed to close the gap of the re-elected Conservative, Peter Heaton –Jones, who managed to take 45.8% (+3.1%). Sir Nick would have hoped to appeal to tactical Labour voters, but they don’t seem tempted anymore and Mark Cann for Labour saw his vote this time go up to 12.7% (+5.6%). In 2015, Steve Crowther, at the time of writing the interim leader of UKIP, took 14.8% of the vote, but this fell precipitously to 2.1% (-12.6%) this time; it seems to have split in various directions. For the Green Party, Ricky Knight took 1.4% (-4.4%). Swing of 2.75% to the Liberal Democrats, majority of 4,332.
Devon West and Torridge is another former Liberal Democrat seat, which elected John Burnett (now Baron Burnett) in 1997, replacing Emma Nicholson who had defected from the Conservatives in 1995 (now Baroness Nicholson, returning to the Conservative fold in 2016). They held the seat until 2001, losing it to Geoffrey Cox QC, who retained the seat this time for the Conservatives with 56.5% of the vote (+5.7%), their highest share since the seat was created in 1983. For the Liberal Democrats, David Chalmers was not able to retake the runner-up spot lost to UKIP in 2015 (when the Lib Dem vote fell from 40.3% to 13.2%), only increasing to 17.7% (+4.5%). In second place, and to the surprise over just about everyone, was Labour’s Vince Barry, who saw the Labour vote rise to 12,926 (21.7% +11.1%) from 6,015. The Green candidate, Chris Jordan, saw his party’s share of the vote fall to 2.7% (-4.2%) with an Independent taking 1.3%. UKIP, as with most seats in this area, did not stand, and their 18.3% from 2015 appears to have substantially gone to the Labour Party. 2.7% swing to Labour, 20,686 majority.
Tiverton and Honiton has been comfortably Conservative since a relatively close shave for former MP, Angela Browning, in 1997, when she held off a Liberal Democrat challenge by 1,653 votes. Since 2010, Neil Parish has been the Conservative MP, and his main challenger is now the Labour Party whose candidate, Caroline Kolek, took 27.1% of the vote (+14.4%. As Mr Parish had 61.4% of the vote (+7.4%), he won’t be too worried. The formerly strong Liberal Democrats continued to fall back from their collapse in 2015, falling to only 8% of the vote (-2.4%), with the Green’s Gill Westcott taking 3.5% (-2.8%). UKIP, second in 2015, did not field a candidate, and their 16.5% seems to have gone mainly to Labour. Swing to Labour of 3.5%, 19,801 majority.
Devon East, to the east of Exeter and with a shoreline of the Jurassic Coast, including the towns of Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Cranbrook and Ottery St. Mary, created in 1987 and reorganised in 2010, had one of the most fascinating contests of the 2017 General Elections, with former minister Sir Hugo Swire, the local Conservative MP since 2001, facing a real challenge from Independent local councillor, Claire Wright, who received a lot of publicity and backing. Councillor Wright took 24% of the vote from nowhere in 2015, and was seen as the one person who might dislodge the incumbent knight. She made a good fist of it, increasing her vote to 21,270 (up by 8,130) and taking 35.2% of the vote (+11.2%). Sir Hugo managed to increase his share of the vote to 48.5% (+2.1%), whilst Labour’s Jan Ross increased the party’s vote to 11.4% (+1.1%). The Liberal Democrats, formerly the main challengers, were supplanted last time by Cllr Wright, and they declined to a stunning 2.4% of the vote (-4.4%, -28.8% since 2010). UKIP fell to 2% (-10.5%) and two other Independent candidates managed 0.4% of the vote between them. The UKIP vote seems to have solidly swung behind the anti-establishment figure of Claire Wright. There was a 4.55% swing to Cllr Craig, with Sir Hugo’s majority falling to 8,036.
Devon Central was created as a new constituency in 2010, when the number of Devon seats increased from 11 to 12. Estimated to be a Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal, it has been held by the Conservative’s Mel Stride since 2010. In 2015, the Liberal Democrats fell to fourth place with 12.2% of the vote (-22.2), this time they were third with only 11.7% (-0.5%). The Green Party’s Andy Williamson, who had a decent 4,866 votes (8.9%) in 2015, saw it slip to 1,531 (2.6%) this time; UKIP fell from second to fifth place with 2.3% (-10.9%), with Labour’s Lisa Robillard Webb seeing a doubling of the party’s vote to 27% (+14.1%). National Health Action’s John Dean took 1.5% with the Liberal Party’s Lloyd Knight taking 0.8%. Mr Stride took 54.1% and a 15,680 majority. There was a swing to Labour of 6.5%.
Exeter‘s MP, Ben Bradshaw, has represented this seat in the Labour interest since 1997, but I doubt he thought would ever have such a large majority: the University town produced a swing to him of 7.9% with a vote share of 62% (+15.6%), and procuring an extra 9,274 votes to reach 34,336. The Conservative candidate, James Taghdissian, held his party’s vote share at 32.9% (-0.2%), but the absence of UKIP (-9.4%), and with the Liberal Democrat’s Vanessa Newcombe managing only 2.8% (-1.5%), and Joe Levy for the Greens receiving 1.9% (-4.6%) the former BBC journalist swept up most of the redistributed votes (with some inevitable churn) and the increased turnout (up 1.5%). Two Independents took 0.5% of the vote between them. Hard to believe that this ancient constituency has only once been represented by a Labour MP in the past: Gwyneth Dunwoody in the 1966 parliament. Majority: 16,117 votes.
Newton Abbot, created in 2010 to cover Teignmouth, Dawlish, Newton Abbot and the environs, was created from the former Teignmouth seat held by the Liberal Democrat MP, Richard Younger-Ross, from 2001 to 2010. It was seen as a gain by the Conservatives’ Anne Marie-Morris in 2010 and Richard Younger-Ross’s attempt to regain the seat in 2015 saw his vote drop to 23.9% (-18.1%). This time, the Liberal Democrat’s standard-bearer, Marie Chadwick, fell into third place with 20.5% (-3.4%), with James Osben taking the Labour Party up to second place for the first time, more than doubling the party’s vote share to 22.2% (+12.4%). The Green’s Kathryn Driscoll took 1.8% (-2.8%), with UKIP not defending their 13.9%. Ms Morris saw her vote share raise to 55.5% (+8.2%), with a 17,160 majority.
Torbay, another former Liberal Democrat seat represented by Adrian Saunders from 1997 (gained by only 2 votes from Rupert Allason (otherwise known under the pen name of Nigel West) to 2015, this was a seat that the Liberal Democrats had hopes of retaking, but it was a tough ask with a new candidate and the Conservative MP Kevin Foster defending his short incumbency. Mr Foster returned with a greatly increased share of the vote (53% +12.4%). Deborah Brewer for the Liberal Democrats only took 25.1% of the vote (-8.7%), whilst Labour more than doubled their share to 18.2% (+9.5%). As is the common picture in this election, Anthony McIntyre saw his UKIP vote collapse to 2.4% (-11.2%), with the Green Party’s Sam Moss taking 1.3% (-0.2%). A significant turnout increase of 4.4%, it is hard to say for certain where the redistributed and new votes went, without more detailed analysis. Swing to Conservatives of 10.55%, majority of 14,283 votes.
Held for the Conservatives by the independent-minded former GP, Sarah Woolaston, since 2010, Totnes was almost gained by the Liberal Democrats in 2005, but their vote collapsed in 2015 and they came bottom of the poll with 9.9% (-25.7%), with their votes spreading fairly evenly out to the other four candidates (Con, UKIP, Lab, Green). This time, their candidate, Julian Brazil, has managed to increase his share of the vote to 12.9% (+3%), and moved into third place. For Labour, Gerrie Messer has fairly strongly, if somewhat surprisingly for this seat, moved into second place with 26.8% of the vote (+14.1%). Jacqui Hodgson for the Greens took 4.2% (-6.1%) and UKIP’s Steve Harvey gained 2.5% (-11.7%). With the Conservative vote only rising marginally to 53.7% (+0.7%), and with the turnout increasing by 4.5%, the opposition to the sitting MP swung firmly behind Labour; if this stays the case in the future, the Liberal Democrats will have serious problems. Swing to Labour: 6.7%, Majority: 13,477.
Devon South West has been represented by Gary Streeter since 1997, formerly MP for Plymouth Sutton (1992 -97), when it was created. He has always been fairly safe and his 59.9% (+3.3%) will do him nicely. In the past Labour and the Liberal Democrats have swapped second and third place, but Labour are clearly second now with Philippa Davey taking 29.9% (+13.3%), the Liberal Democrat’s Caroline Voaden fell back to 5.2%(-2.3%). UKIP’s Ian Ross gained 2.9% (-11.6%) and the Green’s Win Scutt received 2.1% (-2.7). UKIP’s vote largely went to Labour as, I assume, did the former Liberal Democrat and Green votes. 4.9% swing to Labour, majority of 15,816.
In Plymouth Moor View, the UKIP vote fell by 17.4% and swung heavily to the Conservative’s defending MP, Johnny Mercer, whose vote increased to 51.9% (+14.3%). In second place, Labour will be disappointed to have failed to retake the seat they only lost in 2015 by 1,026. Sue Dann managed to take the Labour vote up to 40.8% (+5.6%), but it appears that former military man, Mr Mercer, has gained from incumbency and the fact that the former Labour MP, Alison Seabeck, did not stand this time. Graham Reed for the Liberal Democrats managed only 2% (-0.9%), with Josh Pope for the Greens taking 1.2% (-1.2%). Swing to the Conservatives: 4.3%, 5,019 majority.
In Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, it was a different story from the northern neighbour, with Labour’s Luke Pollard taking the seat from Conservative incumbent, Oliver Colvile, who had held the seat since gaining it from former Labour MP, Linda Gilroy, in 2010. When the seat was first announced, the council’s returning officer hadn’t included all wards, to add to a nightmare to do with not registering votes in time for the election. In the end, the correct result showed Mr Pollard taking 53.3% of the vote (+16.6%), Mr Colvile taking 40% (+2.2%), Richard Ellison for UKIP down to 2.7% (-11.4%), the liberal Democrat’s Henrietta Bewley taking 2.4% (-1.8%), the Green Party’s Dan Sheaff taking 2.4% (-5.9%) and an Independent with 0.5%. The UKIP votes, unlike in the northern neighbour, swung heavily behind Mr Pollard. A swing of 7.2% to Labour and a 6,807 majority.
Cornwall was a fascinating election story, with the Duchy returning 6 Conservative MPs again, but with Labour becoming the main challengers in 4 of the seats (up from 1 in 2015). It is hard to believe that the Liberal Democrats recently dominated Westminster politics here (all of the constituencies in 2005) as Labour saw massive increases in the Labour share of the vote in Truro and Falmouth (up 22.5% to 37.7%), St. Austell and Newquay (up 18.8% to 29%), Camborne and Redruth (up 19.3% to 44.2%) and Cornwall South East (up 13.3% to 22.6%). The Liberal Democrats only remain contenders in North Cornwall and St. Ives, in the first of which former MP Daniel Rogerson (2005-2015) increased his vote to 36.6% (+5.3%), but still lost to Scott Mann who took 50.7% (+5.8%) and has a majority of 7,200. Labour managed to increase its vote share to a reputable (for this seat), 12.1% (+6.6%). In St. Ives, Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for 18 years, came within 312 votes of retaking the seat from Derek Thomas, with a swing of 2.3%. Christopher Drew, Labour candidate, in a rare three header, took 14.2% (+4.9%). Labour’s vote in Penzance has become very strong and it seems to have cost Mr George his chance to retake the seat, which Mr Drew might also regret. The failure of UKIP to field candidates in what was one of its most established power-bases and where they had recently had success in the 2013 Unitary Council Elections (all lost since in resignations and election defeats) was illuminating.. They only fielded one candidate, in Truro and Falmouth, garnering only 1.6% of the vote (-10%). The Green Party seems to have stood back in this election in a form of “Progressive Alliance” solidarity, fielding only three candidates (Truro and Falmouth, Cornwall South East and Camborne and Redruth). Mebyon Kernow, the local Cornish party, decided not to stand after the recent Unitary Council Elections due to lack of resources. It has been a conundrum for a long time as to why an area of such relative deprivation, such as Cornwall, has not been more successful for Labour, well, that may now have changed for future elections, where they will be looking to squeeze further the Liberal Democrats to overcome the 1,577 Conservative majority of George Eustice in Camborne and Redruth (LD: 6.1% -6.3%) and the 3,792 majority of Sarah Newton in Truro and Falmouth (LD 14.9% - 1.9%). In the latter, the local press reported that tactical voting to keep out the Tories should go to the Lib Dem’s Rob Nolan. Maybe this cost Labour a famous victory. One anecdote for Cornwall, where Labour’s membership increased dramatically in the last two years, which has had a galvanising effect in some areas, on the day of the election it was tweeted : “The main roads in Penryn are full of Labour posters”, If you know Penryn, that was a major sign of political times a’changing.