Bath

2015 Result:
Conservative: 17833 (37.8%)
Labour: 6216 (13.2%)
Lib Dem: 14000 (29.7%)
Green: 5634 (11.9%)
UKIP: 2922 (6.2%)
Independent: 499 (1.1%)
Others: 63 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 3833 (8.1%)

Category: Marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Avon. Part of the Bath and North East Somerset council area.

Main population centres: Bath.

Profile: A compact seat drawn tightly around the city of Bath itself and entirely surrounded by the North East Somerset constituency. Bath is an elegant and attractive Georgian spa town, tourism is important to the economy, but there are also strong software and service industries and two univerisities - the University of Bath and Bath Spa University.

Politics: Bath was historically a Conservative seat but was famously lost to the Liberal Democrats in 1992 when Chris Patten, the then Chairman of the party, won the general election but lost his own seat. It was regained by the Conservatives in 2015.


Current MP
BEN HOWLETT (Conservative) Educated at Cambridge University. Former recruitment consultant. First elected as MP for Bath in 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 14768 (31%)
Lab: 3251 (7%)
LDem: 26651 (57%)
GRN: 1120 (2%)
Oth: 1296 (3%)
MAJ: 11883 (25%)
2005*
Con: 15463 (34%)
Lab: 6773 (15%)
LDem: 20101 (44%)
GRN: 2494 (5%)
Oth: 1005 (2%)
MAJ: 4638 (10%)
2001
Con: 13478 (29%)
Lab: 7269 (16%)
LDem: 23372 (50%)
GRN: 1469 (3%)
Oth: 708 (2%)
MAJ: 9894 (21%)
1997
Con: 16850 (31%)
Lab: 8828 (16%)
LDem: 26169 (48%)
Oth: 950 (2%)
MAJ: 9319 (17%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
BEN HOWLETT (Conservative) Educated at Cambridge University. Recruitment consultant.
OLLIE MIDDLETON (Labour) Born 1995, North Wales. Educated at Ralph Allen School and Westminster University. Student.
STEVE BRADLEY (Liberal Democrat) Born Northern Ireland. Educated at Bath University. Sustainability consultant.
JULIAN DEVERELL (UKIP) Born 1978. Runs a traditional toys and games company.
DOMINIC TRISTRAM (Green) Software architect.
JENNY KNIGHT (English Democrat) Born North Yorkshire. Educated at Bournemouth University. Communications manager. Contested Thornbury and Yate 2010 for UKIP, London region 2014 European elections.
LORAINE MORGAN-BRINKHURST (Independent) Born Bath. Promotions, events and marketing consultant. Bath and North East Somerset councillor since 1996, elected as a Liberal Democrat. Awarded the MBE in 2010.
Links
Comments - 463 Responses on “Bath”
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  1. Foster had a very good result here in 2010, particularly given the disappointing performance in 2005. His majority will probably decrease but it will remain a safe Lib Dem hold, barring something extraordinary taking place.

  2. It should fall to the Tories at some point but agree that the 2010 result was horrific

  3. Foster has done well over the years for someone who was only selected at the last minute in 1992. I don’t know what happened regarding the person who was to have been the LD candidate before him.

  4. It wasn’t Malcolm Dean who stood for the SDP here in 1983 and 1992 was it by any chance?

  5. your results comment seems to imply that foster is standing in 2015, he isn’t…

  6. My current thinking:
    LD 40
    Con 27
    Lab 15
    UKIP 10
    GRN 7

  7. The Tories have selected gaffe-prone Ben Howlett here. Details on Order Order site, but includes saying that he admired Gerry Adams out of all politicians in N Ireland;that Americans should get over 9/11, on the anniversary; being photographed passed out drunk…a real gift to journos!

  8. ‘The Tories have selected gaffe-prone Ben Howlett here. ‘

    Never heard of him – althpugh i dpo gdt the impressdion the Tories have given up on the jidea of winning this back a long time ago

    As with other seats of a similar profile – Cambridge, Oxford East, Bristol West – you can’t see the Tories being competitive here again any time soon

    Unlike those other seats thohgh, the once competitive Labour challenge has been virtually non-existant here, having lost nearly all their voters to the Lib Dems

  9. Oxford East isn’t similar to Bath.

    Its very poor in parts and very multiracial.

  10. Have to say I completely agree with Howlett about 9/11. Like most other Americans I know, my wife completely loses all her sense of rationality and proportion on this issue. I try to be away on the anniversary every year.

  11. What once competitive Labour challenge Tim? Lab could only get 16% in 1997 and should get a figure closer to that in 2015 as the tactical squeeze unwinds but Labour were never competitive in Bath but will be very competitive in Cambridge & Bristol West.

  12. Further back into the 1970s Labour were much more competitive in Bath than in 1997, though I’m not sure if the boundaries then included some of the nearby mining area which is now in Wansdyke…..Pete will know.

  13. Of course Labour came close to taking this seat back in 1966 before the Liberals came into play here.

  14. I don’t think Bath has ever included any of the Somerset coalfield. It has sometimes included the odd village which is now in NE Somerset, but only those which are very close to the city itself, since Bath is almost large enough in population, and always has been, to have a compact urban seat. The west side of the city has always been less upmarket than the east, which includes elegant areas such as Bathwick & Lansdown ward. As it happens, many many moons ago I was keen on a girl who lived in Bath, and her parents were very active in the Labour Party; her mother was nearly elected in the 1978 local elections in a ward called Bloomfield in the west of the city, and one of her running-mates (it was all-out elections) was a defending Labour councillor who did win. Twerton is solid LD these days but would have been a good Labour area in the past. The Liberals started their upward trajectory here in 1974, and stood the recently-defected former Labour MP Chris Mayhew in October 1974; although Labour still polled pretty heavily, he was not far off winning. It is if anything surprising, given how Labour’s vote then plummeted, how long it took the Liberals/LDs finally to break through when they defeated Chris Patten in 1992. So in summary, elegant & upmarket though Bath predominantly is as a city, it does have a less prosperous western section, which formed the basis of a large Labour vote in the past.

  15. ‘Labour were never competitive in Bath but will be very competitive in Cambridge & Bristol West.’

    As Resuklts says, Labour came within 800 votes of winning in Bath in 1966

    Sounds pretty competitive to me

    I think the Bath seat has always been drawn fairly tightly around the city (or would you say Spa town) itself, although in days gobne bt include some nearby villages, whereas now I think it’s exclusively urban

  16. Patten when he was still MP here must have known for a long time that he’d be looking over his shoulder constantly with the Liberal/SDP/Lib Dem threat unlikely to go away in a grand academic city such as this. I would have thought in particular after 1987 he knew he had a fight on his hands- who knows what might have happened here had he not been appointed party chairman?

  17. H Hemmelig- no, Bath never contained the Somerset coalfield.

    In the post-war period prior to 1983, the majority of the Somerset coalfield was contained in the North Somerset constituency. However, the southern third of the coalfield- including places like Coleford and Holcombe was part of the Wells constituency. I guess that is why Labour used to poll respectably there until 1983 (they got within 3500 of the Tories there in 1966).

  18. “Patten when he was still MP here must have known for a long time that he’d be looking over his shoulder constantly with the Liberal/SDP/Lib Dem threat unlikely to go away in a grand academic city such as this.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Bath has been a “grand academic city” for all that long. The university having such a dominant presence in the town is I think quite a recent phenomenon; it has grown very fast over the past 20 years but wasn’t all that big before then.

    I would therefore explain Bath’s Liberal strength by comparing it with somewhere like Cheltenham, and perhaps Harrogate – fellow spa towns which have always been somewhat genteel and prone to the Liberals (though the Tory countryside surrounding Harrogate often outvotes the Liberals in the town). I don’t think the university was much of a factor in Bath until the 1990s.

    Finally it is worth mentioning that Patten – an intellectual blue chip wet – was an ideal Tory MP for a seat like this. He probably got a lot of Liberal-inclined votes which today’s kind of Tory would not get.

  19. The fact that he ended up losing the seat when he had held it for 13 years had to have been the hardest part for him though. On a night when he had arguably masterminded the Tories’ fourth successive victory, he paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost his highly marginal seat. It must have been the highest casualty of the 1992 election I think.

  20. Christopher Patten’s defeat in Bath was said to have met with the exclamation ‘Tory gain’ at certain right-wing gatherings.

  21. It’s true that several spa towns have a Liberal presence – that’s true also of the much smaller Great Malvern – but Cheltenham is noted for GCHQ, financial services & racing, whereas Bath is a noted artistic centre. In many ways its population is tailor-made for the LDs & the surprise to me is how similarly Bath & Cheltenham have voted for so long. Now, Bath at last has a much larger LD majority than Cheltenham.

  22. It’s interesting what Barnaby says about western Bath – my father grew up in Bath and my grandparents lived in Westfield Park, which is a little cul-de-sac just off the A4 right on the western edge (in Weston).

    I wouldn’t describe the area as hugely affluent but it certainly didn’t strike me as down at heel in anyway – all of my grandparent’s neighbours were pretty middle class. indeed, if you drive down Lansdown lane (from the racecourse) the housing seemed pretty nice as you go through Weston (past Newbridge Road, Lower Penn Road etc.). Twerton is slightly further south and I’m less familiar with it, so as Barnaby says maybe that’s one of the key areas of anti-Tory sentiment.

    I should add that my grandparents were both from Merthyr, lifelong Labour voters (my Grandad was an activist in his early days I think) who voted tactically for Foster in 1992.

  23. yes – I guess John Humphrys is rather unusual in being from Merthyr but apparently not being a Labour supporter. He made himself look very silly a few years ago when he complained he’d been disenfranchised. In fact, his wife had got him a postal vote, which was in his house – all he had to do was to go home, fetch the postal vote, and put it in the ballot box.

  24. Well there must be a lot of people out there who have left their roots behind quite deliberately, including politically. I can easily understand why people from Merthyr might want to do that.

  25. ‘Finally it is worth mentioning that Patten – an intellectual blue chip wet – was an ideal Tory MP for a seat like this. He probably got a lot of Liberal-inclined votes which today’s kind of Tory would not get.’

    That’s a good point

    When Oxford and Cambridge elected Tory MPs they were always left of centre – Robert Rhodes James and even Jon Pattern who despite being conservative on social matters was damp economically

    So too Waldegrave who represented Bristol West

  26. Rhodes James was my MP. I wrote to him once, about the Corrie bill to restrict abortions further. Somewhat to my surprise he wrote back to me saying that he was opposed to the bill – making him at the time one of only a tiny handful of Tory MPs who were broadly pro-choice on abortion. His selected successor, Mark Bishop, was someone I’d known pretty well as a leading Cambridge University Tory, and he was very much in the same centrist mode. He of course lost to Labour’s Anne Campbell, however, in 1992 & I’ve never heard of him again. I must say I found him very likeable. I also knew the last MP Dave (he was definitely Dave in those days) Howarth pretty well at university.

  27. I imagine both Bishop and Rhodes James would be Lib dem supporters nowadays – given that their party has moved so far to the Right since 92

  28. “Finally it is worth mentioning that Patten – an intellectual blue chip wet – was an ideal Tory MP for a seat like this. He probably got a lot of Liberal-inclined votes which today’s kind of Tory would not get”

    A more right wing candidate would have lost the seat in 87 let alone 92. Chris Patten could not have done anymore to hold the seat in 1992. I would like to think that one day these seats will become competitive for the Tories again.

  29. They probably will, but that depends on the Conservative Party itself to some extent.

  30. He was unlucky was Patten. I suspect that once 1997 came around, and the Tories fell back even further inline with the national trend, this practically knocked them out of realistic contention here until 2005 when this seat became marginal again.

  31. The Conservatives should hold Bath.

  32. They probably should, but there is obviously a lot of people in this seat of a leftish disposition who are too well-off to even consider supporting Labour, and so since many of this turn of mind are anti-Conservative, they vote Lib Dem.

  33. In a sense Joe is right. Bath is like his own constituency in being a safe LD seat with a very high proportion of “intellectual” voters. Most of these are not socialists, and inasmuch as the LDs & the Conservatives are both anti-socialist parties, the Conservatives cannot for ever assume that these voters are lost to them. It will probably however, as alluded to by LBernard, need the Tories to be seen in a more centrist light than they are now. Of course, this does entail a fine balancing act, since there is a body of opinion (not least on this site here) which thinks that the Tories have, at least on social issues, drifted too far away from the right as represented by Margaret Thatcher and her associates such as Norman Tebbit, and in the end the Tories have to find a happy medium which will satisfy the social conservatives (at least to some extent) and the traditional One Nation centrists if they are to start winning seats like Bath, and indeed Twickenham, again.

  34. I think the key issue about Bath has already been mentioned – this is a pretty tightly drawn urban seat now.

    Moreover, the drift of Conservative-inclined voters from city/town to country taking place across the country is also at work in this area, as is the higher education effect. This makes this seat much harder to win than it might appear to be based on the apparent ‘affluence’ of Bath as a city.

  35. I wonder if it would ever be viable to split the Bath and North East Somerset seats both in half, and create say Bath East and Bath West by attaching chunks of North East Somerset constituency. It would be a potentially better alternative for the Tories than the current donut seat, as they could theoretically win both of the seats instead of just one as at present.

  36. People might not necessarily agree but it strikes me that intelligent people are less and less likely to vote Tory nowadays – and results in seats like this, Cambridge, Bristol West (notwithstanding bou dary changes). Brighton Pavilion, and other seats with universitires that were once Tory, kind of prove it

    It’s like the the US, where people generally vote Republican because either they are exceptionally wealthy or fairly stupid

    And like the Republicans in the US, the Tories used to be the favoured party of intelligent people

    With the likes of Peter Bone and Sarah Palin always on the airwaves, that shouldn’t really come as a great surprise

  37. Intelligence and education are not the same thing.

  38. In answer to HH, that surely is very unlikely given that Bath is almost the right size for a parliamentary seat, and that none of the other seats in the vicinity looks all that makeshift either. It ain’t broke, so for the foresseable future it won’t need fixing.

  39. Tim- I wouldn’t call Rhodes James a stereotypical Wet. Although he was something of a liberal on social matters, he was in his own words, ‘a hardliner on defence and private enterprise’.

    Furthermore, I disagree with your characterisation of Conservative voters as exceptionally wealthy or fairly stupid. Although the Conservative hold on ABC1s is far less secure than it was in 20 years ago, the party still enjoys support from university-educated, professional people.

  40. All Tories are hardline on defence though, with perhaps the only exception I can remember being the eccentric, ex-Monday Club Quaker, Sir Richard Body. Nor would any Tory MP be likely to sound like a Labour person on private enterprise. I reckon he was very much on the left of the Conservative Party on almost every issue where there is a recognisable difference between the 2 wings – he would have annoyed the hell out of Margaret Thatcher. I don’t actually remember his predecessor David Lane as an MP, but I can only assume he was pretty centrist as well. Lane gained the seat from Labour in a 1967 by-election caused by the very untimely death of Robert Davies, who’d only been elected the year before.

  41. Point taken but I doubt you’d hear someone like Ian Gilmour calling himself a hardliner on private enterprise (let alone anything). Rhodes James was something of a lone ranger really.

  42. I’m a wet on defence.

  43. Chris Patten may have had ideal Tory politics as far as Bath was concerned, but from what I heard he was a poor (and often absent) constituency MP, hence why he paid the price in 1992. Happy to be corrected on that but I’ve often thought that even if an MP’s politics suits the seat he or she holds, if they’re no good at doing the basics then they’ll be out sooner rather than later if the seat is anywhere near marginal.

    The growing influence of the university, public sector vote, etc., and national Tory woes since then can probably also help explain why the Conservatives have struggled to regain this seat.

  44. ‘Furthermore, I disagree with your characterisation of Conservative voters as exceptionally wealthy or fairly stupid. Although the Conservative hold on ABC1s is far less secure than it was in 20 years ago, the party still enjoys support from university-educated, professional people.’

    I said that abouit Republican voters in the US, not Tory voters in Britain although I think a case can be made for saying that it’s going that way

    The Tories indeed enjoy support from univedrsity-educated professional people, but gthey were mostly Tory to start with

    Their newest recruits – at least before UKIP came alomg – tended to be WWC who increasingly identify themselves with the Tories not because of any great political philosophy but because they sympathise with traditional Conservative hardline views of issues like immigration and crime

    I’m not for one minute trying to insinuate that these people are stupid, but as such voters move rightwards, other voters – such as those in places like Bath – have moved leftwards

    This shift has been particularly notable amongst university educated people – although perhaps not yet to the scale of the US where graduates overwhelmingly vote Democrat

  45. Tim- thank you for clarifying your position. As it happens, I do think your thesis has quite a bit to be said for it. I just objected to it being put so starkly.

  46. That simply isn’t true Tim.

    Those with college degrees voted Romney marginally.

    Those with little or no education voted Obama, as did those with post-graduate qualifications.

  47. And Romney won those earning 50K $ plus – hardly mega rich.

    Interestingly also whites by as much as 59-39.

  48. ‘Those with college degrees voted Romney marginally.’

    Completely untrue

    People with college degrees came out massively in favour of Obama

    See for yourself:

    http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elections/how_groups_voted/voted_12.html

  49. Your link shows that College graduates voted 51% for Romney. While those with a post graduate qualification voted 55% for Obama they would probably not be a large enough proportion of the total number of graduates to tip the total to Obama. College Graduates were actually Romney’s strongest group in this category. Obama’s strongest were those with no educational qualifications

  50. There are many stupid graduates and many smart non-graduates. If you are good with your hands it would be smart to become a builder and stupid to get a worthless third rate media studies degree, and far more lucrative.

    Though a graduate myself I often find myself preferring the company of working class tradesmen to fellow graduates. Perhaps it is because I’ve spent my career in manufacturing-related sectors.

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