Bexhill & Battle

2015 Result:
Conservative: 30245 (54.8%)
Labour: 7797 (14.1%)
Lib Dem: 4199 (7.6%)
Green: 2807 (5.1%)
UKIP: 10170 (18.4%)
MAJORITY: 20075 (36.4%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, East Sussex. Most of the Rother council area and part of the Wealden council area.

Main population centres: Bexhill, Battle, Pevensey Bay, Westham, Hankham, Heathfield, Northiam.

Profile: Though it covers a large geographical area, by far the largest settlement here is the genteel seaside town of Bexhill, a popular retirement location with a large elderly population. Further along the coastal strip is the much smaller seaside resort of Pevensey Bay and Westham, an inland village that is expanding as part of the greater Eastbourne area. The rest of the seat is a large swathe of rural territory, the rolling hills and woodland of the High Weald, dotted with small villages. It includes the small market town of Heathfield and Battle, a town that grew up around the Abbey built to commemorate William the Conqueror`s victory here in 1066.

Politics: A very safe Conservative seat, called Rye until 1983 when Rye itself was moved into the Hastings constituency.


Current MP
HUW MERRIMAN (Conservative) Former lawyer. Wealden councillor since 2007. Contested North East Derbyshire 2010. First elected as MP for Bexhill & Battle in 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 28147 (52%)
Lab: 6524 (12%)
LDem: 15267 (28%)
BNP: 1950 (4%)
Oth: 2699 (5%)
MAJ: 12880 (24%)
2005*
Con: 24629 (53%)
Lab: 8457 (18%)
LDem: 11180 (24%)
UKIP: 2568 (5%)
MAJ: 13449 (29%)
2001
Con: 21555 (48%)
Lab: 8702 (19%)
LDem: 11052 (25%)
UKIP: 3474 (8%)
MAJ: 10503 (23%)
1997
Con: 23570 (48%)
Lab: 8866 (18%)
LDem: 12470 (25%)
Oth: 786 (2%)
MAJ: 11100 (23%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
HUW MERRIMAN (Conservative) Lawyer. Wealden councillor since 2007. Contested North East Derbyshire 2010.
MICHELLE THEW (Labour) CEO of Cruelty Free International.
RACHEL SADLER (Liberal Democrat)
GEOFFREY BASTIN (UKIP)
JONATHAN KENT (Green)
Links
Comments - 100 Responses on “Bexhill & Battle”
  1. Yes, I saw her on the news this week. The report was about Tristram Hunt’s private schools proposal and Ms Vere responded to it.

    I wonder if Suella Fernandes will manage to find a safe seat (if there are any remaining vacancies).

  2. The Tories have been and are being ridiculously slow/late at selecting PPCs again. I haven’t seen an updated list, but last time they didn’t select most of Merseyside until January 2010 and Hyndburn was left until the last minute too. They only selected Southport last month and that was a Tory seat the last time they had a majority.

  3. Neil Charnwood is remaining I think.

  4. Lance Observer: an updated list is available here

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0At91c3wX1Wu5dFkzTjFrRmJRN3F6ODBTTEs4NGFhcUE#gid=0

    The Tories have about 80 incumbents to be reselected and about 150 selections to make in seats held by other parties.

  5. Andy JS – great info, thanks. Wow, 150 selections to go is bizarre. I think the Commons is only sitting for 12 more weeks until the GE.

  6. It may be that reselection for those 80 Tory MPs is being taken for granted by their associations.

  7. There are some seats there which really ought to have a Tory candidate by now, to put up a good fight if not necessarily to win.

    Barrow and Furness, Banff and Buchan, Clwyd South are three near the start of the alphabet.

  8. The Tories left it very late to select candidates in Edgbaston and Walsall South. Both were chosen in recent weeks. If they’d been really serious about making gains I think they would have selected in those seats two or three years ago in order to get the candidate as well known as possible.

  9. Very true. Although in the case of Gisela S, I expect many Tories would prefer her to a Cameroon.

  10. I hadn’t noticed that Michelle Thew had been selected here. She was a member of my CLP & stood in Mortlake ward in a by-election in 1997, increasing the Labour share by 10% which gave us our chance to win the ward the next year. I think she hails originally from the NE of England.

  11. Hopefully, she’ll move on to bigger and better things at the following GE, having stood in an archetypal no-hoper in 2015 (although Emily Benn hasn’t).

  12. East Sussex is an odd county from a Labour point of view: 4 seats they can win and 4 they have absolutely no chance in.

  13. Presumably you’re counting the Brighton and Hove seats as ‘East Sussex’, Andy JS. Technically and administratively no longer the case.

  14. “The head of a local Conservative Party association claimed that a potential parliamentary candidate lost out on a chance to run for election because she had the “double whammy” of “being brown and a woman.”

    The Conservatives are considering taking action against John Barnes, a Tory councilor for Bexhill and Battle, after he told the Financial Times the combination of Suella Fernades’s sex and ethnicity was a “handicap.””

    http://rt.com/uk/213579-conservative-reject-racism-sexism/

  15. Dr John – I think there’s a ceremonial county of E Sussex which still includes B&H.

  16. ‘East Sussex is an odd county from a Labour point of view: 4 seats they can win and 4 they have absolutely no chance in.’

    From a post was point of view, up until 1997 East Sussex was as reliably Conservative as any county in the South East

    Before then the only time there wasn’t a clean sheet of Tory MPs elected to Parliament was in 1966 when Labour won Brighton KempTown for a single term

    Whilst it’s not hard to see why Labour have made in roads in places like Hastings and Brighton & Hove, in the latter’s case it is somewhat curious, given that Brighton & Hove is a far more desirable, prosperous and not to mention expensive place now than it was all those years ago when it was reliably Conservative

  17. Small correction tim – in fact labour’s dennis Hobden also won kemptown in 1964, by 7 votes. He held it (by memory) by 832 in 1966. Sorry can’t work out how to control capitals on this ipad.

  18. I wasn’t aware of that

    there must have been a few recounts

    with the exception of Peterborough in 1966 and the legally contested winchester result in 1997, that must be the smallest majorities ever recorded

  19. Crawley is Labours only prospect in West Sussex. Before 1983 it shared it’s MP with Horsham (being added to the constituency title in 1974). It largely grew as a dormitory town for workers at Gatwick airport.

  20. Tim – there have been others. Remember in the very last election Sinn Fein held Fermanagh & South Tyrone by 4 votes. In 1945 the Tories held Worcester by the same margin, and in February 1974 labour’s gwynoro Jones held Carmarthen (temporarily as it turned out) by 3 votes.

  21. The Tories won Leicester South in 1983 by 7 votes.

  22. The smallest majority was recorded at Derbyshire, Ilkeston in 1931 – a majority of 2 for National Labour over Labour (not including obviously the voided Winchester result)

  23. Bexhill & Battle is no longer a safe Tory seat if ever there was one. All the money is on the UKIP candidate who is local and has been in place for 12 months. Greg Barker was never liked and won’t be missed. There is a large over 50’s vote in Bexhill & Battle and the majority are very disillusioned with the Tory’s over the EU, immigration and the prospect of large housing estates being dumped on their characterful villages by ruthless planners and the National Planning Policy Framework that is set to change so much and not for the better.

  24. Just noticed the above claim that “all the money is on the UKIP candidate”.

    So far, we at Ladbrokes have taken £9 on UKIP to win this seat.

    1/50 Cons
    10/1 UKIP
    50/1 LD
    100 Lab
    100 Green

  25. which raises the question as to how indicative the bookies odds are if they are driven by a flow of bets that is so puny… I have read quite a bit in here about how the bookies “do their work” to be well-informed.. but what does that mean? comprehensive polling…? picking up the vibes from the racehorse punters? sounding the local drinking holes?

    I would suggest that the veracity (and even that is suspect) of the odds might be bolstered by also knowing the volume of wagering that are behind the respective calls.. with £9 at stake on UKIP in B&B we could be talking of some dyed in the wool UKIPper risking his milk money

  26. This will not be a UKIP gain. It’s not surprising that that party has its rampers, as most if not all of them do including my own. This will be a Conservative hold. It does have a large elderly population including in Bexhill but very little of the demographic which is most heavily in favour of UKIP.

  27. Conservative Hold. 18,000 maj

  28. I can see why it was thought to ge so marginal!

  29. Merriman’s majority was 20, 075, massively up on 2010- so for the timebeing at least, the longterm trends against the Tories in this part of the world are not about to prevent them from continuing to hold this seat very safely, though the progress in vote share change this time was greatly helped by the national situation.

  30. Well this is not the monolithically Conservative seat that it still was in 1992 but 54.8% is still reasonably good going and Labour remains over 40% behind. The Conservative vote inland still appears very strong.

  31. Indeed. I suspect the Tories here are now unlikely to be in any trouble here for another decade at least, although UKIP are in second place it’s not clear if they’ll be ever able to threaten Merriman here in the future- I find it a bit unlikely, and so therefore the heavily split opposition in this seat will for a long time make it difficult for the Tories to lose this seat any day soon, barring something Tatton-esque.

  32. LibDem councillor who lost his seat in Battle on May 7th took it back last night in a by-election after the new Tory councillor resigned due to ill-health..

  33. Heathfield was in Wealden from 1983 to 2010 and here since

  34. This MP has denied he sexually harassed a former colleague at Lehman Brothers.

    He is being sued in an Employment Tribunal.

    Tories, sexual advances and a banker – I see the Tories haven’t improved their vetting criteria for PPCs yet.

  35. ‘Tories, sexual advances and a banker – I see the Tories haven’t improved their vetting criteria for PPCs yet.’

    The Tories that dominate local selection committees have long thought that a person’s suitability for higher office is measured by their wealth – which helps explain why so many Tory MPs are millionaires

  36. @Tim Jones

    Care to provide any evidence for this assertion?

    Tory selection committees have historically had many things wrong with them (and still do to an extent in some areas) but I don’t think selecting people for their wealth has been one since at least the 1950s.

  37. “Tories, sexual advances and a banker – I see the Tories haven’t improved their vetting criteria for PPCs yet.”

    A comment that rather betrays the political prejudices of the pseudonymous contributor, while also assuming that the guy in question has actually done anything wrong. Of course for Tim the fact that the man involved is a Tory is enough for the “no smoke without fire” rule to apply.

    Actually lurking somewhere beneath Tim’s comment there is a serious point of discussion: the extent to which the demands now placed upon candidates in winnable seats work in favour of those with money and time to spare. Increasingly candidates are selected years before an election, being expected to spend a large part of the intervening time nursing the constituency.

    But Tim wasn’t deliberately alluding to that. He was just sticking his tongue out at the Tories.

  38. “Actually lurking somewhere beneath Tim’s comment there is a serious point of discussion: the extent to which the demands now placed upon candidates in winnable seats work in favour of those with money and time to spare. Increasingly candidates are selected years before an election, being expected to spend a large part of the intervening time nursing the constituency.”

    Quite right. Especially as for Tory selectorates the criteria for a winnable seat often involves a previous suicide run – something that doesn’t come cheaply itself. Very often the selected candidate will need the resources to be able to put their career on hold for a few years, something that undoubtedly favours people with money and people in certain professions like the law. But this doesn’t amount to selection committees measuring somebody’s suitability by their wealth.

  39. Quite right. This also links in with the issue of the increasing lack of tolerance for MPs having outside interests. All the sanctimonious bilge about MP being a full time job creates a situation where getting elected has to mean taking complete career break for a substantial period of time. An awful lot of very able people will be put off from entering politics if doing so means you can’t keep your other career ticking over for the duration of your time in parliament.

    It’s a set up designed for those whose career is politics. People need to decide what the greatest evil is; MPs having second jobs or the rise of the professional politician with little experience of the world outside politics.

  40. ‘Care to provide any evidence for this assertion?’

    Take one look at the MP’s on the Tory benches – they are universally wealthy, even the select few from working class backgrounds

    And whilst the Tories have taken action to improve their representation amongst women and ethnic minorities – again it always seems to be wealthy women and wealthy ethnic minority candidates who represent them

    And this is despite the fact that the Tories have more working class people voting for them than at any other time in post war Britain, so you can see why this stick to the wealth measure when determining how suitable candidates are

    I know how touchy and precious some of the Tories on this site are and if they think the observation of this very pertinant fact is a criticism, than so be it, but I still get the impression that the idea that a persons worth is determined by their wealth is one which is still prevelant in Tory grassroots circles

  41. His Linkedin profile shows him as a lawyer involved in the wind-up of Lehman Brothers. Whether he worked there in its business days (i.e. pre-2008) is not clear. So he is not a banker per se.

    It is almost impossible for someone working the 6.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. hamster wheel at Goldman or any of the other Canary Wharf banks to ponder a parliamentary run. They just would not get the time off.

    The days of stockbrokers having 9.30 starts and 3.30 departures are long gone except in small boutique firms.

  42. “Take one look at the MP’s on the Tory benches – they are universally wealthy, even the select few from working class backgrounds”.

    But saying that isn’t the same as saying (as you did) that Tory select committees are biased in favour of the wealthy. A study of the net worth of MPs probably would find that Tories are wealthier on average. But that’s likely to be a reflection of the different occupational background Tory MPs come from compared with other MPs, which is pretty much reflective of the different demographics the parties appeal to.

    This paper details the occupational background of MPs elected in 2015: https://smithinstitutethinktank.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/who-governs-britain.pdf

    Substantially more Conservative MPs worked in business, finance or the law where rates of pay are substantially higher than in education/academia, the media, the voluntary sector and the trade unions where more Labour members worked prior to being elected.

  43. I can’t say that the sex scandal here is the biggest ever, by a long way.

    Can I clarify, did the sexual behaviour of which this MP is being accused occur before or after he was selected as a candidate?

  44. ‘But saying that isn’t the same as saying (as you did) that Tory select committees are biased in favour of the wealthy. ‘

    But it’s surely the selection committee who are primarily responsible for this

    Unless people of modest means don’t apply to become Tory MPs of course – which of course could be partly true given that quite a few people see the Tories as the party of the rich and fortunate

    Of course, Labour committees are guilty of similar prejudices – and probably value things such as charity work higher than say a successful business career – which is still viewed by too many in the party with suspicion

  45. “Unless people of modest means don’t apply to become Tory MPs of course – which of course could be partly true given that quite a few people see the Tories as the party of the rich and fortunate”.

    You’re nearly there. Strip out the anti-Tory prejudice and you’re close to the truth. People that apply to become Conservative candidates unsurprisingly come disproportionately from occupational backgrounds where there are higher levels of support for the Conservative Party. Those occupations tend to be better rewarded financially than those that have lower levels of Conservative support.

    The composition of paliamentary parties is basically a reflection of patterns of party support in the wider country. I don’t see prejudice among members in candidate selection as being a major factor in any party.

  46. “Unless people of modest means don’t apply to become Tory MPs of course – which of course could be partly true given that quite a few people see the Tories as the party of the rich and fortunate”

    I haven’t had the special access to their bank balances that you’ve obviously had but I’m sure that many of relatively modest means apply and many get selected. For instance to name just five almost at random I doubt Patrick McLoughlin, Johnny Mercer, Amanda Solloway, Tom Pursglove and Maria Caulfield were particularly well off at the time of their election. Far less that could be described as being genuinely poor get selected, of course, but that is likely to be because few apply and few get through the initial sifting process for good seats which does tend to favour people with political experience (a suicide run, council experience, membership of the GLA/devolved assemblies etc., work as a political adviser). I don’t think this is much different from Labour where most candidates seem to come from good public sector jobs – even if they have experienced genuine hardship in their lives I can’t think of one example where they were at the time of their selection. People that are suffering hardship probably don’t apply even for them.

  47. If a potential candidate of exceptional ability turns up both the major parties, in their different ways, will ensure that they have sufficient money to get them through until they become MPs.

  48. Bexhill’s outgoing Mayor and Rother District Council’s only Labour Cllr has defected to the Conservatives.

    Sidley’s Maurice Watson sat with the Tories for the first time last week.

  49. Barnaby “It does have a large elderly population including in Bexhill but very little of the demographic which is most heavily in favour of UKIP.” Well they polled over 10,000 and over 18%.

    Kieran ” Increasingly candidates are selected years before an election, being expected to spend a large part of the intervening time nursing the constituency.”

    You’ll see upthread that my criticism was actually due to the opposite phenomenon. Many Tory PPCs were selected late and a larger proportion who were said to have been ‘parachuted in’ last minute have then been involved in some sort of scandal (due to a lack of due diligence).

    The people at fault are surely CCHQ. This is also the case with cllrs who defect.

  50. The most interesting thing to do in Bexhill is to visit the De La Warr Pavilion which was built in 1935. It’s been featured in at least one episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet.

    http://www.dlwp.com/about-us/

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