Bristol South

2015 Result:
Conservative: 12377 (24.3%)
Labour: 19505 (38.4%)
Lib Dem: 4416 (8.7%)
Green: 5861 (11.5%)
UKIP: 8381 (16.5%)
TUSC: 302 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 7128 (14%)

Category: Safe Labour seat

Geography: South West, Avon. Part of the Bristol council area.

Main population centres: Bristol.

Profile: This is a traditional white working class seat, stretching from the old former industrial areas of Bristol just south of the city centre like Bedminster, down to the more modern post-war council houses estates on the city`s southern border where there remains a high proportion of social housing.

Politics: Bristol South has a long history as a solid Labour seat, held by the party since 1935. The closest it came to falling was in 1987 in the aftermath of a Michael Cocks deselection. In the 1983 election Bristol South-East has been abolished and Cocks, the Labour Chief Whip, defeated Tony Benn for the nomination for Bristol South. While Benn himself fought and lost the Bristol East seat and later resurfaced as MP for Chesterfield, Benn`s local sympathisers later deselected Cocks and replaced him with Benn`s former constituency secretary Dawn Primarolo. Cocks went to the Lords, where he would become a long standing critic of the Bennite left.

Current MP
KARIN SMYTH (Labour) Born London. Educated at University of East Anglia. Former NHS manager. First elected as MP for Bristol South in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 11086 (23%)
Lab: 18600 (38%)
LDem: 13866 (29%)
BNP: 1739 (4%)
Oth: 3086 (6%)
MAJ: 4734 (10%)
Con: 8466 (20%)
Lab: 20778 (49%)
LDem: 9636 (23%)
GRN: 2127 (5%)
Oth: 1321 (3%)
MAJ: 11142 (26%)
Con: 9118 (22%)
Lab: 23299 (57%)
LDem: 6078 (15%)
GRN: 1233 (3%)
Oth: 1242 (3%)
MAJ: 14181 (35%)
Con: 10562 (21%)
Lab: 29890 (60%)
LDem: 6691 (13%)
Oth: 1230 (2%)
MAJ: 19328 (39%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ISOBEL GRANT (Conservative) Born Kew. Educated at Manchester University. Civil engineer. Ealing councillor 2010-2014.
KARIN SMYTH (Labour) Born London. Educated at University of East Anglia. NHS manager.
MARK WRIGHT (Liberal Democrat) Software engineer. Bristol councillor. Contested Bristol South 2010.
STEVE WOOD (UKIP) Born Bristol. Educated at Hartcliffe Comprehensive. Businessman.
TONY DYER (Green) Born Hartcliffe.
Comments - 172 Responses on “Bristol South”
  1. There has been some discussion of this before – in 2010 or 2011
    but I remain somewhat baffled by this seat.

    I came through it again at the weekend,
    and it really doesn’t look all that poor.

    There is housing away from the main roads which is somewhat tatty – several decades old.

    The Council houses look okish – they have decent gardens for example, and are similar to those that have been sold in many other areas.

    There is a council estate with tower blocks in Hartcliffe, but ironically, the Tories one that ward at least once during Labour’s mid -term in office.

    Knowle is Lib Dem in local elections – probably Labour in General Elections. Nice older properties, perhaps some multi occupied flats.

    There are some new estates of the sort that the Conservatives are competitive in many other areas.

    Yet they do not do well here – they came close in 1987 – at the high point of Thatcherism in the South (including Bristol) but more I think because of some row over Labour candidates,
    and nobody ever suggests this is anything other than a safe Labour seat.

    Does anyone else have any explanations for this? Although the LDs dented Labour’s share in 2005 and 2010
    this is a safe Labour seat.
    The Tories do not do as abysmally as in northern cities , but only have a few pockets.

    Is this seat poorer than it looks,
    or has Labour attracted many affluent votes here aswell?

  2. I posted on this thread on 1st April above, but it didn’t appear. Testing to see if it now does.

  3. I guess this is only classed as semi marginal because the LDs came within 10% in 2010.
    I’d say, in practice, it is an utterly safe Labour seat – the Tories chance long gone, and the LDs probably irrelevant aswell after 2010.

  4. Historically it is just that. Since the much-loved Will Wilkins regained this seat in 1935, it has never been at any serious risk, with the sole exception of 1987 when the deselection of Michael Cocks in favour of Dawn Primarolo was an obvious factor in allowing the Tories to come quite close. Primarolo is still only the 3rd MP since that time, and both her predecessors as well as she have attained fairly senior, though not Cabinet, government office. Both Wilkins & Cocks were Whips.

  5. I agree that this is basically a safe Labour seat and the closest thing that Labour has to a safe seat in the whole of Southern England outside London though Oxford East, Slough and at least one of the Luton seats seem to have become solid Labour areas as well in the past two decades.

    I have posted my thoughts on the upcoming local elections in Bristol on the Bristol East thread if anyone’s interested. I think this year’s contest will be quite interesting in the light of the recent mayoral election.

  6. Marvin Rees to be Labour Candidate here? Or would it be an AWS selection as it is a female incumbent who is standing down?

  7. @rosa Mitchell It is AWS so no Marvin Rees. Anyone from Bristol know why he didn’t win the Bristol Mayoralty?

  8. Yes, AWS. The selection will take place in June (8th or 9th.. I can’t recall now). I know 2 contenders who are in the race (Amanda Ramsey and Karin Smyth) but not the full shortlist.

  9. Kokopops, the independent Liberal candidate stood – who just happened to be a very good candidate but left the Lib Dems – and Marvin Rees lost as a result, he still did okay but not a close second. I reckon he will go for a seat in time for 2015, but Amanda Ramsay is bound to be the MP for this seat.

  10. what seat does bob live in

  11. Camberwell and Peckham.

  12. oh no not harriet hattie harman

  13. no need for that, it has no relevance to the study of elections.

  14. The 1983 general election special states that Anthony Wedgewood Benn was seeking selection for this seat before Bristol East.

    I have often heard how Benn lost because his seat was apparently ‘filled up with Tories’.

    That is not true, as Benn’s majority was 1890 and the BBC / ITN Guide to the New Parliamentary Constituencies in 1983 stated that Bristol East had a notional Labour majority of 4296.

    This was a result of gaining much of the Labour constituency of Bristol North East (that had become a safe Labour consitiuency ever since absorbing much of the abolished Bristol Central in 1974).

  15. Yes Peter is basically correct there. Benn’s personal result in 1983 was not a good one though things got even worse for Labour in Bristol in 1987. He may well have survived had he had the chance to stand in the former Bristol NE but of course that wasn’t his seat – it had been held by Arthur Palmer up to its abolition. Palmer had been first elected in 1945, for Wimbledon.

  16. The Labour moderates gained control of the NEC in 1982 and used this control to stitch up some high profile late selections to freeze out left wing candidates.

    This included Bristol South (Michael Cocks vs Tony Benn) and Brent East (Reg Freeson vs Ken Livingstone).

    After the 1983 election constituency parties in some constituencies took revenge by deselecting the candidates who had benefitted from the pre-election stitch up, including here in Bristol South and in Brent East also. See John Golding’s book “Hammer of the Left”.

  17. Labour shortlist was confirmed last night:

    Barbara Brown
    Amanda Ramsay
    Karin Smyth

    Ramsay and Smyth have a campaigning website if you google them (cutting and pasting the whole link will block my comment in the spam filter).
    There’s a Barbara Brown who is the Head of Equality, Diversity and Community Safety, Avon Fire & Rescue Service. She may be this BB.

  18. AWS seems a bit OTT here, given that Labour have had a woman MP since 1987 and the majority of their MPs elsewhere in Bristol have also recently been women (Jean Corston, Valerie Davey, Kerry McCarthy).

  19. There is growing local disquiet about the selection of Amanda Ramsay as Labour candidate for Bristol South. She moved here shortly after Ms Primarolo announced her retirement and has no clear links with the area other than to stand as the MP. She has previously attempted to be selected as PPC for West Lancashire where she held an address to qualify while remaining a councillor in affluent Wimbledon in south west London. She is seen by many in the area as being a Blairite ‘yes man’ who has been parachuted in from London to further her own political ambitions. With the growing Independents movement in Bristol she WILL be a target for an upset. I think Labour need to bear this in mind.

  20. To be fair, she wouldn’t be the first Labour candidate in that position (Kitty Ussher comes to mind)

  21. She hasn’t be selected yet. The hustings are on June 8th.

  22. “To be fair, she wouldn’t be the first Labour candidate in that position (Kitty Ussher comes to mind)”

    That worked out well

  23. I moved to Bristol for work and family reasons and because generations of my family live here. There’s no parachute in my cupboard! I am a very active member of the Bristol South community and standing on a platform of having the experience of local and national government and extensive professional background, in both the private and not for profit sector, to be able to represent my local area in Parliament. As the only candidate who actually lives here, I would think that is more appealing to the electorate than negative, dirty tricks stories from political opponents.

  24. Amanda did not come to Bristol South to stand for the Parliamentary seat, as someone who knows her personally she came here for work and because many of her family members, generations in fact, live here. She is, whilst we’re on the subject, the only candidate for the selection who actually lives in the constituency, she has obvious links to the area, to local charities and as a school governor, and people who claim otherwise clearly know very little about her!

  25. Bristol South: repeating the same drivel and slurs from the Labour Uncut piece on Amanda I see. Amanda moved here BEFORE Dawn announced she was standing down. And has lived in the area for several years with many links to the local community, including fundraising and charity work, and is a governor for Knowle Park primary.

    “Blairite?” You must be kidding. She has the backing of the likes of Unite, CWU, GMB, and the Co-op. Yes, I can see how you can think this counts as Blairite.

    Shame your facts are completely wrong.

    The fact you use a pseudonym rather than your real name exposes you for the coward and sad individual you are. If you want to go around smearing people, do so using your actual name.


  26. I have only just seen the post above. I do deprecate stuff written under pseudonyms, whether Amanda is Blairite or otherwise. What is particularly unlikely is that there could be an upset. This will be a Labour hold whoever the candidate is.

  27. I was in bristol today although not bristol south, unless temple meads is still covered by it. The proportion of council housing is lower than I expected in the figure on this site. Is the 16pc private meaning private rented, or possibly but unlikely some cinfusion with contracted out stock? If there has been heavy right to buy it has failed to help thre tories.

  28. It’s a bit of a walk from Temple Meads to the centre of Bristol if I remember correctly.

  29. Yes it is – but perhaps people have to remember this is a decent sized City and the centre is quite large.
    I agree the station is a little way out of that though.

    Perhaps the very centre is Bristol Bridge. It used to be called Bristow I think (or with a c in it), meaning place by the bridge.
    It was an interchange point on the River Avon. The old bridge was replaced, however. Of course the large city later developed as a port, slaves and wine.

    The main shopping area is more modern and somewhat to the north. If you want to go to the old centre then you go in a north westerly direction, but if you want to see the Queens Square then come out on the harbour, head west.

  30. Joe is right about Bristol. It’s not hard to see how the name change came about. Even to this day, Bristolians & Bathonians quite often add an L to the end of words – e.g. “this is a noice areal of Bristol” or “moy friend Fional”.

  31. Yes – although many people have a less strong accent.

    I like the way Bristol is this interesting Metropolitan area spread out with these excellent natural surroundings.

    What was Jean Corston like as an MP? She retired in 2005 having gained the Bristol E seat back from the Tories on 6.8% swing in 1992.
    She sounded quite good, but was fairly low profile at national level.

  32. “Area 7 LSOAs moving out of the most deprived 10% in England are:
    E01014517 Sherrin Way (Bishopsworth ward)
    E01014568 St Marks Road (Easton ward)
    E01014584 Glyn Vale (Filwood ward)
    E01014595 Withywood (Hartcliffe ward)
    E01014610 Wharnecliffe Gardens (Hengrove ward)
    E01014660 Lockleaze North (Lockleaze ward)
    E01014729 Marksbury Road (Windmill Hill ward)

    …. March 2011”

    I can only conclude that the LA housing in Bristol South is actually quite good quality, and in natural environment, for the most part.
    Wharnecliffe Gardens in Hengrove doesn’t look bad.
    Very few tower blocks in Bristol South, apart from Hartcliffe. Indeed that may be the only.
    Also many of the houses look owner occupied – may be they are privately rented.

    Brislington in Bristol E contains some roads which look rather more run down, but perhaps that is owner occupied.

  33. Karin Smyth won Labour selection on first preferences.

    That’s this lady:

  34. now bob can shut up about amanda ramsay

  35. Congratulations to Karin Smyth.
    A strong Labour seat, despite my research showing it looks more owner occupied than I thought.
    I suspect the LD vote could collapse here, except in Knowle.

  36. LAB 47
    CON 25
    LD 19
    GRN 6
    UKIP 3

  37. I think Dawn Primarolo has been a good Deputy Speaker- there are some good YouTube videos of her keeping order without lapsing into Bercow-style histrionics.

  38. She sounds like a kindergarten teacher. But again, MPs often behave like kindergarten children.

  39. Not a bad prediction – better than your Bristol NW one.
    I think the LDs probably will fall back to about 15% though.

  40. What were the wards of this seat and of the old Bristol South East seat from 1974 to 1983?

  41. Re-visiting this, I think the LD vote could collapse here actually so it could produce a very large Labour swing.
    UKIP unlikely to poll well here.
    Probably some room for 2 or 3 points of that collapse to move across to Conservative, who might be starting to do a bit better in this city (which they underperformed badly in in 2001 and 2005).

  42. I remember one newspaper (can’t remember which one), when Labour left government in 2010, was discussing who the worst minister of the time was. Think Daniel Finkelstein mentioned Dawn Primarolo. She was a minister throughout the Blair and Brown years despite questionable ability.

    She has done well as deputy speaker. Her voice sounds like a friendly but firm school teacher.

    Bristol South should return back to fairly safe Labour territory next year. I believe the Bristol S wards are being contested locally in May so we shall see which of the opposition parties Labour manages to take most votes from.

    Being WWC, we might see an alright UKIP performance. Bristol is hardly their territory though.

  43. Possible forecast ( a range though)

    Lab 54% +16%
    Con 26% +3%
    LD 13% -16%
    UKIP 4% +1%
    Green 3% +0.5%

  44. To be fair to Dawn P I’m not sure why a lib dem matey sofa commentator would know one way or the other who the best or worst ministers were.

  45. Daniel Finkelstein isn’t a Lib Dem. He used to be in the SDP, but he left at the merger and he does a fair bit of Osborne’s speechwriting.

  46. ‘Daniel Finkelstein isn’t a Lib Dem. He used to be in the SDP, but he left at the merger and he does a fair bit of Osborne’s speechwriting’

    That’s right

    He seems such a standard mainstream Tory that it’s hard to believe he was once very high up in the third party. He was Chair of the Young Social Democrats and seen as an Owen protege

    But he’s one of a group of British journalists – many of them Jewish – who have moved from the social democratic left to the Right over the years

    Others include David Aaronovitch, Stephen Pollard. Melanie Phillips and Peter Hitchens

  47. what on earth has their Jewish background got to do with anything?

  48. ‘what on earth has their Jewish background got to do with anything?’

    Maybe nothing – it’s just an interesting side note

    There’s a similar trend in the Neo Conservative movement in America which is full of old 1960s and 70s lefties who changed their tune once they started making money

  49. Isn’t Aaronovitch a Blairite? Him and Melanie Phillips strike me as Neo Conservative re foreign policy views, but she seems more right wing on domestic issues.

    Peter Hitchens seems to be a traditional right winger, but is far more isolationist/non-interventionist on foreign policy matters. Something which UKIP and many of their supporters probably share.

  50. Its not unreasonable or racist to state that many of a group of people who have moved from left to right are Jewish.

    Its not really that suprising given that Jews as a whole have moved relentlessly to the right decade after decade.

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