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. Joan Vickers faught Devonport under as a National Liberal Conservative so technically you could argue that it joins Brisol South in being the only seat in southern england outside london not to elect a tory – but that’s clutching at straws as the National >Liberals did eventually merge with the Tories

  2. Barnaby, you make a good point. But how did the boundaries in 1931 of Bristol South and Bristol East map onto present-day parliamentary boundaries?

  3. Or indeed those of 1983!

  4. Barnaby – Janet Fookes took over Merton & Morden in 1970 but the seat was abolished in 1974 hence she moved to Plymouth. She could have tried her luck in Mitcham & Morden as Robert Carr moved from Mitcham to the new Carshalton seat, but it wouldn’t have done her much good.

  5. yes I know that – just wondered why Atkins chicken-ran when there was no boundary change. Fookes at least knew that the boundary change would damage her chances. As it was she was desperately close to losing Plymouth Drake in October 1974 – she had a majority of 34 IIRC.

  6. Useless fact: the Tory MP for Bristol South from 1931 to 1935, Noel Ker Lindsay, is still alive at the age of 107 according to some sources, because no report of his death has ever been found. In fact, it’s thought he died in about 1966. Very unusual for such an important person not to have an accurate date of death.

  7. Sorry Barnaby, looking back it appears I completely misread your earlier post.
    I can only speculate about Humphrey Atkins’ motives for doing the chicken run in 1970, but of course the boundary proposals which were to abolish his seat had been published in the course of the 1966 Parliament and were due to be implememnted in time for the 1970 election but were delayed by the Labour government. He may have arranged his ‘chicken run’ before it was known they would be delayed or he may have surmised that in any case the seat would be abolished sooner or later asiit was clear that Merton could not sustain three seats.


    Sorry to post a twitter conversation – Noel Ker Lindsays great nephew says that he disappeared.

  9. No need to apologise — bloody interesting Tweet.

  10. That was interesting Andy. As it happens, I’ve been looking at the 1951 general election results & find that quite a few of the candidates in that election are still alive, though only one successful one (John Freeman, as with 1945 & 1950).
    Re Joan Vickers, referring to Tim’s post above, by the 1964 general election she had started to describe herself as Conservative.
    And thanks Pete. That is a plausible explanation. The boundary review during the 1966-1970 parliament is well described in Dick Crossman’s diaries.
    Finally – apologies if this has been mentioned before – all the 3 Labour MPs for this seat in living memory have achieved senior government office without making it to the full Cabinet. Will Wilkins & Michael Cocks were both Whips (the latter Chief Whip) and Dawn Primarolo was a senior non-cabinet minister who is a Privy Counsellor. Her successor will therefore no doubt be optimistic of achieving future government office.

  11. prediction for 2015-

    Lab- 42%
    Con- 20%
    Lib- 18%
    UKIP- 14%
    Green- 5%
    TUSC- 1%

    2010 was an utter disaster for labour. I mean yes, they held the seat but their share of the vote was probably 10% smaller then what it perhaps should have been and I think it’s because their voters left for the liberal democrats, who performed better than they may perform ever again so the lib dem voters should go back to labour and see their vote fall to pieces. A so so seat for UKIP I think that they might clinch third if they’re lucky.

    Greens have a decent core vote here that should grow a great deal. I see the TUSC on the right side of 0.5%

  12. I have just been looking at the thread on Labour defence and see that this seat has a majority of just less than the 10% whcih would be regarded as safe short of a landslide.

    But is this seat really safe for Labour? It seems to have been recording above-average swings to the Conservatives for several elections now, and in addition Labour are changing candidate.

    Given that the Tories are heavily outspending other parties in the run-up to the election and have room to manipulate the political agenda e.g. in relation to the budget, I am quite prepared to believe that there may be a swing to the Tories between now and the General Election, in which case this seat may well come into serious play.

    Local reports on this seat would be very welcome

  13. Er, the Conservatives have polled 21%, 22%, 20% and 23% at the last four elections. Why would they be contenders in this seat?

    As with many safe Labour seats, Labour isn’t racking up the huge votes that it once used to. That doesn’t mean it’s trending Conservative – just that more and more people are less willing to vote for the main parties. It hasn’t (yet) reached a point where someone apart from Labour has a chance to win, but if it did, it wouldn’t be the Tories that are the beneficiaries.

  14. Labour haven’t been doing very well in the Bristol area this parliament, but they will win very easily here.

  15. Ah, you can hide my previous comment. I thought the graph at the top of this page was a prediction. But it’s the 2010 result, yeah?

  16. Labour Hold. 9,000 maj.

  17. Local election results for the Bristol South wards:

    Labour – 33.1 % (17,004)
    Cons – 21.5 (11,067)
    Green – 20.4 (10,482)
    LibDem – 13.4 (6,900)
    Ukip – 10.1 (5,173 – candidates in 5 of 9 wards)

  18. Decent general election results for UKIP and the Greens here. Is this constituency so diverse that it has WWC voters as well as hipsters/bohemians?

    Labour secured a bigger majority than 2010, but I assume it was the collapse of the Lib Dem vote that did it. Labour’s overall vote went down by 0.1%.

  19. I’m not sure I would characterise this constituency as bohemian. Much of it is pretty gritty territory.

  20. Yes, Bristol South is far less bohemian/hipster than some of the other Bristol constituencies (particularly Bristol West) which contain the bulk of the student/former student population, this is more council estate territory.

  21. AIUI, the only part of this constituency that could be described as bohemian is Southville which has become increasingly gentrified in recent years. That’s certainly where most of the Green vote in this seat is concentrated and this is also evident in recent local election results.

  22. I know I have asked people about this one before.
    But I don’t understand why some people seem to think this is a grim area.

    The housing is quite good quality.
    Bedminster is quite tatty and inner city, but it’s not as bad as living in a very closed in rundown area from what I saw.

    The larger estates are all quite spaciously laid out.

  23. I can’t really comment on the quality of housing, but certainly when I first moved to Bristol the guide issued by the SU as a “welcome to Bristol” with tips for where to go suggested most of the areas in this constituency were very much “no go” for students.

  24. The perfect illustration of Labour’s wider problems: they overturn an 11,000 majority in Bristol West but their vote goes down slightly in Bristol South.

  25. There used to be a saying in the US that the Democrats had become the party of ‘pointy-headed people and ethnic minorities’. That is where Labour is heading now.

  26. Thanks Jason.
    Perhaps although the housing looks ok it’s a somewhat more troubled neighbourhood.

    Looks like quite reasonable estates.

  27. Runnymede – I’d be interested if you (and Andy and all) eleborated more on this seat.
    Do you agree /disagree with my point?

  28. If you have a look at maps of deprivation you will see there is quite a nasty concentration of very deprived areas in this constituency

  29. Thanks – I’ll take a look – very interested to see what they are.
    This seat doesn’t look like what it is then.
    It just looks like average housing similar to some of the areas in Kingswood, Bristol E and Bristol NW

  30. Who is Karin Smith supporting for Labou leader, and come to that who is the CLP Executive supporting?. This seat has a long tradition of being on the left of the Labour Party and I am wondering whether this is continuing.

  31. She’s backing Cooper

  32. Labour’s performance in this seat was very poor in May, considering the Lib Dem challenge folded and that they have held it since 1935, usually by landslides. It is hard to see anybody else taking it but you do wonder what might happen in places like this if Corbyn is still in place in 2020…

  33. They performed poorly in Bristol East too. Virtually no swing from last time.

  34. Greens didn’t stand in 2010 and achieving 12% this time, I assume they picked up Lib Dems who would have voted Labour. I would have thought Corbyn would squeeze the Green vote in a seat like this.

  35. @JackSheldon. It is likely Corbyn will be poorly received in the working class parts of this seats in the south of the constituency such as Hartcliffe, Whitchuch Park and Hengrove. These wards, particularly the former two, are traditionally Labour (both were easily won even in 1983 for example) but are places where the Labour vote has been tepid for sometime, the Lib Dems used to do well round there but more recently the opposition to Labour is split between the Tories and UKIP.

    However at Matt Wilson says the Greens did fairly well here last time. Their strength comes from the North of the seat nearer the city centre (while they are very weak in the southern wards) where the electorate is exactly the kind of people who will switch back to Labour because of Corbyn having voted Green in the first as Labour was perceived as not being sufficiently left wing. This gain of Green votes will probably be enough to counteract lost votes in the southern wards of this seat making it very hard for me to see Labour losing here even with Corbyn.

    There is a possibility Labour could be in trouble if the boundary commission transferred Southville, Windmill Hill and Bedminster to Bristol West and added Stockwood, Brislington West and Brislington East. This new seat would have a smaller Labour majority over the Conservatves than the current Bristol South but would still be notionally Labour by a fair margin. However the UKIP vote would be quite a bit higher and the Green vote much lower presenting a significantly more challenging seat for a Corbynite Labour Party. Labour would probably still be the favourites but there would be much more of a competition than in the current incarnation of Bristol South.

    However luckily for Karin Smyth Bristol South is the right size for a parliamentary constituency anyway so it will probably be left unchanged. The only boundary changes likely in Bristol is the transfer of Easton from Bristol West to Bristol East. This being a helpful change for Labour both weakening the Tories in Bristol East and weakening the Greens in Bristol West.

  36. Thanks for the replies. Yes, I think you are both probably right that even if LAB fell further back in the working class parts of this seat under Corbyn they could expect to regain some of the Green voters.

  37. Probably unchanged

  38. It appears that in this constituency many voters are not very happy with Labour but feel that they have nowhere else to go.

  39. The Tories haven’t really made much impact here although they do have some councillors. As I’ve described in earlier posts, this seat looks more affluent than it is for some reason.
    The most deprived road in Bristol is one of the roads right on the border of the city in a Tory ward, I forget which one.
    It could simply be the area is physically ok, but it is deprived.

  40. A lot of Council housing, or ex-council housing, is actually well-built and spacious, but is regarded as being on a “sink estate” because of its social setting. I don’t know Bristol well, but I suspect that Bristol South has more than its share of such housing.

  41. It does.
    I can’t really see what’s wrong with it having looked at this seat quite a lot.
    The Hartcliffe towers ironically are in a Tory ward when they were in opposition – think Labour won it back.
    I guess Knowle West is not so great close up.

    But at least people have houses and gardens.

  42. I think the Stapleton Road area – in Lawrence Hill – NE of the city centre and outside this seat, looks poor.
    Densely populated.

    I guess Bedminster, in this seat, which I’ve mentioned before, is what you’d call inner city, but I’ve seen far worse in London.

  43. “I guess Knowle West is not so great close up.”

    It’s a seriously deprived shithole, in a ward that probably due to Labour neglect still has Lib Dem councillors. That will probably change in next years all out council, mayoral and OPCC elections

    I used to play school rugby matches against all the ex secondary modern comprehensive schools in this constituency, and never lost. They were all 1950s build, on the huge council housing estates built at the same time in south Bristol.

    I think Stockwood, Bishopton and parts of Brislington are the only parts of the constituency with nice housing. However Brislington probably has a fair number of middle class families who prefer living in a city and are therefore are more likely to lean Labour/Green than residents of similar areas in small towns.

  44. Ian, thanks – that’s interesting.
    So you lived in Knowle West and beat all the other rugby teams – or you lived elsewhere in Bristol South and beat all other teams including those from Knowle W?

    I thought Brislington was in Bristol E still but agree with your point.

  45. I can’t see this seat voting Con by the way – despite what I’ve been saying.

  46. It is probably near impossible for the Conservatives to win this seat in its present form even in a Labour meltdown, in part due to the strong Green vote in the northern wards which will likely be very squeezable for Labour now.

    With regards to the boundaries of this seat Brislington and Stockwood are both in Bristol East and the only ward in this seat that has Tory councillors is Bishopsworth in the South Western corner of the constituency.

    The other thing that I would point out is that Knowle and Knowle West are two different places. Knowle West is indeed one of the worst parts of Bristol but it is not actually in the Knowle Ward it is in the Filwood Ward. This is why Labour tends to win Filwood far more easily than the surrounding wards. Knowle itself doesn’t have the same terrible reputation as Knowle West and while hardly the nicest area of Bristol is nevertheless a more respectable area, which probably explains the Lib Dem councillors and much weaker Lib Dem vote. I’m not sure if the Bristol ward boundaries are changing radically for the all out election but if the Lib Dems can hold Knowle in their 2015 disaster I’m not sure if I would bet against them losing there.

    However as I said in my previous comment if the boundary commission were to bring back Bristol South East consisting of Bishopston, Hartcliffe, Filwood, Whitchurch Park, Hengrove, Stockwood, Knowle, Brislington East and Brislington West the Tories would definitely stand a good shot at winning in a complete Labour meltdown. Removing Southville, Bedminster and Windmill Hill removes most of Labour’s Green vote buffer while replacing them with Stockwood and the two Brislington wards would buoy both the Tory and UKIP vote.

  47. *much weaker Labour vote.

  48. “So you lived in Knowle West and beat all the other rugby teams – or you lived elsewhere in Bristol South and beat all other teams including those from Knowle W?”

    No, I lived in Bath, but like about 10-15 pupils from Bath in every year group, I travelled to St Brendan’s College in Brislington for my High School and 6th form. It’s now St Brendan’s 6th Form College, which it became I belive in 1982 or 1983. At the time boys tralled to the school from Corsham and Chippenham in Wiltshire, Weston-super mare, and everywhere on the way into Bristol from there, and Radstock and Midsomer Norton, as well as across the whole of Bristol, Kingswood, Almondbury and Yate etc. I don’t now if they do anymore.

    I tae your point about the ward boundaries. The school used to be in Bristol South East, and I accept it’s now in Bristol East.

  49. Radstock the mining area.
    Thanks Ian, Peppermintea for the detail.

    I’m going to go back over this ..

  50. I think the BBC’s hospital drama Casualty was originally set in this constituency. The programme used to be fairly good at one time, but now I find it unwatchable.

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