Cannock Chase

2015 Result:
Conservative: 20811 (44.2%)
Labour: 15888 (33.7%)
Lib Dem: 1270 (2.7%)
Green: 906 (1.9%)
UKIP: 8224 (17.5%)
MAJORITY: 4923 (10.5%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: West Midlands, Staffordshire. Consists of the Cannock Chase council area.

Main population centres: Cannock, Rugeley.

Profile: Cannock Chase itself is an area of woodland and heathland, the smallest designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in mainland Britain. The constituency consists of the two towns either side of the Chase - Cannock to the south and Rugeley to the north. Cannock was a coal mining town in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but the industry is now long gone and Cannock has become an increasingly affluent commuter area for the Metropolitian West Midlands area to the south. Rugeley too is a former mining town, with Lea Hall Colliery closing in 1990..

Politics: Cannock Chase was a surprise gain for the Conservatives in 2010. Previously it had been a relatively safe Labour seat with a majority in excess of 20% in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections, but Aiden Burley won the seat with a swing of 14%, one of the largest from Labour to the Conservatives in any contest in 2010. Burley had only a short Parliamentary career, standing down in 2015 following criticism for attending a stag party where guests dressed in Nazi uniform, but the Conservatives managed to hold onto the seat without him in 2015.

Current MP
AMANDA MILLING (Conservative) Born Burton on Trent. Educated at University College London. Former director of a Market research business. Rossendale councillor. First elected as MP for Cannock Chase in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 18271 (40%)
Lab: 15076 (33%)
LDem: 7732 (17%)
BNP: 2168 (5%)
Oth: 2312 (5%)
MAJ: 3195 (7%)
Con: 12912 (30%)
Lab: 22139 (51%)
LDem: 5934 (14%)
UKIP: 2170 (5%)
MAJ: 9227 (21%)
Con: 12345 (30%)
Lab: 23049 (56%)
LDem: 5670 (14%)
MAJ: 10704 (26%)
Con: 14227 (27%)
Lab: 28705 (55%)
LDem: 4537 (9%)
Oth: 3234 (6%)
MAJ: 14478 (28%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
AMANDA MILLING (Conservative) Born Burton on Trent. Educated at University College London. Director of a Market research business. Rossendale councillor.
JANOS TOTH (Labour) Fundraising manager. Cannock Chase councillor. Contested Aldridge Brownhills 1997.
IAN JACKSON (Liberal Democrat) Retired accountant. Former Lichfield councillor. Contested Lichfield 2005, 2010.
GRAHAME WIGGIN (UKIP) Educated at Wolverhampton College of Technology. Construction manager.
Comments - 243 Responses on “Cannock Chase”
  1. With or without Burley, I think the Conservatives have a tough task holding this one. I think a Labour gain is distinctly more likely than not, though I don’t see them having any further joy in the area covered by Staffordshire CC.

  2. I don’t think Labour can be written off completely in Tamworth because of the large number of swing voters in the constituency. Obviously the Tories are favourites there.

  3. Adam is probably right in my view. I tend to think that the large Labour lead in 2013 will be hard for the Tories to reel in by 2015, even though the very high UKIP vote was part of the reason for this lead. I don’t think the retirement of Burley will make all that much difference, because as with Jessica Lee he is a first-time incumbent who gained the seat from a new Labour candidate after the Labour MP had retired. But I don’t think it will help the Conservatives & if anything will fractionally harm them since there are bound to be constituents he’d helped with a problem who might have given him a personal vote.

  4. I do that that’s a very fair analysis Barnaby, although we’ll probably never know how many people would have switched their votes if he had stood again simply because of the Nazi incident and whether they would have exceeded the number of people prepared to give him a personal vote.

    I only know the Cannock area because my parents live in this seat and from what I can tell the Nazi incident hasn’t caused a big fuss amongst the locals and to most of his constituents he probably comes across just like any other Tory backbencher.

    I know the general rule it assume that most low profile MP’s only have a personal vote of around 1,000, but to what extent Aidan Burley has a personal vote, I honestly don’t know. My local knowledge doesn’t go that far.

  5. There are probably quite a few who are Tories but wouldn’t vote for Burley as well though.

  6. You very rarely find Tory voters who find a candidate completely beyond the pale, unless they get disowned or near-disowned by their party like Tom Finnegan in Stockton S in 1983 (Keith Joseph refused to share a platform with him). However it’s possible that there could be a very small number of such voters.

  7. Did Tom Finegan’s National Front past contribute to his defeat at the hands of SDP defector Ian Wrigglesworth that year?

  8. I’d be amazed if it didn’t, with only 50-odd voters needed to have switched from Con to SDP to change the result. But returning to the subject of Cannock Chase, it’s interesting to note that the very right-wing Gerald Howarth increased his majority in 1987 despite having won the seat with a big swing in 1983.

  9. Was that to do with any demographic changes perhaps? Of course when Howarth lost in 1992 his vote actually held pretty firm. He even increased his number of votes again when he lost in spite of dropping 0.9%.

  10. With increasing affluence in this area, this surely won’t be the reliable seat for Labour it was during the Tony Wright years who enjoyed large majorities after boundary changes in 97 (unless he had a personal vote).

    I’m more certain now that they’ll take it next year after Burley’s decision to stand down, but not sure about long-term. Unless of course Ed Balls delivered policies that heed the words of Rachel Reeves who said last year that those on 60k aren’t rich.

  11. ‘With increasing affluence in this area, this surely won’t be the reliable seat for Labour it was during the Tony Wright years who enjoyed large majorities after boundary changes in 97 (unless he had a personal vote). ‘

    For an MP, Tony Wright was very highly regarded and wopuld have certainly had a personal vote

    However, I’m not sure whether in today’s world, increasing affluence equates to an increasing Tory vote in the way it once did

    The seat I live in, which isa Broighton Pavilion for example, is far more affluent today than it ever was in the 70s and 80s and yet the Tory vote has never been lower than what it is now

    The fact that both Howarth and Burley – who even by today’s standards are very right wing – did well here would suggest there is a big WWC vote in play

    If that is the case, the Tories are fortunate in that they have no shortage of similarly right wing candidates who can hope to fill the void left by Burley’s departure in 2015

  12. If Janos Toth (Labour’s PPC) does win and manages to build a personal vote too, he could have a sizeable tenure as MP. That factor is perhaps part of the reason why a number of ex-Labour MPs who lost in 2010 were reselected so overwhelmingly by their constituency branches.

  13. Gerald Howarth was a very assiduous constituency MP in Cannock and very highly regarded locally. It does seem that that is not so much the case in Aldershot, maybe a safe seat has made him lazier, and he seems to have got pricklier with age. My uncle was a senior officer in Staffs CC in the 1980s and despite being a Liberal voter, he was always very impressed with Howarth as a constituency representative.

    It’s also worth saying that Howarth’s seat included Burntwood, which made the seat much easier for the Tories to win than on current boundaries. This really ought to be a Labour seat and Aiden Burley did extremely well to win it. A Labour regain is highly likely regardless of the Tory candidate.

  14. Interestingly, there were other Conservative MPs who lost their seats in 1992 to Labour in spite of polling more votes, and in one case increased vote share. Chris Butler in Warrington South achieved that even though he lost to Labour’s Mike Hall. Francis Maude and Lewis Stevens were fellow West Midlands Tories to Gerald Howarth who lost their seats to Labour, and like him they all got more votes numerically than 1987.

  15. TheResults – undoubtedly it did. The news that he had been in the NF came right in the middle of the campaign – it took an amazingly long time to become well-known – and Joseph’s actually rather principled stand was well-publicized. It became clear to voters that effectively the Conservatives had all but disowned Finnegan & therefore his defeat became far more likely. Whatever the views of Thatcher & Joseph on many matters, they never said anything which could in any way be contrued as positive about the NF, Joseph himself being an Orthodox Jew & Thatcher having it seems not a single anti-Semitic bone in her body, and once the news that Finnegan had been an active NF member, and was thus probably little more than an extremist infiltrator into the Conservative Party, must have deterred many voters from voting for him, As it was he was uncomfortably close to winning.

  16. Thatcher could hardly have been anti-Semitic and MP for Finchley. She also got a lot of useful support from the rabbis at the time that the CoE archbishops were heavily criticising her social and economic policies.

    It shows how much more autonomous local associations were in those days. Today, candidates are routinely removed by central office for much more minor transgressions.

  17. I wonder how Stockton South would have differed in voting patterns had Finnegan been successful in 1983? Because in 1987, Wrigglesworth’s personal vote wasn’t enough for him to hold on, and the Tories had by that time selected a completely different candidate in almost every way imaginable. Of course Tim Devlin massively increased his vote along with Labour in 1992 once Wrigglesworth was no longer in the frame and his personal vote disappeared. It all suggests in fact that if anything ironically the Tories might well have lost this seat one or two elections earlier had it not been for Finegan in 1983. But thanks AndyJS and Barnaby Marder for your thoughts.

  18. Loads of Tory MPs lost in 1992 with an increased vote and quite a few with an increased share IIRC.

  19. There were actually quite a few in London lost by the Tories where the decreases were more striking than the uniform 1-2%. Also they did very well in only losing Thurrock by the slim margin they did, as it was very difficult to hold on to. Conversely, in a place like York the swing to Labour was quite significant one might argue.

  20. There were some other seats which the Tories were hoping to gain in 87 and only just missed out on where the Labour majorities were kept at levels considerable lower than what you would have expected considering the parties national performance. Wrexham and West Bromwich East are ones which come to mind.

  21. Yesterday’s Liverpool Echo has a full page re Ken Dodd becoming the Tory PPC here. But the local Party dismissed it and his agent said it’s just a rumour.

  22. Last year’s CC election results were Lab 40%, Tory 25%, UKIP 25%. Can UKIP top the poll in this year’s local elections by getting a 7.5% swing from Lab compared to then? Maybe.

  23. Similar situation exists here as in Walsall regarding UKIP. They either won or got 2nd place in 13 out of the 15 wards.

    The gained both the Heath Hays seats, including the seat of the Tory leader on the council.

    The Tory performance was pathetic in some of the Chadsmoor and Hednesford wards. Not their strongest areas in even a good year, but I expected them to do better.

    Interestingly though, UKIP lost a seat to Labour in Rawnsley. I think UKIP previously held that seat through the deffection of a Conservative councillor.

  24. UKIP are now the official opposition on Cannock Chase council, after a Tory councillor decided to sit as an independent.

  25. The Tory councillor in question just happened to be Aidan Burleys fiancé. According to the local paper there’s been a big falling out between Burley and the leader of the Tory group on Cannock Chase District Council.

  26. Adam – v interesting. That’s Cllr Jodie Jones, 25, who works for Burley and said she was too busy for a boyfriend, when pictures were revealed of her sitting on the floor swigging from a Champagne bottle.

  27. How classy.

    The seat may move away from Labour in the longer term, but their good local results since 2011/12, Burley’s retirement and his rift with the Tory group leader point to them gaining this next year.

  28. Don’t know much about this seat but I have a strange feeling this seat could be a Tory hold by a whisker e.g majority of 50 – 100.

  29. is that just gut feeling, christian or is there any data? the local elections last year point to a labour victory here…

  30. Pete Crawford – Just a gut feeling. I had the same gut feeling about Harrogate going to the Tories in 2010 despite the huge Lib Dem majority. Wish I’d put a bet on the outcome of that seat because I would have won a lot of money.

  31. Seems an odd gut feeling. Labour has done consistently well here since 2010 in terms of lead over the Conservatives (not necessarily in terms of vote share).

  32. It’s certainly true that the sort of voters Labour is doing best with at the moment are not to be found in very large numbers in this constituency.

  33. this will be close, but labour remain odds on… could go either way, though….

    not sure whether burley’s successor has been selected yet….which doesn’t bode that well for the blues.

  34. James: the Conservatives are yet to select.

  35. James – I heard Karren Brady is interested in standing as a candidate here for the Tories.

  36. Why on earth has it take the Tories so long to get their marginal selections done?

  37. Surely Karren Brady would walk into a safe seat.

    It’s interesting her partisan Toryism has not affected her relationship with Lord Sugar. Despite being a most unlikely Labour supporter (and former Thatcherite), he seems to detest Tories.

  38. MrNameless’s question is a very good one. The Tories don’t seem to have learnt from their poor result in Hyndburn, a seat they could reasonably have hoped to gain or at least come close to gaining if they’d not selected a candidate amid chaotic intra-party scenes almost at the last minute. If you don’t have a candidate, you don’t have an easy focus for your campaigning. Conversely, if your MP has been defeated, but is reselected early in the parliament to try & regain his or her seat, like David Drew, Andrew Dismore or Bob Blizzard, that MP will be able to retain a much greater proportion of his personal vote (in these instances) than if he had only been selected after a gap of 3 years or more. Having a candidate in place, and thus that candidate’s publicity machine, is very important in a marginal seat. Not having one here, at a time when Labour’s has been in place for a long time now, is doing the Tories no good at all.

  39. The so-called best candidates are usually hanging on for late retirements in safe seats, meaning seats like this would only attract second rate applicants (meaning local councillors, which would perhaps be better than a SPAD)

  40. H.Hemmelig – Lord Sugar is the Tim Stanley of the Labour party. He’s gone ftom one extreme to the other. He also detests anyone ftom the cast of Made in Chelsea. Apparantly, at a TV awards ceremony, one of the cast member’s said hello to him and went to shake their hand and Lord Sugar responded by refusing to shake their hand and walked off!! Haha!!

  41. 3.5% is not a negligible swing to achieve, particularly given the lacklustre showing of Labour in the polls.

    I also think that Labour may have difficulty in suburban seats like this. The large swing in 2010 may have been due to structural change.

    Much will also depend on how well UKIP etc. do here.

  42. ‘He also detests anyone ftom the cast of Made in Chelsea. Apparantly, at a TV awards ceremony, one of the cast member’s said hello to him and went to shake their hand and Lord Sugar responded by refusing to shake their hand and walked off!!’

    In which case he’s an even greater man than I already thought

  43. I thought that too

  44. A lot of geezerish Thatcherites- people who made lots of money in the 80s in business- are very sceptical of the patrician wet-type tories who seem to have taken the party’s leadership. A Davis leadership, with his council estate background, while not necessarily appealing to centrist Blairites may have appealed to some of the aspirational C1 and C2 type voters who voted in droves for Thatcher.

    I know Sugar is a multi-millionaire, but his background was C1 aspirational.

  45. Frederic – not a bad point at all. The only thing is that the Tories have been doing quite badly here since 2010. Some of this may not have been helped by the antics of Burley, which will not be much of an issue if at all in the general election, but the Tories are not helping themselves rebuild their image in the constituency by not selecting someone to replace him. Until they do, Burley remains the main spokesman for the Tories in the area, and that won’t help them. I think suburban isn’t quite the right description for this seat, though I accept it is very close to the W Midlands conurbation. Logically you should be right – the demographic change which has ruined Labour in Aldridge-Brownhills should be making life more difficult for the party here too – but although in the long term this seat could eventually drift towards being a Tory-inclined one, the evidence we have points to a Labour gain, even if not necessarily a comfortable one.

  46. “while not necessarily appealing to centrist Blairites may have appealed to some of the aspirational C1 and C2 type voters who voted in droves for Thatcher.”

    They also voted in droves for Cameron. It was his much lower support in the middle class (especially those working in the expanded public sector), the growth of ethnic minorities and Scotland now being a Tory free zone that made the difference between 2010 and 1979-92.

    In short I’m very sceptical David Davis would have done better than Cameron in 2010.

    On Sugar’s background, I think you’re being generous if anything. He grew up in the adjacent road to my friend in Clapton, which is quite a bit nicer now but was an utter shithole 40 years ago. Sugar’s old primary school is still standing at the end of Reighton Road.

  47. they did vote for cameron in 2010 but a lot of them are voting ukip now…you need only look at ukip votes in castle point, basildon, places like spelthorne, folkestone, thanet and other bits of kent to see that.

  48. Yes, 2015 will be a different matter for the C1-C2s

  49. H Hemmelig is absolutely right regarding the differences between 1992 and 2010. My only point of disagreement concerns David Davis, whom I think might have done even better than Cameron did (in spite of himself) with C1s and C2s. This may just have made a difference in some of those Black Country and West Riding marginals where the Tories missed out in 2010. But it still might not have been enough to win the election, given the structural problems that H Hemmelig rightly mentions.

    As for Cannock Chase, I think the long-term trend is pro-Tory but it’s a bumpy process and there is still quite a lot of life in the Labour vote. I would be very surprised indeed if the Tories held on in 2015.

  50. I agree with tory re. davis, marginally. though the posh thing wasn’t so much an issue in 2010. certainly it wasn’t at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election in 2008, but that took place pre- Lehman Brothers and the monumental crash of October ’08, when attitudes to wealth, privilege and class certainly hardened.

    I think the Osborne/DC double act didn’t seal the deal in 2010. anecdotally, from people campaigning for the tories in key marginals, i think that there was some suspicion of such an unbalanced ticket (in us terms)… Osborne was regarded as being young and out of touch then…there was talk, people will remember, of DC moving him from the Shadow chancellor job after the 08 crisis started. DC characteristically was stubborn in his refusal to do this.

    Today, with a UKIP VI stubbornly over 10%, and recently hovering above 12%, it is clear that the tories have a problem with the C1/C2 vote. yet this vote was the key to their electoral success in the 80s and, arguably, before that.

    I think a Davis leadership would have staunched the flow from Conservative to UKIP. you could argue that he wouldn’t have won as many centre voters, I would accept that. But, going forward, I think the emergence of UKIP is a structural problem for the tories. If they find themselves in opposition, it is hard to see how the blues get a majority in the house of commons with a 10% UKIP vote.

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