Carlisle

2015 Result:
Conservative: 18873 (44.3%)
Labour: 16099 (37.8%)
Lib Dem: 1087 (2.6%)
Green: 1125 (2.6%)
UKIP: 5277 (12.4%)
Independent: 126 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 2774 (6.5%)

Category: Marginal Conservative seat

Geography: North West, Cumbria. Part of the Carlisle council area.

Main population centres: Carlisle, Wetheral, Dalston.

Profile: Carlisle is located in the extreme north-west of England, near the Scottish border. The seat covers the city of Carlisle itself and the surrounding rural area to the South and West, including Dalston and the more affluent dormitory village of Wetheral to the East. Carlisle is a compact town, historically its position near the border made it an important strategic stronghold and the castle and city walls remain relatively intact. Local indistries includes Carrs Biscuits and the headquarters of the Eddie Stobart haulage firm. The city was hit by severe flooding in 2005 and significant redevelopment of the city centre has taken place since. From 2007 the city has been the site of the University of Cumbria, formed from the Cumbria campuses of the University of Central Lancashire.

Politics: A marginal seat between Labour and the Conservatives. It was narrowly retained by Labour throughout the 1980s, but fell to the Conservatives on more favourable boundaries in 2010.


Current MP
JOHN STEVENSON (Conservative) Born 1963, Aberdeen. Educated at Dundee University. Former solicitor. Carlisle councillor 1999-2010. First elected as MP for Carlisle in 2010.
Past Results
2010
Con: 16589 (39%)
Lab: 15736 (37%)
LDem: 6567 (16%)
BNP: 1086 (3%)
Oth: 2222 (5%)
MAJ: 853 (2%)
2005*
Con: 11324 (32%)
Lab: 17019 (48%)
LDem: 5916 (17%)
UKIP: 792 (2%)
Oth: 343 (1%)
MAJ: 5695 (16%)
2001
Con: 12154 (35%)
Lab: 17856 (51%)
LDem: 4076 (12%)
Oth: 823 (2%)
MAJ: 5702 (16%)
1997
Con: 12641 (29%)
Lab: 25031 (57%)
LDem: 4576 (10%)
Oth: 126 (0%)
MAJ: 12390 (28%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
JOHN STEVENSON (Conservative) See above.
LEE SHERRIFF (Labour) Educated at Moreton School. Care support worker. Carlisle councillor since 2012.
LORAINE BIRCHALL (Liberal Democrat) IT consultant.
FIONA MILLS (UKIP) Accountant.
HELEN DAVISON (Green)
ALFRED OKAM (Independent) Educated at Swansea Univeristy. Postgraduate student.
Links
Comments - 93 Responses on “Carlisle”
  1. How did the recent flooding feature as an issue in this council by-election?

  2. I’ve just looked at the Carlisle Council website.

    Apparemtly the result was: –
    Indpendent 381
    Labour 250
    Conservative 115

    The turnout was 17.8%

  3. Hardly fair to chalk this up as down to Labour. From what I hear the flooding made it almost impossible to get the vote out on the day. The turnout of 19% and Labour’s vote not falling supports this. Council elections in May will give a more accurate picture in Carlisle

  4. Independent Gain.

    Turnout was low although not that bad for a New Year By-election.

  5. 19% is pretty poor, I’ve worked a New Year by-election before with a 30%+ turnout. This is on the lower end of a council by election turnout

  6. Piffle Mat, only a small part of the ward was flooded, and it was the Tory voting end. If the turnout had been 40% the final result would have been the same. The independent won in *every* polling district.

    He has no party political background, he is not a convert or disgruntled party member.

    As i understand he only got interested in politics when the Deputy Council leader closed his local play ground. I believe another person who also got involved in local politics because of the closure of his play ground and campaigned heavily is likely to stand as an independent in May, this would give the ward three independents at district council level and an independent at county council level.

  7. The boundary changes are likely to make this seat coterminous with the City of Carlisle district, which should make it a safe Conservative seat.

  8. It will remain marginal but it will become a Conservative-leaning marginal. I think the 2015 majority would be about 5500 or so on likely proposed boundaries.

  9. Maybe 6000 on second thoughts.

  10. Actually, I think youll find the notional majority would be closer to about 5,000 on top of existing majority. So between 7,000 and 8,000.

    City council seats that would be added. Longtown & Rockliffe, Lyne, Brampton, Hayton, stanwix rural, and irthing. These seats at general election time are heavy conservative wins, with the exception of Hayton who has an independent.

  11. The local elections here in May could be very interesting: I wouldn’t be surprised to see the council go into NOC, given how close the vote was last year.

  12. My town of birth goes 60-40 for Leave.

  13. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Peter Thornton, who previously stood in Penrith and The Border in 2010 against Rory Stewart and came second.

  14. The Results

    I hate to say it, but all these mentions of LD candidates in unwinnable seats are horribly irrelevant to discussion.

    Why don’t you just list them all together on the Lib Dem candidates page?

  15. The Results

    I hate to say it, but all these mentions of LD candidates in unwinnable seats are horribly irrelevant to discussion.

    Why don’t you just list them all together on the Lib Dem candidates page?

    Thanks.

  16. John Stevenson successfully defends his marginal seat with only a 0.2% swing against him.

    And given that any boundary changes will add more rural Conservative voting wards to the seat, I suspect that he now has a seat for life and Labour has seen the last of this seat.

  17. Highest Conservative vote share here since 1959.

  18. Incredible. That has to be testament to John Stevenson’s continuing abilities as a constituency MP? I know the boundaries were redrawn favourably for the Tories here in 2010, and that on this current set they’d have almost certainly won Carlisle throughout the 80s.

  19. Stephenpt
    Re boundary changes I wouldn’t get too excited, consensus is they have pretty much zero chance of passing now so much so the Tories will probably drop them entirely. Consequently this seat is still very much in play for next time.

  20. Rivers10- yes but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s trending Tory.

  21. Tory
    Very possibly so I just think it’s far too early to be calling this as a Tory safe seat, Lab will probably win this next time they get a majority and if they don’t win it will certainly be very close.

  22. Plop
    To be fair I wouldn’t call Barrow a strong result, it was a microscopic swing and with Corbyn’s position on Trident it should have fell with ease, for Lab to hold on when they only had a 800 odd majority to begin with and after the MP already conceded he was going to lose its probably one of the biggest shockers of the night.

  23. I seem to recall you predicting an above average swing in Barrow and that the Cons would win easily? Regardless if you truly felt it would be hard for the Cons to gain Barrow then you were unique in thinking that, most everyone on here myself included thought Barrow would be the one seat Lab would find impossible to hold, I was personally predicting a majority around the 5,000 mark. The Tories won the seat in 83 and held it in 87 on much less friendly boundaries than the present seat and on a comfortable majority at that. Throw in Labs general malaise with the WWC vote, Brexit, pro Tory trends in Ulverston and a generally unlikeable incumbent Lab MP and they should have expected to perform better and as I said gain the seat with ease.

    Put it this way if I was a Tory strategist I’d be far more alarmed at the failure to gain Barrow than I would be about the loss of Canterbury or Kensington.

  24. ”generally unlikeable incumbent Lab MP”

    I think he probably saved Labour the seat actually. If he’d stepped down I think Labour would have lost it.

  25. ”Put it this way if I was a Tory strategist I’d be far more alarmed at the failure to gain Barrow than I would be about the loss of Canterbury or Kensington.”

    Just out of interest why do you say that? Canterbury was by far the most embarrassing result of the whole election.

  26. The failure to gain Barrow was also very bad but the incumbent Labour MP did run as a quasi-independent over the issue of nuclear which would have saved him many votes which coupled with Labour doing well nationally and the Tory lead reduced nationally to 2.5% (or whatever it was) can just about explain it. Canterbury on the other hand left me virtually speechless.

  27. Pepps
    “I think he probably saved Labour the seat actually. If he’d stepped down I think Labour would have lost it”

    Loss of incumbency might have cost Lab the seat but my point was that I doubt Woodcock has much of a personal vote, he’s a parachute who has got into trouble with his local party and his constituents on more than one occasion, he’s certainly no Mr Charisma, he’s been far too ambitious to be much of a locally rooted constituency MP and indeed I’d hazard a guess other than Trident he probably doesn’t agree with his constituents on much at all. The proof is in the pudding in that his majority has fell every election he’s stood.

    “Just out of interest why do you say that? Canterbury was by far the most embarrassing result of the whole election”

    Its all about trends, Canterbury is clearly drifting Lab’s way and has been for a while (in no small part due to the expansion of its several universities) and now much more closely resembles any other university town than it does your typical Tory market town. These changes happen and so long as a party is able to counter their losses with gains elsewhere there isn’t much of a problem and whereas the Tories are clearly going backwards in the likes of Canterbury they’d like to be making up for it in WWC/elderly/ex industrial areas and a seat like Barrow which has a the added dynamic of Trident should have been Tory target number 1, their failure to gain it pretty much blows apart the whole “Erdington Conservative” strategy.

  28. Tories gaining Copeland with a Labour majority of 2,000 in 2015 but failing in Barrow where the majority was 800 is really fascinating in neighbouring seats. Perhaps if Jamie Reed hung about he would have held the seat

  29. ”I’d hazard a guess other than Trident he probably doesn’t agree with his constituents on much at all.”

    While that may or may not be true he made Trident his number 1 issue and regularly appeared on national news regarding it. I imagine this would have been reflected in the local press too. However if he had been more lukewarm about it (similar to most Labour MPs) I think it highly likely he would have lost.

    ”Canterbury is clearly drifting Lab’s way and has been for a while (in no small part due to the expansion of its several universities) and now much more closely resembles any other university town than it does your typical Tory market town”

    Sure but I didn’t think it was moving that fast (I doubt most other people did either). Plus the seat is hardly just the urban studenty core of Canterbury it contains numerous rural and small town areas which is why the loss was more shocking.

    ”their failure to gain it pretty much blows apart the whole “Erdington Conservative” strategy.”

    I don’t doubt the Tories need a bit of rethink in strategy especially in relation to how to expand their appeal to young people and ethnic minorities beyond the few (like Indians) that they actually do do fairly well with. Also they probably need to look at how to reverse some of their decline in the big cities (not just London but Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds etc. too).

    However for the purposes of this campaign the ‘Erdington Conservative’ strategy would have worked extremely well had the Tory Party not scored own goals at every possible opportunity. If they had simply had a mediocre manifesto, had a leader that was at least ok on the campaign trail and actually went to the debates, just basically ran a boringly average campaign they would have won a comfortable/fairly large majority. The increase in youth turnout would have prevented a true landslide but they’re strategy would have proved successful nevertheless.

  30. Peppermint Tea- completely agree with your last paragraph.

    The Conservative position in most of the big cities is hopeless and to be brutally honest, there is little point in trying to arrest the decline. Most of their former urban strongholds have changed beyond recognition since they last elected Conservative MPs. They are home to large numbers of people who are hostile even to the milk and water Conservatism of David Cameron. The aim for the Conservatives is to do just enough to shore up their position in the affluent suburbs whilst at the same time continuing to make progress in former wwc areas- not an easy balancing act but as things stands, it’s the only realistic route to a working majority for the foreseeable future.

  31. Pepps
    “While that may or may not be true he made Trident his number 1 issue and regularly appeared on national news regarding it”
    This is true but I doubt it made much of a difference, for every waverer he convinced to stick with him cos of his support for Trident he probably put off someone else by highlighting the division between himself and his party and you can bet the local Tories hammered it home incessantly.

    “I imagine this would have been reflected in the local press too”
    Perhaps but it should be pointed out Barrow’s local paper the NW Evening Mail was one of the local papers that the Tories invested massively in huge front page ads cleverly disguised as endorsements so any readers of the local press will have been treated to a front page screaming “Vote Tory” Something to bare in mind.

    “Sure but I didn’t think it was moving that fast (I doubt most other people did either)”
    I agree, the unexpectedly large youth turnout probably clinched it for Lab there.

    “Plus the seat is hardly just the urban studenty core of Canterbury it contains numerous rural and small town areas”
    Indeed which demonstrates the shift in opinion in Canterbury proper.

    “I don’t doubt the Tories need a bit of rethink in strategy”
    I would agree with all of that and I think we can both also agree that May isn’t the one to do it and wrapping yourself in the Union Jack shouting “Brexit means Brexit” isn’t going to cut it going forward either.

    “However for the purposes of this campaign the ‘Erdington Conservative’ strategy would have worked extremely well had the Tory Party not scored own goals at every possible opportunity”
    See I’m sceptical, it certainly could have worked better than it did but I’ve been banging on for years now about hoe much of the UKIP vote came from Labour and how vast tracts of the Lab vote will probably never vote Tory. I always thought that the Labour Brexiters and the Red Kippers where not the low hanging fruit the Tories thought they were. What I didn’t expect was that the Tories sensational public drive after said voters (parking their tanks on Labours lawn) would alienate their own liberal wing to the point many appear to have voted Lab, Lib or abstained entirely

  32. Rivers – cast your mind back to the local elections. The results of those elections really did show how the Conservatives were making inroads into that section of the vote (although it must be said that there were no local elections in the cities, which meant people may have missed the brewing revenge of the liberal middle classes in those places).

    No, there was no problem with the Conservative strategy. There was just a problem with literally everything else.

  33. The difference in local election results and the GE only 4 weeks later couldnt be more marked. I dont think there is a precedent

  34. ”The Conservative position in most of the big cities is hopeless and to be brutally honest, there is little point in trying to arrest the decline. Most of their former urban strongholds have changed beyond recognition since they last elected Conservative MPs.”

    @Tory
    Well I am pretty sure the Tories could do far better with students than they actually do. Contrary to popular belief most students are not left wing ‘no platforming’ ‘socialist worker placard’ zealots however most voted Labour this time because Labour (I would argue not credibly) offered them everything under the sun whilst the Tories offered them nothing.

    There is certainly room for the Tories to grow amongst students who hope to gain well paid jobs in the private sector as Labour (now solidly on the left) has now firmly put themselves in opposition to the industries in which these people want to work in the future. Whilst it is likely that many of these voters will eventually flip to the Tories over the course of their lives anyway the goal should be to get them to vote Conservative from the start.

    Brexit does pose a problem but if the Conservative party can push a global ‘open for business’ vision for a post Brexit Britain coupled with a few original ideas aimed at targeting the youth/university vote in contrast to an ‘anti-business’ Labour Party it might just work. Obviously the Tories will never win or get close to winning the youth/university vote but if they can cut the lead it would help in many urban constituencies.

  35. @rivers

    ”See I’m sceptical, it certainly could have worked better than it did but I’ve been banging on for years now about hoe much of the UKIP vote came from Labour and how vast tracts of the Lab vote will probably never vote Tory.”

    Looking at places like Mansfield a lot did. If the Tories hadn’t scored that massive own goal with the ‘dementia tax’ and May hadn’t been so rubbish even more of the older white ex-Labour kippers would have voted Tory instead of reverting to Labour (as they originally intended to at the beginning of the campaign). Thus the Tories would have won Ashfield, Bishop Auckland, Penistone and Stocksbridge etc. (some of which people thought they couldn’t win even with 20 point leads) whilst also running Skinner in Bolsover dangerously close.

    ”would alienate their own liberal wing to the point many appear to have voted Lab, Lib or abstained entirely”

    It only did because the campaign/manifesto/May was beyond cr*p. If both were merely mediocre the leakage would have been substantially reduced to the point where the Tories would have held most of the ‘liberal’ seats they lost (bar probably Brighton Kemptown).

    Essentially the Tories through away a fairly large majority because of their own incompetence. Even with a mobilised youth vote Labour would have likely net lost seats (albeit on an increased vote share) if the Tories hadn’t run one of the worst campaigns in history (if anything their manifesto should go down in history as the longest suicide note mark 2).

  36. I think blaming May and her campaign alone is wishful thinking on behalf of Tory-inclined individuals who want to believe that simply disposing of her will solve all their problems. Even without her and the poor manifesto I doubt the Tories would have won a large majority. A lot of Labour’s policies were simply very popular – even if you think they are unaffordable, the average person doesn’t think in terms like that. People vote for what they like.

    Plus, the more people saw Corybn, the more they liked him. The media crusade against him didn’t seem to work particularly well.

  37. ”This is true but I doubt it made much of a difference, for every waverer he convinced to stick with him cos of his support for Trident he probably put off someone else by highlighting the division between himself and his party”

    I would bet the vast majority of the Corbyn fans upset by Woodcock’s behaviour held their noses and voted for him anyway. The numbers who didn’t would be vanishingly small in comparison to the number of people who voted for him just because of his stance of Trident/the Labour leadership. Thus I’m pretty sure a Labour MP who was more lukewarm on Trident would have lost despite the Tories doing poorly nationally.

  38. In recent years the Conservatives have never had more than about 1/3 of the student vote (they probably reached that level in 2010). That didn’t seem so bad when the remaining 2/3 was split between Labour, LDs and Greens but now almost all of the left student vote is going Lab, and the Cons have fallen back further due to Brexit, the associated immigration policies and May’s general didain for liberalism. I think it will be very hard to change this – the Con brand is toxic with most students and young graduates, and even if someone like Anna Soubry became leader, cancelled Brexit and pursued a centrist policy agenda few would vote for them.

  39. Pepps
    Putting aside the party political points and just sticking to the facts for a moment I struggle to see what the Tories can do to appeal to young people without literally ditching parts of their own ideology and stealing some Labour policies.

    Despite the Tory claims the job market isn’t a land of endless opportunity for new graduates with tens of thousands of well paid private sector jobs just waiting to be filled (trust me I’m speaking from first-hand experience here) and indeed the official figures show a bleak picture in the present job market with most new graduates in jobs they are massively overqualified for and many are underemployed (part time, temp or zero hours) so when you say…
    “There is certainly room for the Tories to grow amongst students who hope to gain well paid jobs in the private sector as Labour (now solidly on the left) has now firmly put themselves in opposition to the industries in which these people want to work in the future”
    that’s not a strategy its a hope that Lab somehow screw up and drive young people towards you rather than doing anything to entice them yourselves.

    As for other Tory policies their apprenticeship drive has descended into state sponsored corporate exploitation, help to buy has compounded the problem it was designed to solve and was then rendered totally pointless by the Gov’s own admission that help to buy ISA’s can’t be used for a deposit on a property, minimum wage hikes come with the embarrassing admission that it was the Gov who set a new tiered min wage that excluded those under 25 and further raises to the tax free allowance is now very much a middle to upper class tax cut.

    Unless the Tories bite the bullet and steal some Lab policies such as rent controls, state sponsored house building, abolition or even a reduction in tuition fee’s, bringing back maintenance grants or a real living wage (all of which I’ve heard Tory MP’s or strategists suggest in the past week) then I don’t see things getting any better for the Cons amongst young people.

    I agree with you that most young people are not closet socialists its just at present the Lab party are offering them a future, you may not find it credible but unless the Tories offer them one as well they’ll continue to back Labour as the only real game in town and constantly going on about a myriad of opportunities that young people know don’t really exist certainly isn’t going to help change things.

  40. ”I think blaming May and her campaign alone is wishful thinking on behalf of Tory-inclined individuals who want to believe that simply disposing of her will solve all their problems.”

    No because the damage has already been done but dropping her would be a start.

    ”Even without her and the poor manifesto I doubt the Tories would have won a large majority.”

    Depends what you mean by large. If you mean a landslide then no but without that terrible campaign/manifesto/leader then it would have been a healthy one. The amount of non-political people still moaning about the ‘dementia tax’ is truly astonishing.

    ”A lot of Labour’s policies were simply very popular – even if you think they are unaffordable, the average person doesn’t think in terms like that.”

    They were very popular with the youth and drove up turnout with them and got the base out. This would have prevented a Tory landslide but wouldn’t have prevented a healthy victory had the Tories not alienated their own base (the ‘dementia tax’ is one of the biggest pieces of self harm seen in politics recently).

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