Castle Point

2015 Result:
Conservative: 23112 (50.9%)
Labour: 6283 (13.8%)
Lib Dem: 801 (1.8%)
Green: 1076 (2.4%)
UKIP: 14178 (31.2%)
MAJORITY: 8934 (19.7%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Essex. The Castle Point council area.

Main population centres: Canvey Island, Thundersley, South Benfleet, Hadleigh.

Profile: Castle Point is a South Essex seat on the Thames estuary, consisting of Canvey Island and the nearby towns of South Benfleet, Thundersley amd Hadleigh. The area expanded rapidly after the second world war as people moved out of London and it is a solid slice of owner-occupied, middle class commuterland (in the 2001 census it had the highest rate of owner-occupation of any seat in the country). Canvey Island is a seaside resort, attached to the mainland by bridge. To the west of the island there are oil and gas terminals, but this too is now largely residential.

Politics: For a comfortable Conservative seat Castle Point has a chequered history. It was originally held by Bernard Braine, the veteran Conservative MP and father of the House who had held the seat and its predecessors since the 1950s. He was succeeded in 1992 by Bob Spink, who enjoyed what appeared to be a rock solid majority of over 30%. However like many seats which people assumed to be unassailable Conservative fortresses it fell to Labour in the 1997 landslide. Bob Spink retook the seat for the Conservatives in 2001 but left the Conservative party in 2008 over ructions within the local party, with Spink claiming he had resigned and the Conservatives claiming the whip had been removed. He was later described as a UKIP MP, although it is unclear whether he ever actually joined the party. In 2010 he stood unsuccessfully as an Independent, but lost to the new Conservative candidate Rebecca Harris. In 2015 it looked possible that the seat would again be represented by UKIP, for whom it was a key target seat. In the event they fell long short of the Conservatives, despite Castle Point being one of their strongest performances in the country.

Current MP
REBECCA HARRIS (Conservative) Born 1967, Windsor. Educated at Bedales School and LSE. Former special advisor to Tim Yeo. First elected as MP for Castle Point in 2010.
Past Results
Con: 19806 (44%)
Lab: 6609 (15%)
LDem: 4232 (9%)
BNP: 2205 (5%)
Oth: 12174 (27%)
MAJ: 7632 (17%)
Con: 22118 (48%)
Lab: 13917 (30%)
LDem: 4719 (10%)
UKIP: 3431 (7%)
Oth: 1617 (4%)
MAJ: 8201 (18%)
Con: 17738 (45%)
Lab: 16753 (42%)
LDem: 3116 (8%)
UKIP: 1273 (3%)
Oth: 883 (2%)
MAJ: 985 (2%)
Con: 19489 (40%)
Lab: 20605 (42%)
LDem: 4477 (9%)
Oth: 1301 (3%)
MAJ: 1116 (2%)

2015 Candidates
REBECCA HARRIS (Conservative) See above.
JOE COOKE (Labour) Educated at Liverpool John Moore University. Carer and former systems analyst. Former Castle Point councillor.
SEREENA DAVEY (Liberal Democrat) Public affairs account director.
JAMIE HUNTMAN (UKIP) Born 1968. Small businessman. Essex councillor since 2013.
Comments - 213 Responses on “Castle Point”
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  1. Possible UKIP gain?

  2. Has to be one of their best shots I think.

    Unlike other places where UKIP has become very strong (eg. Clacton), this seat has a leftish A-list Cameroon MP who will find it much harder to neuter a strong UKIP challenge than someone like Douglas Carswell would.

  3. I know very little about this MP but I had a feeling she was more to the left of the party than to the right. The problem here is that had Bob Spink remained active locally there could have been a possibilty of a Tory upset here. His views are very much in line with what people think here. I could see a Spink-UKIP ticket running Harris very close in 2015.

    However towards the end of last year Dr Spink was in the local press for advocating development on green belt land in the borough. Something his previous constituents did not want to here.

  4. That’s odd, I thought he had previously specifically opposed that. Wasn’t he an independent “green belt” candidate in 2010? Perhaps he was an independent pro-building-on-the-green-belt candidate?

  5. He was Barnaby!

    He stood in 2010 on a ‘Save our Greenbelt’ ticket but maybe he has changed his mind.

  6. Plus you’ve got the strength of the Canvey Island independents here – a group who are much more befitting of the label “swivel eyed loons” than either UKIP or right wing Tories.

    A Spink-UKIP-Canvey Independent candidate could maybe defeat the Tories.

  7. ‘Plus you’ve got the strength of the Canvey Island independents here – a group who are much more befitting of the label “swivel eyed loons” than either UKIP or right wing Tories.’

    I thought they were made up of former Labour Party members.

    Dave Blackwell, their founder, was certainly involved in the local Labour Party

  8. Their loonery reflects their extreme parochialism more than their political views.

    If anything they are bolstered by the high immigration of old fashioned cockney types from places like Dagenham who are anxious to create a cockney idyll having seen the east of London change beyond all recognition.

  9. I’m troubled by what the details of a ‘Cockney Idyll’ might be

  10. LOL

    A bit like EastEnders circa 1985, or The Sweeney circa 1975 I would have thought.

  11. “I’m troubled by what the details of a ‘Cockney Idyll’ might be”

    One where everyone talks English would be a start…

  12. I was being tongue in cheek.

    But I think there’s something about the physical isolation of Canvey which appeals to working-class east enders looking to recreate the place they used to live in.

  13. I wonder if the Tories will ever see another five-figure majority here like they enjoyed in the 80’s under the one-time Father Of The House Bernard Braine, and to a lesser extent in the early-90’s under Spink.

    I agree though RE Spink, he seems to be quite popular here and if he were to stand again as an ‘Independent Save Our Green Belt’ candidate that could be the cue for the right-wing vote to get split even more- Especially if he got UKIP backing.

  14. Local election votes:

    UKIP 6466
    Con 6404
    Ind 2962
    Lab 2574
    LD 316
    Green 250

  15. I would have thought that a 5 figure majority here is not unlikely next time around.

  16. Who for?

  17. Tory – was responding to the results.

  18. If the Tories get a 5 figure majority next time it’ll have been a very bad night indeed for UKIP since this is one of their strongest seats.

  19. Here’s my post on UKIP’s chances in Castle Point, looking at the 2013 county council results:

  20. Interesting constituency profiles on that website. I might post a link on a few other websites such as VoteTalk if that’s okay.

  21. My forecast for 2015

    Con 40
    UKIP 29
    Lab 18
    LD 4
    Others 9

  22. Con 52
    Lab 19
    UKIP 18
    BNP 4
    LD 4
    Green 2

  23. The difficulty in predicting this seat for 2015 comes largely from the fact that last time Bob Spink stood as an Independent, but UKIP backed him by not contesting the seat. Where his vote will go is very difficult to say, or indeed if he will stand again, and if so who for. It would be naive to assume that Spink’s vote will go en masse to UKIP if he doesn’t stand, although they are likely to gain a fair chunk of it.

    My tentative prediction is as per below:

    Con – 38
    UKIP – 33
    Lab – 18
    Lib – 5
    Others – 6

  24. It will be interesting to see if UKIP membership soon overtakes that of the LDs.

  25. 2015 – fairly likely

    *Con 50% +6%
    Labour 24% +9%
    UKIP 19%
    LD 7% -2%
    Con Hold

  26. Not hard to see UKIP winning here if you look at election results from 2005 onwards, even if they have a near-collapse in existing vote shares nationally.

    If Bob Spink stood this would obviously help, looks like he must have garnered ex-Labour voters even last time shortly after he’d been a Tory so his Tory past obviously isn’t too much of a negative for locals.

  27. They might have a smidgen of a chance if Farage stood. Otherwise no chance of UKIP winning. Bob Spink has showed the limit of his support as a non-Conservative and its not enough to win the seat.

  28. I think this seat is very interesting.

    If this seat was anything like normal, then on the uniform swings over the years it would now have a five-figure safe Tory majority around the 10-11,000 mark. But because of the huge swing in 1997 to Labour, ever since then this seat has shown its volatility.

    For example, in 2001, unlike other seats Labour gained in 1997, they couldn’t hold on, largely because the Tories did extremely well in Essex as a whole in 2001, and therefore this probably helped Bob Spink to get back after only four years away from Westminster.

    The seat has a habit of behaving bizarrely, I think, and probably also because of the popularity of BS giving him a good showing as an Independent in 2010 which has obscured things a bit here. Any sort of Eurosceptic presence here will be supported in large numbers it seems, and that may explain why both Bernard Braine and Bob Spink always went down very well with voters here, and with the Referendum Party, UKIP and BS’ Independent Save Our Green Belt all performing well since.

  29. Joe Cooke selected as Labour’s candidate for Castle Point in next year’s General Election

    (Hope this isn’t a 1/4/14 rag … )

  30. Ladbrokes:
    1/8 Cons
    5/1 UKIP

  31. Those UKIP odds look rather enticing. They topped the poll here in the 2004 Euro elections IIRC.

  32. And then got a mighty 7% in 4th in the 2005 GE.

  33. Relief at last for the Canvey Island Independents, who won every seat on the island again. However now they won’t be outvoted by Benfleet as UKIP won 5 of the 8 seats on the mainland.

    Castle Point will be run by a UKIP/CII coalition which will be interesting.

    I have long stated that this seat is the most likely place for UKIP to win a parliamentary seat – much more so than many others which appear regularly in the press. I think it’s just one of those places where no-one ever goes, so don’t know what is going on.

  34. Thatnks for that post JC.

    Thurrock, Castle Point and South Basildon/East Thurrock should be the main UKIP targets in 2015.

    I would stick my neck out and say that the Basildon/East Thurrock seat may be a better bet than Castle Point with UKIP able to take votes from both main parties.

  35. The media have been reporting that UKIP would have won the most votes in Castle Point in general election terms, but in fact the figures were:

    Con 8,073
    UKIP 6,431
    Canvey Island Independents 5,543
    Lab 3,832

    They must be assuming that Canvey Island Independents voters would support UKIP in a general election. UKIP didn’t stand in any of the wards which CII were contesting.

  36. UKIP targetting Castle Point, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

  37. I might be completely off the mark, but I’ve read/heard so little about Rebecca Harris in the last 4 years. Maybe she keeps her head down and focuses purely on being a constituency MP?

    Surely if Bob Spink still has a personal following in the area he’d urge voters to go for UKIP next year. The support for the CI Independents might translate into votes their way.

  38. It can’t be assumed that all the Canvey Island Independents will vote UKIP at a General Election – however they do represent the same demographic, which turned Castle Point Labour in 1995/1997/1999. Subsequently the Labour vote has disappeared, and the Conservatives have been regularly trounced on the island. It is likely that the UKIP vote will be stronger here than on the mainland.

    UKIP had a similar arrangement with the Independents in Southend (which hasn’t been mentioned at all in the press as a prospect, despite the Conservatives winning no seats at all in Southend E & Rochford.)

  39. Indeed & I was extremely surprised by the Labour win in Rochford ward – the first for many years I think. The wins in Victoria & Kursaal were more usual.

  40. “Rebecca Harris … is also the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party responsible for youth, which includes a role in the party’s ‘RoadTrip2015’ campaign which takes young activists into marginal seats to campaign. She is likely to be able to galvanise significant support ”

  41. prediction for 2015-

    con- 39%
    UKIP- 32%
    Lab- 17%
    Lib- 6%
    others- 6%

    A very difficult one to make sense of, this seat seems to be a bit all over the place with a very large set of varying predictions being offered. I highly doubt it will go UKIP, unless Farage or Nuthall stand here.

  42. Good prediction.

    I too think the Tories will hold here, but that UKIP will see this as one of their best chances in Essex which really is saying a lot I think, but they’ll probably fall short. I wonder if we’ll see Bob Spink stand again?

  43. If Farage wasn’t a factor I don’t think there’d be any question about it: Castle Point is on paper UKIP’s best shot. I’m surprised that at this stage it is still under the media’s radar.

    A large UKIP vote where they stood in the local elections in 2014, a long-standing anti-establishment vote where they didn’t, and the Lib Dems literally not bothering in the council seats. And that’s completely ignoring that the MP is from the Cameron wing.

    I put less stock in Euro results as a reflection of what might happen in 2015 when it comes to UKIP. But the fact that they outpolled Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens combined can’t be dismissed as easily as simply having a comfortable majority over second place.

  44. What makes this seat attractive for UKIP is the proven volatility it has displayed over the years. A big majority doesn’t necessarily offer protection to a sitting member in the way it does in most parts of the country.

  45. Impessive that UKIP polled 7% as far back as 2005. Suggests there has been a natural vote for them for some time. They could take a competitive 2nd place here from various sources.

  46. The other key factor in Castle Point is the fact that the local Conservative association has been constantly warring with itself for about 15 years. The irony of the Tories winning the seat back in 2001 was the fact that the association was riddled with rancorous and bitter splits which culminated finally in Spink’s removal. There can hardly have been a better example of a party winning a seat despite rather than because of the local organisation.

    The Spink affair, the Canvey Independents, and the emergence of UKIP as a serious force mean that the splits remain a problem to this day. If UKIP can hoover up the Canvey vote then they have a serious chance of winning the seat.

  47. My prediction:

    Conservatives- 40%
    UKIP- 34%
    Labour- 21%
    Others (inc Lib Dems)- 5%

  48. I’ve just spotted that Dr Bob Spink is listed as one of the main Speakers at the UKIP Conference. The BBC lists all 30 Speakers.

  49. I do wonder how active UKIP are in this seat. It is one of their best targets but I’m yet to hear of any major activity in the seat despite being in my neck of the woods. Their councillors have also been very quiet.

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