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”

    Bob Spink spoke at the UKIP conference. Said he regretted not resigning his seat to trigger a by-election.

  2. I now think this will be a UKIP gain:
    My revised prediction is:
    UKIP- 39%
    Conservatives- 35%
    Labour- 19%
    Lib Dems- 3%
    Others- 4%


    Seems Spink is not (as yet) the candidate. How will UKIP do in light of that? I would have thought utilising Spink would be a no-brainer, but perhaps he isn’t standing for one reason or another.

  4. Stephen if that 4% is Bob Spink then I have to say I’d be shocked if he fell that low. Spink will surely always get at least 10% here? His personal vote is probably bigger than any other independent, apart from maybe Slyvia Hermon?

  5. UKIP have a candidate: Jamie Huntman.

  6. He is the UKIP group leader on Essex CC.

  7. Bob Spink has said he has no intention of standing in the 2015 GE

  8. I’m not sure this is quite the right territory for UKIP to do outstandingly well. Castle Point has a very low level of deprivation, and the Benfleet area will have quite a few commuters to London. Deprivation is not necessarily a driver of ukip votes and the tories lost thundersley in 2013. I just doubt they would go close to winning.

  9. I seem to remember this was one of UKIP’s best local authorities in the Euros. They’ve certainly got a good chance.

  10. Joe’s probably right, just about. S Benfleet isn’t quite classic UKIP territory, its eastern side being very similar to the outer wards of Southend W where the LDs & Tories vie for votes. Canvey is closer to the UKIP model but it doesn’t dominate the constituency. I still think the Tories will hang on here, but not by very much.

  11. I would have thought this ideal territory for UKIP – with its strong owner-occupied, lower middle class demographic

    And up against a moderately pro-Eu Conservative incumbant, they might just be in with a chance here, although polls show that this isn’t one of the four seats where they are currently ahead

  12. Tim jones. Are Ukip ahead in polls in 4 seats? Which 4? i know of only two but i could be behind the curve.

  13. As well as the ” strong owner-occupied, lower middle class demographic”, the constituency is highly nationalistic. Unemployment and deprivation isn’t particularly high (by the government index), but this isn’t what drives UKIP votes – it’s partly cultural (social conservatism) and partly resentment of declining living standards, felt by people in work, not people out of it. Surely all this is obvious – UKIP strength is not in the most deprived areas.

    There are surprisingly few commuters to London (I used to commute myself on this line, and there were many more people getting on and off at Leigh and the Basildon stations). Canvey is really very isolated and wages are low for south-east England – it accounts for 40% of the seat. Much of Benfleet may be owner-occupied, but is very run down – as Joe James says these are not optimists but very much “left behind”.

    This seat is therefore significantly more favourable to UKIP than Thurrock with its growing ethnic minority population and its large number of London commuters. The counter argument is dependent solely on Labour and Conservative being equally balanced in Thurrock, and therefore a FPTP election can be won with a lower share of the vote.

    And Castle Point is very high on my volatility index.

  14. An extremely good comment and I fully agree. Deprivation is the wrong word to use in terms of what drives UKIP support.

  15. A feeling of decline rather than deprivation seems to be what drives UKIP. Those on the very bottom of the heap – those in real poverty and sickness who I met in Heywood – either don’t vote or are largely Labour for tribal reasons or because they depend on the NHS.

    The ones largely susceptible to UKIP are those who feel they have had something and are losing it. They might have a right to buy house or modest mortgage, but are still fairly poor and resentful because they feel themselves slipping back. It’s not poverty – it’s the fear of it.

  16. Ben – UKIP have been shown as ahead in S Thanet, Eastleigh, Clacton, Rochester & Strood, Thurrock, Boston & Skegness & I think Great Yarmouth too. So, at least 6, not 4. There hasn’t been a poll in Castle Point & it would be interesting if there were one. In some of the above they’ve been shown as ahead more than once.

  17. It’ll be interesting to see how much UKIP’s vote holds up in Eastleigh in May. The Lib Dem presence is large and UKIP, unfortunately, didn’t select Diane James again.

  18. ‘UKIP have been shown as ahead in S Thanet, Eastleigh, Clacton, Rochester & Strood, Thurrock, Boston & Skegness & I think Great Yarmouth too.’

    In the Sunday Times they were ahead in South Thanet, Thurrock &^ Boston & Skegness – and most surproisingly – tied with the Tories in Cambourne & redruth

    Whilst these are all working class seats, they are not exactly deprived.

  19. Diane James I would guess is going for a more promising seat.
    She did do well but the Lib Dems are resilient in Eastliegh as we know.
    They dominate the local elections despite what’s happened since 2010.

    I have to say Diane James is very impressive but I just see her as a sensible Tory and it is a problem that we are in separate parties and helping Labour.

  20. btw
    Tim I think C & Redruth is quite deprived.
    Agree about the others.

  21. When I think of deprivation though, what little of it exists in the Uk, tends to be in places like the mining valleys of South Wales, inner city Liverpool or the housing estates of Glasgow

    I take your point though. I have been to Cambourne and it seemed very run-down

  22. Tim & Barnaby – thank you both for your responses to my question.

  23. Pretty sure Spink would have won here if he decided to stand in 2015.


    Interesting development. If CIs persuade their local voters to opt for UKIP nationally that could make the difference between narrowly losing and gaining the seat. They are now backing Jamie Huntman in the GE.

  25. See my comment upstream. No surprise here. Perhaps the media will now pay some attention to this seat.

  26. UKIP have a real chance here, it’s almost as natural a seat for them as you could imagine I think. Even without Bob Spink, they could still realistically expect to take this seat from the Tories by at least 1-2%, somewhere in the mid-30’s at least. I’m not saying they will gain it, but it could be very close here indeed.

  27. Apparently Canvey Island has the highest proportion of people in England who identified as “English” in the 2011 census. Bodes well for UKIP. UKIP will certainly win Canvey island, but in the other more prosperous parts their anti-politics message might not get the same resonance. I still have this down as a UKIP gain though along with Boston, Thanet south, Thurrock, R&S, Clacton, Sittingbourne and Sheppey and a couple of suprise gains. Which is around 8-10 UKIP gains which I predict

  28. “I have to say Diane James is very impressive but I just see her as a sensible Tory and it is a problem that we are in separate parties and helping Labour.”

    Nationally UKIP have the potential to let Labour sneak marginals on lower shares than they would have otherwise have needed. That said, the seat James contests will almost certainly be a two-horse race between her and the incumbent party – if she unseats a Lib Dem or (less likely) Labour MP then that accusation can hardly be made of her personally.

    Even if she were to unseat a Tory, I cast my mind back to a quote from a Conservative MP during the 1992 election coverage. Something like “we’re not going to negotiate policy with other parties because we have principles and they are important to us”. That was a valid quote at the time because the Lib Dems had even less in common with the Tories then than in 2010, but is hardly the case if the bulk of those UKIP MPs returned would probably be Tories if Europe wasn’t an issue.

  29. Just for a change a UKIP councillor has defected to the Conservatives in Castle Point. This restores Conservative control of the council lost last May.

  30. Has anyone on here actually seen or heard Harris in the Commons, on the news or on political programmes e.g. The Daily/Sunday Politics? I haven’t heard a peep from her since she was elected in May 2010!

  31. Farage is to launch UKIP’s election campaign on Canvey Island today. Seems a perfect choice.

    I do believe UKIP may just win this seat but it will be tight.

  32. Ladbrokes Politics @LadPolitics ยท 52m52 minutes ago

    UKIP now favourites to win Castle Point
    8/11 @UKIPCastlePoint
    Evs @RebeccaHarrisMP Con
    100/1 @JoeCookeLabour Lab

  33. Interesting. I can see a dozen Tory women potentially being ‘one term wonders.’ Several are standing down, plus Soubry, McVey are well known to be at risk in marginals and Mensch has gone already.

  34. Add Mary Macleod and Angie Bray to that list too. I think Nicky Morgan will hang on.

  35. I’m getting less sure of that day by day. She has a real fight on her hands. I still have it in the Conservative column but by an absolute whisker.

  36. Barnaby how many Labour gains from the Tories are you expecting? At the moment I’m predicting 38 but I suspect you have it somewhat higher. Also what seats do you think there will be Lab to Con swings in? There is bound to be a few, even in 1997 2 seats swung Lab to Con.

  37. The UKIP/Con(excluding Boston as it seems very likely to be a UKIP gain) and UKIP/Labour marginals will be very hard to predict as even national voting patterns will make it difficult to predict.
    The Female Conservative minsters in danger are McVey ,Soubry and Amber Rudd( all First termers). Jackie Doyle Price and a couple of others first termers who are backbenchers are also in quite a bit of danger.

  38. What makes this seat exciting for UKIP is the known level of volatility that the seat has exhibited in the past. I think they have a decent chance of winning.

  39. Remnants of Bob Spink’s old vote (I think he backs UKIP now), those who support the Canvey Island Independents in local elections, the 2010 BNP vote, former Tory and perhaps Labour voters potentially give UKIP a varied base to draw their support from in May.

  40. So do I. My relatives and other people I know who have moved to Canvey from East London I imagine will all be UKIP voters if they bother to vote. Benfleet seems a bit more middle class in tone so UKIP will probably have a lower vote there. Its the place with the highest English identity in the whole of Britain according the 2011 census.

  41. In answer to you, Pepperminttea, I am currently predicting a total of 42 Labour gains from the Tories + Corby = 43. There are probably quite a few seats where there will be a swing from Lab to Con, particularly in the SE, though I don’t think there will be many in England where Labour is in contention. Bearing in mind what polls say there could well be some in Scotland too though I have my doubts whether this will occur in many.

  42. Swings from Lab to Con? I wasn’t envisaging many of those.

  43. Not many perhaps, but a few are quite likely bearing in mind the rather divergent trends in different parts of the country.

  44. Not quite likely its almost certain that some seats will move against the national trend as they do at virtually every election (even 1997).

  45. Yes even in the more stable days before I was born. There were constituencies which swung because of obvious demographic change, but some which just behaved weirdly (e.g. SW Norfolk being gained by Labour in 1955 & lost back to the Tories in 1964, Ipswich’s odd behaviour between 1974 & 1992 inclusive).

  46. Just noticed which school Rebecca Harris went to. I was in a band in my late 20s which had 2 former Bedales pupils in it, several years younger than me. They must have known her. Strangely the keyboard player who succeeded me when I left has also inherited my mantle of being the token left-winger in the band. The other members are all going to vote UKIP now apparently even though 2 of them are dead posh.

  47. Well posh people are UKIP “Classic”, surely?

  48. Not really, I’d say white van man is UKIP’s best demographic. But they also have a fair share of posh supporters, especially over the age of 50.

  49. I guess those guys are just about passing 50 now….

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