2015 Result:
Conservative: 24790 (46.1%)
Labour: 3902 (7.3%)
Lib Dem: 18274 (34%)
Green: 2689 (5%)
UKIP: 3808 (7.1%)
Independent: 272 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 6516 (12.1%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Glouchestershire. Most of the Cheltenham council area.

Main population centres: Cheltenham.

Profile: Cheltenham is an affluent spa town, most associated with the girls boarding school Cheltenham Ladies College and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As well as the horseracing festival it also hosts other notably literary and musical festivals. Economically it is home to several light industrial and financial companies as well as GCHQ and UCAS (the university admissions service).

Politics: Cheltenham was held by the Conservatives between 1950 and 1992 and regained in 2015. In 1992 the Conservatives selected John Taylor, a black lawyer, to be their candidate. His selection was unpopular with some in the local Conservative party, who felt he had been foisted upon them by Conservative Central Office and there was a perception that some were opposed to him for racist reasons. Whatever the reasons, Taylor lost the seat to the Liberal Democrat`s Nigel Jones. Jones retired in 2005 after he was attacked at his constituency surgery by a man wielding a samurai sword, severely injuring Jones and killing his assistant Andrew Pennington who acted to restrain the attacker and save Mr Jones`s life.

Current MP
ALEX CHALK (Conservative) Educated at Winchester College and Oxford University. Barrister. Hammersmith and Fulham councillor 2006-2014. First elected as MP for Cheltenham in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 21739 (41%)
Lab: 2703 (5%)
LDem: 26659 (51%)
UKIP: 1192 (2%)
Oth: 493 (1%)
MAJ: 4920 (9%)
Con: 15819 (36%)
Lab: 4988 (11%)
LDem: 18122 (42%)
GRN: 908 (2%)
Oth: 3784 (9%)
MAJ: 2303 (5%)
Con: 14715 (35%)
Lab: 5041 (12%)
LDem: 19970 (48%)
GRN: 735 (2%)
Oth: 1374 (3%)
MAJ: 5255 (13%)
Con: 18232 (36%)
Lab: 5100 (10%)
LDem: 24877 (49%)
Oth: 1029 (2%)
MAJ: 6645 (13%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ALEX CHALK (Conservative) Educated at Winchester College and Oxford University. Barrister. Hammersmith and Fulham councillor 2006-2014.
PAUL GILBERT (Labour) Solicitor and management consultant.
MARTIN HORWOOD (Liberal Democrat) Born 1962, Cheltenham. Educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford University. Charity consultant. MP for Cheltenham 2005 to 2015.
CHRISTINA SIMMONDS (UKIP) Born Cheltenham. Business development consultant.
ADAM VAN COEVORDEN (Green) Educated at Pates Grammar and York University. Works for the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
RICHARD LUPSON-DARNELL (Independent) Educated at Brentwood School. Freelance researcher.
Comments - 105 Responses on “Cheltenham”
  1. The town centre wards in this seat are College and Lansdown, the county council equivalents are Charlton Park and College, & Lansdown and Park, (which divisions were created for the 2013 county council elections.)

  2. An estimate of how the Cheltenham constituency voted in the local elections:

    Liberal Democrats – 9,626 – 38.8%
    Conservatives – 7,373 – 29.7%
    UKIP – 4,037 – 16.2%
    Labour – 1,677 – 6.7%
    Greens – 1,250 – 5.0%
    Others – 828 – 3.3%

  3. Even if every single UKIP voter went Conservative, the Tories would only be slightly ahead. This looks a likely LD hold.

  4. The Tories haven’t won Cheltenham comfortably since 1979.

  5. This does have the feel of a Lib Dem hold about it somewhat. I really do think that the Tories’ best chance of taking this back came in 2010 with Mark Coote, but he couldn’t pull it off. Horwood has dug himself in here a bit now and I would have to say that if it couldn’t be gained requiring a smaller swing last time, then the Tories would do very well indeed to gain it requiring a bigger one in 2015. I too would have Horwood down as the favourite to hold here, but am less sure about the margin of victory.

  6. I believe Pittville ward in this constituency used to return Labour councillors – unsually for an affluent area like that

  7. ‘The Tories haven’t won Cheltenham comfortably since 1979’

    Charles Irving’s majorities:
    Oct 1974 8,454 over the Liberals
    1979 10,538 over the Liberals (his future successor Nigel Jones)
    1983 5,518 over the Liberals
    1987 4,896 over the Liberals

    Perhaps his decreasing majorities in the 80’s suggested Jones’s ‘upset’ gain in 1992 wasn’t that much of an upset at all

  8. It wasn’t an upset at all – the circumstances were rather dramatic, but it was a clear marginal by that time. The Liberals had worked the seat very hard in both 1983 & 1987 (I think the candidate was Richard Holme, a very senior figure in the party, both times). Holme was regarded as a nice but somewhat ineffectual candidate, Nigel Jones who took the seat in 1992 as rather more effective. Everyone knows the story about how the Tories ran John Taylor & lost to him. It could well be that Jones might still be there had it not been for his witnessing the tragic murder of his agent (I seem to remember he himself was injured in the attack) by a crazed constituent with a samurai sword. But anyway, Harry, as you say Cheltenham by 1992 was a marginal, so its loss by the Tories after the retirement of a well-liked experienced MP wasn’t that much of a shock, certainly not to myself at the time.

  9. Loads of people have described Jones’ victory in 1992 as unexpected when it was clearly nothing of the sort. For example I remember a Darcus Howe piece in the New Statesman describing it as “one of the safest Tory seats in the country” until the Conservatives selected a black candidate.

  10. it’s sadly typical of the sort of superficial comment one gets from many sources. Sometimes even here which is a real shame.

  11. LD HOLD
    LD 35
    CON 34
    LAB 14
    UKIP 11
    GRN 6

  12. Cheltenham, declaration number:

    1979: 2
    1983: 3
    1987: 4
    1992: 13
    1997: 262
    2001: 274
    2005: 317
    2010: 638

  13. Bloody hell, Andy, how long did it take for you to work those out!

  14. About five minutes since I already have them on various spreadsheets. I’ll make them public at some point.

  15. Incredible actually when you compare 2010 to 1979- strange how this seat’s declarations times have continued to fall back further and further over the years.

  16. Yes it is pretty incredible. It’s a fairly compact seat which hasn’t changed much over the years yet in 2010 the returning officer found it necessary to count the next day.
    Andy I’d really like to see the 2010 order some day because it’s the only one I’ve never been able to see a record of online. (Happy Xmas).

  17. I visited Cheltenham for the first time in November and stayed for a few days – a lovely place with cracking pubs, eateries and theatres. Not being a race week, I got an apartment dirt cheap.
    My friends from the West End of Newcastle have moved down with their business – quite a culture shock.
    I see a Lib Dem hold here, although my friends will be propping up the Labour vote, which will show some growth in 2015.

  18. I can actually see the Lib Dems increasing their majority here, based on their strong local election results this year.

  19. Interesting to hear about the cracking pubs – in my younger days Cheltenham was totally dominated by Whitebread who took over the local West Country Brewery in the 60s together with its many pubs. Must have become more diverse now. Gloucestershire’s best beer-drinking constituency (as well its most beautiful) is The Cotswolds with the picturesque local Donnington Brewery & its 15 stone-built pubs, as well as pubs tied to other excellent breweries Wadworths, Arkells & Hook Norton.

  20. I mean Whitbread of course.

  21. MMMM, white bread – not on the cholesterol diet the doctor gave me.
    Mind you, she forgot that my Crohn’s Disease put most other bread out of my reach too.

  22. Nigel Jones was a good MP here from 1992 to 2005, and I think his profile greatly increased when his bravery showed after the tragic death of his colleague and local councillor. He may have stood down because of this in 2005, and tbh I think it showed in the Lib Dems’ vote when Horwood replaced him as candidate and MP.

  23. SBJME19 – I think I’ve already posted the 2010 order of declarations with running totals somewhere on here. Anyway here it is again:

  24. Thanks.

  25. From local election results this seat appears as though it may be one of the likelier seats where the local MP will survive a General Election LibDem catastrophe.

    I am not sure what a LibDem vote based on extremely well heeled constituents coupled with support from civil servants says about a LibDem party which seems to be even more out of touch, as part of the Westminster and overseas-connected establishments, than the Labour and Tory leaderships.

  26. Actually, the core Lib Dem vote comes from the estates in Hesters Way, Springbank, St Paul’s etc.
    We can only win the seat by being competitive with the Tories in areas like Charlton Kings, but it would be a mistake to see the majority of the LD vote here as posh.

  27. One of the more unlikely C seats against the LDs (unless the LDs have indeed hit a new low).

  28. LibDem gain from Cons here in Charlton Park ward. LibDem 861, Cons 767, UKIP 154, Lab 46, Green 46.

  29. Cheltenham Constituency 2014:
    Liberal Democrats – 13,153 (43.74%)
    Conservatives – 9,127 (30.35%)
    UKIP – 3,219 (10.71%)
    Labour – 1,747 (5.81%)
    Greens – 1,172 (3.90%)
    PAB – 727 (2.42%)
    Independents – 646 (2.15%)
    TUSC – 143 (0.48%)
    NHA – 135 (0.45%)

    Lib Dem and Tory in all 18
    Labour and UKIP in 12
    Green in 8
    Independents and TUSC in 2
    NHA and PAB in 1

  30. If Mr Danczuk’s efforts do end up leading to a proper investigation into historical child abuse and the Dickens dossier is “found” and made public, it won’t be any better news for the Conservatives in Cheltenham than it will be for the Lib Dems in Rochdale.

    I think the Lib Dems would have held here in any case, but in these circumstances their victory might be surprisingly comfortable.

  31. There had been some talk of the Lib Dems losing this before the last election, but I’d imagine it might be one of their more comfortable holds on the night this time around.

  32. The Conservative vote has recovered by 4.96% since 1997 here, but they still find themselves 9.3% behind the Liberal Democrats, and there may well have been tactical voting here last time to stop Mark Coote from winning the seat.

  33. Current prediction for 2015-
    Horwood (Liberal Democrat)- 47%
    Conservative- 37%
    Labour- 8%
    UKIP- 6%
    Green- 2%

  34. Looks about right to me. I could see the Tories and UKIP being a tad lower, though.

  35. I do think this seat will be a good hold for the Lib Dems, after their decent performances locally of late. Certainly if they hold this in 2015, I suspect they might keep it for quite some time yet.

  36. I think Horwood’s majority will rise. Don’t get me wrong, his share will fall, but the Tories will go down more. I’d expect it to break 10%.

  37. The Tories had their golden chance to take this back after 18 years in 2010. They increased their vote, but were nowhere near doing so. They may now be waiting for a very long time.

    I think the longer Martin Horwood stands as the Lib Dem candidate the longer the party will hold this- If he is the MP for the next 10 years for instance. When he goes, it could get more difficult for them to hold this perhaps- It’s often the case for the Lib Dems when they lose the incumbent MP through retirement- They often end up losing the seat as well.

  38. Don’t forget that Nigel Jones held the seat for the Lib Dems before Horwood, though. I do agree, however, that Horwood’s presence is a boon for the Lib Dems. This seems like a very natural Lib Dem seat, though.

  39. Oh yes of course I well know that Nigel Jones, now Baron Jones, who was MP here from 1992-2005 was a very popular MP who held off the Tories very well during that period, indeed they formed no challenge to him- It was only when he stood down in 2005 that they mounted any sort of challenge- even then they could only cut the majority to 2, 303 votes, so only halved what NJ got in 2001- there was still a swing to Vanessa Gearson of 3.6%, despite there only being a 1.1% increase in the Tory vote share. If it had been a better election for them nationally, they might have hoped to have gained it, but in 2010 obviously once MH was in as the incumbent he got a mighty increase and doubled his majority.

  40. Exactly. I doubt they’ll take it, especially with the Lib Dems doing so well in the council election.

  41. Cheltenham was not as safe a Tory seat as it looked in the 80s – he non-Tory vote tended to split evenly which gave a false impression. The LibDem vote comes from people who would be natural Labour supporters in most places. I think what started as tactical voting has become entrenched over the years, particularly as Labour has effectively given up even at local level. It’s not just the Ladies’ College and retired major town of its image – there are a couple of large and very rough housing estates you wouldn’t want to walk through at night – or leave your car there, as I discovered to my cost.

  42. I have read all comments with great interest. Most are about party loyalty. It would be interesting to know how closely local election voting patterns relate to national elections. It would, for example be possible for someone to prefer the Lib dems locally and conservatives nationally. In addition, voting intentions must surely be determined (at least to some extent) by policy issues. Which policies are likely to prove most decisive in determing voting patterns in 2015?
    As a retired marketing researcher I am interested in what drives voting intentions.

  43. Why has Ashcroft not polled this yet?

  44. It was the most marginal seat not polled.

    John Burton – the LDs have actually tended to do slightly better at national level. As someone who lives here, I feel fairly confident saying that this will be a LD hold.

  45. And now it has been polled!

    LD 42
    CON 34
    UKIP 11
    LAB 7
    OTH 6

  46. LD HOLD

    LD – 42
    CON – 36
    UKIP – 8
    LAB – 9
    O – 6

  47. LD hold, 2900.

  48. Lib Dem Hold. 2,000 maj.

  49. I think that the LD popularity in Cheltenham (where I have now lived for 30 years) is very much due to the large percentage of residents who are Public Sector workers (GCHQ, schools, Gloucestershire Uni, UCAS, etc, etc).

    Public Sector employees have a natural tendency to be slightly left wing, thus to protect their lavish work and retirement benefits.

  50. The Tories have won Cheltenham! Didn’t see that coming. Looks like a great nght for the Tories!

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