2015 Result:
Conservative: 18919 (38.9%)
Labour: 7852 (16.2%)
Lib Dem: 13344 (27.5%)
Green: 2499 (5.1%)
UKIP: 5870 (12.1%)
Others: 109 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 5575 (11.5%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Essex. Part of the Colchester council area.

Main population centres: Colchester.

Profile: Colchester is an ancient town, a provincial capital in Roman Britain. It has been a military centre since then and remains an important garrison town today, housing the 16th Air Assault Brigade at Colchester Garrison and the Military Corrective Training Centre, the only Military prison in Britain. Colchester is also home to the University of Essex, although the campus itself lies just outside the constituency boundary in Wivenhoe.

Politics: Until 1997 Colchester was split into two seats (Colchester North and Colchester South and Maldon), each with a large swathe of rural Essex attached and each comfortably Conservative - a classic "sandwich" formation in drawing up constituency boundaries. In the 1997 boundary changes it was replaced by a "donut" formation - a Colchester seat consisting of only the town itself, surrounded by a North Essex seat taking in its rural hinterland. North Essex remained Conservative, but the new Colchester seat was narrowly won by Bob Russell for the Liberal Democrats (defeating the Conservative candidate Stephan Shakespeare, who went on to found the pollsters YouGov). Bob Russell remained the MP for 28 years, building a robust majority but not enough to resist the anti-Lib Dem tide in 2015.

Current MP
WILL QUINCE (Conservative) Born 1982, Buckinghamshire. Educated at Aberystwyth University. Former solicitor. Colchester councillor since 2011 and former East Hertfordshire councillor. Contested Colchester 2010. First elected as MP for Colchester in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 15169 (33%)
Lab: 5680 (12%)
LDem: 22151 (48%)
UKIP: 1350 (3%)
Oth: 1789 (4%)
MAJ: 6982 (15%)
Con: 14868 (33%)
Lab: 8886 (20%)
LDem: 21145 (47%)
MAJ: 6277 (14%)
Con: 13074 (30%)
Lab: 10925 (25%)
LDem: 18627 (43%)
UKIP: 631 (1%)
Oth: 479 (1%)
MAJ: 5553 (13%)
Con: 16305 (31%)
Lab: 15891 (31%)
LDem: 17886 (34%)
Oth: 148 (0%)
MAJ: 1581 (3%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
WILL QUINCE (Conservative) Born 1982, Buckinghamshire. Educated at Aberystwyth University. Solicitor. Colchester councillor since 2011 and former East Hertfordshire councillor. Contested Colchester 2010.
JORDAN NEWELL (Labour) Born Harwich. Educated at Manningtree High School. Parliamentary assistant. Contested Colchester 2010.
BOB RUSSELL (Liberal Democrat) Born 1946, London. Educated at St Helena Secondary Modern. Journalist and publicity officer for Essex university. Colchester councillor 1971-2002. Contested Colchester 1979 for Labour. MP for Colchester 1997 to 2015.
JOHN PITTS (UKIP) Contested Colchester 2010.
MARK GOACHER (Green) Born Leicester. Educated at Lancaster University. Teacher.
KEN SCRIMSHAW (CPA) Retired mechanical engineer and church administrator.
Comments - 74 Responses on “Colchester”
  1. I heard from a friend that Clegg is thinking of doing a ‘chicken run’ to this seat. Is this true?

    I think Clegg could end up like Lamont a la Harrogate during the1997 General Election if he does decide to stand here.

  2. What an eccentric idea.

    He’s as safe as houses in Hallam if he wants to stand again.

    Small though they are, the Tories’ chances of a gain are much higher here than in Clegg’s seat.

  3. I personally struggle to deduce why the Lib Dems won this in the first place.

    Was it Bob Russell, was it the boundaries for the new seat or was it the collapse in the Tory vote? Could someone please explain- I’d be most grateful.

  4. Colchester town has never been that strong for the Tories.

    In 1983-97 the town was divided into two and joined with very Tory rural areas, with Colchester North and Colchester South therefore being very safe Tory seats.

    In 1997 the rural areas were moved to other seats and one seat was constructed for the town itself. With the Tories not being that strong in the town it was always going to be a prime target for a tactical squeeze by the Lib Dems. A lot of the Lib Dem vote here is naturally Labour inclined but it’s one of those places where such voters have been voting Lib Dem so long that it’s an ingrained habit now. Bob Russell is also a rebellious left-leaning Lib Dem which helps him keep his tactical vote.

  5. It was a very close 3 way marginal in 1997 but Russell has gradually squeezed down the Labour vote. He does look safe but Clegg is also not at risk. Why do we hear so many of these silly chicken run rumours? They are hardly ever true.

  6. Votes cast in local elections:

    LD 6200 (29.5%)
    Con 4605 (21.9%)
    Lab 4556 (21.7%)
    UKIP 4224 (20.1%)
    Green 1420 (6.8%)

    Changes since 2010 GE:

    LD -18.5%
    Con -11.0%
    Lab +9.4%
    UKIP +17.2%
    Green +5.3%
    Others -2.4%

    Swing, LD to Con: 3.8%

  7. I think this is a very interesting seat. It will be interesting to see what will happen here not just in 2015 but also if and when Russell stands down. I have a sneaking feeling that once he goes, this seat will become a realistic Tory target- on the other hand I may be completely wrong, of course.

  8. It would be fascinating to see the seats results over the last few elections had labour won in 1997.

  9. Probably the Tories would have won it by now, if that had happened. They might even have done in 1997 if they had had a better candidate than Stephan Shakespeare, though that’s arguable at best.

  10. ‘They might even have done in 1997 if they had had a better candidate than Stephan Shakespeare’

    Be careful Barnably, Shakespeare owns about 10% of YouGov’s shares

    He did seem quite an average candidate though – all too willing to attach himself to a variety of unpopular causes

    Interestingly, his real name is Stephan Kukowski

  11. I think if the Tories are going to have a reasonable crack at the seat, they need to do better in local elections. Bob Russell is very active and good at getting his name in the local paper, but he’s far from universally supportive of his compatriots on the Borough Council. The vote for them is therefore likely to be a vote for Lib Dems and the Tories really need to eat into that if they want to make an impact.

  12. I’ve always wondered what the notionals for this seat had it existed in 1992 were. All I know is that Richard Kimber’s UK Politics And Resources website says for the 1997 result the Lib Dems gained this in a 6.29% swing. Now my given Russell got a majority of 1, 551 (2.98%) I would deduce from that that the notional majority for the Conservatives might have been in the region of 6.44%. I am only speculating though, I can’t actually say for certain as I can’t find the figures.

  13. It was actually a 6.20% swing, my mistake.

  14. The 1992 notional for Colchester was as follows:

    Con: 23,692 (42.0%)
    LD: 18,424 (32.7%)
    Lab; 13,582 (24.1%)
    Others: 658 (1.2%)

    Con maj: 5,268 (9.3%)

  15. Changes in 1997:

    LD: +1.7%
    Con: -10.7%
    Lab: +6.5%
    Others: +2.5%

  16. Andy thanks very much for those figures. Incidentally, where did you find them?

  17. I’ve got Rallings & Thrasher’s guidebook with the notional results (which I acquired as a teenage psephology fanatic).

    I’m about to put the 1997 election night running totals on Google Docs which includes all the notional results.

  18. Do Rallings and Thraser work out most of the notionals from ward data that is available, or in some cases do they have to work it out by other means?

  19. They use local election results whenever possible. I think very occasionally they resort to census data.

  20. The Results: in case you don’t know, the link above gives the notional results for 1992 for each constituency.

  21. Yes Andy I realised that thanks anyway.

  22. Bob Russell reselected and quashes retirement talk..

  23. LD HOLD MAJ : 5%
    LD 33
    CON 28
    LAB 20
    UKIP 11
    GRN 7
    OTH 1

  24. It won’t be as close as that. The Labour vote will be slightly lower & the LDs somewhat higher, though the Tory vote isn’t far out.

  25. Ashcroft poll:

    LD 36
    CON 22
    UKIP 18
    LAB 17
    OTH 7

  26. Easy hold for the Lib Dems. Bob Russell enjoys personal popularity, plus this is one of the few Essex seats that doesn’t conform to stereotype. These boundaries are also not particularly favourable to the Tories. This may actually be one of the ‘safer’ Lib Dem seats post GE May 2015…what a strange thought. To think we have posters debating whether the Lib Dems might lose Orkney, or Ross, Skye and Lochaber, but not lose an Essex seat…truly strange times.

  27. Would perhaps be competitive if Russell stood down.

  28. GIven the LD’s national situation that is a seriously impressive poll from Ashcroft last November in terms of suggesting the level of personal vote he’s got.

    I’d have thought he would do one more term; and then depending what happens in the EU referendum (if one takes place) and on whether UKIP are still a force the Tories might well have a real chance of a win in 2020.

  29. Anyone debating the loss of Orkney is an idiot.

  30. Yes, Orkney will be held. Without a doubt, it will stay Lib Dem.

  31. I agree of course that Orkney will be held by the LD’s…but the possibility of them losing has at least been raised, unlike here.

    Hemmelig- totally agree. The Tories will definitely become competitive again as and when Russell stands down. Not sure there is much potential here for either Labour or UKIP however (at least in the short term).

  32. It’s possible Russell has the biggest personal vote of any MP at the moment. I don’t think people in Colchester are particularly liberal compared to elsewhere.

  33. The town is liberal by Essex standards (I realise that isn’t saying very much at all), but you are right. Chelmsford is the only other similar-ish large town in Essex which could also be referred to as ‘liberal’ and the LD’s have never made the breakthrough there (despite threatening to do so on and off over the years). Russell is extremely popular and well known throughout the town.

  34. Not to mention this seat doesn’t take in the many Tory villages surrounding Colchester.

    Essex Uni staff and students have obviously helped the Lib Dems here as well.

  35. @LBERNARD To be fair the University of Essex isn’t actually located in the constituency but the same one as the surrounding tory villages. Admittedly many students will live within the Colchester constituency, but not convinced that the university provides significant lib dem support for the Colchester seat.

  36. Probably shows the desperation in the tory camp that they are having to throw resources here in the hope of a achiving a very unlikely gain. They are also trying in Clacton with the PM visting both seats yesterday but interestingly not visiting Ipswich.

  37. This will be a Liberal Hold but there will be some Lib to Lab swing will benefit the Comservatives or in the future restore it to a three way marginal. Despite being an old historic university town it’s rough and gritty too. Much more than say Canterbury.

  38. Lib Dem Hold. 3,000 maj.

  39. Bob Russell has lost his seat to the Tories!

  40. wow

  41. Having taken a closer look at the borough elections the LibDem defeat doesn´t appear to be too much of a surprise.
    Whilst overall the LibDems managed to cling on to all but one (Berechurch in 2014) of their council seats during coalition, the collapse of their vote share is interesting. After having adjusted the shares to make them representative for the whole borough as if every ward would have had elections I get results completely in line with the national picture for 2010-2012 (very good 40% share in 2010, collapse to about 30% in 2011 and no change in 2012). Yet in 2014 the LibDem vote fell even further to level with Labour at just about 20% across the borough and stayed there this year.
    Looking at the 2014 result the idea that the LibDems were swept away by fear of the SNP/ fear against hope etc. on election dayt is ludicrous. With hindsight Colchester appears to have been lost at least one year in advance.
    Anyone with some local knowledge of what happened here in 2014?

  42. Nobody has come forward to answer Josef’s very interesting post, and I’m afraid I can’t.
    The Tory majority here in 2015 is about the same as what it would have been in 1992, but on a slightly lower vote.

  43. Russell’s defeat was one of the shocks of the night IMHO, despite the fact he wasn’t really as well known as many of his colleagues on the national stage he was still very popular and was well respected locally and I don’t think there were many people who post on this site who could have realistically seen him losing here- it just goes to show sadly that when your party’s doing extremely badly nationally, most of the time if you don’t have a very safe seat you’re really up against it even if you do have some kind of personal vote.

  44. The Lib Dems were clearly hit by a tidal wave as it over-rode places where they still had a strong local base (Cheltenham, Sutton and Cheam, Eastleigh, Bath, Eastbourne).
    But Josef’s post says this was no longer one of them.

  45. The seat description says Russell was MP for 28 years; it was, of course, 18 years and not 28

  46. I saw that yes. Wasn’t aware that John Wakeham lost his seat to the Alliance in 1987.

  47. My post got stuck in moderation for quite some time, so good to see it being published.

    The LibDem majority on Eastbourne BC went up, Eastleigh wasn’t bad as well whilst Cheltenham and Sutton didn’t have local elections this year.
    The only seat that behaved similar to this might be Bath where the council is now under Conservative majority control. Given that Colchester has all-out elections next year, the Tories would need to do very badly not to take the council here as well.

  48. It appears to be another seat in which a long standing respected member with quite a big personal vote etc, did not compensate from a 75% drop in national voteshare

  49. I think now the Tories have won this seat they will be highly unlikely to lose it back to the Lib Dems. In fact, in the long-run, I view Colchester as being a good place for Labour to move into second place, but I suspect this may now turn into a safe Tory seat with split opposition for the foreseeable future, unless the Lib Dems locally can recover and find a candidate with as much popular appeal as Russell enjoyed for such a long time.

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