West Dorset

2015 Result:
Conservative: 28329 (50.2%)
Labour: 5633 (10%)
Lib Dem: 12199 (21.6%)
Green: 3242 (5.7%)
UKIP: 7055 (12.5%)
MAJORITY: 16130 (28.6%)

Category: Very safe Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Dorset. Most of the West Dorset council area.

Main population centres: Dorchester, Bridport, Lyme Regis, Beaminster and Sherborne.

Profile: An affluent and mainly rural seat. Like many seats on the south coast it is a popular retirement location and has a high proportion of pensioners. The seat also contains the village of Tolpuddle, the site of an annual festival organisated by the TUC to commemorate the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Politics: West Dorset has consistently returned a Conservative MP since the nineteenth century. In 1997 however it became a close Conservative/Lib Dem marginal and in the subsequent elections there were concerted efforts to encourage Labour voters to tactically back the Liberal Democrats and oust Oliver Letwin. They were ultimately unsuccessful, and with the collapse of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 this returned to being a safe Tory seat.

Current MP
OLIVER LETWIN (Conservative) Born 1956, Hampstead. Educated at Eton and Cambridge University. Former merchant banker. Contested Hampstead and Highgate 1992. First elected as MP for West Dorset in 1997. Shadow chief secretary 2000-2001, shadow Home Secretary 2001-2003, Shadow Chancellor 2003-2005, shadow environment secretary 2005. Minister of State for Policy 2010-2015. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster since 2015. Following David Cameron`s election as Conservative leader he left the Shadow Cabinet but remained influential, being appointed Chairman of the Conservative policy review. Letwin is identified as being on the left of the party, and widely regarded as thoughtful, affable, urbane but somewhat gaffe prone - he famously allowed a man who turned out to be burglar into his house to use the toilet, was caught throwing confidential constituency mail into public litter bins in St James Park and had to go into hiding during the 2001 campaign after expressing an aspiration to cut public spending by 20 billion.
Past Results
Con: 27287 (48%)
Lab: 3815 (7%)
LDem: 23364 (41%)
UKIP: 2196 (4%)
Oth: 675 (1%)
MAJ: 3923 (7%)
Con: 24763 (47%)
Lab: 4124 (8%)
LDem: 22302 (42%)
UKIP: 1084 (2%)
Oth: 952 (2%)
MAJ: 2461 (5%)
Con: 22126 (45%)
Lab: 6733 (14%)
LDem: 20712 (42%)
MAJ: 1414 (3%)
Con: 22036 (41%)
Lab: 9491 (18%)
LDem: 20196 (38%)
Oth: 1829 (3%)
MAJ: 1840 (3%)

2015 Candidates
OLIVER LETWIN (Conservative) See above.
RACHEL ROGERS (Labour) Participation worker and former prison officer. Weymouth and Portland councillor since 2012. Contested Dorset police commissioner election 2012.
ROS KAYES (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Oxford University. Mental health professional. West Dorset councillor since 2007, Dorset councillor since 2013. Contested South Dorset 2010.
Comments - 126 Responses on “Dorset West”
  1. “Unless Boris does get the nod, it’s likely they’ll be to the Right of Cameron”.

    I don’t agree with that. I think both the parliamentary party and the membership are less right wing then when Cameron was elected. A lot of the real headbangers among the latter have decamped to UKIP.

  2. According to today’s “Daily Mail”, Alan Yentob of the BBC and Oliver Letwin are being called before the Public Administration and Public Affairs Committee over the Kid’s Company affair.

    It is to be hoped that Oliver Letwin will be asked whether the Prime Minister was personally involved in the decision to give Kid’s Company money contrary to the wirtten advice of civil servants, and that if the answer is “Yes” David Cameron will be called before the Committee to answer questions in person.

    It will do the Tories no good electorally if they throw Letwin to the wolves to cover-up for Cameron.

  3. ” had to go into hiding during the 2001 campaign after expressing an aspiration to cut public spending by 20 billion ”

    Yet handed over millions of taxpayers money to the Kids Company protection racket whilst being a member of a government which borrowed over half a trillion pounds.


  4. Letwin and Hancock’s reputations (perhaps deservedly) are being badly hit by this Kids Company saga.


    “The minister knew the charity spent more than £50,000 funding someone described as the child of an Iranian diplomat, including their PhD study. He knew that two young people who have a relative working for a charity received support worth more than £130,000. His answer was that he could only cut off Kids Company if a Charity Commission statutory inquiry were launched. It is not clear why.

    Mr Letwin’s argument was, at root, that he thought Kids Company did excellent work despite shambolic management. So, he argued, the core of what it did needed to preserved, even if the management did not. But he did not give a good explanation of why he thought it was so valuable.”

    So KC was a badly run Quango with cronyism and it lavished certain young people who didn’t deserve that kind of support with taxpayer’s money.

  5. Letwin was of course wrong in 1985, as he has said in his statement. I do think the views he expressed then were held fairly widely at the time though, and so it isn’t particularly fair to make a big issue of this. It is a bit awkward that he is still an active politician now the files are being released though.

  6. He was only telling Thatcher (who would’ve agreed whole heartedly with these sentiments in private) what she wanted to hear. Not really his fault.

  7. Well obviously it IS his fault. But it was 30 years ago……

  8. Christmas silly season story of the first order

  9. Indeed, almost as silly season as Andrea Jenkyns and what’s his face’s ‘affair’. Not so much a ‘who’s who’ of British public life, more of a ‘who’s that’. Seriously doubt anyone cares.

  10. I am strongly in favour of Freedom of Information, although I wish it was more user-friendly to the ordinary public as opposed to journalists.

    I do wonder, though whether in the case of genuinely confidential information, which should be severely limited in scope, it should remain secret for fifty years, as was long the case, rather thanfor thirty years. In this case the “thirty-year rule” has led to information being made public whilst the confidential adviser is still working, and indeed has risen to a very senior position.

    But I agree that tthis is a storm in a teacup and that Letwin has had a long time, thirty years indeed, to learn greater discretion. Whether he has done is another matter; but we can judge this from his more recent utterances.

    This minor row may play into the hands of “Sir Jeremy Cover-up”, as I gather he is nicknamed, in his misbegotten plans to reduce public access to civil service information. That would be deplorable.

  11. Thirty years from now there will be very little confidential information released about today. Emails and text messages are much easier to delete than paper documents.

    The Tory party’s great strength is its ability to gradually move with the times whilst managing to retain the lions share of the considerable stuffy old fart vote. Letwin’s so-called gaffe is merely a small indicator of that success. Though I don’t like Letwin very much, it is in some ways heartening that Cameron has retained the services of quite a few greybeards with experience of government in the 80s and 90s. It plays to the safe pair of hands narrative and contrasts sharply with the pitiful inexperience of Labour’s front bench.

  12. The 30 year rule is being cut to 20 in a staged process over time, ironically as a result of Letwin’s policy. I’m personally not convinced this is a great idea because it will lead to more situations like this where a still active politician is embarrassed by something he said confidentially in a completely different context at a time when attitudes were different (attitudes will keep changing – I’m sure in 20 years time some things we think are OK today won’t be).

    On today’s politicians the answer is that we simply don’t know what sort of records are being kept. I do have my concerns that very little of interest will be being kept, though it is possible that somebody is keeping e-mails.

  13. Oliver Letwin is reportedly sacked. Not surprising. Key man behind the scenes in Cameron years.

  14. Letwin and Matthew Hancock (a minister) shouldn’t be anywhere near government after their approval of lavish funding to the glorified quango that was Kids Company.

  15. Oliver Letwin has confirmed he is standing down at the next GE. First of the cabinet members axed by May to make this announcement, I suspect others will follow.

  16. That decision was made a little while ago I think, in private.

  17. Another MP with a spot on summary in today’s debate:

    “In the end, what matters most is the fate of our country… The truth is that the negotiating hand that our government has will greatly determine whether in the outcome we do get a comprehensive free trade deal of the kind that the PM rightly seeks. I know of no fact more certain than that if this House were to suggest to our counterparties in the EU 27 that we might decide at a later date that if the deal offered to us was bad enough then we would prefer to remain then the consequence would be that they would offer the worst deal they could think of… Therefore I think we have a very solemn duty in this House to make it abundantly clear… that this is an irrevocable act tomorrow night, that we’re taking an act that we cannot go back on.”

    This in spite of admitting to some misgiving and doubt, so kudos to him for being suave enough to say what he did.

  18. And another one if posters can bear with me. I’ll put it on here rather than open too many new threads and potentially shut out other discussions going on between posters in the process.

    From Anna Soubry,:
    “Could he please assure us that he still would be true to his claim as the leader of the Leave campaign that £350m will now be going to our NHS? Or does he agree with others that that figure was always false and it was a lie?”

    Gove says he cannot deliver on the pledge (which he says was £100m a week) but he will keep lobbying the Government on it.

    “I’ve no idea whether or not the word ‘lie’ is unparliamentary. I do know that someone who is not in the Government I can’t deliver the sums. But what I can do is I can consistently argue, as I have, that when we take back control of the money we currently give to the European Union we can invest that money in the NHS. And in fact it was the consistent claim of the Leave campaign, as the Rt Honourable Lady well knows, that we should wish to give £100m to the NHS – some of the money we were going to take back control of we would also use to spend on supporting science and also making sure we could get rid of VAT on fuel.”

    Gove putting Soubry back in her box quite nicely and coolly, especially on the ridiculous claim that Vote Leave promised £350m a week extra on the NHS.
    You would have to be take the most literal out of many interpretations even of the side of the Battle Bus to think that it was pledging that ALL of the £350m should / would be spent on the NHS – yet angry Remainers keep peddling the same rubbish on this – a clear sign they have lost the argument. Why can’t they just move on like so many of the rest of us who voted for the losing side?

  19. Bridport North Ward By-election, 22.02.18:

    Conservative 600 36% ( + 5%)
    Liberal Democrat 500 30% ( – 9% )
    Labour 383 23% ( + 10% )
    Green 184 11% ( – 6% )

    Cons Gain from Lib Dem.

  20. Dorset County Council (Bridport) by-election:

    Conservative 1,660 40% ( + 3% )
    Liberal Democrat 1,451 35% ( -4 % )
    Labour 691 17% (+ 4% )
    Green 388 9% ( -3% )

    Cons Gain from LibDem.

    [Tactical vote ‘expert’ Billy Bragg lives here!]

  21. Letwin amendment passes by 329 to 302. Looks like we’ll be getting indicative votes later in the week.

    The thing is though, that these indicative votes are non-binding. And if, by some miracle, any of them achieves a majority… well, they’ve all been put to the house before, and they’ve all been defeated. Surely the Erskine May ruling that the same vote cannot be brought forward twice in the same parliament applies here?

  22. Oliver Letwin has announced he will be stepping down.

  23. In case you were wondering what the 2019 intake of Conservative MPs was up to:


    Much has been said about how they are far less posh than previous intakes. And it’s true – there’s a factory worker in Redcar, a nurse in Blyth, etc. But don’t for a second confuse that with them being any less right-wing!

  24. The names on that charter to turn the BBC into Britain’s own Russia Today: the red wall MPs for Ashfield, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Bassetlaw, Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield, Stoke-on-Trent North, Ipswich, Lincoln, Delyn, and Birmingham Northfield.

    Between this and Extinction Rebellion’s blockade of the printworks, it’s not been a good week for press freedom.

  25. I must say i don’t overly sympathise with News of the World. I used to deliver newspapers. I remember delivering the last news of the world. I remember the way they treated Christopher Jefferies. The decision by the Telegraph to remove their paywall last weekend was the first bit of public good in it’s history and it took protests at Hertsmere and Knowsley

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