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. I suspect here the C majority will go up a little bit more,
    and Labour up slightly.
    UKIP save deposit but remain 4th.
    I would have thought the LDs will still poll about 38/9%
    but the C majority should rise to about 5,000-6,000.

    Not to be assumed of course.

  2. County elections saw almost no swing between Conservatives and Lib Dems here, with UKIP getting 16% but apparently taking votes from both.

  3. Labour selection: Rachel Rogers.

  4. Lib Dems have selected here

    Joe will be disappointed that Justine McGuinness isn’t their candidate

  5. No surprises there, she is an active local councillor who gets her face in the local press a fair bit and will appeal more than the previous two Lib Dem candidates I think.

    The Lib Dems will stick to the standard ‘local/winning here’ playbook by the look of it, but I think they have peaked here.

  6. I think you may be right here Runnymede. Letwin to win by about 7000.

  7. I can’t resist just posting one nugget on this selection – Ms. Kayes says she will be fighting for ‘social justice’ in education but I know one of her kids attends the grammar school in east Devon…i.e. over the border from where she lives…

  8. Guessing you live near here Runnymede, how well do you think UKIP will do?

    It would seem a fertile demographic for them and Letwin is almost a perfect opponent for them.

  9. Well yes and no. Letwin is not as weak on the European issue as you think – he is actually pretty sceptical but doesn’t tend to make a big noise about it.

    UKIP had high hopes last time but did poorly. Next time they should do better based on the CC results from this year (they got 16%) but where these votes are being taken from is complex.

    Oddly enough UKIP may do just as well picking away at the Lib Dem vote here as at the Tory vote – a large chunk of Lib Dem support here is the classic west country ‘b*gger the lot of them’ vote.

    The CC elections certainly point that way – the Tory and Lib Dem vote shares were down almost equal amounts on 2009. Interestingly UKIP’s vote was highest in Chickerell, which is on the fringes of Weymouth and is one of the scruffier parts of the district. The Lib Dem vote crashed there – they went from close second to third.

  10. Interesting, thanks.

    So in your opinion a Eurosceptic liberal like Letwin will be less vulnerable to UKIP than a pro-European who may even not be all that liberal or all that Cameroon?

    I would have thought UKIP could have a field day with Letwin’s outspoken liberalism on gay marriage, immigration etc, as well as his toffish demeanour and the multitude of Bertie Wooster-esque gaffes he has made.

    It makes sense though that the Lib Dems could also lose out to UKIP in this part of the world.

  11. Letwin is no liberal

    He’s a likeable Thartcherite – who like many in the shadow cabinet at the time – was pretending to be liberal after the scale of the Tory defeat in 2001

  12. The voters in this constituency aren’t quite as you appear to imagine them, I think.

  13. It is amazing how often the LDs say they are “winning here” when in fact they are behind at all levels. I wonder if one of these days someone will think that their publicity is actionable.

  14. what’s the matter with her kid going to a grammar school? obviously the child passed the test to get in..

  15. The Fib Dems don’t like it when that is pointed out about them failing to win. I should not worry too much about the Lib Dems anyway as they are in the process of self destruction. Most people just cannot see the two party politics returning but I think it will. Realignment in process.

  16. Nothing wrong at all Antiochian, as long as ‘social justice in education’ also means being in favour of academic selection. I suppose it could…

  17. “The voters in this constituency aren’t quite as you appear to imagine them, I think.”

    I don’t know Dorset well at all. I imagine the voters here to be skewed towards retirees and consequently to be quite fertile territory for UKIP. Where am I going wrong?

    “Most people just cannot see the two party politics returning but I think it will. Realignment in process.”

    You need glasses mate. We are not going back to 2 party politics, we are entering the era of 4 party politics (which of course we already have in Scotland and Wales). If you think either the Lib Dems or UKIP are going anywhere fast, you are a fool.

  18. I dare say the LibDem attitude to access to the best schools is that everyone should have access if they want it… maybe quixotically the goal would be that all schools should be good..

    “Social justice in education” means to me that if you are in a deprived area (economically) then at least the education choices should not be denied in any way differently than students in better off areas..

  19. Well, who knows eh?

  20. “I dare say the LibDem attitude to access to the best schools is that everyone should have access if they want it”

    What does that mean exactly? Non-selective state schools admit pupils based strictly on catchment areas. If you are too poor to live within a good catchment you are stuffed. I haven’t seen the Lib Dems promising to end that and how exactly would they do it?

  21. Full lineup of candidates from the main parties:

    Con: Oliver Letwin
    Lab: Rachel Rogers
    LD: Ros Kayes
    UKIP: David Glossop
    Green: Peter Barton

  22. Ros Kayes is a councillor for the Bridport North ward on West Dorset District Council and previously stood in South Dorset in 2010.

  23. The Lib Dems came a distant fourth here in the European election, miles behind UKIP and behind the Greens as well. So the question for Ros at present is whether she can hold on to second place at the GE…

  24. People really have to understand that the Euros have a very different voting pattern from generals. I’d imagine the Lib Dems probably do better with City of London types in Euros than they otherwise would, but lose massive proportions of their natural vote. They also consistently do worse at Euros than in generals. I’d bet the Lib Dems were third in 2009, too, but where did that get UKIP in the general? Four percent.

  25. There is a quite a bit of truth in what P.T Richards has said. At least that’s always been the case in the past.. Whether things change in this electoral cycle is part of the magic that keeps us politics junkies going.

  26. True. I’ll hazard a prediction here:

    Con 43
    LD 31
    UKIP 14
    Lab 10
    Grn 2

  27. In 2009 the Lib Dems were indeed third in this constituency in the euros – but were just 57 votes behind UKIP, scoring 20.3%.

    Five years on, they were a distant fourth, with just 11.5% of the vote and less half of UKIP’s votes. So regardless of the different voting patterns there are in euros versus other elections, the Lib Dems’ position over these five years deteriorated dramatically. By contrast the Tories’ vote was almost unchanged in absolute and share terms over the same period.

    What is happening in the SW is that the broad and ultimately unstable coalition the Lib Dems built up since the 1970s is starting to splinter. Their voters are wandering off in various directions, to more explicitly left wing options in some cases, to the populist protest vote of UKIP in others.

    I would expect the Lib Dems will indeed lose a number of their current second places in the GE next year as a result of this – and some of the seats they hold as well.

  28. I agree it’ll be interesting to see what happens here.

    I am hopeful the Tories will maintain a position quite like last time.

    I think the LDs will hold second, although we’ll see if Runnymede is right.

    Doesn’t seem we can rely on Labour to add on a lot here despite some historical success in Bridport and scattered votes elsewhere.

  29. I think my prediction in April 2013 was too optimistic for the Lib Dems – it was from the CC elections onwards I have been convinced that UKIP is a significant problem for the LDs aswell.
    Even so, I never like to be complacent about seats where we have had to fight the LDs hard.

  30. The local elections here (a far better predictor than the Euros) showed almost no change in the margin between Con and Lib Dem (though IIRC both suffered a drop).
    There is no way that the Lib Dems will not be second here.

  31. That’s right – 2013 CC – both down in parity. UKIP must have been third. I can see them getting into the teens but haven’t got an exact figure in mind.

  32. Labour’s past successes in Bridport were almost entirely due to the locally very popular (and late) Humphrey Dibdin.
    There is very little natural support for them in the area. The bohemian fringe we have is increasingly attracted to the Greens.

    UKIP got around 15% in the CC elections, not standing in every division.

  33. The Lib Dems came close in this seat in both 1997 and 2001, but in the elections that followed couldn’t win the seat, and the result here last time suggests their challenge for now at least has gone away.

    I think this will continue to be a Con-Lib marginal for the foreseeable future, but next time I can see something like this happening-
    Prediction for 2015-
    Letwin (Conservative)- 44%
    Liberal Democrat- 34%
    UKIP- 11%
    Labour- 9%
    Green- 2%

  34. Pretty substantial UKIP vote.

  35. My reply to Runnymede. 11% could be on the low side but is reasonable bet.

  36. Do you think UKIP might get 15% here Joe?

    One other thing I think worth mentioning is that what brought the Liberals into play in this seat was probably the conditions of the February 1974 election for the party nationally, and that strength has been with them here ever since.

  37. It’s possible re UKIP. I’m not sure how relevant 1974 was. The liberals were miles behind in 1979 and labour more respectable. They may have had some support in lyme r aswell.

  38. That’s true actually yes. But before 1974 they’d never been second, not since 1935 anyway. They definitely established themselves locally as the only longterm challenger to the Tories here.

  39. This is the sort of seat where the Lib Dems should easily hold second.

  40. I agree with that. Bridport in particular is almost natural LD territory & they clearly enjoy some support in Dorchester & some of the smaller towns along the railway line towards Yeovil.

  41. Exactly. This should stay semi-marginal, although I think Letwin’s majority will increase as the Lib Dems should fall more. I’d think they’d stay on the positive side of 30%, though, and unless they fell lower than 25%, they’d stand no real danger of losing second place.

  42. Yes, Dorchester is a large town and it was hard to break that down even in 2011 although there was C progress against the LDs.

  43. Dorchester is the Lib Dems’ strongest area, they generally top the poll there. Bridport is more even with the Conservatives.

    As for small towns along the railway line to Yeovil…well there aren’t any really. There’s Maiden Newton (village), Chetnole (village), Yetminster (village) all of which have Tory councillors.

    The big divide in recent years has been north-south in this constituency. The Lib Dems have made a fair bit of progress along the coastal strip but Conservative support in the northern villages and Sherborne is very strong indeed.

  44. This seat’s boundaries don’t work out all that well for the Lib Dems, you’re right; if it contained Portland and traded some of the northern areas off, the Lib Dems (through weakened Tories and Labour tacticals) probably would’ve won it handedly. Just a hypothetical, though, obviously.

  45. It’s a very large constituency aswell geographically. I think the Tories should be ok here – the opposition won’t go away but it’ll be more fragmented.

  46. Well Portland is a pretty odd place politically. But the Lib Dems already have a seat in Dorset with almost ideal boundaries for them, the weird Mid-Dorset and North Poole seat.

    Another hypothetical would be seat that contained both Weymouth and Dorchester. Very hard for the Conservative to win even in a good year.

  47. Would that not have split lib lab opposition allowing the tories to win on a low vote share?

  48. I was thinking the same.

  49. The Tories are safe here IMO. UKIP will probably hit the LDs almost as hard as the Conservatives.

  50. And then the LDs will be in poll position to win in 2020

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