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. Only if the tories are in government in the next parliament without the LDs.

    I think the reverse is rather more likely, a Lib-Lab coalition that will borderline kill the party after the body blow that has been this coalition.

  2. whilst i agree that the lib dems best chance of winning here has been and gone, they will always be competitive because of their base in dorchester, the main town

  3. Dorchester is not a very large town though. And the ongoing Poundbury development has not helped the Lib Dems’ fortunes there.

  4. Bercow’s spin doctor, forced to quit today, is a former Lib Dem candidate for this constituency, who managed not only to lose but also to upset many people on her own side with her behaviour.

    His hiring her can be considered yet another example of his poor judgement.

  5. prediction for 2015-

    Con- 46%
    Lib- 25%
    UKIP- 17%
    Lab- 12%

  6. The Poundbury development (in 1996) can be seen at the end of Jonathan Meades’ programme “Remember The Future” which is available on YouTube.

  7. Has there been a rise in the Green vote in West Dorset? People moving to Dorchester and Bridport perhaps?

  8. Lyme Regis station, 27th November 1965, 2 days before this branch line closed.
    Well used at the end – but had been in decline for about 20 years.

    I don’t know whether anyone knows about this line which ran from Axminster (connecting with the main line) and the Cannington Viaduct, which is listed.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/13542626873/

    I think the Tories will be ok here. I would have thought a swing their way as most likely.

  9. One of those seats where it’s possible the majority of the UKIP vote could come from the LDs rather than the Tories.

  10. “I don’t know whether anyone knows about this line which ran from Axminster”

    I very much know about it and its very rebuildable.. Lyme Regis is a NIGHTMARE for parking because of the topography with zero chance of resolution. This line like probably a third of the Beeching Cuts would not be closed if it was happening today due to changed demographics.

    Amesbury in Wilts probably had a couple of thousand people in 1963,, now it has around 25,000.. in 1960 it had a station.. now it does not..

    Similar story for the town of Alresford outside Winchester with the added benefit that reopening the 5 mile segment between there and Winchester would give an alternative route to the Southwest mainline via Alton.

    I could go on… it is pretty shameful that nobody has picked up the baton for rethinking Beeching in an intelligent way.

  11. Interesting how trends change over time. In the 1970s the future was Spaghetti Junction and trains were regarded as out-of-date.

  12. even though according to Jimmy Savile it was the age of the train.

  13. BR took the decision to close the Rugeley to Walsall line in 1964 even though there was massive house building going on along the route and passenger numbers were actually rising for the last couple of years before it closed. It was just a very short sighted decision considering that other more lightly used lines were kept open. It was just assumed at the time that people moving to the area would use road based transport for local journeys.

    Anyway the line partly reopened 25 years later after Gerald Howarth MP lobbied a very reluctant Staffordshire County Council to cough up the cash and subsidise an experimental service. Today it’s the fastest growing suburban rail line in the West Midlands region and is about to be electrified.

  14. Interesting about Rugeley to Walsall like.

    I doubt the Axminster to Lyme Regis branch would re-open but it’s true, if it hadn’t been closed in the 1960s, nobody would have closed it since.
    We will see though.

    The station at Lyme R was on the Travis Perkins site to the east side of the main Uplyme Road, and you can see a clear shape in the trees and grass under the road where it crossed.
    The Ordnance Survey clearly shows most of the route intact.

    I think somebody was campaigning to reopen it in 2006 but the website no longer exists.

  15. Lib Dem: 24000
    Conservative: 20000
    UKIP: 9000
    Labour: 3000
    Green: 1000

  16. Adam is uncharacteristically out of date on his own patch. The Rugeley to Walsall line was electrified some years ago.

  17. The former West Dorset MP (1974 -97) Sir James Spicer has does at the age is 89. RIP

  18. Should have read “has died” predictive texting and poor proof reading to blame….

  19. All pretty low key here so far. Smattering of Conservative posters in the country, a few Lib Dem diamonds in the towns.

    The Lib Dems are fighting this like a local election. Their signs in Bridport don’t even mention the party name but rather have vote for ‘Ros’ who is ‘local’ and ‘down to earth’. Also a lot of emphasis on attacking the local district council.

    On the face of it, all a bit lame: the nasty personal undertones of their previous campaigns are missing, which is welcome but perhaps indicates they are not very enthused or confident either.

    UKIP not made much of an impact as yet – candidate doesn’t seem very striking.

  20. I haven’t seen nor heard of Letwin since his slur on Sheffield a few years ago. Have Tory HQ locked him in a cupboard? Is he still alive?

  21. Agree that it continues to be low key here.

    Heard very little from Letwin apart from the standard half-hearted leaflet pushing. Did not even bother to turn up to the hustings I attended. Conservative posters and signs seem to be the most common although some keep getting smashed or ripped down by some evidently militant anti-conservatives.

    Have now had two LD leaflets through the door. There are some LD signs up and I’ve read a few things about Ros Keyes doing some campaigning in paper but enthusiasm is low.

    Greens have sent leaflets and have been around in the papers too. The candidate seems very passionate and a good speaker, but I doubt he will get enough votes to worry the Conservatives. If anything, he will split the LD vote.

    Labour aren’t even trying.

    I noticed a good few UKIP posters up during the European elections but have noticed none now.

    This seat will almost certainly stay Conservative. There is no campaign for tactical voting, the opposition are tired and the Conservatives know they have it easy.

  22. Conservative Hold. 8,000 maj.

  23. …and the rest! Lib Dem vote has imploded here, splintering among Labour, Greens and UKIP. Cons win by 16000

    As I said – the west country Lib Dem vote was a fragile and contradictory combination that could disintegrate entirely…

  24. I remember reading a report (might have been the election of 2005) of Oliver Letwin canvassing voters by phone in the last few days of the campaign. He seemed almost resigned to defeat. How times change!

  25. The Lib Dems were certainly very cocky about their chances in 2005. And very upset indeed on the night when it didn’t go their way.

    After hubris, comes nemesis as they say

  26. Letwin’s result confirms he doesn’t have to worry about losing to the Lib Dems at every election he fights for a good 20 years at least now LOL!

  27. Typically hysterical and ungracious comments by the losing Lib Dem here.

    ‘It is well nigh impossible for a strong, positive, local campaign to outweigh the impact of a negative national swing. I dread to think what will happen in the UK over the next 5 years – real sell offs in the NHS, further cuts to an already limping local government and all its services, privatisation of our schools. We must, in Bridport, prepare to be strongly resilient’

  28. Runnymede accusing someone else of being ungracious?! That is hilarious.

    I think spamming this website with various gloating comments is pretty ungracious.

  29. Nevertheless, the quote reveals the tight corner the Lib Dems have boxed themselves into, and the utter stupidity of their current strategy.

    People who identify with that rant are much more likely to vote Labour or Green than trust a party that governed in coalition with the Tories for 5 years and helped to bring those concerns about in the first place. More right leaning voters (a fair chunk of the former LD support in the South West) are surely turned off by such hysteria and preferred Cameron or UKIP. I’m struggling to think what kind of voter the Lib Dems have a chance of appealing to now.

  30. It’s the death trap of the centre ground really. Labour walked in and ultimately lost Scotland, the Tories walked in and lost (at least the groundwork of) UKIP, and the Lib Dems walked in and lost nearly everything.

    The Lib Dems do have a future, but we need to start thinking as a liberal party not as a centrist party, which was Clegg’s mistake I believe. A forcefully, stridently liberal political force has offerings to make to a lot of Tory voters – the liberals can and should be outbidding the Tories on support for small business, on housebuilding, and on infrastructure commitments to rural areas – and clearly to Labour or Green voters whose focus is social liberalism. The trouble was that Clegg seemed to believe in a generic, centrist voter, who we could appeal to and win everywhere, but that voter didn’t actually exist. And it will take a damn long time for us to get back to a stage where we can really attack. Local government will sustain us on a life-support stage of 5-15 MPs until then, and those who suggest we’ll be totally wiped out are overstating the case, but I absolutely agree it could well be two more electoral cycles before we have a chance to break above that figure much.

  31. “A forcefully, stridently liberal political force has offerings to make to a lot of Tory voters”

    Hysterical rhetoric about Tories being baby eaters such as the rant of the candidate here will kill those efforts.

    I tick a lot of the boxes you mention, as a centrist Tory voter who has a small business, is pro-EU and thought the Lib Dems made a valuable contribution to the coalition. But I would absolutely not vote for a party spouting that kind of rhetoric and nor would most small business people.

    No matter what the lazy media say, Labour are not returning to Blairism any time soon and therefore the space to the left of them in England will be very limited indeed and only really big enough for the Greens to occupy.

  32. “The trouble was that Clegg seemed to believe in a generic, centrist voter, who we could appeal to and win everywhere, but that voter didn’t actually exist.”

    They do exist;: usually they’d be around 10% of voters although in this election the figure was down to 8% for various reasons.

  33. Agree with AndyJS. My mother is one of the 8%.

    We always analysed that only about a third of the Liberal vote was genuine Liberals. A third was none of the above, and the remaining third was mostly tactical voters, plus a few people who were natural Conservatives or natural Labour but pissed off by one thing or another (eg the Iraq war). Almost all of this other two-thirds peeled off, in all directions, but in directions that were predictable by the class and status demographics of the area concerned.

    10% of natural support would give you a respectable role in any PR system.

  34. I disagree, I think Clegg’s generic centrists are much smaller than that, and don’t include “committed liberals” who are a larger remaining chunk of the vote, people who voted Lib Dem because they always would do as a result of a strong affiliation with the party or what they see as its core values. Most people I know who voted Lib Dem did so despite, rather than as a result of, the centrist policies of Clegg.

    Hemmelig – I think you’re overanalysing the words of a losing candidate in a seat the Lib Dems probably aren’t going to challenge in this side of 2040. I don’t think his rhetoric was all that hyperbolic; local government is strung pretty thin at the moment, and NHS privatisation is a real worry for some people. I don’t think an equivalent speech from a Labour candidate losing a Lab/Con marginal would be seen as harshly – why soft-pedal on your primary opponents? It would of course have been a silly way of putting it if he were a senior party spokesperson, or if he were in a marginal, but neither of those things were the case.

  35. I know someone who’s both a part-time university lecturer and also owns a small business. They would never vote for anyone else apart from the LDs. But there obviously aren’t many people in that position.

  36. I agree with a lot of the comments above; I also thought the tone of the candidate’s rant was very revealing.

    Trying to play the protest party card while in government was never going to work. The Lib Dems’ campaign here was pretty laughable, almost a caricature of the 1990s ‘winning here’/dogsh*t/etc approach. Albeit with the ‘Lib Dem’ branding notably low key…

    Moreover, it’s interesting that now the Lib Dems have been decimated and ejected from government their knee-jerk reaction is to return to that kind of protest politics straight away. I suspect they are wrong if they think that will work, that the voters will soon forget. For protest voters there are other options now.

    I also agree that some kind of hard-line/pure ‘liberal’ party has a pretty limited appeal in the UK. In fact, outside a few metropolitan/university areas I think voters aligned with such a stance are more like 5% than 10% of the total. Even in the old days the Liberals swelled their vote by attracting protest votes (including in 1974 Powellite Tories – work that one out).

  37. ‘I tick a lot of the boxes you mention, as a centrist Tory voter who has a small business, is pro-EU and thought the Lib Dems made a valuable contribution to the coalition. But I would absolutely not vote for a party spouting that kind of rhetoric and nor would most small business people.’

    As muich as I personally agree with ut, that’s the flaw in the Clegg strategy

    Even in today’s climate of an anti-European Tory Party that some would argue doesn’t care or understand about societies more vulnerable members, soft (liberal) Tories like hemelig still vote Tory over Lib Dem

    in the 1980s Labour’s lurch to the Left benefitted the Lib/SDP Alliance – but in 2015 it positively hurt them – causing people who might have otherwise voted Lib Dem to vote Tory out of fear of a left-wing labOur government proper upp by an even more left-wing SNP

  38. You’re right Tim.

    The Lib Dems have little option but to wait & see whether Labour stay on the left or move to the centre, and whether the Tories stay in the centre or move right. This makes them look unprincipled and opportunist but they don’t really have a choice.

    “Even in today’s climate of an anti-European Tory Party that some would argue doesn’t care or understand about societies more vulnerable members, soft (liberal) Tories like hemelig still vote Tory over Lib Dem”

    Cameron is a liberal Tory who obviously wants our membership of a reformed EU to work, and does care about the vulnerable. I very likely wouldn’t vote Tory under a hard right leader, as indeed I didn’t in 2005.

  39. Clegg’s centre ground pitch for the Lib Dems was ignored because he was already discredited by the time he started making those sounds (2013/14 and was a visible part of the party’s election campaign).

    For a long time the party seemed to want to be different things to different voters in various regions, be it Tories in the south or Labour in the north. It’s not a bad idea to try to mobilise a diverse group of voters, but Clegg should’ve fought from the centre ground more clearly in 2010 rather than hitching his wagon to the student vote. I’m sure he’d have still won a lot of votes from the group without signing that pledge, etc. The Lib Dems did well with them in 2005.

    I haven’t a clue about Labour’s next move as they’re so polarised at the moment. Their defeat has galvanised the Blairites who are getting behind Liz Kendall. However the new intake of MPs is more left of centre than the early 00s, likelier to support Burnham, as is the membership. The party doesn’t remove leaders mid term, but there could be a chance in this Parliament if they remain divided which is very likely.

  40. You considered Howard the hard right, Hemmelig? That’s interesting…I don’t disagree with you though. I always considered him right wing rather than ‘hard right’, but I could see why people would think that way. Iain Duncan Smith, certainly (and nowhere near as intellectually capable as Howard either).

  41. I was living overseas in 2005 and couldn’t motivate myself to go through the rigmarole of registering to vote for IDS & Howard (I’d moved in 2003). Had I been overseas this year I would have done so for Cameron.

  42. ‘Cameron is a liberal Tory who obviously wants our membership of a reformed EU to work, and does care about the vulnerable. I very likely wouldn’t vote Tory under a hard right leader, as indeed I didn’t in 2005.’

    If Cameron is all of these things – and he’s quite happy to pretend he’s not to appease the hardliners in his own party, as he did throughout the last Parliament – he still leads a party which has just as many people who think leaving the EU would benefit the UK economy – which ought to worry business every bit as much as Ed Miliband’s ‘business-bashing’ policies

    Agree with you about the Lib Dems though i think the temptation to veer to the Left will be irresistible after what happened three weeks ago, and with Tim Farron as the loudest voice

    ‘You considered Howard the hard right, Hemmelig?’

    Although almost equally unappealing, I wouldn’t characterise Hague, IDS or Howard as Hard Right

    Hague got the job at a difficult time but was unable to take the Tories beyomd their core vote, ISDA was even wirst and made the Tories look ideologically posseseed for electing such an obviously ineffective leader in the first place, Howard stood up and for some reason, despite being the most unpopular member of one of the coluntry’s ,most unpopular ever cabinets (Major 92-97), the Tories gave him the nod, and got deservedy beaten by a man who by that stage was considered a war criminal by most of the country

    Sh*t leaders undoubtedly, but their personalities were just as uninspiring as their policies.

  43. Tim- your last point highlights the fact that the rot set in a long time ago with Labour. Perhaps the 2005 election would have been a hung parliament had the Tories had a more palatable leader ( Cameron, for example).

  44. No. Some kind of Lab majority in 2005 was guaranteed by the Tories’ terrible result in 2001.

    In some ways 2005 was a similar result to 2015 – the electorate reluctantly re-electing a fairly unpopular government mostly due to their perceived economic competence and fear that the opposition were far worse.

  45. Hemmelig. Are there any members of the current cabinet you would not vote for if they become Tory Leader? A couple of the possible replacements for Cameron seems to be on the hard right of the party in my eyes.

  46. Hard to say, depends on the opposition. I’d have a hard time voting for a leader who wanted to withdraw from the EU and/or was a turbo-charged neocon. Most of those fitting that description (eg Fox) are not in government. I don’t think I’d have a problem with May, Hammond or Boris, but as Cameron won in 2015 the next leader is not likely to be of that generation now.

  47. Priti Patel and Sajid Javid are both possible contenders and both seem to want to withdraw from the Eu. Not Sure about many of the other 2010 intake who are cabinet minsters.

  48. ‘I don’t think I’d have a problem with May, Hammond or Boris, but as Cameron won in 2015 the next leader is not likely to be of that generation now.’

    Of that trio I think Borris is the clear continuity candidate, but whilst i can undetstand the Tories not wanting to go for another Bullingdon toff, surely being from the same generation as Cameron won’t stand against those seeking to replace him

    As Labour are finding out at the moment, there aren’t many obvious candidates

    Cameron got the nod because he seemed to be offering something fresh and after three successive heavy election defeats and four failed leaders, the party needed to try something different – and so they did

    Unless Borreis does get the nod, it’s likely they’ll be to the Right of Cameron

  49. “As Labour are finding out at the moment, there aren’t many obvious candidates”

    But unlike Labour, the Tories have a few years to bring on new talent before the leadership becomes vacant. We shouldn’t discount Osborne as a continuity candidate.

  50. ‘We shouldn’t discount Osborne as a continuity candidate.’

    He shouldn’t be ruled out but he’s not particularly popular with either the Left and Right of the Parliamentary party

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