2015 Result:
Conservative: 20934 (39.6%)
Labour: 4143 (7.8%)
Lib Dem: 20201 (38.2%)
Green: 1351 (2.6%)
UKIP: 6139 (11.6%)
Independent: 139 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 733 (1.4%)

Category: Ultra-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, East Sussex. Contains the whole of the Eastbourne council area and one ward from the Wealden council area.

Main population centres: Eastbourne, Willingdon.

Profile: The constituency consists almost entirely of the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne, and it has all the typical attributes of a southern seaside resort. A reliance on tourism for the economy, bolstered by language courses for overseas students and conferencing, higher unemployment than the southern average and a higher than average proportion of the elderly in the population as people retire to the coast. South of Eastbourne is Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain and a notorious suicide spot.

Politics: Eastbourne has been a Parliamentary constituency since the nineteenth century and for most of that time has been a safe Conservative seat. This changed in 1990 following the by-election caused by the murder of Ian Gow which was won by David Bellotti for the Liberal Democrats. While Bellotti held the seat for only two years, the seat became a closely fought marginal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and was again held by the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015..

Current MP
CAROLINE ANSELL (Conservative) Educated at Beresford House School. Former teacher. Eastbourne councillor since 2012. First elected as MP for Eastbourne in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 21223 (41%)
Lab: 2497 (5%)
LDem: 24658 (47%)
UKIP: 1305 (3%)
Oth: 2441 (5%)
MAJ: 3435 (7%)
Con: 21033 (43%)
Lab: 5268 (11%)
LDem: 19909 (41%)
UKIP: 1233 (3%)
Oth: 949 (2%)
MAJ: 1124 (2%)
Con: 19738 (44%)
Lab: 5967 (13%)
LDem: 17584 (39%)
UKIP: 907 (2%)
Oth: 574 (1%)
MAJ: 2154 (5%)
Con: 22183 (42%)
Lab: 6576 (12%)
LDem: 20189 (38%)
Oth: 995 (2%)
MAJ: 1994 (4%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
CAROLINE ANSELL (Conservative) Educated at Beresford House School. Teacher. Eastbourne councillor since 2012.
JAKE LAMBERT (Labour) Educated at Birmingham University. Teacher.
STEPHEN LLOYD (Liberal Democrat) Born 1957, Kenya. Educated at St George`s College. Business consultant. Contested Beaconsfield 2001, Eastbourne 2005. MP for Eastbourne 2010 to 2015.
ANDY DURLING (Green) Educated at Sussex University.
PAUL HOWARD (Independent) Former headteacher, runs a training and consultancy business.
Comments - 456 Responses on “Eastbourne”
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  1. East Sussex CC results for Eastbourne borough:

    LD: 8,428
    Con: 6,991
    UKIP: 6,431
    Lab: 2,380
    Green: 366
    Others: 48

  2. A very bad omen for the Tories. I don’t think they’ll regain this seat.

  3. I think Lloyd will hold this seat.

    From a historical perspective, most incumbent Lib Dem MPs when they have first gained their seat from a party (in this case the Tories) they get a further incumbency boost when they defend their seat at the following election.

    Although Lloyd’s chances of increasing his vote share in 2015 are slim, I would say that with the local election results for the Tories in this area, coupled with the fact that the majority isn’t that easy to overturn, that the best they could realistically hope for here would be for a reduction in the Lib Dem majority to about 1,000 votes- Even that might sound optimistic.

  4. I suppose it wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine a solid UKIP 3rd place in this seat.

  5. Not unreasonable at all. In fact quite probable that UKIP could come third.

    Labour are extremely weak here, but I would be surprised if they didn’t get their deposit back next time.

    A historical footnote- Stephen Tyrell was the first Liberal to really challenge the Tories here in the post-war period- He stood here four times between 1964 and February 1974, but never managed to take the seat but set the early foundations for the Liberals that would later materialise many years later in the 1990 by-election. His results in 1966 and 1970 were somewhat against the national trend for his party, and it is noticeable that when he was no longer the candidate the Liberal vote here collapsed.

  6. poor old ian gow

  7. He was a good egg

  8. Gow had a very good electoral record in this seat during his time as MP here- he greatly increased the Tory majority in October 1974, though given Stephen Tyrell’s departure that may have been a contributing factor.

  9. Political biographies tend to describe Ian Gow as a very old fashioned, stuffy kind of man, reminiscent of an Edwardian solicitor. His political opinions were of the hard right, famously of course on Northern Ireland, and his best friend was Alan Clark. With the kind of retired demographic which lived in Eastbourne in the 1970s and 1980s I’m sure all this contributed to his popularity.

    Aside from candidate problems and complacency, what has damaged the Tories here long-term is the fact that middle class Tory voters don’t retire to places like Eastbourne any more. They are more likely to retire to Spain or Malta. Retirees in Eastbourne are now lower down the socio economic scale and less likely to be Tory voters.

  10. According to Wikipedia, Gow’s deselected predecessor Charles Taylor ‘didn’t take kindly to Gow’. It later describes Gow’s popularity in the constituency which might also have helped him greatly increase his majority in October 1974. I do wonder what would have happened in this seat had Gow survived and the byelection had been spared.

  11. I reckon that the LDs would have been in contention by 1997, though they might not have actually won it by now.

  12. I think it might have voted like this after 1987 without the 1990 byelection-
    Conservative- 59.6%
    Liberal Democrat- 24.9%
    Labour- 12.4%
    Others- 3.1%

    Conservative- 48.4%
    Liberal Democrat- 23.9%
    Labour- 21.2%
    Others- 6.5%

    Conservative- 49.4%
    Liberal Democrat- 25.4%
    Labour- 18.7%
    Others- 6.5%

    Conservative- 50.1%
    Liberal Democrat- 29.1%
    Labour- 13.2%
    Others- 7.6%

    Conservative- 53.8%
    Liberal Democrat- 30.1%
    Labour- 7.0%
    Others- 9.1%

  13. Very unlikely, it would have been significantly closer than that. As Barnaby said, the Lib Dems have gained a lot of strength locally irrespective of the by-election, look at next door Lewes for example, and the local election results in Eastbourne. The Tories regained Eastbourne 21 years ago after only 2 years of LD representation. The by-election is a pretty irrelevant footnote by now.

    The main reason the Lib Dems won this seat in 2010 was the poor reputation of Nigel Waterson and the complacency and poor performance of the local Conservative association. There are plenty of articles about that. It’s extremely unlikely Ian Gow would have stayed as an MP as long as 2010 even if he wasn’t killed in 1990. Like his friends Peter Morrison and Alan Clark he would probably have felt lost and unloved in the house after Thatcher resigned, and retired either in 1992 or 1997.

  14. But we will never know for certain, so no one can technically be right or wrong.

  15. Prediction for 2015-
    Liberal Democrat- 43%
    Conservative- 38%
    Labour- 9%
    UKIP- 5%
    Others- 5%

  16. ‘The main reason the Lib Dems won this seat in 2010 was the poor reputation of Nigel Waterson and the complacency and poor performance of the local Conservative association’

    Like elsewhere on the South Coast, Eastbourne has lost out from not being a favoured tourist destination any more and regardless of the by-election, I think the Lib Dems would have probably been hot on the heels of the Tories

    Look at the rest of East Sussex – where there has been a distinct Tory unwind over the last 10-20 years

    Knoiwing Eastbourne relatively well the surprise to me is not that the Lib Dems are challenging the Tories now, but that Gow polled so well here in the 1980s

  17. A lot of the blame for the “decay” must go to local councils where the councillors seem to be seat-warmers for nearly all the parties.. Councillors also seem to be very long in the tooth..

    I was told recently by a LD councillor in a district that shall go unnamed that at a recent “full” meeting of the council to discuss housing (where the Borough has 5,000 on the waiting list) only 6 councillors turned up. The LD and five Tories. The Tories hold a majority of the over 30 seats on the council. The Labour councillors didn’t even turn up to discuss the social housing issue.

    This goes a long way to explaining the decay that one sees in many of these seats sprawled along the south coast…

  18. It is early to make predictions, but after the General Election results it would be surprising if UKIP got as little as 5% here. if the General Election here replicated the County Council results in percentage terms I would be far from astonished.

  19. Stephen Lloyd has been reselected as LD candidate.

  20. CON GAIN MAJ : <1%
    CON 33
    LD 32
    LAB 14
    UKIP 11
    GRN 6
    OTH 4

  21. lol

  22. There might be a Con Gain here but those figures are way off the mark.

  23. It could be, but i think we have had some problems in this seat. Whatever happens the con and ld percentages will not be that far off 2010 here.

  24. I think Lloyd’s incumbency and some potential for UKIP will cause the Tories enough trouble to balance out any Lib Dem leaks to Labour. This isn’t a very good seat for Labour demographically so the number of left-Lib Dems who split will be fairly low.

  25. I have to say I do find this a rather depressing place, despite some nice countryside. Had two rather distant relations who moved here and they both died. I think there is a younger poorer population but can’t see much Labour potential. Just a gut feel.

  26. I get the same feeling. My toddler loves the pebbly beach here and its only a short drive for us so we visit every so often when the weather is nice. Eastbourne is more and more a town of nothingness. Literally the only place you can find anything to eat close to the front is Harry Ramsdens or the fish & chip kiosk on the pier.

  27. I can well believe it. Actually i was told there was almost nowhere to go for a good meal, although that was around 2002.

  28. Just places where you can hear the dentures breaking on the next table. Can’t say i know it well though.

  29. I have not often visited. However, I did do so as part of my Harveys Hop (my valiant & ultimately successful bid to visit all of Harveys’ pubs). There are 5 of these in Eastbourne, one of which is the Terminus not far from the station. I had my lunch there as I recall, but this was a rather odd occasion since a very small man standing at the bar kept shouting loudly “I don’t want to die!” almost throughout my visit.

  30. There is a nice Italian restaurant in the town, Joe, so there is at least one decent place to eat.

    I agree with HH that Eastbourne, while a pleasant enough place to visit, is a bit drab and boring. I much prefer Brighton and that is usually my first choice when I visit Sussex. I’d quite like to visit Lewes and Hastings as those areas do have attractions of historical interest to me. Chichester seems to be worth a look as well.

    As for the result here next year, I think this will be a LD hold. They’ve continued to maintain a lead here in local elections and the local Tories do seem to be in a bit of a state. UKIP could do quite well as was seen in the county elections here last year.

  31. There does always seem to have been an unexpected seediness about the place. I remember that, years ago, my father was in Eastbourne attending a conference (he was a CofE priest). He went into a bar to have a drink and, to his absolute horror, there was a pornographic movie playing with several rather sad men dotted around in the gloom. There was some uneasiness that he had wondered in, dog collar and all, and he beat an extremely hasty retreat.

  32. The Liberal vote fell here between October 1974 and 1979 by a total of 20.32%, after Stephen Terrell was no longer the candidate (he had been four consecutive times between 1964 and February 1974). The Liberals then shot back up in 1983 by 15%, but were still nowhere near challenging the Tories like they had been back in 1970 for example.

  33. Very few commentators seem to have noticed the crossbreaks in the national polls that clearly indicate that UKIP have taken a good chunk of votes from LDs, and therefore most are not taking it into account in their predictions / surmises.

  34. I have taken it into account once or twice,though. UKIP’s damage to the Liberal Democrats will vary widely from place to place, and I believe that it will be much more pronounced in West County Con-LD marginals. Conversely in seats with large student populations, much of the leaking Lib Dem vote will leak towards the Greens instead.

  35. This seat really does seem a bit of a battered old Ford Escort.

  36. Hastings
    Is much nicer but living there I am biased

  37. Very sad news about Eastbourne pier (which I happened to visit a few weeks ago):


  38. too right andy – it’s not a great time for sussex piers

    both the west pier in brighton and hasting’s pier have perished in fires in recent years

    i hope eastbourne’s isn’t add to that already noteworthy tally

  39. Awful blow to both Eastbourne and the south coast in general. At least nobody appears to have been hurt. Hopefully, the pier can be rebuilt like Hastings’ one is at the moment.

  40. Yes, it looks like they’ve saved all but one large building from the worst of it.

  41. Terrible news. I feel very sad for the people of Eastbourne.

  42. Relieved and equally amazed to hear that no-one appears to have been hurt.

    This does seem to be one of the LD’s better prospects at holding a marginal.

    I accept that the more detailed analysis of polls do show a stronger direct LD –> UKIP movement than I have previously though plausible (I have long maintained that the swing is less a direct swing between those two parties, and more a case of Lib –> Big Two balancing out Big Two –> UKIP). However, I still think the general trend in Con/Lib marginals where the third placed party is nowhere will be that a lot of people will continue to vote Lib Dem over Labour or UKIP through gritted teeth, in greater proportions than UKIP-leaning Tories.

  43. I completely agree with the above sentiment.

  44. Any local knowledge on how the fall-out between the 2010 front-runners went down with voters here?

  45. Lloyd is very similar to Farron – a clean cut “local champion” who gets his face on everything, never failing to contrast this with the invisibility and scandals of his Tory predecessor.

    Though the national situation will not be as favourable as 2010, to put it mildly, I wouldn’t rule out a Farron-esque result here.

  46. I do think Stephen Lloyd will hold here next year, but ATM I’m unsure of his possible margin of victory.

    If he did vastly increase both his vote share and majority alike next year, while it would be an amazing result given the likely national circumstances, it would indeed not altogether be surprising given the usually huge boost that some incumbent Lib Dems have had, even in bad years for their party overall.

  47. I think Lib Dems above 50% and Tories below 40% is a good possibility. Farronesque as in a >60% vote share and 5 figure majority won’t happen obviously.

  48. I think Lloyd’s share will drop a little (into the low 40s), but the Tories will drop quite a bit. UKIP could be in the teens, and Labour should get back to around 8-12.

  49. Oh yes that isn’t going to happen, but certainly if the Lib Dems are likely to increase their vote anywhere, there’s a could chance they’re going to here.

    The demographics are clearly trending in their favour, it looks like they are away from the Conservatives more and more here and their vote may continue to decline.

  50. Good chance

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