2015 Result:
Conservative: 23484 (46.8%)
Labour: 15114 (30.1%)
Lib Dem: 1111 (2.2%)
Green: 1124 (2.2%)
UKIP: 9306 (18.6%)
MAJORITY: 8370 (16.7%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Kent. The whole of the Gravesham council area.

Main population centres: Gravesend, Northfleet, Meopham, Vigo.

Profile: A seat in North-West Kent. Gravesend itself is one of the poorer towns in Kent with the largest proportion of ethnic minorities and the highest proportion of council housing of any of the Kent constituencies. Like other areas in North Kent the area is undergoing large scale development, including in the Ebbsfleet valley to the west of Gravesend, close to the high speed rail station and in the run-down industrial area of Northfleet along the Thames waterfront. Labour voting Gravesend is balanced out by the Southern part of the constituency, south of the A2, which is made up of picturesque (and solidly Conservative) villages and hamlets such as Cobham, Sole Street and Meopham.

Politics: This is a classic marginal seat. Until 2005 Gravesham was the preeminent bellwether seat - it had been won by the party that went on to form the government at every general election since World War One with the exceptions of 1929 and 1951 - and in both of those cases Gravesend was won by the party that got the largest national share of the vote. In 2005 the trend was broken as Gravesham fell to the Conservatives, leaving neighbouring Dartford the most reliable bellwether.

Current MP
ADAM HOLLOWAY (Conservative) Born 1965, Faversham. Educated at Cranleigh School and Cambridge University. Former Grenadier Guards Officer, seeing service in the Gulf War, and television journalist. First elected as MP for Gravesham in 2005. PPS to David Lidington 2010-2011. Resigned as a PPS in 2011 to vote against the government on holding an EU referendum. As a journalist worked for Newsnight, ITN and World In Action, including living homeless for three months as part of the "No Fixed Abode" series.
Past Results
Con: 22956 (49%)
Lab: 13644 (29%)
LDem: 6293 (13%)
UKIP: 2265 (5%)
Oth: 2145 (5%)
MAJ: 9312 (20%)
Con: 19739 (44%)
Lab: 19085 (42%)
LDem: 4851 (11%)
UKIP: 850 (2%)
Oth: 654 (1%)
MAJ: 654 (1%)
Con: 16911 (39%)
Lab: 21773 (50%)
LDem: 4031 (9%)
UKIP: 924 (2%)
MAJ: 4862 (11%)
Con: 20681 (39%)
Lab: 26460 (50%)
LDem: 4128 (8%)
Oth: 543 (1%)
MAJ: 5779 (11%)

2015 Candidates
ADAM HOLLOWAY (Conservative) See above.
TANMANJEET SINGH DHESI (Labour) Born 1978, Ascot. Educated at Gravesend Grammar and University College London. Project director in the family business. Gravesham councillor since 2007.
ANNE-MARIE BUNTING (Liberal Democrat) Educated at LSE. Parliamentary researcher.
SEAN MARRIOTT (UKIP) Born 1967. Solicitor.
Comments - 179 Responses on “Gravesham”
  1. In 1983
    The Con share dropped 4.0% actually and the Labour share 7.6%.
    It does look like a poorish Con result – but not massively so.
    In Medway, the Tories only fell 0.1% although Labour fell just over 11% – a worse than average drop but another relatively resilient one for the Southern regions.
    It seems the old towns of Rochester, Gravesend had a core vote for Labour quite large and still do,
    but in Faversham and Gillingham Labour dropped about 14% from a relatively good second in 1979 to languish in third.

    Assuming the swing in the old Gravesend would have been a bit lower outside Gravesham, I guess the old seat would still have seen the Tories push up to about 13,000 majority (34,000 to 21,000).

  2. “In Medway, the Tories only fell 0.1% although Labour fell just over 11%”

    Therein probably lies the answer then. Medway took a substantial chunk of the old Gravesend seat but the notional result for Gravesham is almost identical in pecentage terms as the actual result in Gravesend. It seems to me that those doing the notionals underestimated the Tory strength in the areas moved into Medway which therefore resulted in understating the Tory share there and overstating it in Gravesham. Our old friend the dodgy notionals in other words. When comparing an actual result against a notional result I’d always be wary of trying to over-analyse any apparently abberent swing

  3. Good advice.

  4. Yes, that’s sensible advice. I did think it might be an incorrect notional but decided maybe not given that there is a decent sized core labour vote in /ravesend, and that this was a relatively straight fwd alteration, but I am pretty sure now that Pete is right.

  5. I’ve had a look at these boundary changes and I do stick to the view that the official notional results were a little off.
    The boundary changes in this part of the world were fairly straightforward. Basically the three existing seats of Gravesend, Rochester & Chatham and Maidstone were reconfigureed as four (Gravesham, Medway, Kent MId, Maidstone) without involving any other seats. Each of the existing seats was split only two ways and of the new seats none were sourced from more than two old seats. This means that it is possible to deconstruct the notional results

    The actual result in Gravesend in 1979 was
    Con 37592 52.0%
    Lab 28246 39.0%
    Lib 5917 8.2%
    Oth 603 0.8%

    and the notional result given for Gravesham was

    Con 28393 51.4%
    Lab 21821 39.5%
    Lib 4515 8.2%
    Oth 460 0.8%

    The implied notional result for that part of Gravesend which went to Medway (basically that part of the old Strood rural district which was within the Rochester upon Medway borough) was therefore

    Con 9199 53.6%
    Lab 6425 37.4%
    Lib 1402 8.2%
    Oth 143 0.8%

    Clearly more Tory than the Gravesham base left behind, but only slightly so and my hunch was that it should be more so.
    If we look at the votes cast in that area in the 2011 local elections, the Conservatives were 28% ahead of Labour at a time when they were only 5% ahead in Gravesham, so a much bigger difference. Of course 2011 is a long time since 1979 so would not be the best guide. The nearest year for which I have detailed local election results is 1991 and then the Conservatives were 17% ahead in this area compared with 2% in Gravesham – so a lower difference than in 2011 but still much higher than that implied by the notional result.

    I have constructed my own set of notionals for the four seats in this area using the 1991 local elections as my base data.
    My notional result for Gravesham

    Con 27712 50.2%
    Lab 23131 41.9%
    Lib 3876 7.0%
    Oth 470 0.9%

    and for Medway

    Con 25034 51.1%
    Lab 19514 39.8%
    Lib 4116 8.4%
    Oth 350 0.7%

    Certainly the difference is not huge, but whereas on the official notionals Medway was the more marginal seat than Gravesham with a notional Tory lead of under 8% against 12% in Gravesham, on my figures these positions are reversed with now a 12% Tory lead in Medway and an 8% lead in Gravesham.
    Obviously 1979 local results would be superior to 1991 results as a base, but I do note that in these local elections the Conservative lead in Gravesham was only 3% so an 8% lead in the general election on the same day seems more likely than on of 12%.

    These figures would imply that the Labour to Conservative swing in Gravesham in 1983 was 3.6% and in Medway 3.8% so they are not so different.
    What is clear though is that the swing in both of these seats was much lower than in either the Chatham based Kent Mid seat (where it was 6.6%) and especially in Dartford where (if the notional results there are to be believed) the swing was over 8%

  6. Thanks Pete. This looks highly likely. I might add that in 1979, gravesend had a large swing and rochester and chatham a below average swing. Perhaps the swing was much larger in the departing area of gravesham than in gravesend town. We do seem to have identified 2 low swing core labour vote towns for 1983 so it would still be a bit odd if they really had swung all that diFferently 4 years before.

  7. I’m really please about Labour’s selection of Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi here as he has a very impressive C.V. but I really can’t see a BME winning here or anywhere in Kent / Essex.

    This is a white working class/upper middle class seat where people read The Sun/ Daily Mail/Daily Express and immigration is a hot topic of debate and at the forefront of constituents minds.

    Labour would stand a better chance here if they’d selected a white, working class candidate such as Paul Clark the former MP for Gillingham.

  8. LOL. Have you ever been to Gravesend? “Upper middle class” is not a description I would use.

    Labour have no chance of winning here whoever the candidate is. Their core vote here is mostly non-white so their candidate choice was quite sensible in terms of turning out a respectable performance.

  9. Paul Clark was reselected for Gillingham and Rainham.

    Gravesend and Northfleet have sizeable Sikh populations. I really don’t know if Christian is playing dumb just to look funny on here.

  10. I don’t think of this as upper middle class but it could have aspects of it in terms of strict income range or official definitions – not in image though.
    There may be some areas like Meopham which have those characteristics.
    If one is talking about lifestyle rather than charicatures then lets say it hasn’t made much use of the river frontage.

  11. the southern rural ward is certainly very prosperous however. But of course it is in no way typical of the seat as a whole.

  12. I presume Christian meant to write lower middle class.

  13. Maybe Richard, but after his post on Hove I thought it was a joke. Even I wouldn’t be that optimistic.

  14. Labours candidate sounds Sikh (I’m getting that from the name) in the hope that the large Sikh population stick with Labour, which they will, so I think it is a fine candidate choice.

    Labour will do better here in years to come as Northfleet and parts of Gravesend are now attracting Africans moving out of the South London suburbs and they are quite reliable Labour voters.

  15. There is no doubt that the Labour candidate is at least of Sikh heritage – there have been non-practising Sikh Labour MPs before now. If the perception is as LBernard suggests, that gradually this seat will become demographically stronger for Labour (like Thurrock), it’s interesting since several neighbouring seats are clearly moving in the opposite direction. That would certainly apply to Dartford & Rochester/Strood, and to Sittingbourne & Sheppey, judging from not only the 2010 election but also subsequent municipal elections.

  16. Of course, all the gradual & slow improvement in the demography from Labour’s point of view could be wiped out at a stroke, if a rural ward were to be added to the constituency in a future boundary change. There’s always a possibility of that.

  17. Yes, I think this seat will swing back to Labour somewhat – in an underlying sense – but probably not enough to threaten the Tory majority barring a landslide.

  18. This is a seat that Labour needs to win in demographic terms, even if it is not technically needed in terms of it place on the list of Conservative marginals. It is one of the seats in Kent where Labour threw away its prospects in 2010 as a result of failing to understand, or perhaps even care about, a large group of voters which was once their bedrock support.

  19. Sorry, folks I meant lower middle class!!!

    I’ve also rememberd that Priti Patel (Witham) and Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) won there seats at the last election but that was at a time when people in Essex and Kent were sick to death of Labour and would have votedTory even if the candidate was a piece of wood. However, with UKIP on the rise and immigration a hot topic of debate especially in these parts of the country a white working class candidate would be in a better position to win this type of seat for Labour. However, I wish Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi well.

    I agree with Frederic’s comments. This is the sort of seat Labour need to win again if they want to be back in governement.

  20. Yes and no. Tony Blair managed just fine without winning the seat in 2005. I’d like to win it very much, but there’s no doubt, whether you like it or not, that Labour can win & win pretty easily without taking Gravesham, at present.

  21. 2015 forecast for Gravesham

    Con 40%
    Lab 35%
    UKIP 15%
    LD 6%
    Others 4%

  22. Further to discussions about demography, the 2011 census figures indeed show increasing ethnic diversity here- though concentrated in the north of the seat.

    The Asian populations of the relevant wards are as follows:

    -The two Northfleet wards: 15%
    -Central: 16%
    -Riverside: 17%
    -Pelham 25%

    These communities are overwhelmingly Sikh.

  23. Looking at the Census figures for Gravesham and Crawley might be a clue as to possible long-term election trends . Southern white working class voters are not trending towards Labour (for now they’re more Tory, although UKIP support is eating away at both) whereas non-white voters are. Both seats have become more diverse and if they keep changing at the same rate per decade we might be seeing different outcomes. Other swing seats further north like MK, Bedford and Northampton are going that way too

    This and Crawley will remain Tory in 2015 IMO but *might* become more Labour inclined (if at all because we can’t even wholly predict what ethnic minority voters will be like in another generation) in 15-20 years time.

    Gravesham’s BME population is largely Sikh and concentrated in Gravesend and Northfleet. Crawley has visible Hindu (Indian and Tamil), Muslim and African communities.

  24. …..which is perhaps not entirely surprising given the inclusion of Gatwick Airport. Much of the very large Indian & Pakistani community in Southall, Hounslow and neighbouring areas is down to the proximity of Heathrow. Crawley has had an Asian presence for perhaps a bit longer than Gravesham.

  25. CON HOLD MAJ : 6%
    CON 40
    LAB 34
    UKIP 11
    LD 9
    GRN 5
    OTH 1

  26. I can recognise that the Tories might have some problems with UKIP and I can recognise that Labour could strengthen a bit in parts of Gravesend with growing Sikh communities but I am not buying a Tory to Labour swing of 7%.

    Tory 45
    Lab 35
    UKIP 11
    LD 7

  27. Incidentally, can I also query the basis for supposing that the Greens will hit 5% in a constituency like this?

  28. How well Labour does depends on how much they can win back support of urban Gravesham and secure a high turnout in Gravesend and Northfleet. Because rural Gravesham certainly won’t vote for them.

    I know it’s been a few months since the Syria vote, but I wonder how much Adam Holloway’s vote against the government motion will work in his favour (assuming voters see it as a factor in making their decision). Considering how unpopular potential intervention was with the public.

    Overall I’d say that Labour would do alright if they can narrow that majority, because they won’t be winning it in 2015. Demographic changes could get it back to them in a decade or so.

  29. The county council elections were quite encouraging for Labour here, as uniquely in Kent they outpolled the Conservatives. Nevertheless I can’t predict anything other than a Con hold. I suspect that the result will lie between WOC’s & Tory’s predictions but would agree with the latter that there is no way the Greens will get 5% here.

  30. The county results here were encouraging for Labour in the context of Kent, but that really isn’t saying much. I don’t have the figures to hand, but from memory the Labour vote stated pretty static with the Tories losing a chunk of support to UKIP. I don’t see that happening to the same extent at a GE.

    Hemmelig, like you I did have a bit of a chuckle at the thought that Gravesend could be described as “upper middle class”. Having lived here for a year now I know it certainly ain’t that. There are substantial parts of Gravesham borough though that do fit that description.

    In belated answer to a question you asked me on this site a while ago; no I am not particularly settled in here. A move into Greater London will be on the agenda within the next year, as I’ve come to realise that any savings in accommodation costs that come with living round here are pretty much wiped out by the cost of commuting into London from outside Oyster territory.

  31. Nice to hear you’re moving onwards and upwards. Rail fares in Kent are apparently the highest, mile for mile, in the country….and I know I’m risking awakening Frederic Stansfield from Dracula’s coffin by saying so.

    We’ve been out of London 6 months now and I don’t really miss it. Rail fares are cheaper here in Mid Sussex and it is IMO a much nicer area than Gravesend, though you are on the doorstep of Bluewater. It’s nice also not to have to commute, which I guess is a luxury you can’t enjoy. Lovely big house with a garden here for not much more than we got for our flat in Beckenham.

  32. Proximity to Bluewater and being on the HS1 route are two things Gravesend does have going for it. However they don’t outweigh the cost of commuting into London; a cost you rightly assume I cannot avoid.

  33. Which constituency would the new garden city being proposed be in?

  34. Majority is in Dartford. The Ebbsfleet valley part of the site straddles the Dartford/Gravesham border, but most of that that is a mixed area of leisure, offices, business. There is one major lump of housing there (“Springhead Park”) which comes under Gravesham council.

    The vast majority of the housing in west of the valley itself in the old Eastern Quarry, and comes under Dartford borough council.

    To give an idea of where it is, if you’ve ever gone to Bluewater you’ll note it is at the bottom of a huge former quarry, surrounded by chalk cliffs. That’s the western quarry. over the other side of the road you go along to get to Bluewater there is a very similar, but even larger former quarry. That’s the eastern quarry, that’s where most of the housing will go.

  35. Maybe it’ll mushroom into an oversized seat like we had quite a lot of in 1979 where both the main parties poll 30,000 votes at same time.

  36. Thanks Anthony.

  37. Just remembered, this was the seat the Lib Dems fielded an adult movie director as their 2010 candidate. Is she still involved in politics?

    Given the recent debates in politics about porno, wonder what she’d have to contribute.

  38. How much of the proposed “Garden City” in this seat and next-door Dartford will go to local residents from North Kent, as opposed to people priced out of London? Not least, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a considerable proportion of the houses are bought by people from Europe, particularly France.
    I have a feeling that the people of Kent are being put at the back of the London and the South-East queue yet again.

  39. Its the free market. If people from Kent can’t pay as much, why should they be able to live in this development.

  40. Frederic Stansfield has gone senile.

  41. H.Hemmelig, I am going to ignore you.

    Having worked as a researcher on property issues, I am well aware that the free market has never worked for housing. As Marx and Engels wrote a century ago, houses have “fetish” value as symbols of wealth, and left unregulated the rich will grab houses to an extent that leaves the poor homeless. I disagree with Marx and Engels on many things, involving the basic tenets of their theories, but they were not always wrong and on this they were right. The failure of the free market in relation to housing,. has for very many years been corrected either by the provision of council, or other public sector, housing or by subsidies, such as tax relief on mortgage payments, so that comparatively ordinary people can buy private houses (as promoted by Conservative governments up to and including Thatcher).

    It would be a good idea to promote a new town in Northern France, where there is more space than England in general and Kent in particular, from which people could commute by high-speed train to London.

  42. I was joking Fred, but it seems you are proving my point for me.

    I am very glad I’m not your MP, I bet his inbox is full of your random long-winded rants.

  43. He is just teasing you Frederic :p

    Your idea about commuting from France is typically mad however!

  44. “Your idea about commuting from France is typically mad however!”

    Absolutely. Why would anyone who can afford to buy a house volunteer to live in northern France, where the weather is the same as Kent but the tax rates are far higher? At least the south of France has the sun.

    It’s much more likely IMO that French would live in Ebbsfleet or Ashford and commute to Paris than vice versa.

  45. UKIP came close to taking a seat off Labour here last Thursday’s by election in Coldharbour Ward. Result with changes since 2011:

    Lab 520 39.10% (-24.04%)

    UKIP 486 36.54% (+37.54%)

    Con 289 21.73% (-15.13%)

    Lib Dem 35 2.63% (+2.63%)

  46. Gravesham is a very socially mixed constituency, ranging from very wealthy areas, such as Shorne Ridgeway and some of the other villages, through a gradation of prosperous suburban housing and magnificent Victorian detached houses down to bed-sits and rather unappealing council housing overlooked by derelict cement works and other industries. The town centre appears fairly prosperous, certainly compared with Tilbury, across the Thames in Thurrock, and the urban wastelands in the North of England. Adam Holloway is a hard-working and independent-minded MP who managed a 10% swing in 2010. I think he will hold the seat regardless of Labour’s choice. A few more Sikhs might vote Labour owing to their candidate’s ethnicity, but race relations in the town are pretty good, with the Sikh community being long-established, and the sprinkling of Africans fleeing from inner London will not make much difference. (From my observations, they seem to be the respectable church-going type.) Labour was not helped in 2010 by their candidate crashing into a roundabout whilst driving over the limit, whilst the Liberals, for reasons which escape me, chose a porn star.

  47. Fairly likely, 2015

    *Con 50% +1%
    Lab 34% +5%
    UKIP 7% +2%
    LD 7% -6%
    Green 2% +1%

    Con hold
    swing 2% C to Lab

  48. Tory share going up in North Kent? Just got in from the pub Joe?

    You could easily add a “1” in front of the UKIP percentage. They’ll most likely be at 8-12% nationally so certainly approaching the late teens in a seat like this.

    That’ll put the Tories in the low 40s I reckon, though still a good 10-15% ahead of Labour.

  49. Personally I think the only type of English seat where the Tory vote might rise slightly at the next election are ultra-wealthy constituencies like Chelsea, Westminster, Windsor, Maidenhead, Guildford, Winchester — particularly those with a previously respectable LD vote, such as the latter three.

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