2015 Result:
Conservative: 32292 (58.5%)
Labour: 6917 (12.5%)
Lib Dem: 6205 (11.2%)
Green: 3815 (6.9%)
UKIP: 6007 (10.9%)
MAJORITY: 25375 (45.9%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Oxfordshire. Part of South Oxfordshire council area and part of Cherwell council area.

Main population centres: Henley, Thame, Goring, Sonning, Wheatley, Watlington.

Profile: A largely rural seat in south-east Oxfordshire, stretching from the hinterland of Reading in the south, to skirt around the eastern outskirts of Oxford in the north. Henley-on-Thames itself is best known for the Henley Royal Regatta, the prestigious annual rowing event. The constituency also covers Thame, Goring, Sonning, Wheatley, Watlington and many other small villages dotted through the Oxfordshire countryside.

Politics: Like the other rural seats in Oxfordshire, such as Wantage and Witney, it is a wealthy, affluent middle class area and strongly Conservative, although at a local level the Liberal Democrats have some support, particularly as you move away from the solidly Tory south of the seat and closer to Oxford itself. John Howell is a largely unremarkable MP after two who were anything but - the flamboyant Boris Johnson, who stood down upon becoming Mayor of London, and former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, Mrs Thatcher`s nemesis.

Current MP
JOHN HOWELL (Conservative) Born 1957, London. Former partner at Ernst & Young and BBC World presenter. Oxfordshire councillor 2004-09. First elected as MP for Henley in 2008 by-election. Awarded the OBE in 2000 for services to export in central and eastern Europe.
Past Results
Con: 30054 (56%)
Lab: 5835 (11%)
LDem: 13466 (25%)
UKIP: 1817 (3%)
Oth: 2348 (4%)
MAJ: 16588 (31%)
Con: 24894 (53%)
Lab: 6862 (15%)
LDem: 12101 (26%)
GRN: 1518 (3%)
Oth: 1162 (2%)
MAJ: 12793 (27%)
Con: 20466 (46%)
Lab: 9367 (21%)
LDem: 12008 (27%)
UKIP: 1413 (3%)
Oth: 1147 (3%)
MAJ: 8458 (19%)
Con: 23908 (46%)
Lab: 11700 (23%)
LDem: 12741 (25%)
Oth: 895 (2%)
MAJ: 11167 (22%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
JOHN HOWELL (Conservative) See above.
SAM JUTHANI (Labour) Educated at Queen Elizabeths Boys School and Oxford University. Economist.
SUSAN COOPER (Liberal Democrat)
MARK STEVENSON (Green) Educated at Oxford University. Market gardener and former teacher. Contested Witney 2001, Henley 2005, 2008 by-election, 2010.
Comments - 131 Responses on “Henley”
  1. UKip would need a 20% swing to win East Surrey and it isn’t going to happen. UKIP would need a 16.26% swing (and I doubt if that is going to happen either) to win 150 seats – the seats in question being Wellingborough and Devon West and Torridge, both of which require a 16.26% swing..

    East Surrey happens to have an ethnic minority MP; but he is a competent ethnic minority MP. It would be disgraceful if UKIP played the racism card, and they don’t need to: they can and should win seats on the merits of their policies.

  2. Benson & Crowmarsh ward by-election, 07.06.18:

    Liberal Democrat 1,048
    Conservative 658
    Labour 121

    LibDem Gain (no Green this time).

  3. Another absolute thumping for the Tories in South Oxfordshire.

    Looks like the perfect storm – obviously there’s opposition to Brexit, but if I had to guess, gains for the Greens and the Residents’ Association point to some NIMBYism going on too.

  4. (I make no apologies for boring on about how we need to build more houses all the time. We need to build more houses.)

  5. We’ve needed to build huge numbers of new housing since the late 1980s. All governments are terrified of depressing the housing market I think. It’s shameful and appalling but great for us house owners – and also ofc landlords.

    Something will have to give soon. Young people can’t even afford to rent modest property and have enough to live on and enjoy their lives.

    The time is ripe for a radical Movement challenging the housing status quo. Will it ever come?

  6. Deepthroat: I’ll be honest, my ranting this morning is partly fuelled by buyer’s remorse after holding my nose and voting for the Green Party yesterday, in full knowledge of their anti-development stance, sitting at that weird point on the horseshoe where radical neo-Malthusianism overlaps with Daily-Mail pearl-clutching over house prices. Seeing their success this morning is giving me very mixed feelings.

  7. Layal Moran was talking up the Lib Dems in Oxfordshire a lot recently and she was right. And she mentioned plenty of local issues as well as brexit.

  8. West Oxfordshire should be interesting. Might be a day for David Cameron to hide in his shed…

  9. Micheal Heseltine has said he will be voting Lib Dem in the Euro elections as a protest.
    Surely he get expelled as a tory member for this.

  10. Possibly whipless – although from memory he’s only ever attended the Lords twice in 20 years.

  11. Lancs- I think that refers to him speaking in the Lords. He has voted more than that – he was on the government payroll the other year.

    Confirmed he has lost the whip.

  12. If Heseltine has lost the whip over this then surely the same rule should apply to all Tory members who are saying they will be voting for Farage’s Brexit Party on Thursday

  13. bm11 – payroll? He wasn’t a member of the Govt. I think he was appointed as an advisor of some sort by DC.

    He only voted twice in a 10 year period (attendance record was published when they were thinking of ways to ask non-attendees to ‘retire.’)

    Tim – you can only withdraw the whip from elected politicians. Members were never in receipt of it.

  14. When he was sacked as advisor it was because he broke the whip.

    I think Tim’s comment about Boris = Sarah Palin is very astute. I think Boris would have that kind of impact if he was party leader in a general election.
    October 1st, 2013 at 9:21 am

    What a prediction!

  16. Highly likely Sarah Palin could have beaten Jeremy Corbyn in a General Election though (or, if you like, Bernie Sanders in a US context).

    In retrospect the Boris=Sarah Palin comparison was unfair to both – Boris is clearly very intelligent, well read, knowledgeable about history and not an air head. On the other hand Palin is not a serial lying cheating philanderer with an appalling record of treating ex-spouses, ex partners and children shabbily.

  17. In 2016 I thought Boris would be electorally damaging for the Tories and good for Labour (discounting the possibility that Corbyn would fight two elections for Labour!). However, I think that while he has the ‘x factor’ for many, who find him endearing, he is like Marmite, and good at mobilising anti-Tory activism on the left. Despite this, I think Brexit was much more crucial to the 2019 Tory victory than Boris’s personal appeal – certainly in the swing seats where the election was won.

    Could Corbyn have beaten any Tory leader in the past fifty years? I’m not convinced he could have.

  18. The reason Boris won so convincingly last December was less about Brexit, or his personal appeal and everything to do with Jeremy Corbyn and how badly he went down in traditional Labour-voting wwc areas.

    That’s the main reason the Tories won.

    Labour’s surprisingly good result in 2017 – which again had far more to do with Theresa May than Mr Corbyn – was the worst thing that could have happened to it as it convinced party members that Corbyn could – and would – win a general election.

  19. Quote from the Ashcroft report into Labour’s election defeat:
    “Half of all voters said their vote at the election had been mostly in favour of a party, policy or leader, while for 28% it had been mostly against a party, policy or leader they didn’t like.

    Conservative voters were the most likely to have been voting positively. 36% of Labour voters (and 52% of Lib Dems) said they had been voting mostly against a party, policy or leader. Most (56%) of those switching from Labour to the Conservatives said they had voted mostly for positive reasons, compared to 36% of those moving to the Lib Dems.”

    According to the Ashcroft study into Labour’s loss, 53% of Labour defectors in 2019 did so because they did not want Corbyn to be PM. However, as evidenced above, it wasn’t the primary motivation for most of them. 35% of Lab defectors were “mostly voting against a party, policy or leader I don’t like”. Although only 37% were voting in favour of a party, policy or leader. Of course, a good number of Labour’s “traditional” voters may have already been lost in 2017.

    But yes, the 2017 result was a very bad thing as it deluded Corbynites and ensured he would have to fight another general election before he went. An alternative narrative has formed amongst Corbyn and his supporters that they were very close to winning in 2017, if only the PLP had been fully behind him.

  20. Boris Johnson’s electoral appeal is constantly underestimated by those who dislike him. I think a lot of people are just assuming that his self-parodic pseudo-celebrity persona has collapsed under the weight of responsibility, that his relentless optimism has collided with a harsh reality, that the web of lies he woven for so long is now beginning to unravel.

    I hope so too. But we’ve been here before.

  21. Hate to say it but it’s like the Trump phenomenon in America. Personally Boris is nothing like Trump – in that his likeability helps mask his general amorality – Trump has no such fortune as he’s every bit as bad as he comes across, but like the soon to be ex President, opponents underestimate him not because they don’t get him, but because they don’t appreciate that other people do and like what they hear and see

    To those of us who believe in things like truth, honesty and trying to do your best for others in your country, Johnson’s appeal is indeed hard to fathom – although not as hard as Trump’s – an utterly vile man devoid of any redeeming features

  22. “Conservative voters were the most likely to have been voting positively.”

    Interesting finding from Lord Ashcroft there. Speaking personally, 2019 was by far the most negatively-motivated Conservative vote I have cast in 25 years of voting.

  23. More than 1 in 5 Conservative voters were voting negatively. The full report is here: https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2020/02/diagnosis-of-defeat-labours-turn-to-smell-the-coffee/
    It’s very interesting reading.

    2019 Lab to LD defectors were actually the group voting most negatively against something, from that list.

  24. Some great posts/ analysis here and I agree with most of it. I do disagree with Tim underplaying the effect of Brexit in 2019 though. Really hard to see all those vote Leave dominated red wall seats flipping without Brexit as a wedge issue…even with the calamitous Corbyn as leader.

  25. As for Boris vs Palin…Boris is clearly the more intelligent, astute politician with a far greater intellect. In Palin’s defence, she unashamedly is what she is ( a right wing populist who adheres to all the core beliefs of current American conservatism), versus BJ who has veered about all over the place politically. I suspect Boris’ private views have far more in common with latte drinking London snowflakes than the boys down the pub in Basildon or Burnley. But perception is everything in politics.

  26. I’m not sure American conservatives would think that highly of having aN extra marital one-night stand with a black hockey player reknowned for having a large manhood – one of Palin’s reported misdeeds and one which pertinently she didn’t sue over – or even deny.

    Palin is just a complete opportunist who worked out that so many Americans are so easy to fool if you go on about guns and God. Where she led, Trump followed.

  27. Tim: never underestimate the power of elite cues. The truth is that most voters first decide which politicians they like and then adopt the policy agenda, rather than than other way round. The average US Republican voter has become far less hawkish towards Russia over the past five years, to the extent that the only explanation can be that they’re imitating Trump. Likewise they have become far more willing to forgive a chaotic private life, again because of the man who has spent the last four years in the White House.

  28. How can any sane Christian support who pays money to sleep with a hardcore phonographs whore, colluded with Russia to win an election, pulls the US out of arguably the last chance to prevent environmental catastrophe, and publicly condones police who shot dead unarmed black people – Breonna Taylor

    You would have to be mad or bad to believe that by voting Trump you are doing God’s work. Americans are possibly the worst cheerleaders for Christianity you could ever hope to find.

  29. There is a lot of merit in this argument. For all the carping about ‘champagne socialists’, the right can be hypocritical too. C’est la vie.

  30. “There is a lot of merit in this argument.”

    There is merit in it yes, but Tim’s analysis is looking at things from a UK/European perspective without appreciating the key nuances.

    Number 1 nuance is that the Republican base isn’t particularly well described as “Christian”, as it is almost entirely made up of Evangelicals and Baptists (who constitute about 25% of the US population, heavily concentrated in the south). There are many good Christians in the US who would share Tim’s views on this – but they will mostly be found amongst Catholics and the black churches, who strongly favour Democrats already (though Catholics are more evenly split these days).

    Much of the Evangelical population believes that we are close to some kind of Armageddon or judgement day and that only the true believers will be saved. Arguments about preventing climate change etc therefore hold no water with people who already believe that we are all doomed aside from their own.

    I’ve no doubt much of the bible belt considers Trump to be unpleasant and sinful but, measured by actions, his policies have been very positive from their point of view, especially in terms of appointing conservative judges. The right to abortion has also been hugely eroded in recent years (which is the major draw for many Catholics who vote for Trump).

  31. Whilst not as conservative as their European counterparts, Catholics still tend to be more liberal than their evangelical Protestant equivalents – on most things except abortion that is

    The sort of weird evangelical they practice in the south remindS me slightly of the sort of Protestant Christianity practised by the Protestants in Ulster – but has no comparison with mainstream Protestant Christianity thought and practised in most of Western Europe

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