Hereford & South Herefordshire

2015 Result:
Conservative: 24844 (52.6%)
Labour: 6042 (12.8%)
Lib Dem: 5002 (10.6%)
Green: 3415 (7.2%)
UKIP: 7954 (16.8%)
MAJORITY: 16890 (35.7%)

Category: Safe Conservative seat

Geography: West Midlands, Hereford and Worcester. Part of the Herefordshire council area.

Main population centres: Hereford, Ross-on-Wye.

Profile: A rural seat on the border with Wales, it compromises Hereford itself and most of South Herefordshire. Hereford itself is a historic city and a Liberal stronghold, the cathedral houses the 13th century Mappa Mundi. The only other notable town is the bookselling town of Ross-on-Wye with the rest of the constituency made up of gently-rolling agricultural land. The area is mostly known for apple and pear growing and cider making, though Strawberry production is increasingly common (and controversial given the use of polytunnels). Significant local employers are Bulmers cider and Sun Valley foods.

Politics: Hereford had been a Liberal target for many years before it was finally won on the back of Paul Keetch`s impeccable local credentials. Keetch retired in 2010 and the seat was won by the Conservatives.

Current MP
JESSE NORMAN (Conservative) Born 1962. Educated at Oxford University, doctorate from UCL. Former Journalist and director of Barclays Bank. First elected as MP for Hereford & Herefordshire South in 2010. Was a senior Fellow at the Policy Exchange think tank and the author of Compassionate Conservativism.
Past Results
Con: 22366 (46%)
Lab: 3506 (7%)
LDem: 19885 (41%)
UKIP: 1638 (3%)
Oth: 986 (2%)
MAJ: 2481 (5%)
Con: 19323 (41%)
Lab: 4800 (10%)
LDem: 20285 (43%)
GRN: 1052 (2%)
Oth: 1434 (3%)
MAJ: 962 (2%)
Con: 17276 (39%)
Lab: 6739 (15%)
LDem: 18244 (41%)
UKIP: 1184 (3%)
Oth: 1181 (3%)
MAJ: 968 (2%)
Con: 18550 (35%)
Lab: 6596 (13%)
LDem: 25198 (48%)
MAJ: 6648 (13%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005, name changed from Hereford

2015 Candidates
JESSE NORMAN (Conservative) See above.
ANNA CODA (Labour)
LUCY HURDS (Liberal Democrat) Small Business Consultant. Contested North Herefordshire 2010.
Comments - 100 Responses on “Hereford & Herefordshire South”
  1. seems that the bankruptcy of Hereford United Football Club may cause embarrassment to the local Tories here.

  2. I think that Jesse Norman will be OK here. It could be a static hold for him by about 2-3,000 and I can see him dropping about 2% and the Lib Dems maybe about 4%, which would be a small swing of about 1% in Norman’s favour were that to happen. I would admittedly be surprised if the Lib Dems reduced his majority, but given their established strength here it can’t be entirely ruled out.

  3. How have the Lib Dems been holding up in locals here? I actually have no idea.

  4. I don’t think they did particularly well in the last local elections. Here’s the results page:

  5. No local results since 2011 DC elections (and I can’t find some of the data for that). European election results for the whole council area were:

    Con 15717 (33.4%)
    UKIP 15450 (32.8%)
    Labour 4995 (10.6%)
    Green 4367 (9.3%)
    LD 4094 (8.7%)
    Oth 2469 (5.2%)

    Which looks bloody awful for the LDs but then we don’t know what that is for the H&HS wards.

  6. Local elections aren’t much of a guide. There is a large local vote for the It’s Our County party which makes comparisons difficult with parliamentary ones. The LDs are however extremely reliant on Hereford city itself & the Tories have to be way behind there to lose the seat – though that does happen sometimes. I remember in the 80s for a time the Tories being down to very few seats on the city council & the LDs having an overwhelming majority. Norman seems to me to be making a good impression & I think he will increase his majority though not hugely.

  7. The Lib Dems and Tories both did poorly in the 2011 elections IIRC, due to the intervention of ‘It’s Our County’ Independents, though possibly the LDs did worse?

    The Euros are an awful guide to a GE, not even worth passing comment on really.

    This is an extremely hard seat to predict, but I can’t imagine us falling much in this historically strong seat.

  8. It is funny to think that Paul Keetch took this with a large majority of 6000+ in 1997, but the seat went back to being (ultra)marginal in 2001 and 2005. I still haven’t been able to put my finger on why this was, seeing as most of Paul Keetch’s fellow Liberal Democrat incumbents managed to increase their vote shares and majorities with varying degrees of success. I think there were only a few others that didn’t manage this- Colin Breed, David Rendel (by-election unwind I think) as well as Jackie Ballard who actually lost her seat and had no vote share increase.

  9. I am referring to 2001 BTW.

  10. Well Ballard was due to hunting, don’t know about the others.

  11. TheResults is right – the LDs failed to consolidate here as they did in so many of their 1997 gains. My sister lived here for several years, and in fact my brother-in-law in a brief period of counter-intuitive political activity which he has very much repudiated was an LD candidate in a ward just outside the city; she has told me that Keetch was rather ineffective & voters never really got to like him that much, and some short-term converts to the LD cause, especially outside the city itself, went back to the Tories very quickly. The Tories for their part spotted their opportunity and their then candidate Virginia Taylor by all accounts fought a very energetic & effective campaign in 2001, and came quite close to winning. In short, in 1997 the LDs gained some short-term votes in Ross & the villages which went quickly back to their natural home, and have stayed there since.

  12. Striking decrease all the same for Paul Keetch in 2001 here. If anything, he should have had a 7.1% increase, but his results after 1997 appear to confirm that he didn’t really build up any real incumbency bonus, apart from a minor recovery in his vote share in 2005, which was probably thanks to a notable drop in the Labour vote.

    Also, given how static the Liberals were here for decades before they eventually took Hereford, it seems to me also that maybe because 1997 was in landslide conditions, that here instead of being pro-Labour, the swing was instead merely anti-Tory, as Labour obviously couldn’t win here. For me, it follows on from that, that the Lib Dems were the natural beneficiaries of this tactical switch, being the only party best placed to defeat the Conservatives. Perhaps as a consequence of these unusual circumstances, 2001 may well have been a reversion to how the seat was naturally likely to behave in normal circumstances, without there being pressure on Labour’s vote to be squeezed in favour of the Lib Dems.

  13. I still think the Tories will have no difficulty here next time, but this will continue to be a top Lib Dem target I would have thought for the next few elections at least.

    If the Lib Dems have improved by 2020, they might get close again here.

  14. This seat is interesting I think in that the Lib Dems are behind their 1997 position here, yet in a seat they remain competitive in.

  15. LDV posted a story about the Lib Dems’ local efforts in this seat earlier today (link below). I’d totally written off their chances here (wisely; they won’t be gaining it this time around, that’s for sure), but it made me look at its electoral history. Of the six consecutive elections the Tories won in Hereford between Feb. 1974 and 1992 inclusive, they only once broke a 10 percent majority over the Liberals (10.31 percent, 1979). That makes it one of the more marginal seats the Lib Dems failed to gain in the ’80s. Just thought that was fairly interesting. It seems, looking at election data here, that the Lib Dem and Tory votes have very little elasticity. Both parties are going to get roughly the same share, give or take at most five percent, in every single election. It’s shockingly static.

    Thought that was an interesting note. The seat is naturally Tory, but incredibly narrowly so. If Lucy Hurds stands again in 2020, she could take the seat, I suppose.

  16. Agreed. I too couldn’t rule out a Lib Dem gain here in 2020, especially if they keep the Tory majority down to about 4000 next time.

  17. The past isn’t always a good guide to the future. The Lib Dems could just as easily fade away. Note that this seat borders Montgomeryshire, which is a similar discussion.

    I expect the Lib Dems to hold 30-40 seats in 2015 and in that I’m more optimistic than many on here….nevertheless I do not think their recovery will be easy or fast. Their infrastructure has been smashed in many areas and many of their previous voters may well be gone for good.

  18. This seat absolutely does not border Montgomeryshire…

    I agree that the Lib Dems might take awhile to recover, but conversely I also think it might happen more quickly than expected. They could almost mirror their decline in a regain of support.

    Say they do about as well as ICM and evidently Election Forecast think they will (14% or so). Then say they’re back in the doldrums for a bit while they struggle to find a new leader. Then Farron’s in charge. Within a few months they could be averaging ~17%, and that’d basically be their midterm stasis. Next thing you know, they’re hovering around 20% again.

    There actually is an argument to be made that the elimination of certain parts of the Lib Dem base will actually allow them to solidify a bit and focus more on making true stronghold regions. They could actually become stronger in South London or some suburban, Tory-facing seats, which could point a new path forward. No more Liverpool seats or Bradford ones, though.

  19. They are utterly reliant on not being in coalition with labour if they plan on holding any of their sw london seats bar perhaps Carshalton.

  20. I think the Lib Dems are smart enough not to go into coalition with Labour. But really, who knows.

  21. The only way the Lib Dems could get back to 20% would be through taking centrist Tory votes….plausible if the Tories lurch to the right after 2015, but very dependent on who wins the Tory leadership and what happens to UKIP.

    The Lib Dems’ left-leaning support has gone for good. If it gets disillusioned with Labour again it will go to the Greens.

    Also the Lib Dems won’t be getting 14% next year.

  22. That was an “if” situation, Hemmelig.

    I still think 12% is about where they’ll be. I’ll need a lot more confirmation before I start believing ICM and Election Forecast putting them on 14%.

    And I think it depends what sort of “left-leaning support” you mean. Student voters are inherently transient, so that’s a bit different. The social democrats they had are gone for a generation, you’re right, but more moderately centre-left voters could come back with a more mild shift in direction.

    Centrists with environmentalist beliefs could be drawn back in; they aren’t naturally Green or Labour voters. In short, I think you’re partly right. Their working-class support (Tower Hamlets, Burnley, Dumfermline, etc.) is gone. Their support within the academic community, amongst students, amongst moderate social liberals and social democrats (middle class, public sector, etc) could come back in a much shorter timeframe.

    And of course, there’re always “events, dear boy, events.”

  23. “The Lib Dems’ left-leaning support has gone for good. If it gets disillusioned with Labour again it will go to the Greens.”

    Not sure I agree, HH – IMO where the LDs go after 2015 will be crucial, but I think they have the option either way between swing back sharply to social liberalism or becoming permanently an Orange Book centrist party. A lot of remaining LD MPs will still be in parliament because, at least in part, they are seen as the left-wing alternatives in their constituencies. I think there may be a protest element that has been lost to the Greens, but for guardianista middle class left-wingers (of the sort who often occupy university based or affluent public sector seats) the Lib Dems do, I think, have a chance to rebuild their support, though they may blow it.

    I think (though I’m massively biased here) that a swing back to a more radical liberal position would be hugely in their best interests. Being stuck in the fickle “centre ground” gives them few solid voter blocks to appeal to and the Tories would eventually pick them apart. Their future would be better assured by shoring up their vote in specific socially liberal or particularly localist areas and seats.

  24. Norman to hold and probably treble his majority.

    The Liberal Democrats and before them the Liberals built their strength in this seat based upon their dominance of local politics in Hereford itself (they had a majority in the old Hereford City council – often by an overwhelming margin – from 1980 till its abolition on 1997: they also won an overall majority in the first elections to the Herefordshire unitary authority in 1997).

    That’s all gone. They now only hold 3 of the 58 seats in the Herefordshire council. There seems inevitable that this will eventually be reflected at the parliamentary level. Having lost the seat , it will be difficult for them to remain competitive. In particular Labours vote could rise as those living in the southern wards within Hereford cease voting tactically.

  25. Ross-on-Wye is not the ‘bookselling town’ as mentioned in the main text, that is Hay-on-Wye, not even in this constituency, but across the border in Powys Wales.

  26. I’ve noticed that Ross-on-Wye is featured in the latest TV Boots the Chemist advert.

    Any predictions for this seat in May?

  27. See my posting 12th January Christian.

    I think the Lib Dem vote will fall far and fast here. The disparity between the 2 Herefordshire seats will be much reduced by 8th May.

  28. Not sure I agree with that – this seems like a low ceiling, high floor seat for the Lib Dems.

  29. Iain,

    My thoughts are based on some experience given that I am a former Hereford resident and voter.

    People tend to under estimate how working class much of the city is. The south of the city round St Martins includes some (former?) council estates which would not look out of place in outer Glasgow! In 1966 Labour were only 7% behind the Conservatives and must have won a majority within the city in that election (Shades of Yeovil!).

    The Liberal and subsequently Lib Dem position was built on their achieving 2nd place in the 1974 elections, local activism and remorselessly squeezing the Labour vote. The collapse in their local base now puts that large tactical voting bloc in peril. I do not anticipate a large rise in Norman’s vote percentage – its a long time since the Conservatives broke 50% of the vote in this seat – but the opposition will become more fractured as Labour inclined supporters cease voting tactically.

  30. Lots of Green Party posters in Hereford – !

  31. Con hold, approx 6,500 vote majority

    Con – 45
    LD – 32
    Lab – 10
    UKIP – 9
    Green – 4

  32. Conservative Hold. 5,000 majority.

  33. My last post (after 13 hours of posting) – for the moment at least.

    I could not resist looking at one of my old seats and the result here may seem a bland Conservative hold but really it is quite extraordinary,

    Con 24,844 52.6%
    UKIP 7,954 16.8%
    Lab 6,042 12.8%
    LDem 5,002 10.6%
    Green 3,415 7,2%

    For 40 years this seat has been a highly competitive Con v Liberal/Lib Dem marginal. Only once has the majority in that time exceeded 5.000 (and that was a Liberal Democrat majority!).

    The political landscape here now looks completely transformed here. Doubtless as we look deeper, we will find more seats wit extraordinary results like this one.

  34. The Lib Dems didn’t just collapse here, their core vote near enough disintegrated. It does make me wonder how much of the Lib Dems’ support crashed and burned because of the local party’s declining fortunes locally ever more over the last five years. It really is a striking result to look at however, because this now looks like a seat that might never be as competitive for them again, unless they make a dramatic improvement in the next two elections. The result also suggests UKIP have hit the Lib Dems pretty hard in the area, but I don’t know whether that is actually true. Still, whatever happened, Jesse Norman now no longer has to defend a marginal seat, he now has a very safe seat with over 50% of the vote and a majority of 16, 890, nearly seven times what he had when he gained the seat in 2010.

  35. Labour beat the Lib Dems for the first time since at least 1970, but lost the one seat they were defending (in Hereford city) on Herefordshire council.

  36. Is there now any back at all for the Lib Dems here I wonder?

  37. Yes because they may have bottomed out at this election.

  38. Is it at all possible that the Lib Dems might increase slightly in 2020 as a result perhaps- Something like this?-
    Very early prediction for 2020-
    Norman (Conservative)- 54%
    Labour- 15%
    UKIP- 13%
    Liberal Democrat- 12%
    Green- 6%

  39. It’s possible the Lib Dems could get pretty much anything between losing their deposit through to about 30%, I’d guess.

  40. What’s remarkable about this constituency is that it has had one of the longest histories of being a tight Conservative / Liberal marginal like Edinburgh West where the Lib Dems never quite made it.

    Hereford fell into this category from Feb 1974 to 1997. Richard Shepherd had to fight for this seat at every election during that period, surviving as MP for 23 years years only to be finally defeated in 1997.

    Since regaining the seat in 2010, Jesse Norman now has a massive majority in 2015 and its extraordinary to see the Lib Dems pushed into 4th place and to a level that they would have lost their deposit under the old 12.5% rule.

  41. ‘hard Shepherd had to fight for this seat at every election during that period, surviving as MP for 23 years years only to be finally defeated in 1997.’

    I think you mean Colin Shepherd

    Richard Shepherd represented Aldridge Brownhills for 1979-2015, where it changed from a tight marginal to a safe Tory seat

    Tory majorities in the 1980s over the Liberals were very thin – but the Libs did eventually take the seat – unlike say Chelmsford, where they always fell short

  42. @Dalek

    Not extraordinary in my view. The LDs collapsed just about everywhere where they didn’t have an incumbent so in that respect it wasn’t unusual. In fact 11% was a fairly decent result in such a seat, considering they probably only had a paper candidate because all of their resources were going into held seats.

  43. FWIW there is a by-election in Ross-on-Wye on the 26th of Feb.

    Might give a tone to what is going on.. or not..

  44. Former MP Paul Keetch died today. He was just 56.

    Notable for being elected to the city council here at just 21, being one of few Liberal/Lib Dem politicians in recent years to never lose an election, and for leading the pro-Brexit wing of the Lib Dems.

  45. I didn’t hear about that. Sad at a young age. Having read the story about threatening to kidnap his ex’s cat, I’m glad he didn’t return as a candidate or MP! (Of course the story may not be black and white.) He was probably more in tune with his old voters on Brexit than his party, though.

    I have family here so take some interest. Amazing to see Labour in second place for the first time since 1970. It does look like the Liberal vote has really faded, as HH suggested might happen. Ross-on-Wye (NOT the bookselling town, as noted – that really needs changing!) is pleasant but really quite average – not like a well-heeled Home Counties town, similarly the case with Hereford from what I recall.

    Interesting that the Liberals et al had to wait 68 years to win the old seat of Hereford again, and in the few times they had gained it since 1885, it wasn’t held for very long. I hadn’t realised they were very close to winning it throughout the 70s and 80s. UKIP were second in 2015 and now last so Jesse Norman is probably serving those voters well.

  46. An independent Jim Kenyon got 11% of the vote here. Anyone know anything about him and he got so many votes.

  47. Almost certainly he will be connnected to the It’s Our County local group which regularly contests and quite often wins unitary authority seats in Herefordshire. The group has been established in Herefordshire local politics for some years now. IIRC it can win seats in Hereford city as well as more rural districts.

  48. Jesse Norman has been appointed Rail Minster to replace Jo Johnson.

  49. Jesse Norman has been appointed Paymaster General, replacing Mel Stride.

  50. This now looks like a safe seat for Norman. The LDs were stuck behind Labour for the second election in a row. Most local councillors appear to be independents, with a smattering of Lib Dems, Conservatives and Greens. The independents run the council but none stood at the GE. I don’t think the LDs will win the seat again, from a base of 12.5%.

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