Holborn & St Pancras

2015 Result:
Conservative: 12014 (21.9%)
Labour: 29062 (52.9%)
Lib Dem: 3555 (6.5%)
Green: 7013 (12.8%)
UKIP: 2740 (5%)
Others: 533 (1%)
MAJORITY: 17048 (31%)

Category: Very safe Labour seat

Geography: Greater London. Part of Camden council area.

Main population centres: Holborn, Camden Town, Primrose Hill, Kentish Town, Highgate.

Profile: A long slim inner-city seat, stretching from the fringes of the City of London at Holborn, past the museums and university collages of Bloomsbury to St Pancras and King Cross station, still regarded as a grim red light district despite the regeneration that greeted the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. Northwards the seat covers the vibrant trendy areas like Camden Town with its market and music venues, the fashionable victorian terraces of Primrose Hill, the large council estates of Kentish Town and Maitland Park, Gospel Oak and the leafy affluence of Parliament Hill and Highgate. There are extremely high house prices here, but only around a quarter of the population are owner-occupiers, with most of the housing social housing or private rental.

Politics: Traditionally this has been a safe Labour seat and was retained by Labour throughout the 1980s. Almost half the housing is social housing and there is a significant Bangladeshi Muslim population. The more inner-city and southern part of the constituency is solidly Labour. The Greens have some strength in the seat and in 2015 it was contested by their party leader, Natalie Bennett

Current MP
KEIR STARMER (Labour) Born 1962, Southwark. Educated at Reigate Grammar and Leeds University. Former Director of Public Prosecutions. First elected as MP for Holborn & St Pancras in 2015. Appointed KCB in 2014 for services to law and criminal justice.
Past Results
Con: 11134 (20%)
Lab: 25198 (46%)
LDem: 15256 (28%)
GRN: 1480 (3%)
Oth: 1581 (3%)
MAJ: 9942 (18%)
Con: 6482 (19%)
Lab: 14857 (43%)
LDem: 10070 (29%)
GRN: 2798 (8%)
Oth: 152 (0%)
MAJ: 4787 (14%)
Con: 5258 (17%)
Lab: 16770 (54%)
LDem: 5595 (18%)
GRN: 1875 (6%)
Oth: 1631 (5%)
MAJ: 11175 (36%)
Con: 6804 (18%)
Lab: 24707 (65%)
LDem: 4750 (13%)
Oth: 946 (2%)
MAJ: 17903 (47%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
WILL BLAIR (Conservative) Educated at Sherborne School and Oxford University. Associate director of a PR and Communications company.
KEIR STARMER (Labour) Born 1962, Southwark. Educated at Reigate Grammar and Leeds University. Barrister and former Director of Public Prosecutions. Appointed KCB in 2014 for services to law and criminal justice.
JILL FRASER (Liberal Democrat) Born Essex. Works in a chip shop. Camden councillor 2003-2012. Contested Holborn and St Pancras 2005.
MAXINE SPENCER (UKIP) Born Hampstead. Full time carer. Contested Holborn and St Pancras 2010.
NATALIE BENNETT (Green) Born 1966, Australia. Educated at MLC School and Sydney University. Journalist. Contested Holborn and St Pancras 2010. Leader of the Green party since 2012.
DAVID O`SULLIVAN (Socialist Equality)
VANESSA HUDSON (Animal Welfare) Born Sheffield. Educated at Liverpool University. Media producer. Contested London 2014 European election.
Comments - 816 Responses on “Holborn & St Pancras”
  1. “I think class still plays a role in such suburban wealthy seats here, in a way it perhaps doesn’t in the US. Plus the US has different values divides.”

    Elephant in the room here. The British Labour party still describes itself as “socialist”, more prominently so under some leaders than others, nevertheless there’s a large tranche of middle England which could never bring itself to vote for even a nominal socialist, let alone a proud one. Labour’s most electorally successful period in recent decades was when Blair (almost) successfully expunged socialism from the party.

    By contrast, there’s nothing recognisably socialist about the US Democrats. A few mad Trump supporters might call them communist socialists but in the mainstream there’s no stigma for a banker or stockbroker in the US to vote Democrat whereas that definitely still exists here. Tim’s point about the Lib Dems is important as well.

  2. The irony is though that socialism has and has always had greater traction in the middle classes. The working class don’t think about politics in terms of socialism and capitalism. A lot of the proponents of socialism come from the middle class not just the current intake of the Labour Party but as earlier as the Beatrice and Sydney Webb who along with the Fabians drafted Clause IV ‘by hand and brain, etc’ in 1918 in an attempt to move the party away from flirting with revolutionary socialism. The Labour Party is one of the few socialist parties in western europe whose appeal is historically working class. Le Parti Socialist had greater appeal amongst the middle classes.

    I’m sure I’ve said this before too but Labour did better amongst ABC1 than C2DE and I know its not the most accurate description of class today but it paints an accurate picture. The Labour Party is no longer than party for semi skilled workers by a long shot. Labour did as well at winning over skilled workers in 2017 as they did in 1997 while the Tories scored their biggest numbers amongst skilled workers since 1979

    It’s why Labour are now more competitive in safe tory seats. Some Labour Tory marginals are Labour despite the Tories national double digit victory over Labour. Its why some Tory Labour marginals now have a tory maj so large that a 97 swing wouldn’t win it. It’s why Labour safe seats have a Tory MP. It’s why Labour have more seats in England than they did in 1987 despite labours worst election defeat since 1935.

    It wasn’t the fact Blair expunged socialism but it was the fact he turned Labour into a progressive party. Not to say it wasn’t but it was other things too, namely a labour party. The problem is he called it new Labour. I think had he tried to rename it progressives or democratic party even Brown would have lost it. But not doing that and doing nothing to shape the electorate we now have a party nobody wants and electorate that hasn’t got a party it needs

  3. Should say ‘tories did as well amongst semi skilled workers as in 1979’

  4. Middle-class people are more likely to think in terms of “isms” full-stop. When you’re “just about managing”, you’re going to put more effort into making ends meet and less into pondering post-materialist dialecticism.

    That doesn’t mean that policies which could be reasonably described as socialist would necessarily fail to attract working-class support. It’s all about the framing (another thing Blair excelled at).

  5. Everything you say there is true.

    The middle class of course is now massive in size, very diverse in composition, not the small homogenous rump of society as was the case in say the 1950s.

    Nor do I believe that some kind of Blairite revival would fly in today’s environment – it won’t. Labour’s best hope, and the Tories’ worst fear, is for the Tory vote to become confined to a Brexit-supporting baby boom generation which is gradually dying off.

  6. I agree PT the actual real poltik of progressive policies certainly have a greater appeal than the isms for working class people. Though it does depend on which policies. At work the big one is minimum wage. If we did introduce £10 an hour it would go down a storm. Though is that socialist, I suppose if you were raising taxes to pay for it you could call it redistribution of wealth. A lot of individual policies that socialists tend to be proponents for like nationalising rail, mail, energy, etc. tend poll well. How does that actually translate into people at work telling me how much they want to nationalise rail… not often. Though and this is very unique to my setting but NHS services going out to tender is very unpopular with my work colleagues who are NHS TUPE and would like to reverse that. If anything any kind of talk like this amongst the working ckass is less to do with the benefits of socialism but nostalgia. People i work with love talking about steelworks, pits, etc. The trade unions bought a manor house outside Stocksbridge and one of my comrades joked to me this is what Britain will look like after tge revolution

  7. “By contrast, there’s nothing recognisably socialist about the US Democrats. A few mad Trump supporters might call them communist socialists but in the mainstream there’s no stigma for a banker or stockbroker in the US to vote Democrat whereas that definitely still exists here.”

    That’s true, but America has a different relationship with socialism, owing to the Cold War. My hunch is that, Blair aside, Labour is negatively associated with the “wrong sort of people” amongst the typical non-urban middle class electorate.

    Pre-Corbyn, I thought that it was odd to describe Labour as a socialist party, and perhaps quite an old-fashioned Tory description. A 40-something conservative friend referred to “the socialists” a couple of years ago, in a way in which it seems was mainstream in the British media in days gone by. It can be seen on old BBC election coverage. I believe Tory canvassers use the code ‘S’ for a Labour voter – S for socialist, of course.

    Around 2009, when I was in my early 20s and not very political, I was invited to a Facebook group by a friend, called “I am a socialist because I believe in humanity”. I was baffled. I might have joined a Labour-related group if asked.

    There’s a good story in John Golding’s book about canvassing for the 1976 Workington by-election. In an old folks’ home, a lady asked “are you from the socialists?” “No”, came the reply. “Oh, good”, she answered. “My father always said to vote Labour, never socialist”.

    There’s a good Radio 4 essay by Brian Walden on Labour and socialism which can be heard here:

    Hilary Clinton was called a ‘Wall Street pin-up’; that’s one example of why I just don’t think the Democrats’ American liberalism is left-wing in the way Labour UK is. Jamie Reed said that Corbyn was Labour’s equivalent of George McGovern. I’m not sure other Democratic presidential candidates have been ‘radical’ or on ‘the left’.

    The mention of Battersea reminded me of John O’Farrell, the writer who was a Labour activist there. In his recent memoirs (a sequel to the original book), “Things Can Only Get Worse?: Twenty confusing years in the life of a Labour supporter”, he described Brexit as a “wedge issue” designed to divide voters as in the US. America has plenty of such issues which make the binary choice between parties a lot starker. Without a third party option (and no Corbyn), Labour could easily be winning leafier Lib Dem strongholds. Blair was inspired by Bill Clinton’s remodelling of the Democrats. Hence he did sweep Middle England.

    The Lib Dems do have a rather snobby element too though, linking them back to their Liberal predecessors. Look at Sarah Olney and her pearls. I think, for class reasons, there are lots of Lib Dem voters who are simply too ‘sophisticated’ to vote Labour.

    Wasn’t the old Republican base made up of traditional WASP types?

  8. “The middle class of course is now massive in size, very diverse in composition, not the small homogenous rump of society as was the case in say the 1950s.”

    @HH – not long ago I was listening to the R4 documentary on Blue Labour, made during the Miliband era. Danny Finkelstein was on it and commented that he didn’t think a party appealing to the (older) conservative working-class was capable of winning elections, as the real area of growth was amongst the younger (liberal?) professional middle-class. That was where elections would be won – essentially he was thinking of Cameroonism. The last election blew that theory out of the water, but whether it’s a viable long term strategy remains to be seen.

  9. The stigma point is important.

    I know of people who whilst neither nationalist, affluent nor particularly right wing who vote Tory as they want others to think they are more successful than they really are.

    Labour are seen – particularly amongst wwc male voters – as a weak person’s party – who represent the losers in life.

    I don’t think this is massive but it definitely exists.

  10. 100% this is a view held by many people. I see this mostly on Facebook. Labour is the party for benefits. Corbyn the loser. Labour could only win when they were Tory lite. Most these people either have never voted Labour or did but won’t now because of Rotherham, Brexit, etc.

  11. “I know of people who whilst neither nationalist, affluent nor particularly right wing who vote Tory as they want others to think they are more successful than they really are.”

    I remember during the 2015 election campaign asking both my parents separately about the fact that not all Tory voters were by any means rich or wealthy – surely it didn’t make sense? The similar response from both was “no, they’re not but they like to think they are”.

    I imagine it’s a bit of a status symbol for many. George Osborne remarked to Peter Mandelson that for his Conservative Association in Tatton, it was more of a social thing than anything political, and might be where lonely widows would find a partner.

    It also reminds me of an anecdote from Jeremy Paxman’s book “The Political Animal”. He recounts the Labour candidate for Henley addressing a local women’s meeting. I think this was the 2001 election, so Janet Matthews was the PPC. After speaking, an old lady said to Matthews, “my dear, I agree with every word you’ve said. But I could never vote for you as my husband would turn in his grave.”

    I think to some extent, the Lib Dems are a ‘safe’ option for the more class-conscious voter. I also feel it partially explains the Green success in the Tory shires. It may be a factor in Caroline Lucas winning in Brighton Pavilion.

    So I think Tim and Matt are probably right that this attitude persists. Labour have a lot of baggage. I would imagine ‘Rotherham’ is code for a perception that Labour panders to ethnic minorities for their votes.

    And yes, there’s perhaps a feeling that in terms of class/race/income, Labour is the party for “them” and not for “us”. It reminds me of the working-class black British mother and her grown-up son who I met going to vote in 2017. I asked if they were voting Labour and they said “no chance… not until you get the right leader back.” Who was that? “David Miliband.” The son said it would be the young people on the estates nearby voting Labour, as they wanted a life on handouts (or words to that effect). I think they were both planning to vote Tory. The Tories lost ground with BME voters at that election but the class element is perhaps more significant – the Tories improved among working-class voters in 2017.This happened again in 2019.

  12. “The Labour Party weren’t generally very happy if I ever mentioned that I worked in a pub or that I have woken up in the morning really frightened about money,” she said. “They didn’t like [voters] to feel they hadn’t made a success of their lives.”
    Kate Godfrey, Labour PPC for Stafford in 2015.

  13. I must say this lady completely passed me by so I’ve just had a look to see who she is, etc. she doesn’t seem to have an online presence anymore. She’s a twitter with no tweets. Deleted her medium article. There was a denial by the CLP that they ever contacted her personally asking her to stand. She’s got a great backstory but you do have to say that Jim McMahon whose politics aren’t much different to hers and actually was from Oldham was the better choice. I get the impression this was the Ali Dia of Oldham selection process. Not to say she faked her CV but she was able to get the Guardian and Independent to cover her candidancy. I mean how many people on the long list get this much coverage and then are never heard from again.

    I’m also reminded of another candidate who had a disability and owned a licenced property. He was then suspended by the Labour Party for homophic, racist comments and left when he was readmitted. There was also the lady who owned a licensed premises became an MP defected to the worlds shortest centrist party. These aren’t all comparable and not an attack licensed premises but a good back story is one thing, being the best candidate is another

  14. Who is Ali Dia?

    Kate Godfrey defected to the Lib Dems it seems.

  15. Ali Dia was a footballer who was able to convince Southampton that he was a world class international and made a professional debut in a premier league football match where it became clear he was not. He never played again in top flight

  16. Yes it appears she also had a career in the worlds shortest centrist party. One of her other claims is she worked for TogetherIn. I must say as I was also offered a job by the party for the EU elections I’m not sure this is any greater deserved coverage. Closest i got to the guardian was an interview with John Harris where all my comments were cut

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