Lewes

2015 Result:
Conservative: 19206 (38%)
Labour: 5000 (9.9%)
Lib Dem: 18123 (35.9%)
Green: 2784 (5.5%)
UKIP: 5427 (10.7%)
MAJORITY: 1083 (2.1%)

Category: Marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, East Sussex. Most of Lewes council area, part of Wealden council area.

Main population centres: Lewes, Newhaven, Seaford.

Profile: A large, sprawling rural seat covering much of the countryside to the North of Brighton, the South Downs and the valley of the river Ouse. Lewes itself is the small picturesque county town of East Sussex, best known for its extensive and sometimes controversial Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, where effigies of Pope Paul V and contemporary figures, such as Osama bin Laden, are burnt. The country house of Glyndebourne, the site of the annual opera festival, is situated just outside the town. At the southern end of the constituency is the more Labour inclined ferry port of Newhaven and the seaside resort turned dormitory town of Seaford.

Politics: The seat returned Conservative MPs for over a century until it was won by the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker in 1997. It was regained by the Conservatives in 2015.


Current MP
MARIA CAULFIELD (Conservative) Former nurse. Brighton and Hove councillor 2007-2011. Contested Caerphilly 2010. First elected as MP for Lewes in 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 18401 (37%)
Lab: 2508 (5%)
LDem: 26048 (52%)
UKIP: 1728 (3%)
Oth: 1403 (3%)
MAJ: 7647 (15%)
2005*
Con: 15902 (34%)
Lab: 4169 (9%)
LDem: 24376 (52%)
GRN: 1071 (2%)
Oth: 1034 (2%)
MAJ: 8474 (18%)
2001
Con: 15878 (35%)
Lab: 3317 (7%)
LDem: 25588 (56%)
UKIP: 650 (1%)
MAJ: 9710 (21%)
1997
Con: 19950 (41%)
Lab: 5232 (11%)
LDem: 21250 (43%)
Oth: 256 (1%)
MAJ: 1300 (3%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
MARIA CAULFIELD (Conservative) Nurse. Brighton and Hove councillor 2007-2011. Contested Caerphilly 2010.
LLOYD RUSSELL-MOYLE (Labour) Born 1986, Sussex. Educated at Priory School and Bradford University.
NORMAN BAKER (Liberal Democrat) Born 1957, Aberdeen. Educated at Royal Liberty School and Royal Holloway College. English teacher. Lewes councillor 1987-99, Leader of Lewes council 1991-97, East Sussex councillor 1989-97. Contested Lewes 1992. MP for Lewes 1997 to 2015. Under-Secretary of State for Transport 2010-2013. Minister of State at the Home Office since 2013. A trenchant backbench inquisitor and campaigning MP, Baker stood down as Lib Dem Environment Spokesman in 2006 to concentrate on campaigning for a full investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly. He returned as Lib Dem shadow transport secretary in 2007.
RAY FINCH (UKIP) Engineer. Contested Eastleigh 2010, MEP for South East since 2014.
ALFIE STIRLING (Green) Born 1990. Educated at Priory School and University College London.
Links
Comments - 312 Responses on “Lewes”
  1. I just don’t think Lewes has the demographic for UKIP at all. Maybe a bit on the outer council estates north of the town, but not in the rest of it (including Cliffe & neighbouring hamlets).

  2. I don’t really think this is UKIP territory atall.
    It’s basically a mixture of Tory demographics and the kind of demographic where the LDs will still be quite hard to shift.
    If there is some UKIP voting, then unfortunately it could be of the type which eats away at the Tory vote rather than the type which clearly exists in other areas where it actually wrong foots and threatens the Lib Dems.

    They’ll get an increase to pass the deposit, and the Tories should manage a slight net swing from the Lib Dems
    but it’ll be a challenge for them to win – although it’s possible.

  3. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Greens become stronger in Lewes over time, with some of their Brighton supporters deciding they prefer a more rural existence as the years go by.

  4. I think people confuse the constituency of Lewes with the town (which is a small part) – there are more votes in Seaford and Newhaven and here there are lots of potential UKIP voters. Think LibDems will win but wouldn’t be surprised to see a UKIP surge and an improvement in Labour vote e.g. if there was an election now

    LibDems 38% (-14%)
    Conservative 30% (-7%)
    UKIP 18% (+15%)
    Labour 10% (+5%)
    Green 3% (+2%)
    Others 1% (-1%)

  5. ‘I think people confuse the constituency of Lewes with the town (which is a small part) – there are more votes in Seaford and Newhaven and here there are lots of potential UKIP voters. ‘

    Both Newhaven and nowadays Seaford, are Lib Dem strongholds. Along with Lewes – which is even more Lib Dem – they form the closest thing in the South East to a Lib Dem stronghold

    UKIP might have potential in Newhaven certainly and maybe Seaford too, but I would be flabbergasted if they got as much as 18%

    I simply don’t beloeve that they will be able to replicate their performance in the local elections – and next year’s Euro elections – at a general election – and certainly not in a place like this

  6. Ir Norman Baker remains as the candidate then I am sure the Lib Dems are safe. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine them losing, even with a new candidate (barring a real strange deathwish of a choice).
    I know that UKIP polled well at the County elections, but I would be surprised if they got much over 13% at the General Election and the Liberal Democrats will be targetting this seat very heavily.
    As for the Labour vote, it should go up but if there is the possibility of preventing a Tory majority and bringing close a Labour/LD coalition, then Labour voters might stay with the Lib Dems. At least, that is what the election literature will suggest.

  7. I presume by a death wish candidate you mean Lembit

  8. Seaford isn’t really a LibDem stronghold – it’s fairly competitive between them & the Conservatives. Newhaven & Lewes however definitely are, and the LDs also do well in the other important town, Polegate.

  9. Lembit Opik – I first saw this individual when he ran for the NUS Executive Council as an Independent, dressed as a condom.
    The clues were all there that he was a complete prick (sorry, totally out of character for me, but the whole Cheeky Girl thing just drove me spare).
    Yep, if he is selected anywhere, the Lib Dems lose.

  10. Do the Lib Dems hold this seat BECAUSE of Baker, or due to their strength locally or both?

  11. It’s a funny one really, I think most of the Lib Dim strength is down to the hard work of the local party, but Mr Baker certainly knows how to imprint himself on the local populace. He is probably the difference between the party winning well and just winning. Also, in a bad year, he would probably be the difference between winning and losing.
    I have to say that I find him completely unappealling as a character and quite off-putting but people are attracted to different things in a person. Undoubtedly, he is a good MP and a dogged campaigner, I just find him to be remarkably reticent in challenging some of the traditions practised by his constituents if he thinks it might make him unpopular, even if it also makes him look like a hypocrite to outsiders.

  12. Did he get in because of any Tory complacency as Tim Rathbone rarely if ever managed to increase his vote?

  13. I doubt that was a factor, I just believe that the 1997 election was going to do for the Tories in a considerable number of constituencies and the Liberals and then Liberal Democrats were the firmly established challengers with a strong local government base.
    If anything, subsequent election results suggest that Tim Rathbone may have been quite liked to keep the Tory vote so strong for so long. Maybe he wasn’t actively disliked, but the effect is the same.
    1997 changed a lot of seats, Crosby for Labour for example.

  14. Mostly Sefton Central now, of course.

  15. Thanks for that reply CatholicLeft.

    I believe there were boundary changes here in 1997 that were favourable to the Lib Dems- could this too have been a factor in Baker’s gain?

  16. Has Alfriston always been in this seat?

  17. Can’t think where else it ever could have been.

  18. It’s not that far from Eastbourne but I assume that town’s big enough for the constituency to have always been more or less just the borough.

  19. It was in Eastbourne up until 1974

  20. Strong Liberal Democrat in the Lewes Bridge Ward by-election on Thursday October 17 with two candidates being elected.

    Labour candidates Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Louis Blair featured strongly, finishing ahead of the Green Party hopefuls.

    Ten candidates contested the two seats, brought about by the resignations for personal reasons of Matt Kent and Petrina Kingham.

    The full result was: Liz Allsobrook (Lib Dem) 408 votes; John Lamb (Lib Dem) 355; Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Labour) 247; Louis Blair (Labour) 231; Johnny Dennis (Green Party) 132; Sarah Neels (Green Party) 120; Donna Edmunds (UKIP) 113; Nick Robinson (Conservative) 106; Ian Wilson (UKIP) 105; Richard Turner (Conservative) 92.

  21. Is there any stronger medium-sized Lib Dem town than Lewes in the South East of England?

  22. Eastleigh…. Winchester hot on its heels… but do they count as southeast?

  23. Eastleigh and Winchester are certainly South East – but are they as uniformly Lib Dem as Lewes town itself, where the party typically gets 60-65% of the vote?

    They also win in industrial newhaven and middle class Seaford – but nit bt such high margins – which, alomg with Eastbourne suburb Polegate (which is also Lib Dem) offsets the rural areas which are mostly staunchly Tory

  24. Last count I heard was that Easleigh was 32 LD councillors out of 33 or somesuch.. that’s like East Germany in the good old days!

    Winchester is pretty strong with the party havingjust a few seats short of the Tory total and only two or three Labour councillors. Winchester City I would also note is enormous, stretching all the way from Havant nearly up to Andover containing the city, small towns (Wickham, Bishops Waltham) and loads of villages..

  25. “are they as uniformly Lib Dem as Lewes town itself, where the party typically gets 60-65% of the vote?”

    Are you referring to General elections here Tim ?

  26. We spent an afternoon in Totnes a few months ago, and it reminded me very much of Lewes. Both towns have a very strong hippyish greenish feel about them, combined with a kind of snooty gentility and a very obvious aversion to chain stores.

    I wonder why the Lib Dems never made the breakthrough in Totnes that they made in Lewes. Maybe its the differences in the surrounding countryside that makes the difference.

  27. ‘Are you referring to General elections here Tim ?’

    Yes – I’ve heard from several people that in the three Lewes wards the Lib Dem vote easily outnumbered those of the other parties put together

    They are dominant in local elections too – although I’m not sure by wjhat sort of margins

    ‘I wonder why the Lib Dems never made the breakthrough in Totnes that they made in Lewes. Maybe its the differences in the surrounding countryside that makes the difference.’

    I’m not sure but the Lib Dem vote is based on the four main population settlements – Lewes, Newhaven Seaford and Polegate – which pribablt explains why this seat isn’t even a Lib Dem/Tory marginal

    They also hold sway in places like Barcombe and Ringmer, although the Tories are dominant in the Northern parts of the seat like Chailey, Newick, and Ditchling

  28. Prediction for 2015-
    Liberal Democrat- 49%
    Conservative- 35%
    Labour- 7%
    UKIP- 5%
    Green- 2%
    Others- 2%

  29. “Yes – I’ve heard from several people that in the three Lewes wards the Lib Dem vote easily outnumbered those of the other parties put together
    They are dominant in local elections too – although I’m not sure by wjhat sort of margins”

    At the recent county council elections they came fourth in Lewes with 7.6% of the vote, behind the Greens and Labour and an Independent who won by a country mile (but aheqad of UKIP and the Tories who didn’t get 10% between them. The same Independent also dominates in the Lewes Priory ward at district level (although the LDs won the other two seats in 2011, a long way behind her). The other two wards are Lib Dem held but not with that large a vote share as the Greens are also strong there and there is some residual Labour vote (as shown in those town council elections). What is true though is that the Tories are spectacularly weak in lewes town by any standards and particularly those of a small town in Sussex. So I’ve no doubt that in general elections when nearly all the anti-Tory vote coalesces behind the Lib Dems then the latter would indeed be winning 65% or even more in Lewes.
    You are right that Newhaven and Polegate are also LD strongholds, but my impression is that Seaford is one of the more Tory areas – more so than some of the rural areas in fact. I’m pretty sure the Tories would have carried Seaford in 1997 but perhaps not in the subsequent elections which have not been as close.
    Polegate is of course another place where Independents (ex-LDs) now dominate at local level while UKIP carried both Seaford and Newhaven in the recent CC elections when the LDs best area was the rural area around Lewes itself (Ringmer etc)

  30. ‘you are right that Newhaven and Polegate are also LD strongholds, but my impression is that Seaford is one of the more Tory areas – more so than some of the rural areas in fact. I’m pretty sure the Tories would have carried Seaford in 1997 but perhaps not in the subsequent elections which have not been as close.’

    I think Seaford used to be a tory stronghold – but has recently been trending towards the lib dems

    I imagine the Tories would have won it in 97 – though suspect it would have been closer in subsequent elections, where the lib dems are helped no doubt by Norman Baker’s incumbantcy

  31. Seaford seems to me to be one of the nicest towns on the Sussex coast, certainly this section of it. Its a fairly dull place to be sure, but a pleasant kind of dull – not the awful drab dullnes of somewhere like Peacehaven which has you looking for the nearest cliff to throw yourself off

  32. ‘Seaford seems to me to be one of the nicest towns on the Sussex coast’

    If you take Brighton & Hove (including Rottingdean) out of the equation it probably is

    It definitely has a sort of genteel feel to it that you certainly don’t get in nearby places like Hastings, Newhaven and Eastbourne

    Bexhill is another sussex seaside town which isn’t to bad

  33. http://www.lewes.co.uk/Bonfire/ Just saw the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen on the News, here. Lewes Protestant Martyrs’ Bonfire Society and 6 other societies led the procession.

  34. Can’t beat an old fashioned bit of catholic baiting …

  35. Or celebrating democracy defeating terrorism. Frank Skinner made your point on the One Show though, Joe R.

  36. Use of the term “Protestant Martyrs” rather implies the former!

    Seriously – I don’t mind – I am a ethnically protestant atheist.

  37. you can’t be ethnically Protestant, surely – but you can come from a Protestant heritage perhaps.

  38. Of course you can. I don’t know anyone in my family who isn’t from a Protestant heritage/background, although most aren’t religious these days.

  39. Joe R – that’s just the name of the Bonfire Society. I assume they commemorate Protestants who were burned alive for being Protestants. Unlike Guy Fawkes who was a terrorist. Sadly a lot of children probably believe Frank Skinner’s skewed world view.

  40. I prefer to think of Guy as the last person ever to enter Parliament with honourable intentions.

  41. that’s often said but it simply isn’t true. We all know exceptions to that.

  42. 17 Protestants Martyrs were burnt in barrels in the 16th Century at Lewes town square during the rule of the tyranical Bloody Mary

    That’s why it’s the site of one of the UK’s biggest bonfire celebrations

    Lewes hardly seems a hotbed of Protestant fundamentalism

  43. LOL

    Didn’t you say you were a catholic, Tim?

  44. ‘Didn’t you say you were a catholic, Tim?’

    Certainly not

    I hail from a Protestant family

  45. Sorry. Maybe I got confused due to your anti abortion views.

  46. 2015

    LD 36 (-16)
    Con 27 (-10)
    UKIP 17 (+14)
    Lab 14 (+9)
    Others 6

  47. Labour have selected Lloyd Russell-Moyle:

    http://russell-moyle.co.uk

  48. @CatholicLeft

    What traditions are those? Perhaps you’re confusing this seat with Belfast East .

  49. My view on this seat is that the Lib Dems could have a nasty shock here in 2015, although will probably just about hang on. Certainly some of the trendier Lewes town Lib Dem voters will not forgive them for having thrown in their lot with the Tories – some of these are definitely ex-Brighton, ex-Labour people who will have voted tactically because Labour are so weak here. Returning to Labour or voting Green will be a big temptation for this group. In addition to that, much of this part of rural East Sussex is natural Conservative territory and their vote is unlikely to have permanently declined in the way it has in (e.g.) Brighton Pavilion. I would expect something like:

    Lib Dem 42
    Conservative 40
    Labour 9
    UKIP 5
    Green 4

  50. It won’t be as close as that.

    Not a bad guess for the Lib Dems, but the Tories will be far lower, 35% or less IMO. UKIP and Labour will probably be a bit higher.

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