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
Con: 18401 (37%)
Lab: 2508 (5%)
LDem: 26048 (52%)
UKIP: 1728 (3%)
Oth: 1403 (3%)
MAJ: 7647 (15%)
Con: 15902 (34%)
Lab: 4169 (9%)
LDem: 24376 (52%)
GRN: 1071 (2%)
Oth: 1034 (2%)
MAJ: 8474 (18%)
Con: 15878 (35%)
Lab: 3317 (7%)
LDem: 25588 (56%)
UKIP: 650 (1%)
MAJ: 9710 (21%)
Con: 19950 (41%)
Lab: 5232 (11%)
LDem: 21250 (43%)
Oth: 256 (1%)
MAJ: 1300 (3%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

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.
Comments - 312 Responses on “Lewes”
  1. A generation ago, Eastbourne attracted wealthy retirees who voted Tory. Those kind of people now retire to Spain or Malta, or perhaps Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Eastbourne’s elderly population tends to be the poorer end of the spectrum these days, especially those aged 80 and above with few assets. In addition there are a lot of working class younger people about these days, many from the north. These factors have shifted the demographics significantly against the Tories.

    Furthermore the Tories have long suffered from a terrible local party which would lose even if they were campaigning in Kensington & Chelsea.

  2. Lewes EU Parliament result:

    UKIP: 9,459
    Con: 7,201
    LD: 3,824
    Green: 3,723
    Lab: 3,651


  3. I have long thought that Norman Baker might just be vulnerable in this seat come 2015 and at the least would get a ‘nasty shock’ as I think I’ve said previously.

    These EU elections must make extremely grim reading for him. It would take a two-party swing of under 8% to unseat him here. For left leaning Lewes Lib Dem voters, there is always the attraction of voting Green if they cannot stomach Labour as an alternative. I think that the Tories (who remain strong in the rural hinterland) might just take this seat.

  4. These EU election results will not come as a shock, UKIP did well here in 2013 at our expense, so it is expected that they would do very well here in the Euros.

  5. From 2009
    UKIP +3300
    Con -1600
    LD -3700
    Green -1300
    Lab +2000

  6. A banker for Baker. Here’s my latest 2015 prediction-
    Baker (Lib Dem)- 48%
    Conservative- 34%
    UKIP- 9%
    Labour- 7%
    Green- 2%

  7. I have to say that I completely disagree with that prediction. There’s no way the Lib Dems will be as high as 48% next time. I’m certainly not saying that Baker has no chance, but he is certainly no shoo-in.

    Those recent Euro results were truly dreadful for the Lib Dems and do not seem to me to presage an easy hold of the parliamentary seat.

  8. Baker will hold his seat, no doubt about it. If the Lib Dems can’t win here in 2015, then they’ll have about 20 seats nationally, which, let’s face it, just isn’t going to happen. Even I know firmly believe that the Lib Dems will win between 35-45 seats.

  9. Closer than that but probable lib dem hold by 2 to 5000

  10. As low as 2000? I’m not sure. I don’t think the Tories would have enough to get that close to Baker here, this is a part of East Sussex not exactly trending heavily in their favour. After all, Baker only won this in 1997 by 1300 votes (3%), but then shot all the way up in 2001 and got a huge majority. The Tories have been disappointed here in the past, and I have a feeling they will again for the next two elections at least, perhaps maybe after that, who knows?

  11. I don’t think Joe’s a million miles off here. The LDs are still pretty solid in Lewes itself, Newhaven & Polegate but most of the villages are Tory – some strongly so – and the Tories may well be ahead in Seaford, which is the largest town. It’s just as well for the LDs that they don’t have to contend with the Peacehaven, E Saltdean & Telscombe Cliffs wards.

  12. For me there is another factor – perhaps reflected in the Lib Dems horrible showing in Lewes in the Euros – to do with a specific likely negative reaction against them in this seat. It is close to the campuses of both Sussex and Brighton Universities (actually covers a bit of them) and that is always going to be bad news for a sitting Lib Dem in 2015. Added to that (and as we have debated here before) the Lib Dem vote in Lewes town itself, although not so much in Newhaven and Seaford, is more Brighton-bohemian and lefty and will be far more amenable to voting Green or Labour next time. I think Baker will take a considerable hit here.

  13. I also expect him to take a pretty big hit and I now think the Lib Dem vote is almost certain to go below 40%, though I do expect Baker to narrowly hold the seat….by something like 38% LD to 35% Con.

  14. I think Baker’s personal vote should help him hold here, just about.

    I recall from last year’s CC elections that UKIP made a few gains in Lewes divisions. There was definitely some in the Lewes constituency itself. Not sure how much that might translate into a decent vote share. They could get 3rd place. They also made gains in the Peacehaven/Telscombe division which is part of the Brighton Kemptown constituency.

  15. I’d go along with JJB and HH here.

    Significant hit to the LD share, but the fact that there is no party other than the Tories capable of mounting any sort of challenge will mean that some people who would rather not vote for them again will be convinced to do so.

  16. prediction for 2015-

    Lib- 41%
    Con- 36%
    Lab- 9%
    UKIP- 7%
    Green- 6%
    BNP- 1%

    A very socially liberal area with the vast majority in work, 42% no religion, quite a young demographic. The lib dems should (just) hold the area I think, the Greens should do pretty well too, UKIP won’t take off here like they will elsewhere , almost falling to 5th place.

  17. I think whatever the result is here next year (probably a Lib Dem hold for Norman Baker), the majority will probably still be higher in percentage terms than in 1997 for him.

  18. Yeah I think it won’t be easy, but the liberal democrats should keep this one.

  19. With the exception of Lewes town and the western part of the seat around Falmer and the universities, this is not a socially liberal area. Newhaven, Seaford and the East Sussex villages don’t have anything like the same concentration of left-liberal-green types. It’s credit to Norman Baker that he has managed to hold the seat for so long and with such substantial majorities from 2001 onwards.

    However, as I keep saying, he’ll take a big hit here next May, although perhaps not big enough to unseat him.

  20. Also, if you take a look at the 2013 council results, UKIP did pretty well here. I don’t think UKIP are going to do terribly well at the GE, but given your other UKIP predictions, this one doesn’t sit particularly well.

  21. ‘Newhaven, Seaford and the East Sussex villages don’t have anything like the same concentration of left-liberal-green types. It’s credit to Norman Baker that he has managed to hold the seat for so long and with such substantial majorities from 2001 onwards.’

    That’s true to an extent

    A lot of the residents of Newhaven live there because they can’t afford to live in Brighton – a factor that won’t help the Tories

    Seaford is one of the nicer towns on the Sussex coast – but unlike run-down towns like Littlehampton, Shoreham and Worthing, it has swung heavuily against the Tories in recent years and should now be considered a Lib Dem town

    There’s smaller towns like Ringmer and Barcombe too – where the Lib Dems are strong

    There’s also the squeezing of the Labour vote, with the party only managing half of the vote they got in 1992 – an election where the Tories won a majority

  22. Great analysis that Tim, cheers. It makes for very interesting reading.

  23. Well, I’m afraid I don’t agree with it. Shoreham and Worthing are certainly not ‘run down’ towns, but prosperous and lively and full of young families belying their stereotypical elderly image.

    There will be a strong negative swing against Baker at the next election in Lewes, although probably not enough to unseat him because it will not be straight switching to the Conservatives. Labour and the Greens will also pick up votes.

  24. I think Norman Baker will hold his seat with a majority of about 3-4000.

  25. Dr John is clearly a Worthing based estate agent.

  26. I live halfway between Worthing and Littlehampton.

    Littlehampton IS run down. Worthing most certainly is thriving. And Shoreham’s somewhere in the middle.

  27. Well Tim’s from Sussex so I think what he said is obviously from firsthand experience.

  28. Tim describing Worthing as a run down dump (along with other places which are not such as Southend and Romford) has been a ubiquitous feature of this site for many years

  29. Generally only places like Hampstead, Richmond or the Peak District’s chintziest villages are good enough to avoid being called “dumps” by Tim. Perhaps he would accept that parts of his own constituency Brighton Pavilion are not, either.

  30. Indeed so – one could describe parts of Pavilion as a scruffy new-age ghetto, but it wouldn’t tell the full or whole story.

    My own constituency – Worthing West – is a prosperous, thriving part of the south Sussex coastal ribbon development and a long way away from the stereotypical ‘after you. dear’ image of popular mythology. The only parts of the constituency that now remotely fit that image are Goring and Ferring and even then it’s stretching a point. Agree with MOG that Littlehampton is somewhat more run down, but even there some signs of regeneration can now be found.

  31. ‘Perhaps he would accept that parts of his own constituency Brighton Pavilion are not, either.’

    Dr John is right in describing parts of Brighton Pavilion as scruffy – much of Brighton in general fits that description but much of the run down a\reas – Noth Laines, London Road, Hannover have been gentrifying for years and the the quality of life on offer far outstrips anything Worthing, Shoreham or Littlehampton has to offer – as its house prices woukd suggest

    ‘My own constituency – Worthing West – is a prosperous, thriving part of the south Sussex coastal ribbon development ‘

    Worthing is certainly improving but IMH opinion it’s still run down enough to warrant being described as a dump, especially the Westerrn part, with eyesores like Tarring and Durrington. No one in their right mind would describe such places as thriving.

  32. Reluctant as I am to mount of defence of Tarring ward in the West Worthing constituency on the Lewes page, I just cannot let Tim’s comment go. I live in Tarring ward.

    Tarring is a quiet, mainly prosperous part of Worthing which is leafy and tree lined and which almost always votes Lib Dem in local elections (although it was a jolly close run thing this year). It cannot remotely be described as a ‘dump’ although I guess it might fairly be described as rather dull.

    On a slightly more serious note, I just think we need to be careful before describing this or that place as a ‘dump’. Such subjective judgements using that kind of language are always going to go down badly.

  33. ‘On a slightly more serious note, I just think we need to be careful before describing this or that place as a ‘dump’. Such subjective judgements using that kind of language are always going to go down badly’

    I don’t understand why people get so defensive about where they live or come from.

    The part of Brighton I currently reside in is a complete dump – far worst than Tarring – I’d never say anything otherwise.

    Of course one man’s dump is another man’s castle but people have this image of Worthing as some kind of genteel seaside resort, and as someone who knows it relatively well, it’s nothing of the sort.

    So too Shoreham

  34. What part of Brighton do you live in Tim?

  35. The Lib Dems have very successfully squeezed the Labour vote in this seat. How many Labour sympathisers will be prepared to vote tactically for Baker this time, given that he is a minister in a Tory-run government? A significant number of Brighton and Hove Albion football supporters will never forgive him for opposing their new stadium at Falmer, almost on the border between Lewes and Brighton & Hove, but Baker’s reputation as a strong constituency MP and an increase in UKIP’s vote should help see him home with a slightly reduced majority.

  36. As I’ve said on these pages before, I think it will be more than slightly reduced, although I expect he’ll hold the seat. The Labour and Green votes will rise, as tactical voting for Baker unwinds somewhat. There will be a modest UKIP increase, mainly centred on the seaside towns of Newhaven and Seaford and that will probably spike the Tories chances of a surprise gain. I think if the football stadium resentment didn’t cut his majority in 2010 when the issue was much more current, it won’t now.

    I would therefore predict a Lib Dem majority in the region of 2000.

  37. I think that if Baker were to stand down, it would open the gates for a considerable swing to another party with Lib Dem support going in different directions (Baker’s personal vote gone). Probably a Conservative gain as they’re currently best placed to do so, but UKIP very competitive in the coastal towns. Lewes town itself could start electing a few Green councillors down the line. It has been signed up to that Transition Towns initiative for some years, the same one in places like Totnes and Stroud. Not sure if or where in the constituency Labour would ever re-emerge unless it’s in Lewes proper, vying for “bohemian” type votes.

  38. I think that’s largely right Neil, although this is not a seat anyone other than the Lib Dems or the Tories will ever win. UKIP will pick up votes in Newhaven and Seaford, but very little in Lewes itself or in the very prosperous rural hinterland. Labour and the Greens will scrap to pick up ex-Lib Dem votes in Lewes town, which is only a small part of this large constituency.

    At some point, I would expect this seat to revert to the Conservatives.

  39. East Sussex politics on the whole seems quite diverse compared to much of the South East. If you include Brighton & Hove Unitary Authority, what emerges is a real mixture of parties battling it out. The only constituencies which remain safely Conservative are Wealden and Bexhill & Battle. As you say, though Dr John, Lewes could go back to the Tories. For now it should be with the Lib Dems as long as Norman Baker is the MP.

    Not sure which direction Eastbourne is headed next year. Hastings & Rye is potentially one of Labour’s best chances of a gain in the SE. As are the B&H seats, although Pavilion is the exceptional Green/Labour battleground.

    I don’t see UKIP ever winning seats nationally in E Sussex, but locally there are pockets of support they could emerge with some councillors. In Lewes district, they could do very well in Peacehaven which is in the boundaries of Brighton Kemptown.

  40. Norman Baker has quit as Home Office Minister.

  41. He’s apparently unhappy with the direction of government drugs policy.

  42. Maybe he just wanted the day off to see the Lewes’ Bonfires tomorrow? Seriously though, I wondered how long he’d last. His complaint seems to be that the Home Office was too C/conservative.

  43. A blatantly opportunistic act if ever I saw one. When Baker accepted the job, he surely couldn’t have been stupid enough to believe that a Tory-led government could legalise drugs.

    He is clearly worried about his seat due to the Lib Dems being down at 6% in some polls. This is exactly the kind of seat which would have been expected to be safe a year ago, but is put at risk by the decline in Lib Dem poll ratings since the Euro elections.

  44. HH

    you’re right mate. He’ll spend the next 6 months campaigning in his constituency which would have been impossible if he actually had a job in the government. It’s a smart move on his part…but who’ll take the job? Apart from Charlie Kennedy and one or two others, the libs must all be worried about holding their seats.

  45. JP – true. Kennedy voted against the Coalition forming, so wouldn’t beta Minister in it. I suppose they have to decide whether to take 6 months’ higher salary as a Minister or increase the chance of holding in May.

  46. This close to the election it won’t make any difference. Baker quitting the government will not satisfy those who were upset about him joining it, and indeed about the Lib Dems going into coalition as a whole. Furthermore, it is clear he has benefitted from quite a few Tory-inclined votes here in the past, and his high-profile stance on drug legalisation won’t help him to retain those. UKIP and the Tories may well have a field day with his “soft on drugs” views and he may well turn out to be the Evan Harris of 2015 as a result…..I do hope so as I can’t stand him.

  47. I think spending the next 4 months in the constituency full time as opposed to working in the home office at petty france in london could make the difference of a few hundred votes, which may be all he needs.

  48. You could be right, though by all accounts the government isn’t really doing very much right now in any case.

    I do not think the Lib Dems are doing themselves any favours long term by doing this kind of thing. They are the main enthusiasts for coalition government, after all.

  49. the government is doing fa…but a minister still has to turn up to work and administer things…Baker is giving himself a four month period, before the actual campaign starts, where he can do all the stuff which presumably got him elected in 1997 in the first instance.

  50. ‘Furthermore, it is clear he has benefitted from quite a few Tory-inclined votes here in the past, and his high-profile stance on drug legalisation won’t help him to retain those.’

    I’m not so sure of that

    A good deal of the people I know who support the legislation of drugs are Conservative libetarians

    It’s the same with alcohol and cigerattes – with the Tories generally more on the side of the manufacturers than those who support other parties

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