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 - 340 Responses on “Lewes”
  1. And with that, it’s goodbye forever to the Lib Dem’s chances of ever regaining this seat.

  2. Forever is a very long time. Who would have thought of the Lib Dems ever gaining Redcar or Brent East?

    Nonetheless, I think that the Conservatives will probably build on their smallish majority next time for all the usual reasons, although boundary changes could be interesting. Apart from Lewes town and its environs, much of this seat is classic Conservative territory and the rural areas are very similar to adjacent areas across the border in West Sussex that are monolithically Conservative, e.g. Mid Sussex and Arundel and the South Downs.

  3. In politics, vacuums tend in time to get filled. If neither Labour nor tthe LibDems are likely to oppose the Conservatives effectively, a new party may well appear in due course.

  4. Whose effigy is it for bonfire night here this year?

  5. There’s always several.

    There was one of Cameron and a pig.

  6. Norman Baker with a spliff might have been a good one

  7. Sepp Blatter and Jeremy Clarkson ‘featured’ as well.

  8. Sure, he’s an arsehole, but don’t people *like* Jeremy Clarkson?

    In the days following his suspension and subsequent dismissal from the BBC, I lost count of the number of people both on- and offline defending what was nothing other than a workplace assault.

  9. I actually think the LD candidates in both look strong, but not sure Blundell (Lewes) can beat first-term incumbency.

  10. The Lib Dems will knock on far more doors than anyone else will in this seat. They’re heavy favourites on current boundaries, and first-term incumbency isn’t actually worth that much except when a Lib Dem is defending the seat. The LDs are heavy favourites on current boundaries,

  11. I’m not so sure of that. I live not so far from here and know the area reasonably well. I think it will again be very close with conflicting trends in different bits of the seat. Lewes town is certainly extremely anti Conservative and the Lib Dems will be weighing votes there. There may be some limited potential to squeeze Labour and the Greens a bit more and some disaffected Remain Tories. Also there is some evidence of the Brighton effect spilling into bits of the seat. On the other hand the Tories have a very big UKIP vote to squeeze in Newhaven, Seaford and the rural areas, and will have first term incumbency. The incumbent MP is quite high profile on local news etc.

  12. This is one I’m interested in watching. I think it will be close either way, but the new boundaries will sink LD hopes here.

  13. “Isn’t Southern Rail an issue in this seat?”

    Certainly yes, along with all other seats in Sussex.

    I think the government will try to use it as a pretext to ban strikes on public transport and they will now get widespread public support for such a measure.

  14. We need more local info on the new Lib Dem candidate to judge this seat.

    Superficially it looks like a potential Lib Dem gain but Baker – despite being a “marmite” politician – had a significant personal support which will now be AWOL. So Maria Caulfield’s starting majority probably needs to be doubled or tripled to account for that factor.

  15. Caulfield was a leaver, and this was a remain seat, albeit narrowly.

    The LD candidate is Kelly-Marie Blundell, generally seen (from my understanding) as a star within the party. (Her picture is the lead image of all their 2017 election candidates on their website, actually.)

    I believe she lives locally — might be a councillor. Additionally, it’s one of their better options to pick up a female MP, so I imagine they’ll throw the kitchen sink at it.

    On balance, I’d say it’s a coin toss, but my gut says LD gain — not at all certain, though.

  16. Shoo-in for the LDs surely? They lost 8000 votes to Lab & Greens last time while the tories were unchanged. They only need 1000 of them to come back to win.

  17. UKIP got 11% here, presumably the tories will get most of that vote to keep the lib dems out?

  18. Plopwellian, 5% of Tories = more voters than 20% Lib Dems

  19. I know, but nationally isn’t locally and Lewes (the town) is proud of being different. I was astonished when the Lib Dems lost it. I’m always surprised the greens aren’t stronger here, perhaps that was because of Baker who was pretty much a green anyway, but I think a lot of remainers who may have chosen them will be voting tactically this time and Caulfield is pretty strongly pro-brexit.

    Not necessarily indicative of anything I know but they’ve also won almost all the seats in council elections held since last summer, in Seaford and Newhaven.

    Also, 5% of Con voters is about the same actual number as 20% of Dem voters, (~500k nationally), so the gross effect may not be noticeable. Of course much will depend on how those votes are distributed…

  20. that was meant to be a reply to your earlier comment plopwell, but I got interrupted so many times I missed all the intervening messages…

  21. “Yes, the Conservatives have more of a vote to squeeze than the Liberal Democrats given the considerable UKIP vote.”

    Not actually true…the “progressive” vote [labour + green + lib dem] is just over 51%…it will be tight, but i think the tories will cling on.

  22. Plopwellian Tory: you do realize that even if the 5% of 2015 Tories going LD, while 20% of 2015 LDs go Tory holds true, that still is a net negative for the Tories? The LDs get more votes from that arrangement. You’re treating it as if the two parties had equal vote shares.

    I think this is one of the top 3 Tory seats the Lib Dems should target, alongside Twickenham and Cheltenham.

  23. Of all the small town/rural seats that the Lib Dems held until 2015, this is the only one that they have a real chance of getting back. It’s likely to be close either way but, as Peter Crawford says above, the “progressive” vote here last time was just over 51% so I think the Lib Dems could just about win this back.

  24. “as Peter Crawford says above, the “progressive” vote here last time was just over 51% so I think the Lib Dems could just about win this back”

    That’s true. the only thing making me think the tories will win is the labour to con switches who must exist, if the polls reflect reality.

    labour is down on 2015, while UKIP is also down, but the tories are up considerably. May’s daughter of a vicar act resonates much better than posh dave with ukip voters, but also with traditionally minded labour voters, who will shrink from endorsing Corbyn’s islington internationalism.

    I think some labour are switching to the lib dems, but a few must also be switching to the tories.

    This latter group is not being talked about , but surely exists and could be crucial in a seat like this.

  25. I also think this election will be localized. Tory remain areas are more vulnerable than Tory leave areas, and Tory seats where the LDs are second will be harder to hold than ones where Labour is second.

    This is not going to be a uniform swing — it never is. So while it’s notable that the Tories have gone up since 2015, the argument that “they’ve gone up, therefore…” is not particularly valid.

  26. Much of it will be dependent on how much of a personal vote Caulfield has built up for herself since the last general election

    Baker made it a Lib Dem stronghold fir three successive elections on the back of his work as a constituency MP, as opposed to any great favour for Lib Dem policies amongst the electorate

    The Lib Dems have long been dominant in Lewes itself and have always been strong in the industrial port town of Newhaven, but Seaford, the other significant settlement in the seat, has reverted to the Tories and they won most of the wards quite comfortably in 2015

    One of the Lib Dems better prospects but if the Tories stay on 45%+ of the vote nationally, there would be the clear favourites to hold seats such as this

  27. @Peter Crawford

    You raise a good point regarding Lab to Con switchers but I don’t think that will be much of a factor here. Most Labour voters here will be in Lewes itself which is one of the most left-leaning small towns in England (Totnes is very similar in this respect) although Newhaven also has some decent Labour support. There probably would be Lab to Con switching in Newhaven as Labour voters there are less likely to be receptive to Corbyn than those in Lewes. The fact remains that Labour supporters in both Lewes and Newhaven have been voting Lib Dem tactically for years. After breaking away from tactical voting in 2015, I expect most of the Labour and Green vote here last time will go back to the Lib Dems and help them take back the seat.

  28. ‘The fact remains that Labour supporters in both Lewes and Newhaven have been voting Lib Dem tactically for years. ‘

    A bunch of Labour councillors got suspended in the run up to the 1997 election after advising Labour voters to back the Lib Dems, who have long been the beneficiaries of tactical voting

    What happens to the 11% UKIP got in 2015 might be enough for Caulfield to scrape home

  29. The decision by Brighton Lib Dems not to oppose Lucas could help Kelly-Marie Blundell’s chances if the Greens reciprocate here.

  30. “I’ve also seen data showing that 5% of GE2015 CON voters plan on voting LDEM while 20% of GE2015 LDEM voters plan to vote CON.”

    Is there any more detail to who these voters are? I suspect a substantial chunk are tactical voters in former Lib-Lab marginals. There will also be some pro-Brexit Libs switching, but I suspect that’s a smaller group, because if Europe was really such a big issue for them then surely they would have switched in 2015.

  31. I’d have thought a LD gain was possible with Baker, but not without him.

  32. This could actually be a fairly close result either way but if Norman Baker really did enjoy a sizeable personal vote then the chances of this going back to the Lib Dems are drastically reduced- if the Tories get a good increase here and the Lib Dem vote falls further here with a new candidate, I think it’s safe to say we will then know for certain Lewes will be reverting to its pre-Baker days.

  33. I agree with the previous 2 posters.

    Baker was an (over?) active presence in this seat for decades, being council leader before becoming MP. Though its easy to see how he could irritate some folks, he does seem to have been genuinely popular in his constituency and I feel the loss of his personal vote makes this a far harder gain for the Lib Dems than the majority suggests – not unlike the notionally marginal Thornbury and Yate.

  34. The LDs will do better here than in Thornbury.

  35. Of course, if he had a negative personal vote then LDs might take this. Didn’t Lewes narrowly vote Remain?

  36. The thinking on here re the Lib Dems is starting to get very muddled.

    We have people doubting they’ll pick up arch-Remoaner seats like Bath, Richmond and Kingston yet some of the same people suggesting they have a good chance of winning Lewes, Eastbourne, Wells etc. This is nuts.

    My 2p worth as a Sussex resident fairly local to here is that the Tories will hold Lewes and Eastbourne with ease. I’m starting to doubt my initial confidence in a Lib Dem clean sweep of Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston given their awful campaign, but if they don’t achieve that then it means they’ll gain very very few seats elsewhere.

  37. ” I’m starting to doubt my initial confidence in a Lib Dem clean sweep of Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston given their awful campaign, but if they don’t achieve that then it means they’ll gain very very few seats elsewhere.”

    Once again the lib dems are being massively hyped. they’ll be doing well to get 12 seats post june 8th.

    you’re right it’s crazy to think they will lose twickenham but gain lewes.

  38. Judging by yesterday’s pledge to have the UK take in an extra 50k refugees the Lib Dems seem to be betting the farm on winning seats of the Richmond/Twickenham/Bath type. I can’t see it winning many votes in the more Brexit inclined seats.

    I still think they are overrated in the betting for St Ives (although I’ve not gone in again since taking 6-5 the Tories a while back). It’s a Brexit supporting seat, where UKIP aren’t standing and where the Tories outpolled the Lib Dems in the locals. Don’t see how they win that.

  39. In normal political times, you’d say that this is one of the LD’s better prospects. Not just because of the slim majority, but because of the number of people they lost straight after being in coalition who don’t actually seem to have voted Tory.

    Alas, these are not normal political times. This seems a straightforward Tory hold, and I say that despite having elsewhere given the LDs a chance (though still concluding that they’ll come second in most cases) from far further back.

  40. I tend to think results like this.
    I’m not assuming though.
    Most likely

    C maj 2,500

    C maj 4,500

    Richmond Park
    Con maj 7,000

    Con majority 1,800

    Sutton and Cheam
    Con maj 9,000

    Carshalton & Wallington
    Con maj 1,000
    (possible LD hold)

    Hornsey and Wood Green
    Lab maj 13,000

    Lab maj 2,500

    Westminster North
    Lab maj 800
    (possible Con gain)

  41. I think the Lib Dems could win several SNP seats but am not sure how likely it is.
    I am prepared for a nasty shock somewhere (re Con)
    and I am wondering whether they can get anything off Labour atall because Labour’s problems won’t be in former Lib/Lab type areas. (although I haven’t checked how Cardiff Central looks).
    They probably will have fewer absolutely dreadful results though (4th places etc). Although I’d love them to do even worse.

  42. I respect your views on SW London given you’re so close to the ground there, but at least some weeks ago quite a few people I know there were swinging behind the Lib Dems. Perhaps less so now. Kieran is right, their pledge on refugees, and their rhetoric on tax rises and forming an alliance with Labour, couldn’t be better designed to turn off liberal Tory switchers. Farron has made a right balls up of the campaign so far.

  43. SW London is difficult.
    If we lose anywhere it’ll be there.
    Sutton seats are quite different I think.
    But I think we’ll end up holding on in all of them.

  44. Talk of Tory landslide day after day may be a minus in those areas.
    The Tory vote share in 1983 was actually a tad disappointing.

  45. sorry didn’t mean to sound arrogate.
    Of course, no result is certain.
    “Most likely”

  46. Anyone think the Lib Dems are in with a shot here?

  47. Without Baker, probably not

  48. Shame really. I liked the guy despite not being a Lib Dem supporter myself.

  49. No- can’t see the Lib Dems taking this though they may well achieve a reasonably good second. Lewes voted Remain in the referendum but only by 6% or so- we’re not talking about a Bath or Twickenham here.

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