Luton South

2015 Result:
Conservative: 12949 (30.7%)
Labour: 18660 (44.2%)
Lib Dem: 3183 (7.5%)
Green: 1237 (2.9%)
UKIP: 5129 (12.1%)
Independent: 900 (2.1%)
Others: 158 (0.4%)
MAJORITY: 5711 (13.5%)

Category: Safe Labour seat

Geography: Eastern, Bedfordshire. Part of the Luton council area and part of the Central Bedfordshire council area.

Main population centres: Luton, Caddington.

Profile: Luton was historically a manufacturing town, originally for hats, and more recently for Vauxhall cars and Electrolux. The Vauxhall car plant closed in 2002 and the fast growing London Luton Airport across the boundary in Luton South is becoming a far more important part of the local economy. The constituency has a high proportion of ethnic minorities, in the 2001 census over a quarter of the population was non-white and there is a large Muslim population that could have a political impact.

Politics: Until it was retained by Labour in 2010 this had been one the most reliable bellwether seats in the country, having been won by the party that went on to form the government in every election since 1951. The former MP, Margaret Moran, announced she was stepping down after being criticised for the Daily Telegraph for claiming 22,000 pounds in expenses to treat dry rot in her second home, but not before provoking a wide range of anti-sleaze candidates, including TV personality Esther Rantzen. Moran was later charged with fraud, but found unfit to plead due to mental health issues.

Current MP
GAVIN SHUKER (Labour) Born 1981, Luton. Educated at Icknield High School and Cambridge University. First elected as MP for Luton South in 2010.
Past Results
Con: 12396 (29%)
Lab: 14725 (35%)
LDem: 9567 (23%)
BNP: 1299 (3%)
Oth: 4229 (10%)
MAJ: 2329 (6%)
Con: 10960 (28%)
Lab: 16610 (43%)
LDem: 8778 (23%)
UKIP: 957 (2%)
Oth: 1613 (4%)
MAJ: 5650 (15%)
Con: 11586 (29%)
Lab: 21719 (55%)
LDem: 4292 (11%)
GRN: 798 (2%)
Oth: 956 (2%)
MAJ: 10133 (26%)
Con: 15109 (31%)
Lab: 26428 (55%)
LDem: 4610 (10%)
Oth: 832 (2%)
MAJ: 11319 (23%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
KATIE REDMOND (Conservative)
GAVIN SHUKER (Labour) See above.
ASHUK AHMED (Liberal Democrat)
PAUL WESTON (party name) Born 1964, Malaysia. Educated at Fosters Grammar School. Contested Cities of London and Westminster 2010 for UKIP, South East region 2014 European elections.
ATTIQ MALIK (Independent)
Comments - 130 Responses on “Luton South”
  1. The big increases in both the non-white and privately housed populations are reminiscent of a London half-way-out constituency.

    Though at least people moving to such London areas could be explained on economic or cultural grounds.

    Who though would chose to move to Luton?

    A place which we’re told is sh1thole of England 😉

  2. “Who though would chose to move to Luton?”

    Sean Fear come to think about it 😉

  3. Luton has improved in one small respect. It once had a pub called the Wabbit – I kid you not – and it has either changed its name or closed.

  4. It is difficult to defend Luton – some of my friends used to live there but most have moved out as soon as was possible (these aren’t rich people by any means – one is a British Gas Engineer, one a teacher etc) but they observed that the town seemed to be on a steady downhill path….a path of course exacerbated by people moving out when they can.

    There is a reasonable housing estates near Luton Airport (Wigmore ward I think) and areas of Stopsley/Round Green are reasonable enough. But even in these wards, there are some not so salubrious areas.

    Barnaby – if you are ever campaigning in Luton there is quite a decent real ale pub called the Black Horse very near the centre of town (about 12-14 minutes walk from the station). It doesn’t look great (either outside or inside) but the real ales are varied and kept well and the locals seem friendly enough.

  5. This is now a ‘whiter’ seat than Luton North – though the total non-white proportion has risen here from 28% to 43% in North it has gone up from 26% to 45%. Particularly marked is the increase in the Asian population which has almost doubled in North (from 15.7% to 28.8%) while the muslim population has more than doubled (from 10.8% to 22.4%) whereas here it only increased from 17.4% to 25.3%

  6. I don’t see Luton South as marginal. Can’t see the Tories winning it without some sort of a scandal.

  7. Well there was some sort of scandal and they still didn’t win it. Gavin Shuker seems like quite a decent sort as Labour MPs go.

  8. Apparently the “Wabbit” was formerly called the “Rabbit”. It is now called “The English Rose.”

  9. The Conservatives had their chance in 2010 and didn’t manage to win. I think Labour made a very wise choice in Shuker as a local candidate.

  10. Sean Fear has joined UKIP.

  11. Excellent news

  12. who’s he when he’s at home

  13. He’s an occasional poster here and on other psephological blog sites – a regular I think on
    A more pertinent question is where is he at home? Is he still living in this seat Richard? From what I can gather UKIP in this area are in need of a bit of a shot in the arm.

  14. Sean Fear still lives in this constituency.

    He is IIRC still planning to vote Conservatives here in 2015 as he regards it as a Lab-Con marginal.

    In around 2008-2010 I regarded Sean Fear as the voice of mainstream Conservatism.

    That the Conservatives are losing people like him shows their fundamental problems.

  15. I don’t think this seat will be marginal in future. I think that Labour having survived in 2010 will make it into a safe seat.

  16. Agreed.

  17. Looking back to Chris K’s comment, if I were campaigning in Luton I would be inclined to give the pubs a miss.

  18. …….and for the most part, you would be absolutely right 🙂

    I used to play pool for Bedfordshire and effectively needed to play in the Luton league to get selected. This meant that I was compelled to visit many of Luton’s pubs and most are complete sh*tholes as you say.

    The Black Horse is a bit rundown, but the ales were excellent last time I was there so, by Luton standards at least, it rates as a ‘hidden gem’.

  19. ”I used to play pool for Bedfordshire and effectively needed to play in the Luton league to get selected. This meant that I was compelled to visit many of Luton’s pubs and most are complete sh*tholes as you say.”

    I’m a very keen snooker player Chris and not bad at pool. Next time you’re down in Merseyside drop us a line LOL!

  20. Lol yep will do, I’m sure it would be a good game! You’d have to go easy on me on the snooker though….. 🙂

  21. ”Lol yep will do, I’m sure it would be a good game! You’d have to go easy on me on the snooker though….. :)”

    And remember Chris, once you know my real identity, you are forever bound to secrecy…

  22. …..indeed….you’re not a gangster are you? 🙂

  23. ”…..indeed….you’re not a gangster are you? :)”

    No not anything sinister like that. You have nothing to worry about 🙂

  24. There are almost certainly towns of similar size to Luton with worse pubs. Southend-on-Sea & Bournemouth for example are very far indeed from being a Mecca for ale drinkers. The very best areas in the country however are probably the borough of Dudley, and some bits of neighbouring boroughs, and large swathes of urban Greater Manchester where there are still 4 excellent family breweries, none of which has fewer than 70 pubs. That being said, if I were in Luton I would probably make a beeline to some nearby villages which do have some pretty good pubs.

  25. In answer to the question “who would want to live in Luton” I nearly moved there in the late 1990s – for the simple reason that it reportedly had the cheapest house prices in the country – and I was looking to get on the housing ladder. (As I was then an employee of NOP the fact they had an office in Luton was another bonus).

    In the end prices went up too fast too quickly and so I gave up the ghost. I did visit Luton a few times between 1996-2000 to check out property prices and I must admit the place did have a bit of an uneasy feel about it. Can’t quite explain why. I think the locals call it “Lutonia” and it’s not a term of endearment.

  26. Barnaby is correct, there are some quite nice pubs in the surrounding villages, and certainly down in Harpenden a few miles away.

    Re Luton – apart from the vast sprawl of unattractive housing and industrial estates, the biggest problem however is that there isn’t anything to attract people – no cultural venues, the nightlife is awful, the shopping centre mediocre, no particularly great sporting/leisure facilities etc. Most places at least have something, somewhere about them.

    Bedford is often cited as being a bit of a sh*thole as well, but whilst there are some very grotty areas, there are at least some genuinely nice areas to live (the Embankment area and De Parys Avenue particularly) and there is at least a theatre, and some pleasant-ish scenery with the river running through the centre. I could see why someone might move to Bedford, but I genuinely don’t see why someone would want to move to Luton unless their work made it essential.

    I know what Robin means about ‘uneasy’ but I think it’s more a case of a lot of rather depressed people living somewhere they would rather not. And inevitably the nicer/more civilized individuals get out as soon as they can……which sadly leaves the chavs to reign supreme.

  27. Luton of course had its own seat until 1974, following which I think the present High Town and South wards were in Luton East until 1983 and this seat since then (both those wards presently have a full slate of Labour councillors – have Labour always been dominant locally here even when this marginal constituency has had a Tory MP? [Sir Graham Bright for 18 years])

  28. HIgh Town was historically one of the more Tory wards. While South has I think always beena safe Labour ward it is quite disparate as it includes some very pleasant streets in the far south but extends into the ‘inner-city’ and includes some bleak council tower blocks. Most of the Tory strength in the days when they won the seat (and now) came from the eastern suburban wards like Stopsley and Wigmore where the LDs have long been dominant in local elections

  29. The declaration for this seat was shown during the BBC’s coverage of the 1992 Election when the Conservative majority was only 799 for John Major’s then PPS Graham Bright here.

    When I first saw it, it struck me as something of a surprise that they had decided to broadcast it- There had not been any mention of it by a reporter etc. earlier on in the night, and so perhaps someone locally caught wind of the closeness of the result and therefore cameras from either BBC East in Norwich or further away were sent to televise the result- I just remember being surprised when I first saw it, thinking ‘If they could show that, why not Hayes and Harlington or Bristol North West’.

  30. The BBC probably thought the Tories were going to lose the seat and thought it would make better television. They may have thought that Hayes would have been OK just, especially as it was in London and the Tories were expecting to hold up better in London than the rest of the country. Ironically out majority was bigger here than in H&H.

    I wonder what Terry Dicks thinks of Hayes and Harlington now?

  31. You are right. The Tories expected to lose Luton South as a result of internal polling which suggested they would do so. The same polling predicted Chris Patten would lose Bath. Inevitably the result of the poll must have leaked to the BBC though they never publicised it. John Major discusses all this in his autobiography. Graham Bright was fully expecting to lose his seat and was very surprised to hold on. Despite his glum look at the count, Patten had known for a long time that he wasn’t going to hold Bath.

  32. It would be an even bigger surprise if the Tories were to win this seat next time. In fact, I’d be very surprised if this seat goes Conservative again in my lifetime, despite the close result in 2010.

  33. The results in Luton were very bad in 1991
    although I think the Tory strength since 1976 was because of all out elections in GE years.

    The LD vote actually swung more behind C in 1992
    compared to 1991.
    The Tories only polled about 25% in 1991
    and I thought they’d lose

  34. IIRC the Tories still led by 6 or 7 pc in Luton N
    in 1991
    but that was the old seat , Flitwick etc

  35. Agree with Barnaby there.

  36. Thanks for the responses.

    I wondered if it was shown because Bright was Major’s PPS, as well as for the close result.

    On the subject of the most marginal results, interestingly, ITN’s coverage in 1992 had covered Ayr from the very beginning of the night so to speak and they even showed the declaration.

    Other marginal Con-Lab seats they showed live results of that the BBC did not included Swindon, Bury North, Bolton North East and Batley and Spen.

  37. I quite liked the Basildon declaration of that year 🙂

  38. True – but note the Labour candidate in Basildon was a Ford motor works man.
    Things have changed.

  39. The BBC must have shown details of at least 200 results, even safe Conservative seats like Mole Valley and Leominster. I think the very last seat to be declared while their coverage in 1992 was on the air on the second day was East Antrim.

    The result of every Labour gain was shown in the form of a graphic, which obviously accounted for the majority of these detailed results, but some were Labour targets that were narrowly held by the Conservatives.

    Overall, I would say that the BBC’s 1992 Election coverage was very good, and in a crucial general election they transmitted the results brilliantly I think.

  40. TheResults – I think that they did go to Luton S because of Bright’s closeness to Major, yes. It was also, as I recall, the place where the latter got his (in)famous soapbox out, so it had a sort of symbolic significance in that election. I think Major made a very early visit to the seat in 1997, again because he & Bright were close.

  41. 1997 wasn’t so successful for C.
    I don’t think there’ll be another Tory MP here either.

  42. That soapbox move (with the associated back story) was a brilliant move by Major. He would be given a great deal more credit if it wasn’t for the fact that without Thatcher around to whip people into line, a few prominant members of the party decided to drag the Conservative name through the mud. No wonder why she led with an iron fist.

  43. Graham Bright seemed to take 1997 on the chin
    and turned up to the CCHQ wake looking fairly relaxed

  44. “Overall, I would say that the BBC’s 1992 Election coverage was very good, and in a crucial general election they transmitted the results brilliantly I think.”

    It’s my favourite election show from any broadcaster. I think the balance was just right between all the different elements you need on an election show: ie, results, declarations, interviews, analysis. And the studio design was very nice as well. I always think the BBC and other broadcasters ought to watch it before each election to see how it should be done.

  45. Yes – the BBC did a very good job in 1992
    lots of analysis
    accurate comments
    good presentation
    and graphics
    with lots of declarations.

    They do get a fair bit of criticism from Tories
    but if any of that is atall justified they did a good job
    on what may have been a disappointing night for some of them.

  46. It all seemed to come together because of the importance of it at the time in relation to the recession and the times as they were, and the BBC were able to get across to the viewers the closeness of the result in ways the general public could easily understand. Watch it next to ITN’s coverage of 1992, and you really can tell the difference.

  47. It was good to see 82-83% turnouts in marginal seats – whatever side you’re on

  48. Seemed like Labour did advance to roughly the 79 position
    but at the same time there seemed to be real enthusiasm
    for Major – at least amongst Tories

  49. It was striking to see the large number of marginals that the Tories held against Labour by less than 1,000 votes- indicative of the extent of the tactical voting that went on in many seats with Lib Dems switching to Labour.

  50. Re Sean Fear, a quick net search shows that half of the original ConHome columnists have joined UKIP. As journalist Neil Martin and Lord Tebbit observed: in 8 years, Cameron has shed half of his members and failed to win a majority.

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