Maidstone & The Weald

2015 Result:
Conservative: 22745 (45.5%)
Labour: 5268 (10.5%)
Lib Dem: 12036 (24.1%)
Green: 1396 (2.8%)
UKIP: 7930 (15.9%)
NHA: 583 (1.2%)
Independent: 52 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 10709 (21.4%)

Category: Very safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Kent. Part of Maidstone council area and part of Tunbridge Wells council area.

Main population centres: Maidstone, Cranbrook, Staplehurst, Yalding.

Profile: Covers most of the county town of Maidstone before snaking south-eastwards to cover a chunk of Kentish countryside, including the small town of Cranbrook. The seat contains only a small portion of the Weald, a name which refers to a much larger area of historically wooded countryside between the North and South Downs in Sussex and Kent. Maidstone used to have an industrial base of papermaking, brewing and (more recently) confectionary, but more recently the economy has been dominated by retail, administration and London commuters. The seat also includes Maidstone Prison.

Politics: Maidstone has been held by the Conservative party since 1906, most famously by the former prisons minister turned celebrity Ann Widdecombe, who represented the seat until 2010. The Conservative majority has often been bolstered by the opposition being evenly split been Labour and the Liberal Democrats, though in 2010 a large swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats cut the Tory majority to under ten thousand.


Current MP
HELEN GRANT (Conservative) Born 1961, London. Educated at Hull University. Former Solicitor and owner of a Croydon legal practice. First elected as MP for Maidstone and the Weald in 2010. Sports minister 2013-2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 23491 (48%)
Lab: 4769 (10%)
LDem: 17602 (36%)
UKIP: 1637 (3%)
Oth: 1429 (3%)
MAJ: 5889 (12%)
2005*
Con: 25670 (53%)
Lab: 10814 (22%)
LDem: 10808 (22%)
UKIP: 1463 (3%)
MAJ: 14856 (30%)
2001
Con: 22621 (50%)
Lab: 12303 (27%)
LDem: 9064 (20%)
UKIP: 978 (2%)
Oth: 611 (1%)
MAJ: 10318 (23%)
1997
Con: 23657 (44%)
Lab: 14054 (26%)
LDem: 11986 (22%)
Oth: 1913 (4%)
MAJ: 9603 (18%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
HELEN GRANT (Conservative) See above.
ALLEN SIMPSON (Labour) Educated at Maidstone Grammar and York University. Bank executive.
JASPER GERARD (Liberal Democrat) Born 1968, Tenterden. Educated at Durham University. Former journalist and columnist.
EDDIE POWELL (UKIP) Maidstone councillor since 2013.
HANNAH PATTON (Green) Youth worker.
PAUL HOBDAY (NHA) Retired GP.
ROBIN KINRADE (Independent) Accountant.
Links
Comments - 506 Responses on “Maidstone & The Weald”
  1. I just caught most of Conversations (Ann Widdecombe was on today) on BBC2 – the Daily Politics must be on Easter break.

    Nothing too surprising – she mentions her principles and religious convictions – although a couple of gems:

    She revealed that, ‘there’s nothing to do as Minister of State of Employment.’

    “You just make it up as you go along. You’re essentially looking for things to do”

    That must be why DC gave that job to Grayling & Esther!

  2. Incidentally, the last Q was if she had any advice for young aspirant politicians or her 20-something self.

    Her advice was sound: go away and get a career or have a family or make some £ (or all 3 if you can manage it) and come back to politics 15 or 20 years later.

    You could tell that young strident SpAds annoy her – even more so when these days they become Cabinet Ministers 5 or 10 years later compared to her day – although she admitted she was probably similarly focused when she was 20 at the Oxford Union.

  3. Interesting comments from some posters re the lack of activity in their seats. Here there has been a surprising amount of posters around, for both Lib Dems and Conservatives, and I’ve counted 2 Tory leaflets, 2 Lib Dems, 1 Labour and 1 Green. Certainly no doubting the election is on, even in a seat that’s as safe as this!

  4. ANotherWorld, do you think the LDs want to keep it competitive to target it again next time?

  5. I guess so Mr Pitt – They’ve been ramping their chances here for a long time. The leave vote round here wouldn’t have helped them although the Lib Dems retained their Maidstone KCC seats at the last election.

    TBH I can’t see them winning this seat for many years without a boundary change. Not sure that Lib Dem strength in Maidstone itself would ever be enough to outweigh the solid Tory countryside to the south of the constituency.

  6. My observations of this general area (my commute takes me through the Faversham, Maidstone & Tonbridge seats) are that there are roughly equally many Tory & Labour posters but the Tory posters are much more strategically placed where lots of people will see them. Suspect most Labour posters are just put there by ordinary people while the Tory ones come from CCHQ.

  7. That’s interesting Polltroll – not seen a single Labour poster as far as I can remember. In the north of Maidstone, it’s all Lib Dems and Tories.

  8. The Labour posters I have seen are mostly in people’s front windows. There are one or two in Fant which IIRC is the most pro-Labour part of the seat.

  9. I suspect that many Conservative posters are put up by farmers, or on farming land.

  10. Any idea what happened to Jasper Gerrard? Haven’t heard he’s standing this time anywhere.

  11. Headcorn,Maidstone

    CON: 57.3% (-7.3)
    LDEM: 34.1% (+30.1)
    LAB: 5.3% (-2.2)
    GRN: 3.3% (-1.4)

    No UKIP (-19.2) as prev.

    Chgs. w/ 2016.

    Conservative HOLD.

  12. Don’t tell me Lancs has resigned and that Peter / Dalek is now posting the local by-election results? Or that they are actually the same person? (unlikely I think)

    The Lib Dems are picking up traction in safe Tory home counties wards like this on the back of massive unpopular housebuilding. I still think local opportunistic NIMBYism, far more than being anti-Brexit, will prove the easiest way to recover lost votes and seats, in southern England at least.

  13. ‘Don’t tell me Lancs has resigned’.

    Please don’t get my hopes up like that. Like cockroaches and Cher, he’s indestructible…he’d survive a nuclear holocaust. He’ll be back.

  14. Ann Widdecombe has described May as the worst PM since Eden, Corbyn as the worst opposition leader in Labour party history, and the current Parliament as the worst since the days of Cromwell. Ouch.

  15. Her political analysis is certainly better than her dancing.

  16. Hear hear.

    Ironically today saw the current MP for this seat pop back into view introducing 10 minute rule bill to ensure the £50 note has a BAME figure.

  17. I have literally seen nothing of this lady for years. Maria Miller is another one who.once had somewhat of a public profile and has now vanished into obscurity. A tremendous loss to British public life…said absolutely no one.

  18. Maria Miller pops now and again as she is chair of the Womens and Eqaulties commitee.

  19. Ann Widdecombe is a Brexit Party MEP candidate.

    (Eyes rolling back so far they are almost coming out the sockets.)

  20. That’s quite big news. I mean she has to be the most well known person announced by either TIG or Brexit Party so far. I mean even my gf knows who she is

  21. Big news. Back in 2016 when she declared for Brexit Tory activists on social media were suprised as none of them quite knew her EU views and now she had defected over brexit (through will she be one to defect back if Johnson/Raab becomes leader.) Being lead candidate will mean she will almost surely be elected.

  22. Like Boris Johnson (pre Brexit), Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone, Widdecombe was/is popular with the public yet exceptionally unpopular with parliamentary colleagues. Nevertheless this is a bit of an unexpected shift, when she was in government and in the shadow cabinet she was not seen as on the euro-sceptic wing of the party and supported Ken Clarke in both the 1997 and 2001 leadership contests.

  23. Some of that is jealously but also the qualities in a politician that the public like are not the qualities which MP’s like in their colleagues.
    Some of that applied to Thatcher – the strong Iron Lady style was not as popular with her MP’s as it was (and remains) with the public.

  24. ‘when she was in government and in the shadow cabinet she was not seen as on the euro-sceptic wing of the party’

    Despite her long-standing support for things like capital punishment, I always saw Widdecombe as essentially a moderate Tory and am very surprised that she would want anything to do with someone like Farage, let alone Brexit

  25. Ditto

  26. It’s interesting to see two of the more knowledgeable posters here characterise Widdecombe as a moderate (at least back in the day). In my mind, her public persona was definitely on the right of the party…certainly amongst people who didn’t follow politics closely. I guess tone and how you appear is still important, irrespective of the nuances of policy positions.

  27. As to why she was seen as on the right…leaving the CoE when female vicars were introduced, her opposition to abortion legislation, her opposition to various gay rights legislation, wanting to shackle pregnant female prisoners etc etc. Add in the rather hectoring, headmistressy, strident tone and voila.

  28. Socially Widdecombe was firmly on the Right, but there were many post war Tories who whilst stridently right wing socially, were considerably more moderate economically ie: they weren’t free marketeer Thatcherites – think Ivor Stanbrook, Elizabeth Peacock, Bernard Braine – and Widdecombe, whilst always difficult to factionalise, always seemed to be closest to this tendency

    As a vocal church-going Christian, her decision to stand side by side with Farage is a curious one to say the least

  29. And you forgot her most stupid idea, which led to her political downfall, that of frogmarching cannabis smokers to a cashpoint.

    No-one would dispute that her social views put her on the old fashioned right of the party but she never seemed to stray from the mainstream on Europe….perhaps partly because her biggest enemies in the party were Portillo libertarians who were generally Eurosceptic.

  30. “As a vocal church-going Christian, her decision to stand side by side with Farage is a curious one to say the least”

    And Boris even more so.

    Though there are many rumours in the bowels of the Tory party that Widdecombe’s holier than thou virginal self-image is horseshit.

  31. Tim J – it isn’t curious at all [except to yourself for your own reasons]

    The only poll I’m aware of showed that 62% of churchgoers voted Leave.

    Indeed a plurality of Jews and Sikhs did too.

    Only RCs and Muslims voted Leave, which isn’t a surprise either given where those voters are located in the UK.

  32. I expect Tim was referring to Farage’s distinctly un-religious private life.

  33. On “62% of churchgoers voted Leave”.

    I’d be interested to see that statistic normalised….ie most CoE churchgoers are older and more likely to live in rural areas, both of which are Leave demographics.

    For example I wonder if black African churchgoers were more Leave inclined than their demographics would predict?

  34. ‘And you forgot her most stupid idea, which led to her political downfall, that of frogmarching cannabis smokers to a cashpoint’

    She blames Portillo of course for stitching her up on that one. I think it just highlighted that she could be a rather naive political operator and was also a very isolated figure. Still, full credit for the ‘something of the night’ quote about Howard…one of the more memorable put downs in the last 25 years.

  35. Whilst i wouldnt expect somebody like Lancs Observer to underatand the slightest thing about Christianity- it seems a sage to assume he’s never carried out a christiam act in his entire life, surely he understands the central message of chrisianity – love thy neighbour- is one that Farage opposes whenever he opens his move

    I think its a safe bet to say if hell exists, Farage has as good a chance as any of us of being sent there

  36. Whilst i wouldnt expect somebody like Lancs Observer to understand the slightest thing about Christianity- it seems a safe to assume he’s never carried out a christian act in his entire life, surely he at least appreciates that the central message of chrisianity – love thy neighbour- is one that Farage opposes whenever he opens his mouth

    I think its a safe bet to say if hell exists, Farage has as good a chance as any of us of being sent there

  37. I was in the conference hall in 2000 when Widdecombe gave that speech. She was cheered to the rafters but it became clear soon after that it had absolutely bombed in the country, and her career never recovered. It wasn’t Portillo’s fault that her idea sounded ridiculous to anybody vaguely living in the real world. IMO Widdecombe personifies the danger of people with little experience of everyday life wielding political power, and in that regard her attachment to the Brexit party is very apt. There is certainly nothing more normal than having sexual relationships and people such as her who make a virtue of their extreme chastity earn deep distrust from me.

  38. ‘Whilst I wouldn’t expect somebody like Lancs Observer to understand the slightest thing about Christianity’

    And this is why I keep on visiting these boards.

  39. Not sure about Black African or Caribbean chuchgoers being more leave just because of their faith. The only one I know ( of Nigerian Descent) was for remain but she was a young student.
    From what I was told by a jewish leave campaigner the top of the board of deputies were all pro remain but the lower leavels mostly leave – obivosuly age played a factor – the Union of Jewish Students is a people’s vote backer.
    Hindu’s – being more conservative voting – were probably more leave than Sikhs.

  40. Widdecombe is now complaining that she has been expelled from the Conservative Party.

    What the hell did she expect?

  41. I thought she would have resigned first rather than get expelled.

  42. ‘I was in the conference hall in 2000 when Widdecombe gave that speech’

    I remember a brilliant speech she gave at conference – I think it was in 99 – where she jokingly spoke of her “good looks” amongst other things

    The other thing I remember about that conference was Michael Ancram in the BBC studio attempting to explain to a bemused Andrew Neil that he was and always had been a Thatcherite…

  43. Tbf Blair made the same error: his even sillier proposal was to march drunks to cashpoints!

    Although aloofness where money is concerned ran in the family: Cherie’s complaint – upon being caught not paying for a ticket 15 years ago – was that they wouldn’t accept cards.

  44. Tim J – the central message of Christianity is repent of your sins and you will be saved; but, I realise the trendy vicars with guitars have probably led many to believe it’s some sort of humanist or Buddhist mantra along the lines you suggest.

    Indeed Nuttall even ran a successful billboard campaign with the slogan ‘Love Thy Neighbour – Not EVERY Foreigner’ in the Heywood & Middleton By-election [which UKIP won on the day and came v close to even winning incl the postal vote]

    Love Thy Neighbour was also – along with Only Fools & In Sickness & In Health – mentioned by Farage in the tv docu on his favourite British comedies.

    HH – the CofEs were actually the most Remain/least Leave of all of the Churchgoers surveyed, so I assume its the Inds/Evangelicals/Presbyterians that took the Leave share as high as 62%.

  45. HH – true, although I’d raise Tim: Rev Flowers.

    I’m sure Rev David Braid’s election leaflets would also come as a surprise to Tim, let alone some of the DUP’s (the most Christian Party in Parliament of course).

    It’s only fair to point that out that there is/was a fine tradition of Christian Socialists in Parliament, although I’m not sure they even have a group in the PLP anymore since Frank Field left the Party.

    Perhaps the Peterborough MP could form one with their Copeland PPC!

  46. “It’s only fair to point that out that there is/was a fine tradition of Christian Socialists in Parliament, although I’m not sure they even have a group in the PLP anymore since Frank Field left the Party.”

    Christians on the Left (ex Christian Socialist Movement) is chaired by Jonathan Reynolds MP

  47. “Love Thy Neighbour was also – along with Only Fools & In Sickness & In Health – mentioned by Farage in the tv docu on his favourite British comedies.”

    I like Only Fools and Alf Garnett but, even by 1970s standards, Love Thy Neighbour was toe-curlingly awful. It’s very telling that Farage claims to like it.

  48. “Indeed Nuttall even ran a successful billboard campaign with the slogan ‘Love Thy Neighbour – Not EVERY Foreigner’ in the Heywood & Middleton By-election”

    I’m not very religious and am not at all comfortable opining on the religiousness of others.

    But that slogan doesn’t sound very Christian to me and indeed seems to chime with Paul Nuttall’s somewhat gaffe-prone reputation for hitting the wrong note.

    His disastrous leadership is surely at least partly responsible for UKIP’s subsequent movement into sinister territory.

  49. So Nigel Farage likes Only Fools and Horses? That’s strange, I can’t work out what he sees in a tax-dodging cash-in-hand con-merchant protagonist hiding his criminality behind a veil of blokish charm…

  50. Perhaps his favourite episode is “A Royal Flush” where Del and Rodney dress up in Farage’s favourite country tweeds for a weekend’s shooting when Rodney is dating the daughter of a Lord?

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