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 - 462 Responses on “Maidstone & The Weald”
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  1. I’ll be honest, I’ve had this as a potential Lib Dem gain since c2009. The county Liberal party seems to think it’s worth throwing everything at it to the expense of trying to get even half-decent results anywhere else, and even other PPCs are going there to help out. The Lib Dem posters are actually in greater proliferation that previous years and the conservatives have resorted to putting 2 up in each of the few gardens they actually have anything up in. Labour here are incredibly weak, and despite the Coalition, I think there’s enough work being done to persuade at least a few Labourites to go with the Lib Dems one more time. UKIP will do fairly well here, and that will hurt Grant the most as in the rural areas UKIP are stronger and Grant isn’t seen as being on the villages’ side. I’ll be surprised if there’s more than 2000 votes in it either way.

  2. The Lib Dem can’t be seriously expecting to turn over the Conservative majority this time. It is more likely, that with no MP’s and the prospect of several lost deposits in Kent, the best they can hope for is to hang on to some of their council seats in this area. That might provide them with a more realistic base for another time.

  3. I think the result will go one of two ways for the Lib Dems here:

    Scenario 1: Lib Dems pull off a shock win a la Wells 2010.

    Scenario 2: Lib Dems come very close but not quite take the seat then start to fall back to a distant second place in subsequent General Elections a la Orpington 2001.

  4. Christian,

    Be realistic. Orpington style results only happen in by elections. The Lib Dems are polling roughly one third of their 2010 support. Parties with that degree of swing against don’t gain seats. A platform for 2020 is worth targeting, surely the Lib Dem’s aim would be to minimise their losses in the council election.

    Interestingly the council elections across the country will make it harder for parties to target as their staunch helpers will want to look after their own patch, in seats that might otherwise be safe or offer no chance.

    Posters are rarely a good guide to elections in the south of England. I see more in sheep fields than gardens!

  5. I am intrigued that the possibility of this seat producing a shock result keeps coming up. Its not an area I know at all although I am aware that the presence of a significant Liberal / Lib Dem minority vote, mainly in Maidstone proper, has been a factor since the 1970’s.

    What I’d like to know is which of those speculating on a close contest actually have local knowledge and what factors (apart from a general disenchantment with Grant) might come into play.

  6. This is NOT an Orpington.. that mainly came out of the blue.. LD vote here has been a slow creep..

  7. Apparently internal Lib Dem polling puts them within 4% of winning this seat.

  8. if the LDs win here I will fall off my seat laughing, hopefully a reaction shot from Tory HQ (if that was to happen) should be employed!

  9. Apparently the Lib Dems have today officially declared this as a Target Seat. Their campaign bus is visiting the constituency. So clearly someone believes the hype.

  10. http://www.kentonline.co.uk/maidstone/news/clegg-hits-the-campaign-trail-34951/

    bit odd, but clearly they must have some sort of half chance

  11. I would imagine that they are trying to remain competitive for 2020 as I doubt they can win this time. Sebastian if the Lib Dems internals are showing them 4% behind it probably means the Tories are comfortably ahead as the Lib Dems internals are known for being dodgy (Hornsey and Wood Green, Aberdeenshire West etc.)

  12. If internal Lib Dem polling is of the same quality as the stuff they have publicly released, then they’re probably about 15% behind here in reality.

  13. Jasper Gerard was on “Sunday Politics” last year and came across as a sanctimonious, holier than thou arse. The Lib Dems have actually managed to select a candidate who has a worse personality than Helen Grant. That’s unfortunately not to say that these kinds of Lib Dem candidate don’t often do well – Hughes, Farron etc.

  14. Then again, given that the Lib Dems know exactly what they are doing with the dodgy polling they put out in Hornsey and Aberdeenshire, I suspect that their genuine internal polling is carried out more rigorously (assuming they genuinely want to find out the true position). Even so, I’d be amazed if they are within 4% here.

  15. According to the journAlst Tamra Cohen, the Lib Dems say they would only win a Tory seat in if incumbent MP was ‘unusually unpopular…we found one’ (Helen Grant in Maidstone)

    Ouch!!

  16. HH – that’s a fair assessment having met both Grant and JG. I hope LibDem polling is better than their PPBs – don’t ever turn left or right, even if it means driving into a brick wall. I assume earnest self-righteous Paddy wrote it? They’ve even made 3 of them, with a male, female and ethnic drivers!

  17. One was probably transgendered.. guess which!

  18. I heard Jasper Gerard sold his house in order to fund his campaign for this seat. I think the guy should win just for that. That’s what I call dedication.

  19. There really are a lot of Lib Dem posters plastered over the resident areas of Maidstone, whereas I don’t think I’ve seen a single Tory poster yet. The Tories clearly don’t feel in any danger here but there is a strong possibility that the Lib Dems might take the seat in 2020 if their party is in better shape.

  20. “I heard Jasper Gerard sold his house in order to fund his campaign for this seat. I think the guy should win just for that. That’s what I call dedication.”

    It’s what I call delusion. He might have a lot of houses in any case.

  21. Lets hope he’s been made aware of election expense limits. Nick Boles spent £50k of his own money unsuccessfully in Hove in 2005 (but presumably most was before the election was called).

  22. Very few seem to be crediting the UKIP with much traction here but considering that Kent and Essex are what might be described as their heartland one must suspect that they will do quite a bit better than the 3% they rustled up last time. Even an 8-10% vote must come out of someone else…

    The question is whose hide does that primarily come out of.. If it’s out of Grant’s count more than anyone else’s then the bullish sentiments in the LibDem camp may be justified.. It would be interesting to hear comments on what the UKIP candidate and team are doing from someone on the ground with intel…

    Looking at the difference between 2005 and 2010, the Labour crowd here seem to be enthusiastic tactical voters

  23. Why do you think this is the case Antiochian? If the Lib Dems are to win here, as well as attracting those who Tory supporters who dislike Grant, they need to squeeze the Labour vote hard, just as they did in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2010.

  24. Why do you think this is the case Antiochian? If the Lib Dems are to win here next month, as well as attracting those who Tory supporters who dislike Grant, they need to squeeze the Labour vote hard, just as they did in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2010.

  25. Because in most places UKIP seem to take most from Tories… (and BNP) and then Labour and in some places from the LibDems…

    Would be good to have some intell on UKIP here.. the candidate is a councillor though seemingly a pretty recent one.. is he getting traction or not?

  26. LIb DEM GAIN

    Lib Dem 22,196
    Con 13,061
    UKIP 12,414
    Lab 5,516
    Green 1,801

    Lib Dem majority 9,135

  27. God help us.

  28. The Ghost of Christmas past….! He is the kiss of death if ever there was one…

  29. Gloy and Paul Sway are probably one and the same schizophrenic…

  30. Paul Sway LOL?! I thought it was Paul Way? The only Way is down by the looks of things…

  31. I know this has been talked about by some as a possible Lib Dem gain but it’s highly unlikely IMHO.

  32. Everyone should restrain themselves and completely ignore all the spam (e.g., D.Alex, Gloy, Teddy, Paul Wey). If ignored, they may get bored and go away, because their purpose is to seek attention. Otherwise this site is going to become unreadable.

    This constituency is intriguing because it’s one of the very few where the Lib Dems could plausibly get a small swing from the Conservatives. But if so, it won’t be anywhere near the 6% + needed. There should be a Conservative majority between 4,000 and 8,000.

  33. I agree with you the results. I can’t see how the lib dems could win this.

  34. Thanks to both JR and Ben above. I agree with all that was said there.

    I do personally maintain however that the Tory majority won’t go up that much if it does so, given the persistent Lib Dem activity locally. A 7000 majority is achievable for Helen Grant here, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was as low as about 4000.

  35. Not sure if this has been posted yet. LD campaign poll:

    CON 34.5%
    LD 30.2%

    No other figures given. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/politics/ge2015/nick-clegg-targets-conservative-minister-s-seat-1.863498

  36. what’s a “campaign poll”? Does it just mean canvassing returns?

  37. Nothing very reliable I would imagine Barnaby as others have said.

    Grant is very weak and widely recognised as such but I agree with the view that whilst, totally contrary to national trends, I expect some Con to LD swing here and a reduced majority (maybe 4,000 or so?) a Yellow gain is implausible in May, though not necessarily in the future.

  38. Yes this seat genuinely is a candidate (one of a select few) for a reduced Tory majority at the expense of the Lib Dems I think.

  39. I agree that Grant is an exceptionally weak MP. She combined being pretty much talentless politically with a stuck up, entitled personality, and this is without mentioning her various controversies. This is controversial to say, but were she not black and female, she would be nowhere near a ministerial position.

    That said, this is a true blue Tory Kent seat. I agree that this could see some rare (in this election) Con to LD switching, but nowhere near enough to unseat her.

  40. I heard there has been a significant influx of Polish immigrants in Maidstone over the past few years. I wonder how this will effect the result here.

  41. Foreign Nationals can’t vote in the General (except Irish Rep citizens).

  42. Ok, fair enough. I heard a caller (who sounded white and working class – sorry to make assumptions) on LBC from Maidstone complauning about immigration. It sounded as if he ‘d vote UKIP in May. I’m sure there are many voters of his ilk in Maidstone town centre.

    If Grant holds on, I think it’ll be the staunch Tory Weald villages that save her bacon.

  43. With Maidstone itself having a population of 113,000 (73% of the borough).. the villages may not do her much good if she is failing in the town.. and a goodly part of the rural section is in Faversham & Mid-Kent

    I have not seen anyone refer to this resource but the Ordnance Survey political maps are rather brilliant:

    http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/election-maps/gb/

    They can be overlaid with boroughs and wards…

  44. not all of Maidstone is within the constituency. The most working-class wards, which take in the Shepway council estate, are in Faversham & Mid Kent too. The constituency does however contain a lot of small villages, and several small towns ending in -hurst.

  45. I think Shepway has been a traditional source of support for Labour, although UKIP appear to be making in-roads.

  46. Last year on the BBC’s Daily Politics during a discussion of HS2, Ann Widdecombe mentioned that there were plans for a station for HS1 in Maidstone. However, the NIMBY’s of this seat protested against it and it was decided that the station would be located in its current location of Ebbsfleet instead. Widdecombe said the people who protested against the station being licated in Maidstone now regret their stance as it would have been a huge boost to Maidstone and the surrounding area.

    Is this true that there were plans for a HS1 station in Maidstone?

  47. Straightforward Conservative hold in a fairly safe Kent seat.

    Conservative: 39%
    Liberal Demoracrat: 27%
    Labour: 17%
    UKIP: 13%
    Others: 4%

  48. -hurst village names go back to the 6th and 7th centuries. They represent clearings in the Wealden forest where the good folk of Kent and Sussex took their pigs to forage over the winter months.

    These villages now house the descendents of these pigs, who commute daily to their bank’s computers in the City of London.

  49. As someone who lives in Maidstone, I find the confident predictions of a Lib Dem victory here quite amusing – the local Lib Dems are making similar bold claims! Although Helen Grant is no Ann Widdecombe, let alone another Disraeli (who was an MP here from 1837-41), I can’t see her being unseated. The Lib Dems are certainly very resilient in Maidstone, but this has been a Tory seat for over 100 years, and the political climate is not in the Lib Dems’ favour. They have not been able to recapture control of the Borough Council for the last five years (though that could admittedly change after May 7th, depending on local election results), and the only reason they polled so well in 2010 is because the Labour vote collapsed and largely went to them. I would expect at least some of those votes to go back to Labour this time, and I fail to see where else the Lib Dems will be able to pick them up.

    UKIP are potentially a complicating factor, as they are beginning to establish a presence in Maidstone, having won a few seats for the first time on the Borough Council last year. Their local campaign has been more high-profile this time, and I would expect them to poll considerably better than in 2010. It will be interesting to see if Grant’s vote suffers because of UKIP, though it could be that around here they hurt Labour more. All things considered, I think the Conservatives will win this comfortably, despite Grant’s inadequacies.

  50. Lib Dems release a poll here showing them 5% behind the Tories. Of course this is a Lib Dem internal so highly unlikely to be in anyway reliable. If the best they can do is to produce a poll showing them losing by 5% it is probable that the Tories will win fairly comfortably though not overwhelmingly. My projection Con Hold majority: 12%.

    Article:
    http://www.markpack.org.uk/131644/constituency-poll-puts-jasper-gerard-just-5-behind-in-maidstone-and-the-weald/

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