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”
  1. Making 2020 predictions is ludicrous enough, surely.

  2. Yes, we don’t know who will be leading either of the two biggest parties, or a few of the minor ones.

  3. If the seat was just urban Maidstone then the LD’s may have gained it in 1997. The problem for the Lib Dems here is that it’s not just Maidstone itself, The Weald area is the death for the Lib Dems in this seat they will never win it on those boundaries. Also why are we even talking about them gaining all these seats. To hold all the current seats they have now will be difficult enough. My guess would be they have somewhere been 6 and 12 seats (this is also boundary change permitting). They may lose 4 seats but gain 2 back who knows? They are certainly outside of their strongholds going to be politically irrelevant for the next 10 years at least.

  4. @The Results if the Lib Dems do win this seat expect Labour to be doing much worse than 19% as the Lib Dems would need to heavily squeeze the votes of parties to their left. Also I can’t possibly see the Tories dropping as low as 32.5% in this kind of seat particularly if there is no popular incumbent Lib Dem MP.

    A more realistic narrow Lib Dem win here would look something like:
    Lib Dem: 39%
    Conservative: 38%
    UKIP: 13%
    Labour: 8%
    Green: 2%

  5. Just like in Bosworth and The Cotswolds, I feel the Lib Dems should really view this as being a seat they have never won that they should regardless go after in the long-run- I think Jasper Gerard may yet be the candidate once again here, and if he is I think he could get a decent result for the Lib Dems in 2020 with a view to making real inroads in 2025. I would say it’s not beyond the realms of possibility given how well they’ve managed to hold up here in second place…

  6. And they also did better in this seat by vote share in 2015 than in 2005-a great rarity for the Lib Dems. The only other seats in the UK I know of where the aforementioned statement is also true are Bosworth, and of course Westmorland & Lonsdale.

  7. Indeed, and that will just give them even further encouragement. Goodness knows what Ann Widdecombe would make of the psephological situation in her old seat know!

  8. Oops-also Ashfield, in vote share terms.

  9. Ashfield is very interesting because of the extremely strong showing of Jason Zadrozny in 2010 which has meant the Lib Dems falling back has still left them well above where they were in vote share from 1992 all the way through to 2005, even without him standing again. Despite that, I feel they will struggle in Ashfield in the future without him leading their challenge locally.

  10. I am not totally against making predictions for 2020; but if one does one has to allow for a reeasoanble amount of sampling error. To say that the LibDems might win bby 0.5% or 1% is just wishful thinking when in reality the seat is still to play for.

    I agree that the presence of very well-off – let’s be blunt, stinking rich – rural areas in this constituency is not going to help the LIbDems. But the people in these wards are unlikely to be particularly attracted to Linda Grant either.

    One wonders how favourable boundary revisions might or might not be to the Conservatives in this seat.

    Linda Grant could fall to a pincer movement with attacks by both LibDems and UKIP.

  11. ”Linda Grant”

    Frederic Stansfield – Don’t you mean Helen?

  12. Christian. Whoops! -Yes, I do. My sincere apologies.

  13. FANT BY-ELECTION RESULT:

    LAB 352
    CON 477
    IND 75
    LIB DEM 424
    GREEN 249
    UKIP 180

    Matt Boughton (Con) is elected.

  14. I’m surprised the LD’s didn’t take this considering their excellent by-election results all across the South this summer. Fant is not a strong Tory ward too.

  15. Considering the chaotic situation Labour are in at the moment and the nature of this seat, that’s a respectable result for the party here! I’m surprised they managed to beat UKIP considering Labour came fourth here in the 2015 General Election.

  16. Labour won this ward in 2014 though. So the LD bar charts would not have been effective here.

  17. It’s a very split ward – I believe LD, Lab, Con all hold a seat.

    And when Labour won in 2014 all 5 parties were within about 5% IIRC

  18. One should not be surprised by UKIP weakness.. it’s now endemic.. next will be defections of cllrs back to the Tories.. (if they’ll have them).

  19. Antiochian – ”One should not be surprised by UKIP weakness.. it’s now endemic.. next will be defections of cllrs back to the Tories.. (if they’ll have them).”

    I forgot to mention UKIP’s dire performance here in this by-election. This is the sort of place they should be coming at least second! Very surprising they came second to last and even behind the Greens!!!!

  20. Much as UKIP might like to wean themselves off Nigel-dependency he is their main man by a long shot and if they don’t groom a successor/alternate (like Carswell) then they will drift…

    Of the three “loser” parties in the May election.. one has switched leaders, the other is nearly there and ironically, Nigel said he would go, then stayed and yet de facto.. seems to have gone..

    It should not have had an effect down to this council level but I suspect it has sapped morale and the campaigning fire in the belly is just not there..

  21. UKIP increased their vote share in 2 of the council by elections yesterday.

  22. Also Maidstone town isn’t natural UKIP territory – being county town it houses a large number of public sector professionals. This surely accounts for much of the Lib Dem support in the constituency. The rural/Weald part of the seat is a different matter.

  23. ”Also Maidstone town isn’t natural UKIP territory – being county town it houses a large number of public sector professionals. This surely accounts for much of the Lib Dem support in the constituency. The rural/Weald part of the seat is a different matter.”

    I had no idea that a large number of public sector professionals live in this seat. This is going to be one the craziest questions asked on here but would Labour have a chance of winning here in a 1997-style landslide in 20/30/40 years time?

  24. Hard to see that. Too much countryside. Especially so as some of urban Maidstone is in Faversham & Mid Kent.

  25. I could think of at least three maybe four seats in Surrey that would go Labour before Maidstone and the Weald. It’s about as likely to go Labour as a westbound Metropolitan Line extension to Wales. Basically no chance.

  26. “UKIP increased their vote share in 2 of the council by elections yesterday”.

    Are you referring to Leith where they went from non-contesting to 1.6% and Southborough North where there was no Labour candidate (compared to before)? In the latter they picked up 6% from Labour’s previous 16%..

    They did do better in West Thurrock though..UKIP 450 [30.8%; +1.9%].. one of their “fiefdoms”.. which labout held anyway..

  27. I really don’t know what UKIP has been doing lately they have completely dropped off the media spotlight. I would have thought they would be in the media making political capital out of the migration crisis. They certainly could have stirred up a lot of trouble for the Tories and to a lesser extent Labour in places like Kent and Essex (and could still do). Strange that they have gone completely silent…

  28. I think the Lib Dems will get this next time but it’ll be a tight one.
    If Vince Cable or Sandy Walkington or Ed Davey is prepared to do it would be more likely.
    We’re picking up a lot of support now. UKIP are going through the floor. I think they’ll fold like a rotten deck chair in about 2 years.

    The Tories could be saved by a Maidstone North and a Maidstone South &Yalding redrawing.Helen Grant could chicken run to the new Northfleet and Hartley Witney seat.

  29. Miriam are you Gloy Plopwell in disguise?

  30. Back in the real world, this seat has a bigger Tory majority than Kensington.

  31. The LibDems would have to make a big comeback, a larger one than I think likely, to win this seat.

    However, the basic issue is that the Tories have parachuted in an MP here who would not have been the choice of many local voters, even ones who vote Tory regardless. The MP is relying on the seat having been rock solid in the first place, but at some point she could have a big shock from somewhere – UKIP are in my opinion a likelier cause of such a shock than the LibDems or Labour.

  32. Quite a bit depends on how this seat is redrawn.. its a strange shape with the town at the top and then the rural parts stretching away to the south.. while the Labour voting suburbs are curiously (dare I mention the G-word?) peeled off and put (neutralised?) in Mid-Kent & Faversham. A seat that was truly based on the town would be a lot less happy place for a Tory incumbent..

  33. I don’t think that you can consider the removing of the Labour suburbs a particularly bad case of gerrymandering when they would have no chance of winning the seat anyway. They’re in fourth place and even in 1997 they were still miles off.

    A “Maidstone proper” seat might have been a Lib Dem seat in 2010, but now it would be rock-solid Tory.

  34. Particularly when Helen Grant leaves, I feel her unpopularity was part of the reason behind her underperformance at the GE.

  35. Antiochan I certainly wouldn’t call Maidenhead’s eastern suburbs ‘Labour voting’ sure Labour has a presence in a good year there but the Tories would have been miles ahead of them in this years general election. Looking at the local election results Labour does abysmally in Bearstead and Downswood and Olton, they haven’t won Shepway North since 2002 or Park wood since 2006. They won Shepway South in 2012 which was at the nadir of the Tories’ popularity in the aftermath of the ‘omnishambles budget’.

    The inclusion of these suburbs would be helpful to the Lib Dems but only because they are less Tory than the Ultra Safe Tory wards to Maidstone’s South not because they are ‘Labour voting’.

  36. “A “Maidstone proper” seat might have been a Lib Dem seat in 2010, but now it would be rock-solid Tory.”

    I doubt it because Maidstone isn’t big enough for a seat of its own without the inclusion of quite a lot of surrounding Tory countryside.

    Before 1997 the seat was more like a “Maidstone proper”, yet the Tories still achieved a majority of 16000 (though perhaps partly reflecting the local popularity of Widdecombe). I have a feeling that even before 1997 there were parts of Maidstone in the Mid Kent seat though I’m not sure.

  37. The eastern side of Maidstone has been in Maidstone since 1983, and apparently it’s by far the best part of the town for Labour.

  38. *in Mid Kent / Faversham & Mid Kent*

  39. Can’t see anything but a LD gain next time here

  40. Stop trying to wind everyone up. I guess you’re one of those people who thinks people on sites like this take ourselves too seriously and you’re trying to prick the bubble. We get that.

  41. Today’s “Daily Mail” has a story (page11) about the selection of the MP here. Apparently Central Office threw out a shortlist of two men and one woman. Apparently the man from Conservative Central Office, when asked by a Maidstone committee member whether it meant they couldn’t select on merit said “Yes, that”s exactly what I am telling you.”

    Ann Widdecombe says “I was completely against the (Tory) A-list.” I wonder why!

    Of course, LibDems don’t have a problem with A-lists. None of the women they put up in 2015 got elected.

  42. ”Particularly when Helen Grant leaves”

    Leaves or deselected? I have a feeling she’ll be gone by 2025 at the latest.

  43. Chrisitan has recently posted about this seat on the South-East European Consitutnecy thread. His argument is that there has been a heavy influx of East Europeans to Maidstone and that it will cause an electoral backlash at the European Referendum such that Maidstone will vote LEAVE..

    Is this analysis correct? And if so what implications, if any, does it have for how this seat will vote at the next Geneeral Election?

    Of course, as everywhere, it will depend what boundary changes take place before 2020. I must admit, however, that the Conservative Party is getting into such a fractious state that they may again have difficulty in getting boundary changes through parliament. Boundary changes are clearly against Labour’s interests as they are more or less bound to cost Labour seats.

  44. Reporting time: on my commute to work today (which starts in Faversham & Mid-Kent and ends in Tonbridge & Malling but is largely within this seat) I saw a 50-50 mixture of Labour and Lib Dem posters, and not a single one for the Tories. And these were mostly in the more rural, Tory-leaning villages – Barming, Wateringbury etc.

    The Labour posters were just generic but the Lib Dem posters mentioned David Naghi, their candidate for the PCC, and who stood for the Lib Dems in my seat last May.

  45. A bit of personal news: I went round delivering leaflets for Denis Spooner, an independent candidate for the Bearsted ward (which isn’t actually in the Maidstone parlimentary seat but is part of the borough), who is a friend of the family. He lost out to the Tories by just 2%, a real shame considering he seemed to be the only candidate who had bothered at all engaging with the village. I really hope he stands again.

  46. Over the past few months, I’ve posted on here that support for Brexit will be huge in Maidstone. Some forum members have doubted me regarding this prediciton.

    Here’s an article regarding Vote Leave’s campign in Allington (a safe Lib Dem ward). I think this article supports my prediciton.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyashton/turning-up-the-volume?utm_term=.pxpJVm2x4#.cs7kgWlKj

  47. I’m sorry Christian but I can’t take any article which (apparently sincerely) describes IDS as ‘the star of the show’ seriously 🙂

    In all seriousness, the inclusion of the 90% figure does rather undermine the whole article. Did the writer consider that- perhaps maybe- pro- Remain supporters might not be rushing forward to volunteer to shake IDS’ hand? That said, if quiet suburbs of Maidstone are voting to Leave at that rate, we are looking at a very comfortable win overall nationally for the Leave camp that no polling has picked up on.

    I have no personal issue with you and will be absolutely fine if I’m proven wrong on this. But I stand by my initial claim that Maidstone overall will not vote to ‘Leave’ by a 70/30 margin (your initial prediction). I predict a much closer contest there.

  48. It is also obvious that people at home in the day time (in a prosperous area anyway) are highly likely to be retired so the reception was naturally going to lean heavily to Leave. The majority of people in that ward who were at work when IDS was pressing the flesh would certainly have a more varied viewpoint.

    I have to admit I hesitated before making this post because I think all this stuff about what percentage Leave and Remain will get in obscure districts is totally pointless. What matters in a national referendum is the national result. Though I agree with Tristan that if Leave were to poll at 55% or above in somewhere like Maidstone they are on course for a clear win.

  49. Maidstone is my local area, and one my commute to Tonbridge I see several houses bearing leave posters every day, including one that fits all the stereotypes by also being emblazoned with England flags (though I guess the European championships are upon us which might have something to do with it). I haven’t seen a single remain poster yet. Wateringbury seems particularly Eurosceptic.

  50. Personally I wouldn’t read too much into the number of leave posters especially after last year (Lib Dems seemed to do a lot better with posters than votes). All that really says is that leave campaigners are more vocal and more engaged. Obviously if there was a low-ish turnout though that could make a huge difference

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