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
Con: 23491 (48%)
Lab: 4769 (10%)
LDem: 17602 (36%)
UKIP: 1637 (3%)
Oth: 1429 (3%)
MAJ: 5889 (12%)
Con: 25670 (53%)
Lab: 10814 (22%)
LDem: 10808 (22%)
UKIP: 1463 (3%)
MAJ: 14856 (30%)
Con: 22621 (50%)
Lab: 12303 (27%)
LDem: 9064 (20%)
UKIP: 978 (2%)
Oth: 611 (1%)
MAJ: 10318 (23%)
Con: 23657 (44%)
Lab: 14054 (26%)
LDem: 11986 (22%)
Oth: 1913 (4%)
MAJ: 9603 (18%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

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.
ROBIN KINRADE (Independent) Accountant.
Comments - 505 Responses on “Maidstone & The Weald”
  1. @Tristan – I have no personal issue with you either and I enjoy reading your posts! It’s great that we can have a difference of opinion and still be polite and amicable. It’ll be very interesting to discover whose prediction is nearest to the actual result in Maidstone.

    @H.Hemmelig – The Vote Leave campaign event in Maidstone that the article refers to was conducted last week Saturday (28th May) in the morning and afternoon so it’s possible that many families, young professionals etc. may have been at home when asked by Duncan Smith and co. about their views regarding the forthcoming EU referendum.

  2. Well, if it was a Saturday and most people canvassed were for Leave then I agree it is very worrying indeed for Remain.

    If Remain is going to win it needs to at least get close to 50-50 in the more prosperous districts of the south east.

  3. Yes, posters tend to just indicate the more motivated.

    In Scotland Yes posters were everywhere of course.

    It’ll be 55% or less either way IMHO.

  4. ‘If Remain is going to win it needs to at least get close to 50-50 in the more prosperous districts of the south east.’

    If Remain don’t win it I think it will be because prosperous seats in counties like Sussex and Surrey vote Leave

    The optimist in me thinks that given the amount of undecideds it’s possible that we might end up with a result like the Scottish one in favour Remain – on a high turnout

    the big worry is that despite all the personal insults, outright lies and nasty things those in the Remain camp have said that the polls show it still neck and neck – although they said that before the last general election too and look what happened there

    I wonder what the Exit polls will show

  5. I think we are thinking on very similar lines Tim

    I’ve travelled a lot around Europe these past few weeks and Europe is now getting seriously spooked that Brexit might actually happen.

  6. Tim – although of course even in 2015 Con + UKIP was 50% so you could argue that was 50: 50% too if we’re talking national vote share.

  7. But not all Tory voters support Brexit – although given that a Tory PM is backing the Remain campaign it doesn’t look great that more than half of the people who voted for him last year will be voting against him this year

    Just as Corbyn needs to start selling the advantages of being in Europe to working class Labour voters (and whilst Corbyn might not see it himself there are many) Cameron needs to start appealing to his own side and scarcely credible stories about what catastrophes will unfold if the UK does leave the EU obviously isn’t doing the trick.

  8. Yes, but equally not all Labour voters support Remain. Far from it.

    I imagine these minorities of voters in the 2 camps (Tory Remainians & Labour Leavers) almost cancel each other out.

    So we’re back to the two camps being Green/LD/Lab MPs etc v UKIP/Con/DUP with 15-20% undeclared/undecided in the middle.

  9. @ Lancs Observer

    “I imagine these minorities of voters in the 2 camps (Tory Remainians & Labour Leavers) almost cancel each other out.”

    They don’t.

    To take the most recent poll we have had, from YouGov a few days ago, Tories divided 36:50 for Leave, and Labour voters 57:30 for Remain. So that’s a comfortable Remain lead if you just look at ‘Con + Lab’ Voters (by about 47:40). This was in a poll which showed quite a high Leave lead for Tories, and a tie, overall. Many of the phone polls in the past fortnight have shown a Remain lead in the Conservative subsample.

  10. Yes. Lancs Observer is looking at Tory voters with his northern goggles on. A big chunk of the business Tory vote in the south will vote Remain. The problem remains turnout though. If Labour voters turn out much less, the Remain advantage diminishes substantially.

  11. James E – you are assuming both Labour & Tory voters are equal in number?

    I am not.

  12. There is very good polling evidence that they are nearly equal in number. Polls typically put the Tories ahead by about 2 points at the moment.

  13. Well I was speaking more of turnout, but I was also thinking of a Tory lead over Labour of 5% over the past year.

  14. You could do a lot worse than to look at the data from the most recent YouGov poll, linked on the main page of this site.

    Surprisingly almost equal proportions of Con and Lab voters describe themselves as certain (or 10/10) to vote.

    From the various cross-breaks I’ve seen over the past 4 months, it’s clear than there is a far larger Remain lead among Labour voters than there is a Leave lead among Tory voters; and of course there have been polls with Tory Remain leads. But this is offset by the 9:1 lead for Leave with the 15%-ish of the electorate who support UKIP.

  15. I’m surprise 10% of ‘kippers are for Remain tbh

  16. Actually, YouGov’s most recent cross-break for UKIP is 93%Leave to 5% Remain, with 2% Don’t know or wouldn’t vote.

    Unsurprisingly UKIP supporters also describe themselves as the most likely to vote in the referendum. – at 85% compared to 65% overall who describe themselves as “10/10” certain to vote. This is, of course factored into the headline figures which the polling companies report.

    I think that a lot of people misunderstand this point. I wouldn’t doubt that there are a lot of very determined UKIP/Leave voters. The question is whether their stated likelihood to vote (@85%, as above) is closer to their collective actual turnout than the lower figure among the rest.

  17. As I said I was referring to actual votes rather than polls (although the average of polls over the last year do not show a mere 2% Tory lead either).

    It’s a fact that Con + UKIP achieved 50% of the votes in the General Election last May.

    I realise the points you’re making (almost 60% of Labour voters support Remain in polls v 55% of Tory voters supporting Leave).

    The Left v Right blocs I described achieve over 40% for either side.

    So the result will be 55% or less either way.

    I realise wealthier metropolitan Tories down South will vote Remain and they’re more likely to vote.

    But you can’t espouse that view and then dismiss the fact that also means Northern WWC Labour voters are far less likely to turnout and if the do vote Remain in anything like the proportions needed for anything other than a close result down to turnout on the day.

  18. @ Lancs Obs

    I don’t see the relevance of the UKIP + Con share from last year. Clearly UKIP voters will vote overwhelmingly for Leave, but it’s by no means a certainty that Tory voters will be for Leave overall. Several polls have shown a majority of Tories backing Remain.

    While I think that 55% Leave is probably the average for Tories polled recently, the average for Labour Remain is probably over 65%. For example, in the YouGov Poll it was 57:30 (with don’t know omitted) so would rise to 64% if don’t knows split evenly.

    In GE Polling the Tories have been about 2-3 points ahead in the past few months, which is the period of time for which we have EU referendum polls.

    I do agree that Working class votes are less likely to vote, simply because that is the normal pattern. But that isn’t a logical consequence of ‘Tories down South’ voting remain is it? 🙂

    Like you, I expect a close result – maybe 54:46 – but given that UKIP voters will be so overwhelmingly for Leave, it would stand to reason than Lab+ Con combined will be for Remain.

  19. I’d love your forecast to be right, but I’m far from convinced.

    Driving through the wealthiest parts of East Surrey today there are Vote Leave posters virtually on every second house in some places. It’s shaking my confidence that “the Tories down south” will break roughly 50-50. If Remain can’t get 50% or so in the likes of East Surrey or Mid Sussex they are extremely unlikely to prevail IMO.

  20. I just looked up the 1975 Referendum breakdown.

    It’s no surprise that Merseyside & S Yorkshire had the lowest turnouts for Mets and the highest No vote.

    The higher the Turnout the higher the pro Europe vote in almost every area and vice versa.

    Isles of Scilly had the highest turnout at 75% and Shetland the worst (and I think the only area below 50%).

    The DUP (or Ulster Protestants as Paisley’s Party was) and the Alliance seem to be the only Parties who haven’t switched positions re Europe. Plus the Liberals of course but they hardly existed back then.

  21. James E – I agree with your post except for the final sentence.

    It doesn’t stand to reason at all! It’s too close to call but if I was betting I’d say more 2015 Tory voters than Labour will turnout. The relevance of 2015 is that it’s the last UK-wide poll to apportion voters from. [Otherwise you’re conjuring with various polls and parts of the electorate week by week]

    A ‘Left/pro EU’ LD/Green/SNP bloc roughly equals the UKIP bloc as I explained.

    So we’re back to 45-55% or less either way.

  22. @ H Hemmelig

    Poster count can be very misleading. I remember a Scottish friend who had gone back to Glasgow 2 years ago, before their referendum, telling me that houses and flats there were awash with ‘Yes’ posters, with not a ‘no’ in sight. Elsewhere, it looked like 2-3 Yes posters for every ‘No’ one.

    There is an obvious parallel here, because like the ‘Yes’ campaign , the Leavers are the more determined side – or more preoccupied with the issue. But a ‘quiet’ voter counts just the same as a determined one.

    My own experience, in and around Cambridge, is that there are very few posters on show, and the few that I have seen have been slightly more Leave than Remain. But the local result here isn’t going to be anywhere near level.

    And as for my prediction: I think that there has been very good evidence three years in a row that Online Polls pick up too many UKIP voters. This was confirmed in the local elections last month, and led to the comments from Peter Kellner which I’ve linked below. It’s one of several reasons why the betting markets are expecting a higher Remain vote than that implied by the Online Polls.


    This shows how close it is. 51% v 49% if you believe the polls.

    58% of bets have been placed on Remain

  24. @ Lancs Observer

    Yes, I know the current polling shows 51:49 overall, although with Northern Ireland added the 2 point lead would move to 3. My own prediction is 2-3 point better for Remain than that.

    And regarding your comment that UKIP are balanced by LD’s/ Nats/Greens: polling doesn’t support this. Lib Dem voters appear to be similarly balanced to Labour at about 65:35 or 70:30 (see the most recent YouGov, again). ICM’s recent Scottish EURef poll showed SNP supporters at only 60:40 for Remain, which was lower than the overall figures for Scotland, which were around 63:37. The same poll showed a Remain lead for Scottish Tories, and Labour there more than 75% for Remain there. (I haven’t seen any figures for Green)s.

    I’d suggest that the LD’s/Nats/Green which you’ve lumped together would collectively only go about 70:30 for Remain, so would come nowhere near to balancing UKIP’s 95:5 for Leave..

  25. @ H Hemmelig

    One other point about East Surrey. It’s obvious that support for Leave will tend to be highest in places where UKIP do well, and they got 17% in East Surrey last year – some way above their average of just under 13%. Mid Sussex was close to the norm, but once you look at the larger towns, you get far lower figures, even in places where the Tories are dominant. For example UKIP got just 9% in Guildford.

  26. James E – if true, that makes my point even more convincing that it’s closer to 50:50 than you claim.

    Again its the total votes of Remain v Leave in these broadly Left v Right blocs I’m comparing.

    So Green/LDs/SNP V UKIP.

    There may be more potential Green/LDs etc voters out there for polls but those groups turn out in fewer numbers than OAPs.

    I’m talking UK-wide. I haven’t bothered comparing Scottish Tory Remainians as you’re now talking about a group within a group within Scotland which after all only totals 9% of the UK, so you’re arguing over whether Scottish Tory Leavers account for 0.8% or 1.2% of the UK vote.

  27. Plus, of course, there is no “2 point lead” – it’s within the margin of error.

  28. I don’t accept that it is ‘left and right blocks’, and by chance had just posted this (below) on the main site regarding the Online Poll Opinium released this evening, and showing a 2 point Remain lead……

    Looking at the details of the latest Opinium Poll, it is another where the Conservative sample is in favour of Remain. So this detail is the same as for their last poll, with a 4 point Remain lead.

    The sub-samples by party are:

    Con 47-40 for Remain
    Lab 61-30 for Remain
    LibDem 66-20 for Remain
    Green 59-23 for Remain
    SNP 52-35 for Remain.

    These are offset by UKIP backing Leave by 96-2.

    It seems odd that the overall result is so close with a majority of the supporters of the two largest parties apparently favouring the same side. It is the size of the Leave lead among Kippers which tilts it to near parity.

    (Incidentally, I’m not doubting that it’s close, as the average of all polls only puts remain 2-3 points ahead. I just believe that the actual result will be a few points better for Remain than that.)

  29. With respect it’s immaterial whether you accept it – I was quoting facts after the event ie actual votes. Con + UKIP 50% of the vote.

    Plaid/SNP/Green/LD are of the Left and UKIP/Con Leavers are of the Right. Yes, there’s a minority crossover within each set, but not sufficient to alter the 40-50% bloc for either side much if at all.

    You seem fixated with a lead in one poll for a group then adding that to another and dividing by two.

    Even if I accept your 2% lead presumption that doesn’t mean that’s the current state of affairs if those same set of people voted in the numbers they always do.

    By definition if some Con voters from 2015 now identify as UKIP in a poll, the remaining Con cohort will be comprised of a greater proportion of Remain supporters. Yu’ re just moving voters from one group heading to another.

    So it’s not at all odd that the overall picture in a poll remains too close to call.

    I haven’t had a bet yet, but given I think it could be 51-52% for Leave I’m tempted by I think it was 5/2 for Leave (although given my stance I may as well take the 7/2 for 50-54.9% for Leave if the bookies want to offer larger odds for effectively the same outcome).

    I had the same bet on No in Scotland and won, just.

  30. Nobody is disputing that Con+UKIP was 50% in last year’s, GE.

    But where the two parties’ supporters are showing wildly different voting intentions for the EU referendum, it does not make sense to talk of them as a ‘block’. The Tories are only about 3 points down in recent polls from what they got in May 2015, and so appear to be keeping the support of the overwhelming majority of those who backed them then.

    This Tory ‘Remain’ lead is not a one-off. There have been several other polls showing this recently, and in some cases by a wide margin. The overall average is still probably a narrow Leave lead among Tories, but it must be clear that their voting intentions for the referendum are hugely different from those of UKIP supporters.

    And the 2% Remain lead is not a ‘presumption’ on my part. It is the figure you provided and linked to in the Daily Telegraph poll tracker. It is also broadly in line with other polling averages.

  31. ‘Driving through the wealthiest parts of East Surrey today there are Vote Leave posters virtually on every second house in some places. It’s shaking my confidence that “the Tories down south” will break roughly 50-50. If Remain can’t get 50% or so in the likes of East Surrey or Mid Sussex they are extremely unlikely to prevail IMO.’

    Even back in the early 1990s, Caterham – the largest town in the constituency by some distance – has always been a bastion of Euroscepticism despite its quite obvious wealth and I’m not sure whether East Surrey is that good an indicator of how similarly wealthy stockbroker seats will vote

    I went to a garden party yesterday in a very wealthy part of the South Croydon seat (Sandersted/Purley Oaks) and was surprised not to see any posters at all

  32. Living in Urban East London I have only seen one poster( which was for Remain in the window of a family owned shop). According to My local MP the vote will be tight in this area with many voting Leave because of dislike of the Tories. I wonder if this phenomenon will be cancel out or will be larger/smaller people voting remain for similar reasons of dislike of leave campaigners

  33. James E – I think there’s little point in my repeating it again.
    Broadly Left v Right blocs exist for over 80% of the electorate.

    But the 2% poll lead you claim is within the margin of error for polls so there is no current lead. It’s 50:50.

    Deepthroat has had a go at totting up on the Europe South East thread in the way you are doing so I can see why you think that.

  34. “Broadly Left v Right blocs exist for over 80% of the electorate.”

    I think we’re at cross-purposes.

    I’m writing about voting intention for the EU referendum. The figures I’ve quoted above show a Conservative sub-sample which is in favour of Remain, and a UKIP sub-sample 96-2 in favour of Leave. The proportion backing Leave is therefore around 50 percentage points different. Indeed, the Tory sub-sample is closer to Labour (or LibDem, or Green or SNP) than it is to UKIP.

    The 2% lead is taken directly from the site you quoted, and is an AVERAGE across many polls – each of which of course does have a margin of error of around 3%. So a single poll with a 2 point lead is not clear evidence, but a collection of polls is rather stronger evidence.

    So while you choose to read that average as 50:50, it would be no less illogical to move it by a point in the opposite direction to 52:48.

  35. James E – we’re not. You denied those blocs even existed.
    Even if I accepted that a majority of Tory voters were to vote Remain (which I do NOT), those eg 45% of Tory voters voting Leave are of the Right so it’s entirely reasonable to add them to the DUP & UKIP as a bloc.

    In the same way Green/SNP/LDs/Plaid/SF/SDLP are of the other bloc which is clearly of the Left.

    That’s how those 2 blocs are squared up in the Referendum.

  36. In his post of Jun 4th 10:10pm JAMES E quotes just one poll -OPINIUM. This company’s polling is showing more CON GE2015 REMAINers than LEAVErs. (Why?) But it’s out of line with most (if not all the others). Just a few examples:

    CON GE 2015 VOTE

    REMAIN 32%
    LEAVE…53%…BMG issued 25MAY

    REMAIN 36%
    LEAVE…50%…YOUGOV 30-31MAY

    REMAIN ..43%
    LEAVE 45%…ICM 27-29MAY

    L45%….ICM issued 20may


  37. Sorry
    Last one is the other way around
    L45%..TNS APRIL

  38. To answer my question above I have noticed that OPINIUM ask ” if there was a GE tomorrow which party would you vote for?” rather than all the other companies, who ask “how did you vote in GE2015?”.

  39. @BM11

    Urban East London will be overwhelmingly Remain. If it isn’t then Leave have won by a big margin with 60%+.

  40. “In his post of Jun 4th 10:10pm JAMES E quotes just one poll -OPINIUM. This company’s polling is showing more CON GE2015 REMAINers than LEAVErs. (Why?) But it’s out of line with most (if not all the others). ”

    There have been FIVE polls in the past few weeks showing Remain leads among Conservative Voters.

    15 May – ICM
    16 May – IPSOS MORI
    19 May OPINIUM (in addition to the OPINIUM poll I linked above)
    22 May ORB

    Please see also, AW’s comments on this site regarding the most unusual of all of these. What is also notable is that in most cases the Tory sub-sample has shown a larger Remain lead than the overall result of the poll.

    The overall balance of all evidence is probably still for a majority of Tories favouring Leave, but yesterday’s Opinium poll showing the opposite is far from being a one-off.

  41. Yes you’re right, there are others. I haven’t downloaded all polls and didn’t Check them all.

    It’s interesting to see that the gap between CON REMAINERS & LEAVERS goes up when the question identifies current party VI as opposed to GE2015 vote.

    JAMES E could I ask you to look at my post at 09.38 5 June on the EUROPE SE thread and comment? Ty

  42. Today’s yougov poll gives a 57-30 LEAVE lead amongst CON voters. Sample was big..over 3000.

  43. I wouldn’t want to even attempt to predict the result though I expect it’ll be way closer than anyone on either side is really comfortable with.

    I do expect that either way Cameron is now effectively finished though

  44. A friend of mine (a Labour Leaver) is convinced it’ll be 60-40 to Remain. I’d write him off as having no way of knowing, but he correctly predicted the outcome of last year’s General Election and the fate of the Scottish Labour Party in about October 2014, as well as guessing Clegg’s majority on polling day to within a couple of hundred.

    Personally I think it’ll be closer than Scotland, though I wouldn’t like to put specific figures on it.

  45. I don’t have the doorstep experience of a lot of posters on this site, but the referendum is starting to creep into office conversations a bit. It seems that the public have “switched on” over the last week or so.

    Just today, I was queueing for the printer, which seemed to have frozen and was causing much frustration (it is a truly crap printer). To which I quipped, “Of course the EU has 419 regulations governing printers and IT peripherals. They’re driving the once trusted British printer industry to the wall!” To my surprise, I found the woman in front enthusiastically agreeing with me. It took me a few seconds to realise she wasn’t joking.

  46. Oh also, I saw a remain poster on the way to work for the first time today. It was a very small one and I probably would have missed it had I not been crawling along in traffic.

  47. Sorry not to pick up on this discussion earlier. As a Maidstone local I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the area had a more significant majority for leave than expected. This is likely to exacerbate Helen Grant’s unpopularity as a ‘party line’ mp (although I personally think she’s been a good local MP)

  48. There’s a potentially interesting by-election in the Shepway South ward here next Thursday. UKIP won the ward on a fairly comfortable 38% (to the Tories’ 28%) in May. Will be interesting to see if the departure of Nigel Farage is affecting UKIP’s results locally.

  49. By-election result (Shepway South): UKIP HOLD

    UKIP 432 (45%)
    Conservative 215 (22%)
    Labour 183 (19%)
    Independent 88 (9%)
    Liberal Democrat 41 (4%)

    That’s a swing of around 6% from the Tories to UKIP. You can read too much into a single local by-election result but it looks like the Farage’s departure isn’t hurting them much.

  50. 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!

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