Orpington

2015 Result:
Conservative: 28152 (57.4%)
Labour: 7645 (15.6%)
Lib Dem: 3330 (6.8%)
Green: 1732 (3.5%)
UKIP: 8173 (16.7%)
MAJORITY: 19979 (40.7%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: Greater London. Part of the Bromley council area.

Main population centres: Orpington, Petts Wood, Farnborough, Chelsfield, Biggin Hill, St Mary Cray.

Profile: Geographically the largest seat in London, Orpington is the south-eastern corner of London and large parts of it are open Kent countryside between Farnborough and Biggin Hill aerodrome , though the electorate is mostly leafy suburbia. It covers Orpington itself, Petts Wood, Farnborough, Chelsfield, Biggin Hill and the more industrial St Mary Cray, dominated by retail parks and only area in the seat to consistently return non-Conservative councillors..

Politics: As an affluent area with a high owner occupier rate and little social housing this might be expected to be solidly Conservative territory, Orpington though holds a special place in the traditions of the third party. Eric Lubbock`s famous victory for the Liberal party in the 1962 by-election saved the Liberal party from what had seemed like an inevitable slow death. It returned to the Conservative party in 1970 (Lubbock inherited a peerage shortly afterwards as Lord Avebury), but remained a Liberal target for many years afterwards. In the 1990s and 2000s Chris Maines of the Liberal Democrats fought this seat four times on the trot, in 2001 narrowing the Conservative majority to only 269. In 2010 though Maines went to fight pastures new in Lewisham East and the Liberal Democrats appeared to turn their attention elsewhere, allowing new Conservative candidate Jo Johnson to acheive a towering majority.


Current MP
JO JOHNSON (Conservative) Born 1971, London, brother of Boris Johnson. Educated at Eton and Oxford University. Former Journalist. First elected as MP for Orpington in 2010. Government whip 2012-2014, Minister of State at the Cabinet office 2014-2015. Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit since 2013, Minister of State for Universities since 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 29200 (60%)
Lab: 4400 (9%)
LDem: 12000 (25%)
UKIP: 1360 (3%)
Oth: 1951 (4%)
MAJ: 17200 (35%)
2005*
Con: 26718 (49%)
Lab: 4914 (9%)
LDem: 21771 (40%)
UKIP: 1331 (2%)
MAJ: 4947 (9%)
2001
Con: 22334 (44%)
Lab: 5517 (11%)
LDem: 22065 (43%)
UKIP: 996 (2%)
MAJ: 269 (1%)
1997
Con: 24417 (41%)
Lab: 10753 (18%)
LDem: 21465 (36%)
Oth: 1211 (2%)
MAJ: 2952 (5%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
JO JOHNSON (Conservative) See above.
NIGEL DE GRUCHY (Labour) Born 1943, Jersey. Educated at De La Salle College and Reading University. Former General Secretary of the NASUWT.
PETER BROOKS (Liberal Democrat)
IDHAM RAMADI (UKIP) Born 1978. Educated at St Marys CoE High School, Hendon. Local government officer.
TAMARA GALLOWAY (Green) Born 1967, Farnborough. Contested Orpington 2010.
Links
Comments - 164 Responses on “Orpington”
  1. I’m going to make a bold prediction for this constituency: UKIP to come second pushing the LDs into third place.

  2. The Lib Dem meltdown here since 2001 has been remarkable. I wonder if we will see several similar seats this May, i.e. places where the Lib Dems have put in a decent challenge the last couple of elections but will fall back dramatically now.

  3. @Runnymede
    there is only so many times you can talk about “that famous night in Orpington” as a liberal before the voters get bored!

  4. Con hold 20000. Serious risk of LD coming 4th here.

  5. I can’t see the LibDems coming fourth here. There will be too much of a tactical vote from people who see Labour as having no hope.

    Could I pick up on BBC Newsnight’s rescue of Natalie Bennett’s Green housing policy, which turned into something quite sensible and innovative. for places like Orpington.

    London has vast swathes of low density pre-war or 1950s housing, semis or detached houses with long gardens. Technically, houses have a designed lifespan of sixty years so, it it were not that houses are used for speculation, these houses are ready for replacement. If the Government were to compulsorarily purchase the seas of low density houses in Orpington and surrounding areas like Chislehurst, and in Metroland areas of North London (not least in Uxbridge!), they could knock them down, build high-density flats instead and sell them off (to British residents) at a huge profit. The initial investment required would be huge, but so would the profit.

    There would need to be associated infrastructure investment, notably a fast underground railway from Orpington, probably going from Orpington via Bromley, then under Victoria and out along the Metroplitan route from Baker Street.

    Some such scheme is essential given the number of people now crowding into London; but the political implication would be considerable. Does anybody have ideas as to what they would be?

    “Knock down Orpington” would be quite eye-catching as a policy!

  6. @FREDERIC STANSFIELD

    I’ll eat my hat if the LibDems come 3rd. They have lost all respect in Orpington. Jo Johnson will be more popular than ever, however, for those who understand he is very pro-euro will obviously vote UKIP.

  7. Conservative Hold. 18,000 maj

  8. Without particularly wishing it on what were once an extremely competitive local rival, I feel you could paint a picture of the LDs actually limping home 5th.

    The Greens showed surprisingly well locally at last year’s Local & Euro’s combined.

    Not calling it, just saying though …. their collapse locally has been quite extraordinary and all but total in places.

  9. The opposition to the Conservatives looks thoroughly split now in this seat. and it remain to be seen which party might pick up support to come second next tiime. Labour might well consolidate second place, but with no realistic chance of ever winning.

    Perhaps we ought to think about what impact housing developments in this seat might have on political prospects. Orpington is a sea of low-density suburban housing which, if one remembers that houses notionally have a design life of sixty years, are comng up for replacement.

    Given the problems that London is causing the country in terms of houseing shortages, the obvious thing to do would be to compulsorarily purchase large amounts of houses in Orpington, knock them down and replace them by luxury but high-density flats at perhaps four times the housing density These would be linked by a fast underground line to Central London, similar to the French RER, which would probably continue Northwards so that housing density could similarly increased in, say Uxbridge and Ruislip.

    The demographic and political implications of such a policy would be massive. But if something of the sort is not done house prices in London wil become so unaffordable as to stiffle economic growth.

  10. The geology of south east London (it is built mostly on sand) makes long underground tunnels virtually impossible. This is one of the main reasons the tube has never penetrated south east London beyond Greenwich and indeed the north-south Crossrail will still be focused entirely on the south west side of the capital.

    Housing density in Bromley borough is gradually increasing, mostly through “garden grabbing” rather than via the more stealthy approach you advocate. Partly because so much of it is green belt. But the demographics are slowly dripping away against the Conservatives, no surprise their result here and (even more so) in Bromley & Chislehurst were underwhelming.

  11. ‘But the demographics are slowly dripping away against the Conservatives, no surprise their result here and (even more so) in Bromley & Chislehurst were underwhelming.’

    Whilst the first part of that statement is undeniably true, in the context of London the result here was pretty good for the Tories, especially in light of the massive swing in their favour in 2010

    Obviously the Lib Dems were never going to trouble the Tories in 2015, but to build a majority that was 269 into one of 20,000 within just three elections is still pretty good going, particularly in London

  12. If a party gets 60% in 2010 on a very large swing, I wouldn’t think it’s unusual for them to slightly underperform against the national trend at the subsequent election. There are always going to be some people who think it’s not worth the effort to vote.

    I keep hearing about demographic trends moving against the Tories in places like this and Croydon South. Interested to find out how many elections people think it will take for Labour to be competitive? My personal view is that it is a very long at off.

  13. I cannot see why it would not be possible to build an underground here but it would have to be very deep to get below the sand.

    Let’s be blunt: talk about demographic trends here, and in Croydon South, is likely to relate to the prospect of a substantial non-white middle classs community moving into this area as incomers to the UK, and London in particular, become prosperous and established. But might not such incomers also change their political preferences to vote Tory?

  14. Yes. Enough ethnic minorities will voter Tory here and in Croydon South etc for the Tories to be safe for a very long time. But the Tory lead among the white middle class will always be somewhat wider so their majority will trend downwards over the long term.

  15. I don’t know whether the Tory vote will decline much but one thing that is happening and has already happened is that the old-fashioned white middle-class vote for the Liberals which used to exist in the 1970s and 1980s is being replaced by Labour as the main opposition in these sorts of seats. In other words the beards and sandals brigade. Most of them have probably moved out to places like Lewes.

  16. Have you ever been to Orpington? There are no “middle class liberals” here. The Liberal / Lib Dem vote here was a coalition of people who didn’t like the Tories much, socialists voting tactically, Victor Meldrew types who always cast protest votes, the sheer complacency of the Bromley Tories, and people who respected the hard work of Lib Dem councillors locally. As elsewhere, that tenuous coalition has completely smashed and people have gone over to their more natural political homes….the socialists to Labour, some to the Tories, the moaners to UKIP and the Greens.

  17. I noticed Tories had a pretty good result in Croydon South in the circumstances- a majority of all but 30% over Labour and on an increase vote share of 54.5%. Although Outer London is trending Labour on the whole, the process is highly uneven and appears to depend on the precise ethnic composition as well as socio-economic profile (the Conservative vote held up really rather well in their more managerial/professional middle-class Outer London seats).

  18. I think we are agreed. “Orpington Man” of 1962 will be 75 or over now. Times have moved on.

    Another point is that middle class radicals tend to be in towns and cities where they can go to meetings and join organisations. Orpington town centre is not much more than a group of shops: the place is a sea of amorphous suburbia, much of it beginning physically to show its age.

    Don’t forget that Eric Lubbock, whilst living in a comparatively small house locally, was actually the heir of the local Lord and perhaps got more of a”tug your forelock” vote come the by-election than we might care to admit. He was MP for Orpingon for eight years, which is as nothing compared to the forty-four years he has served in the Lords

  19. “Another point is that middle class radicals tend to be in towns and cities where they can go to meetings and join organisations. Orpington town centre is not much more than a group of shops”

    Orpington itself is a relatively small part of this seat, and as Frederic alludes it is quite downmarket and has historically been the Liberals’ best area. The seat also includes part of the vast Cray estates near Swanley which is a traditional WWC Labour area but has tactically voted Lib Dem in the past. The rest of the seat is upmarket suburbia and some countryside where the Tories do very well – Farnborough, Petts Wood, Darwin – and some more middling suburbs where Lib Dems used to do well but have now disappeared – Chelsfield, Pratts Bottom, Crofton, Biggin Hill.

    The Darwin-Biggin Hill area was added to the seat from Ravensbourne in 1997 and this undoubtedly made the seat stronger for the Tories. On the pre 1997 boundaries the Lib Dems would certainly have won Orpington in 2001.

  20. Nowhere in Orpington is there anywhere like Bromley Town Centre.

  21. I should have said “the constituency of Orpington”

  22. Bromley Town Centre is undoubtedly a shithole but many of the hoodlums live in Lewisham and Catford…to a lesser extent that is true of Beckenham town centre too and even Croydon.

  23. Does anybody from Orpington go to Croydon? It is about as salubrious as Bromley and indeed that may be to pay Croydon an undue compliment. If one is going to Croydon one might normally go to the centr of London.

    Of course, I may be biassed because I come from Kent (indeed Bromley) and feel about Surrey much as a Lancashireman might do about Yorkshire. Well, not quite the same as Yorkshire and Lancashire people would defend each other against Southerners and I am not sure that even the people of Surrey think that their county is a wonderful place.

  24. Unfortunately I doubt people feel the sense of allegiance to our native counties that we do, Frederic, least of all within the M25.

  25. “Have you ever been to Orpington? There are no “middle class liberals” here.”

    I’ve been there for a short time during the 2005 election campaign when I spotted the LD candidate campaigning near the centre of the town.

  26. That fits – as I said, the town itself has always been the Liberals’ strongest area in the seat, and Chris Maines was indeed a councillor in central Orpington at the time he stood for parliament.

    My comments about the lack of middle class liberals here is pertinent because Chris Maines’ homosexuality almost certainly cost him victory in 2001 (as did the 1997 boundary change). This wouldn’t have been an issue in a more naturally liberal seat and indeed probably wouldn’t make a difference here today, but in 2001 he was subject to quite a lot of nastiness from Tory canvassers on the doorstep knowing they may well lose the seat. It is an example of how the Tory party has changed that such a campaign would be impossible today.

    Maines was so disillusioned with his experience in 2001 that he moved to Lewisham and was a councillor and PPC there before losing his seat last year.

  27. Hi HH, I’m not certain I would agree with that.

    Remember that Chris served as an Orpington Ward Cllr until 2006 and fought an absolutely epic and exhausting campaign against John Horam in the constituency in 2005 as well.

    I can only but imagine how gutting it must have been to come up short in the latter.

    I wouldn’t pretend to know the chap’s thought process or the date of him physically moving out of Borough, but the perception most of us held locally at the time was that he (correctly) saw that the tide had turned locally after 2005 and that the LDs tactically chose to try and consolidate in their stronger Lewisham seats all but next door.

  28. “Well, not quite the same as Yorkshire and Lancashire people would defend each other against Southerners and I am not sure that even the people of Surrey think that their county is a wonderful place.”

    Believe me not all of all Surrey is ultra rich. They are parts of Staines, Ashford, Chertsey, Epsom, Ewell, Woking, Redhill, Guildford and Camberley that would be described as utter shitholes if they were in another county.

  29. ‘They are parts of Staines, Ashford, Chertsey, Epsom, Ewell, Woking, Redhill, Guildford and Camberley that would be described as utter shitholes if they were in another county.’

    That’s right

    The same could be said of Reigate

    Even smaller towns like Caterham – where I spent most of my teenage years – and nearby Godstone have grotty parts you really wouldn’t associate with Surrey and some towns on the boarder like Whyteleafe and Kenley are utter shitholes

    Surrey isn’t quite as universally affluent as some people would have you believe

  30. Coming from Kent I am biassed, but I doubt whether I would want to live in even many of the more affluent areas of Surrey.

    One reason is that Surrey is distinctly lacking when it comes to seaside (as is Orpington!)..

    It doesn’t seem to stop Surrrey voting Tory though.

  31. ‘One reason is that Surrey is distinctly lacking when it comes to seaside’

    But grimier parts of Kent – the so-called Garden of England – tend to be on the coast – Gravesend, Margate, Whitstable, Ramsgate, Dover, Folkestone – with Kent’s nicer parts inland

    The same is largely true of Sussex in that most of the coastal areas are very run down in stark contrast to the affluent countryside inland

  32. That is very true of Kent that the most down at the heel parts are the old seaside towns. Surrey is monothonically Tory due to the fact that even the more ordinary areas have right leaning voters. Though 2015 was an awful local election for Labour they’re vote went up in two districts Epsom and Ewell and Spelthorne perhaps some of the wards in these boroughs are in the early stages of demographic change due to their proximity to Hounslow and Merton.

  33. @SurryPolitics well Labour’s vote share did go up in the majority of seats where it fell unfortunately for them tended to be in the marginals (and in Scotland) that they needed to win to stand a chance at forming a government.

  34. Just seen on twitter the news that Lord Avebury has sadly died.

  35. Lord Avebury, winner of the epic Orpington by-election (as Eric Lubbock has died…

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/14/lord-avebury-lib-dem-peer-dies-aged-87

  36. Orpington was the first genuine Liberal by-election gain since Holland with Boston in 1929. (There was a gain in Torrington in 1958 but at the previous election it was won by a National Liberal in a two-way contest with Labour).

  37. Torrington had been held in 1955 by a National Liberal & Conservative and the MP elected took the Tory whip. Others were elected until the mid-1960s as Conservative & National Liberals. Both labels attracted the full support of the Tory party machine and post 1945 National Liberals were effectively Tories. I have never heard it suggested that the 1951 – 1964 Govt was a Coalition Govt of Conservatives and National Liberals – which is what it would have been had they been genuinely two distinct parties. Technically Michael Heseltine was a National Liberal – just as Neville Chamberlain was a Liberal Unionist! Torrington was a Liberal gain in 1958.

  38. Not only that, but the start of a slow decline in two-party politics in the UK. In 1959 the total vote share captured by both Conservative and Labour was 93.4%, this combined total dropped to 87.5% in 1964, two years after the famous Orpington by-election. It was not however until 1974 that multi-party politics (even if only the Conservatives and Labour Party still had, and have, a chance to form a government) became the norm in Britain in terms of contests.

  39. To a significant extent though that owed a great deal to the Liberals contesting far more seats. In the 1950s the share captured by the two main parties was artificially high in that so many voters had no other options on their ballot papers!

  40. @Graham

    This is a good point often missed by political scientists – who also tend to ignore the fact that pure two-party politics, if it ever existed, began in 1950. Before then there was a two-and-a-half/three party system for the best part of half a century that produced coalitions and minority govt. more often than majority govt.

    As for the question of what a National Liberal is, I agree that they were effectively Tories during the post-war period. However, they were the remnants of those Liberal who had served in the Tory-led pre-war National government and the Liberal party tended not to stand against them. So there is a strong case for not considering Torrington a Liberal gain.

  41. Mark Bonham-Carter not a Liberal? LoL

  42. @Antiochian

    Sorry, you’ve misunderstood. Mark Bonham-Carter definitely a Liberal, but debatable whether he was gaining the seat or not, it previously having been held by a National Liberal with no Liberal candidate in 1951 or 1955. You could argue either way and frankly I don’t really care!

  43. I don’t get moved by it either…

    National Liberals were the political equivalent of today’s cyber-squatters.. I am not sure who they thought they were fooling..

  44. But the seat was held by a National Liberal & Conservative in 1955 – so the 1958 by election was certainly a gain from the Conservatives!

  45. I have been to Orpington a few times, it’s rather similar to Epsom and Ewell quite well off and a nice town but just a little bit chavvy/downmarket (white van man money) Though I would say despite Orpington being in London and Epsom being Surrey. The Surrey Town is surprisingly more diverse socially than the London Town. Not sure why this is yet again outer SouthEast London (Eltham itself, Sidcup, Bexleyheath) has hardly changed much compared to the rest of London.

  46. In the 1955 General Election the Liberals only contested 110 0f the 630 seats then existing. However, nine of those candidates did stand in opposition to National Liberal & Conservative , Conservative & National Liberal , Liberal & Conservative or National Liberal candidates.

  47. Yes but you should not mistake Orpington town for Orpington constituency.

    Orpington town is pretty much as you describe but the constituency contains some upscale and wealthy wards like Farnborough and Darwin, and Petts Wood, Crofton, Chelsfield, Pratts Bottom and Biggin Hill are also nicer than Orpington town if not quite so wealthy as Farnborough and Darwin. The constituency also includes the eastern side of the Cray estate, bordering Swanley, which is the only bit worse than the town and provides most of the Labour vote.

  48. Nigel Farage lives in Darwin ward – a good example of its wealth and the kind of people who live there

  49. H. Hemelig yes you are defintley right there most towns are different from their consitiency as most towns are not big enough for one seat. Epsom and Ewell ( which has a large electorate anyway) contains areas outside the seat (Ashtead, Nork and Tattenham Corner being far more upscale without those areas inside the borough). In not for those areas the majority would be very much smaller in 1997 probably similar to Spelthorne or Hertsmere (it could possibly be even smaller as there was more Lib Dem vote for Labour to squeeze or viceversa).

  50. Eric Lubbock will be greatly missed.

Leave a Reply

NB: Before commenting please make sure you are familiar with the Comments Policy. UKPollingReport is a site for non-partisan discussion of polls.

You are not currently logged into UKPollingReport. Registration is not compulsory, but is strongly encouraged. Either login here, or register here (commenters who have previously registered on the Constituency Guide section of the site *should* be able to use their existing login)