Plymouth Sutton & Devonport

2015 Result:
Conservative: 18120 (37.8%)
Labour: 17597 (36.7%)
Lib Dem: 2008 (4.2%)
Green: 3401 (7.1%)
UKIP: 6731 (14%)
Others: 106 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 523 (1.1%)

Category: Ultra-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Devon. Part of the Plymouth council area.

Main population centres: Plymouth.

Profile: A maritime seat in Devon. The constituency is the southern part of the city of Plymouth itself. Historically one of the most important naval bases in Britain, Devonport remains the largest naval base in Western Europe and the base of 7 nuclear submarines, HMS Ocean, HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark, 12 frigates and most of the surveying fleet. The local economy is no longer dominated by the naval base, but maritime industries remain important with electronics, engineering and boat building having primary roles. The city was largely destroyed and rebuilt during World War 2, the old harbour area and fish market around the Hoe are the most important remaining few historic areas. The seat also contains Plymouth university and has a substantial student population.

Politics: A marginal Labour-Conservative seat, this is the successor to the former Plymouth Sutton seat, which had relatively minor boundary changes in 2010 but changed its name to preserve the historial name of Plymouth Devonport in a seat title. Last century the seat was an unusual case of a constituency being represented, in turn, by a husband (Waldorf Astor), his wife (Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take a seat in the Commons) and their son (Jakie Astor). Later it was represented by the political diarist Alan Clark. UKIP candidates also do well in both the Plymouth seats.

Current MP
OLIVER COLVILE (Conservative) Born 1959. Educated at Stowe Secondard School. Former communications consultant. Contested Plymouth Sutton 2001, 2005. First elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in 2010.
Past Results
Con: 15050 (34%)
Lab: 13901 (32%)
LDem: 10829 (25%)
UKIP: 2854 (7%)
Oth: 1260 (3%)
MAJ: 1149 (3%)
Con: 11388 (30%)
Lab: 15497 (41%)
LDem: 8685 (23%)
UKIP: 2392 (6%)
Oth: 230 (1%)
MAJ: 4109 (11%)
Con: 12310 (32%)
Lab: 19827 (51%)
LDem: 5605 (14%)
UKIP: 970 (2%)
Oth: 361 (1%)
MAJ: 7517 (19%)
Con: 14441 (30%)
Lab: 23881 (50%)
LDem: 6613 (14%)
Oth: 1063 (2%)
MAJ: 9440 (20%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005, name changed from Plymouth, Sutton

2015 Candidates
OLIVER COLVILE (Conservative) See above.
LUKE POLLARD (Labour) Born 1980, Plymouth. Educated at Exeter University. Works for the Association of British Travel Agents. Contested South West Devon 2010.
GRAHAM REED (Liberal Democrat) Born 1947, Southampton. Scientific glassblower. Former Stirling councillor. Contested Stirling 2010.
ROY KETTLE (UKIP) Born Derby. Businessman.
LIBBY BROWN (Green) Educated at Plymouth University. Student.
Comments - 94 Responses on “Plymouth Sutton & Devonport”
  1. Yes of course there is a likelihood that there will be some sort of Conservative recovery between now & next May, Robin. It would be ludicrous to say otherwise. What is not so likely is that such a recovery will be sufficient to keep the Tories in power, which will require a Tory lead of several percentage points. The starting gun gets fired in early April, and so the Tories have less than 10 months, on the basis of current polling, to obtain a positive swing of about 4%, probably nearer to 5%. That is not impossible of course, but there isn’t really any sign of it, other than the poor ratings for Ed Miliband. But this has already been factored into the polls, and dire though they are they are being counteracted by a ) a lack of optimism about people’s PERSONAL financial prospects (people think there is a recovery, but that only wealthier people are benefitting from it), and b ) the fact that far more voters dislike the Conservative Party than the Labour Party (this question has been asked specifically in opinion polls). Also, while Ed Miliband isn’t well-regarded, the Labour Party itself is reckoned by a relatively good proportion of voters to be “ready for government”, so clearly some voters who don’t think Miliband is any good have a better perception of other shadow ministers, even if that perception isn’t a detailed one. Yes the Tories can come back & restrict the swing to a small one & somehow stay in power, but time isn’t on their side. The best thing we can do is wait for the post-conference polls to settle down, then see where we are. We can’t simply assume the Tories will regain support which, as H.Hemmelig has correctly said, is reliant on Labour voters drifting back off to the LDs – very few voters have switched directly from the Tories to Labour since 2010, and thus there is very little for the Tories to get back. They will have to rely almost entirely on winning back voters from UKIP, and while they are in my view bound to have some success with that it won’t be enough if Labour’s ratings stay above 35%, which is very likely.
    Just going back to Devonport & Sutton, yes there is a naval presence, but you only have to compare results before 1974 in Plymouth Devonport with those in the seat after 1992 to see that the Tories have clearly weakened in it, especially in comparison with Portsmouth N. The saliency of the naval vote has either reduced, or it’s much less pro-Tory than in Portsmouth. The former is surely more likely.

  2. My family is from Plymouth, most from this constituency, although I was brought up in Bath and have never actually lived tin Plymouth and many had MOD based employment.

    However, we visited often and for many years it felt like a military town, with two Royal Marine commando bases, the artillery in the Citadel on the Hoe, which is still present, the Dockyard, the Naval Base, which was separate, the artificer training base in Torpoint on the other side of the Tamar, the Royal Naval Engineering Collegeand RAF Mountbatten. There were also other small army bases and supplies depots. Almost none of this now exists, and what does is massively smaller than it used to be.

    When I visit now, the atmosphere is completely different, and it feels just like any other provincial English university city, which even in 1992 it hadn’t yet become. Union Street, referred to upthread is no longer a place where military squaddies have to patrol, because the bars that still exist are now aimed at students.

    The one thing that has stayed the same, is that unlike most provincial cities as far as I can see, the Tories still have two or three relatively safe council wards pretty close to the city centre on the northern side on the city due to its very upmarket housing and feel etc. In other areas the married quarters housing estates which helped make the Tories competetive in some unlikely wards, have nearly all been sold either to the city counicl for social housing, or on the open market to owner occupiers or buy to let landlords. Also the emergence of a sizeable studentland in wards wards close to the city centre that used to have prospects for the tories, or be won by them most of the time, have significantly impacted the tory vote in those wards.

    The major employers in Plymouth these days are Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Plymouth, and a number of other smaller but significant public sector, social enterprise or higher and further education outfits delivering public services.

    It really isn’t a military place like I imagine Portsmouth & Gosport, Aldershot and some other places (Colchester?) still are. None of my relations have employment connected to the military anymore.

  3. Believe this is a UKIP target seat for 2015.

  4. Sorry, perhaps that’s the Labour-held Plymouth seat UKIP are more likely to target, based on council results.


    Very interesting post. Thanks.

  6. Some interesting results coming through via Lord Ashcrofts latest poll.

    Tory: 27%
    Lab 39%
    Lib: 3%
    UKIP: 22%
    Green: 8%
    other: 1%

    This shows that the LIBDEMS really were the protest votes as people start to consider other options with votes going to Labour, UKIP and Green. The locals have had enough of being ignored by Westminster.

  7. There are errors here in both the profile and the 1992 result.

    The two wards in Plymstock are not in this constituency, they are in South West Devon. If they were in this constituency the results would have been very different.

    If the result for 1992 is the old Plymouth Sutton at that time, then most of that seat now forms part of South West Devon not this seat. Most voters that now comprise this seat were in Plymouth Drake between 1974 and 1997.

    As I’ve posted before the local economy here is no longer dominated by the Dockyard, or the other defence establishments. A significant update of the profile is required.

    The Labour vote in this seat is probably more middle class and ideological than many people appreciate, because such voters, some of whom may well have drifted to the Lib Dems in 2005 & 2010, on the northern side of Plymouth live in wards that are in this seat, not in what many would expect the more suburban Plymouth Moor View, which has large numbers of overspill post war and even 60-70s built council estates. In addition some significant owner occupied developments to the north of the city that look and feel like they are in Plymouth Moor View, actually fall just outside the city boundary, and are therefore in South West Devon constituency.

  8. As soon as David Owen left, his personal vote completely vanished, and the Lib Dems have not had the same success he enjoyed.

  9. I also know this area well as have friends and family that live in Torpoint. If you visit it now, the level of deprivation is high – the bars that Ian Mallett talks about from the city centre can still be found down this way. Its like going back in time to the 90’s – near enough everywhere you look has an England flag hanging from a window. If not a English one, a Cornish Flag. This is an area where I can see both Tory voters and Labour Voters going for UKIP – I can really see this being a target.

  10. This seat and the town will shortly be handed an enterprise zone award..something that Plymouth has been lobbying for for many years. It is estimated it will create 7000 new jobs.

    Notwithstanding the October ASHCROFT LAB 13% lead- could this seat be one of the “unexpected” CON holds?

    ASHCROFT gave a big 20% to UKIP…could there be significant swing back from UKIP to CON – plus some LAB & LIB DEM switching to CON following the EZ award, enough to give a win to CON? ?

  11. Enterprise zone confirmed for South Yard in this constituency by GO in budget today.

  12. I live in the northern part of this constituency, which has a real mix of demographics with some of most expensive properties in the city (Manamead and Compton) only a few hundred yards from Mutley, which consists primarily of of old Edwardian town houses converted to student accommodation and bedsits interspaced with middle class alternative owner occupiers..This area is now one of the most thriving ENTE areas in the city.
    There are several very deprived areas in the constituency (with several LSOA’s falling in the 5% decile in the last IMD – and parts of Devonport officially the most deprived area in the South West..
    This should be prime UKIP territory, especially as there has been friction in the Stonehouse area between locals and Kurdish and Iraqi refugees, but both the St Peter’s (Stonehouse and Barbican) and Devonport wards are still fairly safe Labour areas.. this may in part be down to neighbourhood regeneration schemes funded by the EU SRB and New Deal for Communities and which improved the area almost beyond recognition.
    There are also some very active and well respected Labour Councillors in these areas who are still given a lot of credit for the regeneration.
    In contrast areas in the city like Honicknowle, Ernesettle, Whitleigh and Southway which were Labour in the main, have received little or no funding yet still suffer acute unemployment and it is in these areas that UKIP is gaining ground and they are expected to take a couple of Council seats off Labour in May…(which as things stand could see them holding the balance of power in City Council) – This is in Alison Seabeck’s Moorview constituency though not Sutton.

  13. Labour Gain. 3,000 maj.

  14. Lab gain 3400

  15. Although the Tories held this by 523 votes, the bizarre thing is that their majority is actually double that in Plymouth Moor View which they gained by 1,026.

  16. This seat was one on my “surprise ” CON holds – 95% of which came through.

    CON went off 5-2 outsiders here and apart from Rochester & Strood was my most profitable seat.

    I wrote this March :

    “Notwithstanding the October ASHCROFT LAB 13% lead- could this seat be one of the “unexpected” CON holds?

    ASHCROFT gave a big 20% to UKIP…could there be significant swing back from UKIP to CON – plus some LAB & LIB DEM switching to CON following the EZ award, enough to give a win to CON? ?”

    March 15th, 2015 at 10:32 p

  17. Looking at the result here, the Greens polled around 7%. If they hadn’t stood a candidate, Labour could’ve taken this.

  18. Oliver Colvile is the brother of longstanding Sky cricket presenter Charles.

  19. Bizarrely, Sutton ward wasn’t in Plymouth Sutton from 1983 to 1997, instead it was in Plymouth Drake

  20. You’d think the people of Plymouth had more to worry about than obsessing over the fact that their constituencies have to be called Sutton and Devonport regardless of the actual boundaries.

    Funny lot down in Devon.

  21. Plymouth city centre (St Peter’s) has been in

    Drake 1918-1950
    Devonport 1950-1983
    Drake 1983-1997
    Sutton 1997-2010
    Sutton and Devonport 2010-present

  22. It looks like Labour won this in the local elections on the same day as the general election by about 1,000 votes.

  23. In terms of unemployment rate – quite a good predictor of voting patterns – this is the Conservative seat with the highest rate, with the 102nd highest rate among all constituencies. Though Clacton is ranked 63.

    The next highest are South Thanet (104), Blackpool North and Cleveleys (105), Great Yarmouth (111) and North Thanet (137).


  24. Interesting, thanks Jack. No real surprises here (or with the Labour ones quoted on the other page).

  25. I find it absolutely incredible that David Owen, the man who left Labour for a number of reasons including leaving the common market, is in favour of leaving. However, I do agree with the things he said.

  26. ‘I find it absolutely incredible that David Owen, the man who left Labour for a number of reasons including leaving the common market, is in favour of leaving. ‘

    I find it fits in perfectly with the sometimes muddled and wildly inconsistent political positions has has taken since leaving the SDP/Liberal Alliance all those decades ago

  27. Plymouth MV ranks 229 by unemployment – so a fair bit lower than S&D.

  28. This seat is “safe Labour” according to YouGov’s nowcast.

    Incredible what’s happened over the last month.

  29. Or more likely it just shows that YouGov’s nowcast is bollocks.

    I did actually wonder whether this might be an outside prospect of a Labour gain with the university but certainly wouldn’t have thought it was “safe Labour”.

  30. I’d be surprised if Corbyn went down well in a seat with military associations like this one

  31. A month or two ago I thought that Labour was likely to fare “less badly” in the South than the North, given that they’d had some OK local election performances in much of the South since 2015, and there had been some attempts to calculate regional swings.

    YouGov’s nowcast looks like the obverse of that, with Labour apparently still struggling to hold seats such as Barrow or Bishop Auckland, but showing some big swings from the Tories in Plymouth, Swindon, Reading and Hastings.

  32. You Gov suggest that this is going to be a fairly comfortable win for Labour. Given that the LibDems appear to be getting nowehre in the South-West, this could provide Labour with a long-term opening.

    James E maakes an interesting point about the South ant the North. The Tories appear to have let go of the basics: start by consolidating what you have already got.

  33. Apparently there are voting irregularities here:

    We’ve had stories about postal voting but this is different. Still, although these seats were both hyper-marginal, Devonport is now safely Labour and Moor View is comfortably Conservative, so I doubt there will be any legal challenges. Nevertheless, this provides Labour with plenty of ammunition at the next set of council elections (current council is Tory minority administration propped up by UKIP), as this is a horrendous situation.

  34. Something was obviously wrong with this result (although not the winner) as both the main party and the turnout figures were too low.
    A pretty ghastly mistake.

    When I saw it declared I thought it was a pretty dreadful result for the Tories and a good one for Labour.

    Why the 2 seats went opposite ways not so sure.

  35. Wasn’t the voting figures corrected later on the 9th slightly increasing Pollard’s Majority.

  36. The results in Plymouth since 2010 – when the Cons fell short in Moor View but took S&D – are a very good illustration of how the profile of both parties votes have changed over the past seven years.

  37. I’ve always found Plymouth a pretty dismal city, not helped by the fact that it always seems to be raining. It is a hilly city with Moor View seemingly dominated by row after row of bleak terraced housing up the side of the hill looking down on the city. Sutton & Devonport not that nice either, hosting a hideously ugly 1970s traffic system and now increasingly dominated by students. I think the nicest suburbs of the city proper are east of the Lymm hence part of Devon South West constituency.

    Moor View does seem to have a penchant for high personal votes, this appears to have benefitted both Johnny Mercer and David Owen.

  38. Luckily the only time I was in Plymouth was on a nice sunny spring day. Nethertheless the person I know who campaigned a little here was shocked this seat fell to Labour as defence related issues like Trident came up a lot on the doorstep.

  39. This seat not only fell to Labour, but swung by just over 7% to them. As I’ve said on the Ealing Central thread, the 13% majority for Luke Pollard is large enough to suspect that he would have won even without Labour’s ‘surge’ during the campaign.

  40. Post-war planning was not kind to Plymouth.

  41. Nope.

  42. According to Private Eye, as many as 35,000 people in Plymouth were given both a polling card and a postal vote in June. It is possible that some of them voted twice, though it is believed that not enough of them did so to swing the result in either seat.

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