Reading East

2015 Result:
Conservative: 23217 (46%)
Labour: 16697 (33.1%)
Lib Dem: 3719 (7.4%)
Green: 3214 (6.4%)
UKIP: 3647 (7.2%)
MAJORITY: 6520 (12.9%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Berkshire. The eastern part of Reading and three wards from the Wokingham council area, covering the town of Woodley.

Main population centres: Reading, Woodley.

Profile: Reading is a commercial centre and commuter town in the Thames Valley in Berkshire. It is an affluent town, home to light, hi tech and service industry and houses many corporate headquarters including Microsoft, Oracle, British Gas and Prudential. Reading East is the more urban of the two Reading seats, taking in the town centre and the eastern and northern suburbs. The seat contains the majority of the University of Reading, which straddles the constituency border, but more importantly the majority of the students.

Politics: Reading East was a Conservative seat lost to Labour in the 1997 landslide. The Labour MP, Jane Griffiths, was acrimoniously deselected prior to the 2005 election following a long standing disagreement with the neighbouring MP, Martin Salter, and infighting within the local Labour party. The new Labour candidate Tony Page was defeated by Conservative Rob Wilson, who has held the seat since then.

Current MP
ROB WILSON (Conservative) Born 1965, Oxfordshire. Educated at Reading University. Reading councillor 1992-96, 2003-06. First elected as MP for Reading East in 2005. Opposition Whip 2009-10, PPS to Jeremy Hunt 2010-2013, PPS to George Osborne 2013-2014. Minister for Civil Society since 2014. Former member of the SDP. Was successfully sued for libel by his Labour opponent, sitting MP Martin Salter, in 2005.
Past Results
Con: 21269 (43%)
Lab: 12729 (25%)
LDem: 13664 (27%)
UKIP: 1086 (2%)
Oth: 1237 (2%)
MAJ: 7605 (15%)
Con: 15557 (35%)
Lab: 15082 (34%)
LDem: 10619 (24%)
GRN: 1548 (4%)
Oth: 1106 (3%)
MAJ: 475 (1%)
Con: 13943 (32%)
Lab: 19531 (45%)
LDem: 8078 (19%)
GRN: 1053 (2%)
Oth: 1013 (2%)
MAJ: 5588 (13%)
Con: 17666 (35%)
Lab: 21461 (43%)
LDem: 9307 (19%)
Oth: 744 (1%)
MAJ: 3795 (8%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ROB WILSON (Conservative) See above.
MATT RODDA (Labour) Project manager and former journalist. Reading councillor since 2011. Contested East Surrey 2010.
JENNY WOODS (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Oxford University. University programme leader.
ROB WHITE (Green) Born 1979. Reading councillor since 2010.
Comments - 191 Responses on “Reading East”
  1. I have already made this comment, but I posted it on the old election guide right before it closed, so seems to me it makes sense to repost it here:

    ‘Hi all. First off, a disclaimer. I’m a Labour activist in Reading East, but I don’t like partisan comments on this kind of a site anymore than the next person, so whilst I understand if people take my comments with a pinch of salt, I do actually aim to be objective.

    So, with that said, an update and some of my thoughts.

    Here are the prospective candidates for the seat so far:

    Conservative – Rob Wilson MP was re-selected easily.

    Labour – Cllr Matt Rodda, who won selection by a large margin.

    Lib Dems – Have yet to select a candidate. Their last candidate, Gareth Epps, is no longer a local councillor and for a variety of reasons is unlikely to stand again for the nomination.

    Greens – Cllr Rob White has again been selected.

    Have yet to hear news on who the other parties, like UKIP, will select.

    So, how do I think this seat is going to go? Again, as said, I’m a Labour activist there so maybe some of you think I’m going to unduly beef up our chances, but there’s a genuine conviction amongst alot of us here that we have a fair chance. The party machine in some areas is better than average, and alot of the Liberal votes were by disillusioned Labour voters who seem unwilling to stay with them (the local elections here of late show the Liberals being particularly hard hit in Reading). On the flipside, the constituency doesn’t just contain the east of Reading (which happens to include alot of the Tory areas in the town) but also the more Tory-Liberal Woodley area.

    Basically, my view is those who count Labour out here aren’t looking at the numbers properly, but clearly it’s still going to be a toughish ask for the party. Think I remember reading an 8% swing is needed.’

    Beyond what I said, I also have a comment on the council elections. In the last elections in May, Labour regained a majority on the council, and have now been governing Reading since 1986, with the exception of 2010-2011. As said in my earlier comment, the Liberals are in real trouble here in Reading. In 2010, the Liberals had 9 councillors over 3 wards; 2 of those wards were Labour-Liberal marginals, and by 2014 they’re going to lose all their councillors there (Reading is elected by thirds). Only in Tory-Liberal marginal Tilehurst will they be able to hold on, and maybe have a chance at regaining a seat from the Tories there in 2015.

    The Tories are also having real problems. In the last elections, they lost more seats than even Labour expected, and unless an increased turnout offers a reprieve in 2015, they’re on the way to being reduced to their 3-ward stronghold in the north of the town. All at the benefit of Labour. In addition, in one of those wards, two of the three Tories became independents back in 2012; one failed to get re-elected in May, but maybe the other one might do better in 2014. Those two defections attest to a wider division within the Tory party in Reading East, which won’t help their chances in the constituency.

    The only real wildcard for Labour are the Greens. They have pushed Labour out of one of their traditional wards – the place where Martin Salter MP cut his teeth on the council before being elected to Parliament. It’s hard to see readily where the Greens go next in Reading, but they’ll try.

  2. In my opinion, if the election was held just now it would be a pretty close call between the Conservatives and Labour.

    I defer to your local knowledge, but in 26 months time I suspect it’ll be a Conservative hold with some to spare – probably something like 38-40% Con, 30-32% Lab.

  3. The swing required is closer to 9 than 8 per cent. It’s a tough ask as you say but it could be pretty close if the LD voters from 2010 turn disproportionately to Labour (which I think is a distinct possibility). West remains a better option for Labour although there the Tory MP will have first-time incumbency. It’s a longshot but not impossible yet, though I have to point out that Labour would need a double-figures national lead to win the seat on an even swing. I personally doubt that that is likely to happen.

  4. Labour second though surely.
    (unless 1st).

  5. Without any doubt Labour will beat the LDs.

  6. A reasonably comfortable Conservative hold. I think Labour will find it tough enough winning back places like Stevenage and Crawley, never mind Reading East on a swing of nearly 9%.

  7. BM’s right, Labour will definitely beat the Lib Dems into second place. If the party can’t, it might as well forfeit the next election. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally agree it’s more chance than not the Tories will hold on here, but the above-average swing from the Lib Dems to Labour at work in Reading, plus some Tory division in the local party, and Labour now with a councillor base in all the vital areas, gives the party a real fighting chance. Really think Reading East is one of those places which will have a swing above the national. But then again, I’m looking at this from the inside, and there’s still two years to go.

  8. Swing above the average? From my admittedly none-expert perspective I would presume it would swing less than the average with being in the SE.

  9. Surprisingly, no. Although being smackbang in a Tory region, and surrounded by strong Tory seats, Reading is one of the few places with a very distinct political culture as compared to the surrounding region. The town has now been governed by Labour since 1986, with the exception of 2010-2011. If anything, the strong Tory nature of the region actually aids Labour, since alot of Reading disputes tend to involve neighboring Tory councils trying to constrict the growth of the town – and this dispute tends to cause abit more anti-Tory feeling in the town than might otherwise be expected.

  10. *few places in the South-East (there tends to be alot more of a blend between urban and suburbia/rural views in the rest of the region)

  11. Van Fleet- I have found your observations interesting and I don’t knock what you say because you are a Labour activist. You have declared your interest and you have local knowledge which I certainly don’t have. I just think you are under-estimating the task facing Labour. It is quite possible that they would need a swing here of double what they manage nationally. That should not be mooted lightly.

  12. I personally think Labour will find it tough going to win either of the Reading seats in 2015 particularly Reading East. They may run Alok Sharma close in Reading West but I can see him holding on. The party’s best prospects in the SE region are in East Sussex – Hastings and the Brighton & Hove seats. Brighton Pavilion will be a bit harder to crack due to the Greens but the other three seats should be relatively easy gains as things currently stand.

  13. Fair enough Tory. And don’t get me wrong, I accept me being on the inside of this campaign may give me a skewed perspective. In anycase, once we get closer to the election we’ll at least have more of an idea of the trend in this seat.

  14. I was rather surprised the LDs did well here in 2005/10.
    You would have thought it would have remained C-Lab even if Labour were receeding from their high water mark.

  15. Van Fleet- indeed, yes.

    Incidentally, I notice that Mapledurham is in this seat- home of Soames Forsyte in the Forsyte Saga!

  16. AKMD – I would be surprised if we even came close to retaking Brighton Pavilion. As far as I know, the Greens on the council have lost alot of their support, but I can’t see that translating into kicking out the very visible and hardworking Lucas. But that’s a subject for that seat’s page on this website.

    JJB – I haven’t really crunched the numbers on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Reading has played host to above-average swings both towards the Lib Dems in the 2000s and away now. They did so well in 2005/2010 because they were doing so well at converting disillusioned Labour voters in the area, thereby winning council victories in previously safe Labour wards, translating into a councillor base, which played a major part in the big gains in the constituency. Plus, in 2005 and 2010 they had very good and active candidates.

    Now they’re going to lose their remaining councillors in those prior Labour areas come 2014, those parliamentary candidates are gone, and probably the Lib Dems are going to focus their efforts come 2015 on defending their strength in Woodley, and also to try and regain a council seat they lost to the Tories back in 2011.

  17. Tory – maybe need to check that. Be aware there’s a neighboring village in Oxfordshire called Mapledurham, and then there’s the Mapledurham ward for Reading Borough Council (which borrowed the name from the village) which is actually a part of Caversham.

  18. “I would be surprised if we even came close to retaking Brighton Pavilion. As far as I know, the Greens on the council have lost alot of their support, but I can’t see that translating into kicking out the very visible and hardworking Lucas. But that’s a subject for that seat’s page on this website.”

    Which is precisely why I said that the other 3 Tory held marginals in East Sussex are more likely to be gained than Pavilion.

  19. Don’t worry AKMD, your point there did come across originally. I know you weren’t suggesting it was likely Labour would win BP. But still wanted to express my opinion nonetheless.

  20. I’m sure that Mapledurham village itself isn’t in this constituency, unlike the ward which bears its name in Reading. The village is still in Oxfordshire & is in the Henley constituency like the surrounding area. Reading north of the Thames was once in Oxfordshire but became part of Berkshire a long while ago.

  21. Thanks, Barnaby and Van Fleet. Yes, I’ve checked and Mapledurham village is in fact in Henley- perhaps far more fitting given the political views of its fictional resident!

  22. Now worked out the council results for this constituency from 2012. The next election’s in 2014. Be aware, most of the council wards here are for Reading Borough Council, but a few of them are for Wokingham. One ward didn’t hold an election in 2012, so I’ve estimated that one.

    Labour 9,091 (35%)
    Conservatives 7,735 (29.8%)
    Liberal Democrats 4,385 (16.9%)
    Greens 3,275 (12.6%)
    Independent 1,158 (4.5%)
    Common Sense 166 (negligible)
    UKIP 137 (negligible)

    Interestingly, across all 9 Reading wards, the Liberal Democrats gained just 1,823, whilst in just the 3 Wokingham wards, they gained 2,562.

    Compared to the 2010 council elections in Reading East:

    Labour: +12.2%
    Conservatives: -6.8%
    Liberal Democrats: – 14.9%
    Greens + 5.1%

    Swing from Con to Lab: 9.5%
    Swing from Lib to Lab: 13.6%

  23. This is an area where Labour do better locally than nationally. But the Labour vote is durable here and I wouldn’t rule it out – it’s much better a prospect than those white van man seats

  24. For what it’s worth, Labour performed worse locally than they did nationally in 2010 here in Reading East. Their local vote was near 3 points down compared to the parliamentary. The Lib Dems were up 4.5 points on the local. The Conservatives, interestingly, were down 6 points on the local! The Greens were up around 5.5 points on the local. Fascinating conclusions there – a fair few Tory national voters didn’t want to vote for them locally, so voted Lib or Green!

  25. And, to labour the point, Labour actually came third locally in this constituency by some distance back in 2010. Here are the council results across Reading East:

    Conservatives 17,900 (36.6%)
    Liberal Democrats 15,534 (31.8%)
    Labour 11,164 (22.8%)
    Greens 3,682 (7.5%)
    UKIP 554 (1.1%)
    Independent 44 (negligible)

  26. Van Fleet- I was wondering if you could explain to us why the Reading seats appear to be trending Labour in relation to 1992.

  27. I was just writing a post giving my take on that, but in the end I gave up. Truth is, I’m not so hot on the state of Reading back then. Really was before my time. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that – quite apart from a national trend of urban areas broadly trending Labour – I suspect alot of the outer areas of Reading have seen a decline in suburbanites, through some moving to places like Wokingham, but more broadly because nearby developments had made the area more accessible to lower-middle class residents.

    Plus, and here I feel I’m on more steady ground, Reading has become a magnet for the young urbanite, and whilst these folks don’t necessarily vote Labour per se, they don’t vote Conservative. Added to that, I believe the student vote has increased, which also doesn’t favour the Conservatives.

    Then there’s ethnic changes. Whilst Reading hasn’t seen anything near the dramatic ethnic changes other towns have, there has been a change regardless.

    So yeah, my guess is flight of suburbanites+more young urbanites/students+larger ethnic vote, is why Reading is trending Labour.

    Well, guess I didn’t really give up writing a post after all.

  28. Interesting reading- many thanks for that, Van Fleet.

  29. Well, since I gave my take on the West results, my take on the East.

    I’m actually rather encouraged by this. Don’t get me wrong, a gap of just over 5 points is absolutely nothing to bank. Rather, my encouragement comes from the high Green vote. The Greens won’t win here, obvs, and whilst many of those voters will vote Green in locals, if they’re persuaded to back a party capable of winning the parliamentary vote, Labour will be the recipient of a great many. As for the Lib Dem vote, well, that can’t be squeezed so easily – the majority of those votes comes from the 3 Wokingham wards, and they’re the type that won’t necessarily go Labour. But if the party works hard there to convert enough people, who knows. In some ways, going back to a debate with H.H. on East, Labour’s progress here actually looks more commendable.

  30. *H.H. on West

  31. Possibly a lot of that very high Lib Dem vote in Wokingham leans to the Tories in general elections.

    Thanks for the analysis. It’s so much better on here when the trolls have gone away for a bit.

  32. The fact the Tories got 6 points less in the local elections in 2010 than they did for the parliamentary vote lends credence to your theory. Like I said, Wokingham Lib Dems are affluent middle-class voters, who are not the type who are automatically going to turn Labour. The fact that the 3 Wokingham wards gave a far higher Lib vote than did the other 9 Reading wards suggests as much – the Lib voters in Reading itself were largely lower-middle or working. Labour’s just going to have to convert as many of them as they possibly can.

    The Green vote comes from disaffected middle-class Lib voters, and from the large student vote (practically all the Green vote was from Reading), and the Libs will have a very hard time getting them back for the general. Expect a great chunk of the local Green vote to go Labour for the parliamentary.

  33. Although the Wokingham wards in East are the Woodley area. This is the least chintzy part of Wokingham district, and is a Reading suburb which just happens to be in Wokingham. Its also the only part which ever reutrns Labour councillors – so in fact the tactical voting could be persuaded to go back to labour. It certainly went LD last time. By 2015 the Jane Griffiths effect should have subsided and it could revert to a close Lab-Con fight again

  34. I went to Woodley in 1992 and it was new office development and industrial parks.
    Agree it could be Labour competitive in a good year for them though.

  35. Since the mid 90s, only one of the three Wokingham wards (Bulmershe & Whitegates, Loddon, and South Lake) has ever returned a Labour councillor, and that was Bulmershe from 2002 to 2004. Indeed, that councillor was the only Labour councillor in all of Wokingham since 1994, and remains so. Looking at the 2012 results for Bulmershe, Labour does have the potential to get it back.

  36. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the LibDem voters there went Labour nationally, though – or at least have done in the past. Clearly not last time

  37. Will the selection of 2010 Labour candidate Annelise Dodds to the “shoo in” place on the Labour list for South East England help here at the next General Election?

    Van Fleet’s post for this seat is very interesting.

    This seat has an unhappy history for Labour. Obviously they had major problems with the MP until 2005, and the candidate who was, incredibly, chosen to replace her. But thinking back to when I knew Reading, many years ago, Reading East had chronic problems with internal factionalism, and views far to the left of its electorate, particularly by comparison with Reading West. This helps explain the high LibDem vote (although there are other historical reasons for this) and why Labour has consistently underperformed in Reading East compared to Reading West.

    What Van Fleet does not make clear is how far Reading East was cleaned up by the party machine after 2005, and conversely how far it has been possible to rebuild the Readin East Labour Party on a genuine grass roots basis rather than as an establishment vehicle through which establishment figures can control local input.

    This may be a semi-marginal on the margins of Labour’s hopes, but it is the sort of seat Labour needs to win, and with which to be honest the Labour leadership is currently failing to identify.

    There are, however, two big plusses for Labour. One is that the large LibDem vote means that Labour stands to gain from LibDem disafection with the Tories. The other is the large university vote, from which could recruit students unhappy with
    loans following the 2010 LibDem broken promises. But then does anybody believe that Miliband and co will do anything to address inadquate student finances?

  38. Well, since I made my first post – at which time, I really was a novice to this site – and though plenty of my opinions have been changed through all the voting calculations I do on various pages, my opinion on East holds as strong as ever. I see this as winnable. Nay, I see more favourable things here than West! Why? The thing that kept Labour down, like FS said, was the high LD vote, which the student vote was a factor in. There is no student vote really in West, and the local election results in East show the LD vote moving decisively to Labour. In East, there’s a high Green local vote, but not in West. I urge you all to look at the local election results I calculated again for 2012, and you’ll see there’s something going here for Labour.

    Especially since local election results in East historically underestimate Labour parliamentary support. We came third by some distance in 2010 locally!

    FS, I don’t have much to say on the history of this local CLP, and this really isn’t the place for that. Neither is it the place for debating student finance – this is a site devoted exclusively to the electoral aspects of constituencies. All I will say is our candidate in East is no loony left figure, which you seem to suggest was a problem with the CLP.

  39. Van Fleet

    The problem is that

    A) The tory vote is also understated locally as compared to nationally

    B) In the wokingham part of the constituancy in particular, many LDs must vote tory nationally.

    I just dont see a 9% swing being remotely on personally.

  40. Sorry I meant to add that the labour votes who previously voted LD locally have an obvious reason to switch.

    The tory voters who vote LD nationally do not, and as such perhaps the locals may overstate labour compared to the tories.

  41. I doubt that Labour will regain Reading East. Even if Van Fleet is right about conditions on the ground (and he may well be), Labour would in all likelihood need a swing of 2.5-3 times as great as the swing they are likely to achieve nationally. That is a tall order in my view.

  42. Definitely quite a high swing seat, very much affected by the state of the economy, and also with a rather larger traditional underlying Labour presence than in most similar towns.

    I also think it’s rather than an accident that the Lib Dems are in second place.

    Van Fleet is a very sensible and knowledgable poster, I think from this area.

    I’d be pretty amazed though if the Tories didn’t hold on – unless something changes further against them in the next 1.5 -2 years – although expect Labour to be up several points more than national.

  43. Yes, I can foresee Labour outstripping their national performance here- I just don’t think it will be enough.

    And yes, I agree about Van Fleet- his contributions are very insightful.

  44. I don’t think Labour will win Reading East unless they have a majority of about 100 seats nationally.

  45. If something goes really pair shaped with the economy or we find our fox shot – maybe Balls pushed out, or UKIP does a lot of damage again after 2014…but I think it would require the Government to be in a melt down like from 1995.

  46. I’m not so sure – you always get some seats swinging above the national average scattered around the country.

    I can see this seat might go Labour in any scenario where there is a national swing of any sort to Lab from Con, even though much smaller swings are denied them in other ‘winnable’ seats.

    But the truth is that none of us have a clue – which is what make’s this all fun!

  47. Well I do have a clue that Labour will be hard pushed to win a seat like this where they were in third place, 18% behind the winner. The next election won’t be a landslide for any party, that’s pretty certain I think.

  48. Van Fleet. The history of the Labour Party locally has had a considerable impact over the years on election results in this seat and in this respect is a valid matter for discussion on this site . This is potentially true also of the organization of other parties.

    Similarly, whilst this may not be the place to debate the principles of student finance, it is very much the place to discuss the impact of changes, or potential changes, in party policy, including party policy on student financing, on actual and predicted election results. This is particularly the case because the large number of students is such as to have a mjor impact on results in seats like this (Canterbury and Sheffield Hallam, for instance, would be other cases in point).

  49. I think Reading town centre (Abbey ward) was in Reading North from 1950-1955 and from 1974-1983 and then this seat since.

  50. Much as though I would love to see this seat go to The Greens- as in my opinion they are doing well on Reading UA Council but wishful thinking aside- as the Parliamentary seat straddles both Reading and Wokingham UA’s – I can’t help feel that although the main fight will be between Conservatives and Labour that the Conservative will just swing it here. The Labour vote that may have defected to alternatives in 2010 may well come back but the Liberal Democrats have a loyal electoral base nationally and the rise of UKIP though not enough to win the seat should see the margins between the other two come closer together- I suspect the Tories will take this seat albeit with a much reduced majority unless some major crisis befalls the party or their local candidate makes some major faux pas. – Labour simply isn’t gaining strength enough nationwide, and especially across the SE. – I suspect they will just about hang on to 1 MEP at Brussel next year and the only seat gains in SE England will be the Sussex Coast seats in Hove, Brighton &/or Hastings.

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