Reading West

2015 Result:
Conservative: 23082 (47.7%)
Labour: 16432 (33.9%)
Lib Dem: 2355 (4.9%)
Green: 1406 (2.9%)
UKIP: 4826 (10%)
TUSC: 83 (0.2%)
Independent: 156 (0.3%)
Others: 64 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 6650 (13.7%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Berkshire. The western part of the Borough of Reading.

Main population centres: Reading, Theale, Pangbourne, Tidmarsh.

Profile: Reading is a commerical centre and commuter town in the Thames Valley in Berkshire. It is an affluent town, home to light, hi tech and service industry. It houses many corporate headquarters, including Microsoft, Oracle, British Gas and Prudential. Reading West is the less urban of the two Reading seats - while it includes several council estates such as those at Southcote and Whitley, it also stretches out to the West of Reading itself to take in more rural areas including Theale, Tidmarsh and Pangbourne, the site of Pangbourne College, formerly a Royal Naval College. The annual Reading Music Festival is held at Little John`s Farm at the North of the constituency. The seat also includes Reading FC`s Madejski Stadium. John Madejski, the Reading FC Chairman, is a notable donor to the Conservative party.

Politics: Reading West is a classic marginal, held by the Conservatives from its creation in 1983 until the Labour landslide of 1997, after which it remained Labour until the Conservative victory of 2010.

Current MP
ALOK SHARMA (Conservative) Born 1967, India. Educated at Reading Blue Coat School and Salford University. Former chartered accountant. First elected as MP for Reading West in 2010.
Past Results
Con: 20523 (43%)
Lab: 14519 (31%)
LDem: 9546 (20%)
UKIP: 1508 (3%)
Oth: 1434 (3%)
MAJ: 6004 (13%)
Con: 14258 (34%)
Lab: 18940 (45%)
LDem: 6663 (16%)
UKIP: 1180 (3%)
Oth: 1062 (3%)
MAJ: 4682 (11%)
Con: 13451 (32%)
Lab: 22300 (53%)
LDem: 5387 (13%)
UKIP: 848 (2%)
MAJ: 8849 (21%)
Con: 18844 (39%)
Lab: 21841 (45%)
LDem: 6153 (13%)
Oth: 575 (1%)
MAJ: 2997 (6%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ALOK SHARMA (Conservative) See above.
VICTORIA GROULEF (Labour) Educated at Nottingham University. Businesswoman. Former Wycombe councillor.
MERI O`CONNELL (Liberal Democrat) Youth justice worker. Reading councillor since 2012.
MALIK AZAM (UKIP) Born Sheffield.
MIRIAM KENNET (Green) Economist and academic. Contested South East region 2014 European election.
SUZIE FERGUSON (Independent) Born Salisbury. Educated at The Romsey School and Surrey University. Chartered Chemical Engineer.
PHILIP WEST (Roman Party Ave!)
Comments - 104 Responses on “Reading West”
  1. On your figures, the Tories being only 4% below 2010 levels in 2011/12 is extremely resilient.

    Based on that statistic alone, I’d be extremely surprised if Labour win this back.

    Electorally I always thought that the two Eds deciding to accept the cuts was a very bad move…it looks like the polls might be agreeing with that. But they could still very easily be the largest party, even if they fall well short in the likes of Reading West.

  2. Yes, I noticed that Tory resilience as well. It’s the decline of the Liberal Democrats which has breathed new life into Labour here. And that will be worrying in West Berkshire, because there isn’t an enormous LD vote left to squeeze. However, the turnout in West Berkshire was in the low-mid 40s, whereas the turnout in Reading in 2012 was in the high 20s/low 30s, so that will skew things abit.

    Interestingly, Labour’s made better progress about the Tories in Reading East. There, the Tories are down near 7 points. And the swing is just shy of 10%.

  3. Very interesting

  4. I tabulated the council results on the Reading East page. Check ’em out. Thankfully, every ward bar one had an election in 2012, so that made it alot easier to work out!

  5. After calculating the results for Milton Keynes South, it’s quite apparent the 2011 turnout really skews things. Those West Berkshire results have a much larger turnout than do the 2012 Reading results, so whilst I’m not sure what the gap between Labour and the Conservatives actually is, it is alot larger than that aggregation earlier suggests.

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

  7. Has Alok Sharma been re-selected yet? Odd that Rob Wilson was back in Dec 2012 but no announcement that Sharma is definitely staying on!

  8. I agree it’d odd. I haven’t heard that he’s been re-selected, but then again I’ve heard nothing to suggest he isn’t running again.

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

    Abbey ward is in Reading East.

    Anyway, still a month off, but here’s my prediction for Reading Borough Council come May.

    Labour: 31 (+5)
    Conservatives: 10 (-2)
    Liberal Democrats: 2 (-2)
    Greens: 3 (0)
    Independent: 0 (-1)

    Labour majority of 8.

    Basically, much the same as 2012. Labour’s most vulnerable seats are Caversham and Kentwood, both gains off the Tories that year. But Labour scored commanding leads, and I can’t see the Tories making that up, even with their improved standing in the polls.

    The Conservatives will probably lose further seats in those two wards, but will gain Peppard from a Tory-turned-independent.

    The Liberal Democrats will lose Katesgrove and Redlands, but retain Tilehurst – a feat accomplished in 2012, but not 2011 when they lost seats in all of them.

    The Greens will probably retain the two Park wards up for election. Labour might have a chance at one seat where the sitting councillor resigned, though evicting Green leader Cllr Rob White will probably be a bridge too far this time round, and he’ll probably see the other Green elected on his coattails. Can’t see them being able to advance outside of Park.

    UKIP won’t be a big factor here, though they will probably emerge as the main opposition in wards like Whitley. Probably also likely to harm the Tories in Caversham proper where they would have been hoping to push back against Labour.

  10. ‘Can’t see them being able to advance outside of Park.’

    My fellow Greens’ often end up trapped in enclaves in other councils of the country that are outside their strongest areas (Norwich, Brighton, Oxford, Lancaster, Solihull, and Stroud), due to our limited resources- St. Michael’s in Liverpool, Callowland in Watford, Fishergate in York, and Farnley and Wortley in Leeds are other examples of local Green enclaves (as was Highgate in the London Borough of Camden between 2006-10)

  11. Some of those enclaves are characterised by a particular demographic that generally favours the Greens, notably lecturers, students and “trendies”. Fishergate in York is where many of the students live when they “live out” in the second year (they erroneously call it Fulford).

    Newsome in Huddersfield (Kirklees) also contains the majority of the student populace and is as near as Huddersfield gets to “trendy”.

    Highgate ward (esp the Dartmouth Park end where the Green (and Labour) vote comes from…the wealthy Highgate Village bit is far more Tory), speaks for itself, though it will be interesting to watch as the intellectuals move out and more and more bankers move in.

    Some other areas are a mystery though.

  12. Newsome ward isn’t particularly student dominated, though – at one time it was a Labour-LibDem marginal, and the Greens effectively fought a strong local community politics based campaign and won votes locally in that way.

    However, they do not translate into national support at all. Its very much a local enclave for local elections.

    They have won the Kirkburton seat as well, though not consistently – which is prime Tory ‘posh village’ territory. Currently they hold two out of the three seats there

  13. I’d just like to say that Reading council’s website has so far been the most difficult to use as far as finding information on the local elections is concerned, and so far I’ve visited about 100 of them.

  14. Yeah, I concede the council’s website overall is pretty bad.

  15. …and such a shame too. Thie old template used to display annual election results beautifully, complete with a coloured map. Very appropriate for what is a pretty political town.

    Their new website is very slick, but has lost that functionality.

  16. The good local election results for Labour here suggest that Reading is now commuter land voting along with London in a country now sharply divided between the capital and (all) the regions.

  17. Votes cast in local elections:

    Lab 8,626
    Con 4,713
    LD 2,156
    Green 1,810
    UKIP 1,655

    Labour “win” both Reading seats relatively comfortably, at the same time as failing in places like Worcester, Gloucester, Swindon.

  18. Of course must be emphasised that a good deal of the constituency falls under West Berkshire, and they didn’t have local elections this year. Indeed, the last ones were back in 2011.

    If the Reading results were all that mattered, quite clearly it’d be a Labour seat, but unfortunately for us these West Berkshire wards were convincingly Conservative in 2010. Arguably it’s a battle between two extremes – Labour’s safe Reading West wards vs the Conservatives’ safe West Berkshire wards, and who can undermine the others’ hold in these areas the most.

  19. *other’s

  20. If you add on the 2011 locals for West Berks the Tories are still in front. Those were > 60% Tory voting.

  21. Joe- good point. We should not forget that 30% of Reading West’s constituents live under the West Berkshire authority. Mr Sharma may be very grateful for that come 2015!

  22. Considering that Labour led in Reading East by 4 points in the locals just past, yet could well have been behind in Reading West had West Berkshire held elections, there’s an argument that actually the 2010 results are deceptive – that maybe Reading East is on its way to becoming the more competitive seat in the town. Maybe it already is.

  23. The collapse of the Lib Dems in Reading West has generally helped Labour, particularly around the University. In Reading West, the Lib Dems were weaker and in the country areas of West Berkshire had already been beaten by the Conservatives, as in Newbury.
    I though the experience of the floods and Ashok Shama giving Ed Milliband an earful would have made a difference in some wards.

    It is a puzzle to me that generally for most of the last thirty years Labour have won local elections in most Reading ward by big margins on low turnouts, but have only limited success at Parliamentary elections.

  24. Remember that the boundaries for the Reading constituencies were very different before 1997. Back then, Reading East actually extended as far down as Finchampstead! Which, if you know the area there and in between, is utterly impregnable Tory areas.

    Labour are certainly being helped by the fact that Reading itself is trending towards them. Control of the council was only gained in 1986, yet the Tories could only manage a coalition control in 2010, and lost it a year later.

    And you’re very right about Reading East. Labour coming third in 2010 looks more and more deceptive of the reality on the ground today. Coming third was through a big Lib Dem surge. The locals quite clearly show that bubble has burst, and it’s Labour that’s benefited most.

  25. ^Speaking of Reading East, could that 3rd place Labour finish in 2010 also be partly down to the mess following Jane Griffiths’ deselection in 2004 thereby making the CLP disorganized? Or was it simply the national picture and the Lib Dem surge?

  26. Van Fleet- what is your assessment of Martin Salter’s personal vote in Reading West?

  27. By 2010, the deselection wasn’t an issue. The CLP had largely moved on by then (there was still damage, but it wasn’t an active issue), and the voters had moved on as well. Of course, would have been a whole alternative universe had the deselection not happened, or had been done better, as we would have probably held on, and whilst still losing in 2010 would have kept second place.

  28. Significant, Tory. Don’t quote me on this, but by my reckoning he had one of the best personal votes for an MP. I remember hearing stories from campaigners in West, saying how voters were immediately turned off from Labour once they were told Salter wasn’t standing again. He certainly had a very good public personality, which really got voters onboard.

  29. Tory – clearly Salter had a very large personal vote. This would have been made even larger still when he moved to Theale – it’s generally thought that he at least tied Theale with the Tories in 2001. A swing of the magnitude of that seen in 2010 would have been very hard to contemplate if Salter had stood – it’s quite possible that he might have survived but he may have lost narrowly.

  30. And to be honest, it didn’t help we had a well-meaning but gaffe-prone candidate trying to replace him. Clips like this most certainly did not help:

  31. Thanks, Barnaby and Van Fleet. I was always impressed whenever I saw Salter on television- a straight-talker and a character too.

  32. In 2001 both Reading seats saw pretty good swings towards Labour. Think a similar increase in vote occcurred in the Swindon seats at the time.

  33. In fact there was an increase in the Labour share of the vote in 2001 in all the Berkshire constituencies. Perhaps not surprisingly the only exception was Maidenhead, where the electorally hapless John O’Farrell was the candidate (in his native heath).

  34. Did Labour supporters in Maidenhead strategically vote Lib Dem in that election? Could explain how Theresa May’s majority fell and was briefly a marginal seat. Obviously didn’t last long what with that less than successful Lib Dem strategy to defeat a number of prominent Tory frontbenchers (bar Westmoreland & Lonsdale).

  35. Yes, they clearly did. But in 1997 May had enjoyed a large majority & she wasn’t an obvious target to most of us.

  36. Labour held Southcote ward with ease on Thursday. UKIP finished third but seems to have eaten a chunk out the Tory vote.

  37. LD candidate = Meri O’Connell:

  38. Please include Independent Candidate = Suzie Ferguson

    Born Salisbury 1980, lives in Tidmarsh, chartered engineer working for Amec Foster Wheeler, educated at the Romsey School, Totton College and the University of Surrey.

  39. Labour are generally strong in Reading itself. It’s shaping up to be one if its best local authorities in the South East.

    It’s the other parts of the constituencies that cause them problems. There are West Berkshire wards in this seat. In Reading East, it contains the town of Woodley in Wokingham Borough as well.

    They should improve their election performance in both seats this year, but I don’t expect them to be in with a shot of winning them.

  40. Conservative Hold. 3,000 maj

  41. A decent result for Mr Sharma here.

    One imagines the prospect of a Miliband government got the burghers of Tidmarsh and Pangbourne out.

  42. This was apparently a Green Target although I can’t imagine why.

  43. Wrong Reading constituency, surely? Did you mean Reading East?

  44. Yes. Although they did pretty badly there too.

  45. Whilst they’ve developed one of the East wards into a stronghold, they’ve clearly found it hard to breakout.

  46. Off-topic:

    Documentary following a Reading family in 1974:

  47. Labour won 11 out of 16 seats in the council elections. There can’t be many places where a party does so well in local elections but hasn’t won a parliamentary seat since 1966.

  48. I don’t follow that, Andy.

    Reading West was a Labour seat from 1997-2010.

  49. Apologies, got mixed up with another area.

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