Rochester & Strood

2015 Result:
Conservative: 23142 (44.1%)
Labour: 10396 (19.8%)
Lib Dem: 1251 (2.4%)
Green: 1516 (2.9%)
UKIP: 16009 (30.5%)
TUSC: 202 (0.4%)
MAJORITY: 7133 (13.6%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Kent. Part of the Medway council area.

Main population centres: Rochester, Strood, Grain, Hoo St Werburgh, Halling.

Profile: A largely industrial seat in the conurbation of Medway in Kent. Rochester and Strood is geographically the largest of the Medway seats, taking in not just Rochester and Strood themselves but also the expanse of the Hoo peninsula between the estuaries of the Thames and Medway. The peninsula and the Isle of Grain are largely marshland, an important site for wild birds, and are often cited as possible locations for a Thames Estuary airport. The south of the peninsula is industrial, and includes a major container port, a gas import plant and two power stations. The urban part of the seat is the western part of Medway, with Strood to the west of the river and Rochester to the east. Rochester is a historic city of strategic importance on the Medway (hence the presence of Rochester Castle and various Napoleonic Forts built to protect Chatham dockyard), it is also the second oldest Bishopric in England. As is the case across North Kent there is significant redevelopment in progress, with thousands of new houses being planned along the river medway waterfront. The village of Borstal in the West of Rochester was the site of the original borstal and still hosts HMP Rochester. The constituency also stretches south to take in Cuxton and Halling, a former chalk mining village that is now largely a commuter area.


Current MP
KELLY TOLHURST (Conservative) Former businesswoman and marine surveyor. Medway councillor since 2011. Contested Rochester and Strood by-election 2014. First elected as MP for Rochester & Strood in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 23604 (49%)
Lab: 13651 (28%)
LDem: 7800 (16%)
GRN: 734 (2%)
Oth: 2182 (5%)
MAJ: 9953 (21%)
Con: 17120 (42%)
Lab: 17333 (42%)
LDem: 5152 (13%)
UKIP: 1488 (4%)
MAJ: 213 (1%)
Con: 15134 (39%)
Lab: 18914 (49%)
LDem: 3604 (9%)
UKIP: 958 (2%)
MAJ: 3780 (10%)
Con: 16504 (37%)
Lab: 21858 (49%)
LDem: 4555 (10%)
Oth: 405 (1%)
MAJ: 5354 (12%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005, name changed from Medway

2015 Candidates
KELLY TOLHURST (Conservative) Businesswoman and marine surveyor. Medway councillor since 2011. Contested Rochester and Strood by-election 2014.
NAUSHABAH KHAN (Labour) Educated at Fort Pitt Grammar and Birmingham University. PR consultant.
PRUE BRAY (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Manchester University. Wokingham councillor since 2000. Contested Wokingham 2005, 2010.
MARK RECKLESS (UKIP) Born 1970. Educated at Oxford University. Barrister and banker. Medway councillor 2007-2011. Contested Medway 2001, 2005. MP for Rochester and Strood 2010 to 2015. Defected to UKIP in 2014 and won the subsequent by-election.
CLIVE GREGORY (Green) Musician and sound engineer. Rochester and Strood by-election 2014.
Comments - 728 Responses on “Rochester & Strood”
  1. I wonder if Mark Reckless will stand here again in 2020?

  2. ‘Still can’t believe how badly Reckless tanked here in the end. Not that Labour were really up to much themselves’

    The mystery to me was that he won the by-election in the first place – although to be fair he was against a Tory opponent who was almost as weak as he was, and none of the other parties put any real effort in

    ‘I also get the impression that the new intake of Tory MPs has tilted the balance of the parliamentary party slightly leftwards’

    Is that really the case?

    If so. there were a quite a few left-leaning Tory MPs who stood down in 2015 – Peter Luff, Charles Hendry, Jonathan Evans, Richard Ottaway, Stephen Dorrell, Bob Walters, Tony Baldry, Sir George Young, Peter Tapsell, Laura Sandys, John Randall

  3. I don’t really know what might happen in this seat in 2020 TBH- It looks like it does have the potential to go back quite badly on UKIP does this seat, particularly given their performance here this year was largely an after-effect of the by-election. I don’t think this seat has even been their best territory anyway.

  4. I think that getting 16000+ votes twice here shows a decent personal support for Reckless, combined with some Labour voters moving across in the hope of blocking the Tories.

    Strood isn’t bad UKIP territory, but Rochester is horrendous.

    Unless he’s the candidate here in 2020 I think that it’ll be a fight for 2nd between UKIP and Labour.

    Tolhurst isn’t the strongest candidate by any means, but realistically she’s going to have more danger from the local party de-selecting here than from either opposition party.

    The Labour candidate for this seat seemed decent, she might have earned herself a crack at somewhere more winnable. Hope so, considering some of the dross that’s been parachuted in elsewhere, in West Yorkshire in particular.

  5. Yes, it seems like the Labour lady for this seat got consistently good reviews. We’ll see how she does.

    Tolhurst really is pretty unconvincing, from what I’ve seen of her. That said, she also gives the air of someone who isn’t going to do anything stupid enough to get her deselected, so her long term prospects here look good. She has some interesting views re: Israel/ Palestine which are are more ‘left’/ liberal than the vast majority of Tories, but other than that I see her as a pretty bog standard right of centre Tory MP.

    At least she offers some respite from Oxford/ PPE…zzzz.

  6. Looks like a fairly convincing regain of the seat. She’s a local businesswoman, I see her as a good deal more convincing than a Spad.
    Labour will probably get back into second place at some point depending how it’s drawn.

  7. I admire people who set up businsesses and do well. Good luck to her here.

  8. The Tories selecting someone who’s not a SPAD/PPE/Oxbridge here in ROCHESTER & Strood was a no brainer and they were sensible enough to not pick such a PPC. Had they done so, they probably would have lost both the GE.

    Picking a successful LOCAL person was always, I thought, a savvy decision.

    And Far too much is made by far too many political pundits of the value that class, academic achievements or intelligence has on votes. Does anyone really fink Tolhurst would ave lost votes ere cos she was working class, didn’t go to University and had a local wc accent?

    Very few people vote other than on the basis of the national picture (unless a seat contains a PPC who is tainted with scandal/disgrace etc).

  9. She did well to hold the swing down here in 2014 – in a very difficult situation.
    I thought she would regain the seat .

  10. Much will depend upon whterh Mark Reckless stands again or whether he prefers to go back to being a barrister.

    Corbyn Labour would be unlikely to regain what might regard as its “natural” vote from UKIP, particularly as there is plenty of white working-class vote in the seat for UKIP to target.

    One wonders how boundary changes might affect this seat, not least as it is not a natural unity.

  11. ‘Much will depend upon whterh Mark Reckless stands again or whether he prefers to go back to being a barrister’

    I think Mark Reckless political career is effectively over and whilst he’d never admit as much, I think he must massively regret defecting to UKIP given that he had been trying to win this seat as a Tory for decades

    I guess he saw himself as another Douglas Carswell but if so he misjudged the electorate of this seat and his own ability to win votes from them

    A more interesting question might be how the Labour vote had effectively halved since 2001

  12. “‘Much will depend upon whterh Mark Reckless stands again or whether he prefers to go back to being a barrister’”

    Why can’t he do both? Many people remain barristers even after being elected. He’s quite tenacious and I expect he will stand again, perhaps even as a Tory though he’s probably burnt too many boats for that.

  13. It’s interesting how most people seem to be assuming UKIP are pretty much finished. It’s much too early to say that IMO. In fact I think they could get even closer to Labour at the next election if Corbyn is leader. The EU referendum won’t change things as much as some assume. There’s a growing constituency all over Europe for populist parties.

  14. The Conservatives are very tribal and I think Reckless’s failed defection will damn him for all time as far as they are concerned. There was a lot of nasty comment directed at him from former colleagues in the Tory party when he lost his seat, including Claire Perry’s immortal message ‘don’t let the door hit your fat arse as you leave’.

  15. I certainly don’t see UKIP as finished, but they are not going to gain seats in a flood now. Instead it will be an uphill grind.

    There are 11 seats in which UKIP are in second place and in which they require a swing of less than 10%: –
    Thanet South
    Boston and Skegness
    Heywood and Middleton
    Dagenham and Rainham
    Rochester and Strood
    Rother Valley
    Stoke-on-Trent Central
    Basildon South and Thurrock East
    Isle of Wight
    Castle Point.

    There are another 9 seats in whcih UKIP could win with a 10% swing but in which they are in third place. Of these Thurrock, in which they requuire a swing on 0.98% is obviously winnable. In the rest they need a swing of over 7.5% to beat the winner, which is going to be difficult unless both major parties are in a bad way in 2020.

    In my view, if UKIP were to win most of the eleven seats I have listed above in 2020 they should, realistically speaking, be well satisfied.

    It took Labour a generation between winning their first seat and becoming a minority Government in 1923, and another generation before they won an outright majority in 1945. Similarly, the SNP won their first seat in the 1960s (disregarding their brief by-election victory just before the 1945 election); but it is only in the last couple of years that they have become Scotland’s “natural” party of Government.

    UKIP do have a couple of things in their favour. Firstly, they are clearly aiming now for seats that demographically have a high white workng-class vote with comparatiely low education levels, specifically in relation to higher education. Secondly, in geographical terms they are looking mostly at seats near the East Coast and away from regonal centres of government.

    UKIP’s absolute minimum target is to win at least one seat in 2020. If they don’t do that they will collapse.

    UKIP need to accept that they are in for the long haul now..

    Critical issues for UKIP at the moment are to set up a sound party organisation and to recruit and vet good candidates for 2020. A new party can get away with throwing out some candidates who step on metaphorical banana skins; but UKIP are past that stage now.

  16. “It took Labour a generation between winning their first seat and becoming a minority Government in 1923”

    The problem for UKIP is that the old fashioned WWC is diminishing quite fast, at least as a % of the electorate. When the millions of children born to the immigrants of the post 1997 period get the vote, the electoral demographics of this country will change quite considerably.

    UKIP probably have a window of about 10 years to establish themselves before their potential support base starts to seriously erode.

  17. Agree. But as the English become more embattled it is possible that a larger percentage of them will support an ethnic party.

    It is remarkable how far many people were willing to support Blairism which did not support so much equality (which I support) as active discrimination against the English, and against English men in particular. Possibly the same could be said about Cameron Conservatism now.

  18. The lone voices criticising Blair’s constitutional policies were ridiculed as stuffy old farts at the time, but they have been proved right.

  19. Yes. Some of us regret our opposition to Enoch Powell too, although Powell put people off by the uncompromising way in which he made his case, and I suspect in the end went too far.

  20. FS “Some of us regret our opposition to Enoch Powell…” are you referring to him – as Minister for Health – of continuing, encouraging and allowing very high numbers of ‘Commonwealth’ doctors and nurses entering and settling into the UK?

    According to Heath he said he could face down nurses unions as ‘he could all the nurses he wants from the Commonwealth.’

    His programme, which was his baby, brought in 18,000 doctors from Pakistan and India in 1963 alone.

  21. Thanks for correcting me, Deepthroat.. Thank you for showing up my ignorance on that matter. Of course not.

    Not least, the Indian sub-continent needed all those 18,000 nurses and more.

    Powell should also have initiated the foundation of more new teaching hospitals in this country.

  22. Was it fear of the SNP? Did the UKIP novelty wear off in this seat?

  23. Fear of the SNP was a very big factor in all the north Kent seats including this one. Were it not for that, I think this seat would have been on a knife edge.
    I also have good reason to believe that they would have got very close in Sittingbourne and Sheppey as well.

  24. For some strange reason, the website only posted the last line of my message but thanks for your answer Democracy.

  25. While I would agree the SNP were a factor in how many conservative-leaning voters voted, I think turnout was also important. Mark Reckless basically held onto what he had in the by-election, but GE turnout boosted the Conservatives by 10000. Across the country the Conservatives retook council seats, this wouldn’t have been down to the SNP threat or a massive surge in popularity, but simply that conservative voters turned out and other parties didn’t, and the Conservative gained a few percent in the opinion polls(but still not much).

  26. If it hadn’t been for the Reckless defection I very much doubt R&S would ever have been a UKIP target. In the end, it probably drew their energies away from other seats where they could have been closer, but without the defection the 30% they got here wouldn’t have been achieved.

    I think the SNP factor was a huge blow to UKIP who kept all the Labour defectors but lost most of their Tory defectors. The Corbyn threat isn’t going to change that either, but if UKIP want to win Kent seats they can’t focus their appeal on more Labour defectors because there aren’t enough Labour voters in Kent to win much for Labour itself!

  27. Before 1997 I think the dockyard was in Medway and Chatham town centre in Mid Kent. Since then the dockyard was in Medway and then Rochester and Strood. On reflection though, as can be seen from the ward list below perhaps the dockyard AND the town centre were in Medway before 1997 while the Chatham suburbs were in Mid Kent

    1983 City of Rochester-upon-Medway parliamentary boundaries:

    Medway (unchanged 1997): All Saints; Cuxton and Halling; Earl; Frindsbury; Frindsbury Extra; Hoo St Werburgh; Rede Court; St Margaret’s and Borstal; Temple Farm; Thames Side; Town; Troy Town; Warren Wood

    Mid Kent: Holcombe; Horsted; Lordswood; Luton; Walderslade; Wayfield; Weedswood (this constituency also took in electoral wards from the Borough of Maidstone but I have not included them here)

  28. An unlikely resurrection for Mark Reckless?

    Personally this represents a pretty cynical form of parachuting as far as I am concerned – but more surprising is that UKIP high command (ie Nigel Farage) still cares about Mr Reckless, enough to pull this sort of stunt.

    The timing is awkward – Reckless would fit better as an MEP but the referendum will have happened by the time the next European elections come around.

  29. This has been talked about for a little while. I can see why Farage wants to exert some control on selection – they could end up with high single figures of AMs and he’ll want to ensure they are at least semi-credible, not whichever loons find favour among the – probably quite small and amateurish – Welsh branches. Reckless, and certainly Neil Hamilton (!), probably aren’t the right people though.

  30. I recnetly bllogged on the Ogmore thread, pointing out that one of the former MPs there was a prominent English trades unionist. Welsh seats have never been prejudiced against non-Weslh candidates of exceptional ability.

    But Mark Reckless and Niel Hamilton both lost their Westminster seats. This hardly suggests that they are the sort of exceptional candidate that Welsh seats look for. The only precedent I can think of is Michael Foot, and these two UKIP former MPs are nothing like in the same ability league.

  31. Well, English candidates are always unlikely to be much of a drag on LAB’s performance in very safe seats at a GE. The danger is in marginals and by-elections, though it is only a danger not guaranteed defeat.

    UKIP’s seats will come through the list so individual candidates won’t matter so much to electoral performance, though the other parties may draw attention to them having English losers at the top of their list if that is so.

  32. Neil Hamilton is actually Welsh.

    UKIP’s list of candidates for the Welsh Assembly will be decided by a ballot of party members:

    I reckon that makes it unlikely Hamilton and Reckless will make it.

  33. Talk of calling in the police on the reputed Tory overspend in the by-election here and in Clacton (and Newark):

  34. Seems likely to me that they breached the spirit of the rules but the actual rules. See the Guido story here –

    In any case these by-election are ancient history now so I can’t see a police investigation getting very far.

  35. Well if you sit through the Channel 4 clip you will hear that the fairly monstrous hotel bills which were not declared were all personally sent to the home address of the campaign manager and she obviously did not pay them herself. One of the guests was called “Mr Conservatives”. Duh…

    There is quite clearly a breach of the rules here. Saying that its old (and frankly its not all that old) doesn’t mean that whoever signed off on the expenses report to the Electroal Commission should not be hauled up. It was quite obviously a concealment of the expenses breach.

  36. This was discussed on Daily Politics today (first time I have watched it in months as I am off work with a fever at the moment).

    I have no idea how the Conservatives managed to spend £56k on hotel bills in Rochester. Were they staying at the Ritz? (Or whatever the Medway equivalent of the Ritz is?)

  37. Could there still be a criminal investigation that might lead to the candidate involved having to stand down now that she is the MP?

  38. According to TripAdvisor there’s only one hotel in Rochester, the Gordon House Hotel. Not sure what typical rates are like.

  39. The Channel 4 video shows the hotels (one for the higher ups and the Premier Inn for the riffraff).. this pattern was repeated in each place.

    One of the hotels was actually a spa… very Tatler Tory..

  40. Graham, no way is this going to force Kelly Tolhurst to stand down considering she wasn’t even elected in the by-election. There might be a case in Newark, but then again, the overspending* was not the candidate’s fault.

    *Also can we find a better word than “overspending”? It makes it sound accidental, which was almost certainly not the case.

  41. ‘I reckon that makes it unlikely Hamilton and Reckless will make it.’

    I can not understand for the life of me why UKIP are so keen to resurrect the sleaze-ridden career of Neil Hamilton, a despicable man by any measure

    Does he give them money or does he just know something about them that he’s willing to hush up so long as they get

    Hamilton’s crimes might be a long time ago, but I’m sure the public take the same dim view of his as they did in 97 – when they booted him put of true-blue Tatton in a landslide

    His candidature – if it does go through – will only lose UKIP votes

  42. Polltroll

    The point is though that she was the candidate at the by election, and if the matter comes to court and there is a conviction does that fall on her – or her agent?

  43. I think it falls on Conservative Party HQ, since they’re the ones spending the money.

  44. I don’t think that would be the case in legal terms – it would be a matter of which individual is held responsible for submitting a false declaration of election expenses.

  45. Yes, it’s whoever signed. Usually the Agent. But of course a Judge declaring it invalid would overturn the By-election result.

    I don’t think that unseats her as it did with Oldham E&S as we’ve had a subsequent election since.

    Others could be prosecuted if the Ch4 investigation is all true.

    I see the Agent couldn’t even spell the word Nil in the Return.

  46. These cases are notoriously hard to make successfully before a court… and in any case there is little incentive for anybody to waste their time and money doing so because a/ I’m pretty sure by-election results from a previous parliament cannot be overturned b/ except for Newark the Tories didn’t win and there UKIP weren’t a particularly close loser c/ I doubt the authorities would want to set a precedent of looking back over old cases (there has to be a cut off or next thing you know somebody will be challenging results from 1980-something).

  47. Criminal offences under the Electoral Law are not based on whether you won or not. Theoretically a loser could be charged if they were fraudulent in their activities.

    And I am surprised some in here think there is some unofficial Statute of Limitations that reads like “before last election, so forget about it”. The SOL on this is probably 7 years like so much else.

    Its the agent with head on the block however the agent themselves may not have been told all the expenses that were incurred as it seems like someone was going out of her way to make sure hotel bills disappeared into the ether. The group that definitely knew money in and money out was Conservative HQ.

    The agent may just be a patsy.

  48. Yes, there’s no statute of limitations on criminal offences in the UK.

    Some of you may be thinking of civil law where eg you have 6 years to sue for debt recovery, or 3 years after an RTA.

    There are plenty of electoral offences listed at the back of the Electoral Commission’s guide for candidates.

  49. There’s limitations on most criminal offences actually.

    It’s just that they are all summary offences – ie tried in a Magistrates court.

  50. Section 176 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 sets a time limit for prosecutions of one year. There are amendments permitting longer time limits in some circumstances but I am not sure if they apply,

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