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. You don’t have to be a metropolitan Islington type to dislike Farage. He’s very far from universally popular.

  2. Mark Reckless, as has already been pointed out, wasn’t opposed by UKIP here in 2010, but the English Democrats did stand- he will likely get a lot of those votes at the byelection under his new colours along with support he takes from the big three parties as well I think.

  3. I guess this point may well have been said already, but as good as winning a by-election would be, merely attracting Tory MPs will surely backfire. Farage’s sense of strategy has impressed me, pushing his party from its libertarian streak into a much more populist outfit, which is why I’m surprised by his focus on these defections. I thought he had better instincts than that. Having a bunch of former Tory MPs will surely only prove talk UKIP are just a bunch of Tories in different colours – not exactly a winning message in the northern Labour heartlands that Farage talks of targeting.

    I can only guess I’m just missing his logic, or he really is confident of attracting Labour defections as well.

  4. good point re. carswell and reckless not being opposed by ukip… funnily enough, the BNP got 4.5% in Clacton, while the English Democrats got 4.5%…

    I think Reckless will win handily, though everyone is now saying the tores have a real chance…this will be funny…the first poll will show a 20% ukip lead in rochester, i imagine.

  5. This has the potential to be a really exciting By Election think I’ll have a weeks holiday in Medway to absorb the excitement and enthral myself in hustings meetings…..smiles.

    At the moment I’m thinking a UKIP win by around a 1,000 votes, I did hear, but could not find online, that 81% of Tory voters in 2010 will be voting for Reckless/UKIP.

  6. The Results – not just unopposed. There were “UKIP Voting Reckless” posters last time, here.

  7. Yes, the fact that UKIP did not oppose Reckless in 2010, suggests that a significant proportion of the 2010 tory voters were UKIP anyway. Given the fact that UKIP are at roughly 15% now and were only at 3.1% in 2010, this suggests that there is a sizeable UKIP vote latent in the constituency which hasn’t had an opportunity of expressing their UKIP vote since the 2005 election. I think Reckless knew what he was doing.

  8. Mike Smithson over at Politicalbetting is suggesting Labour will indeed make minimal effort here.

  9. The bookmakers seem to have little idea who the likely winner of the by election here is. Most now have it as basically a coin toss between Tory and UKIP, although Skybet and Paddy Power make the Conservatives favourite at 4-5 and 5-6 respectively.

  10. I can’t see past ukip. It would be awful for them if they couldn’t win this seat in this situation.

  11. I think the reason this is on a knife-edge betting wise is that people aren’t sure how the Clacton result will affect this race.

    What people who like to talk politics and/or polling tend to forget is that while most voters who care about UKIP’s fortunes one way or the other (and I count those who hope they crash and burn as “caring” about their fortunes) realise Carswell will win, I don’t think a lot of people have cottoned onto just how comprehensive that win is likely to be, despite that poll a few weeks back.

    When every voter has the cold hard figures rammed down their throats by the inevitable heavy coverage that Clacton will attract, will that result in a bounce towards UKIP from those who were worried about throwing away their votes but now believe that they really can win and make a difference, or will it be the trigger which turns the Tories into a tactical option for those who would historically have voted for anyone else (bar the BNP), but like the only viable alternative in their constituency even less?

  12. I think it will take far more than the Clacton by-election for most voters from Labour or even many LDs to consider the Tories a better tactical option than UKIP. If anything the last few years have hardened anti-Conservative resentment on the left, and particularly in by-elections I suspect many Labour voters will if anything just be gleeful to weaken Cameron.

  13. The Labour vote in both Clacton and Rochester contains less of a public sector professional element than in Newark, and will therefore be more amenable to voting UKIP and less interested in voting tactically to keep UKIP out.

    The Tories need to consider candidate selection very carefully in Rochester & Strood. Neither a plastic A lister nor a Mr UKIP-lite will be a good choice. A solid, respected, telegenic, moderate centre right local would be ideal.

  14. “A solid, respected, telegenic, moderate centre right local would be ideal”

    one more requirement is needed:

    this quasi-mythical being would also have to want to be a Conservative MP…I suspect they might get a local councillor….but I don’t think there will be all that many takers….

    Reckless really has 1st mover advantage.

  15. Yes I agree with that. In Clacton, clearly most of the credible local candidates did not want to go up against Carswell, with many probably agreeing with him. Result is a Z-list celebrity who is going to be slaughtered. I suspect it will be easier to get a good candidate in place in Rochester. Have many association officers, members & councillors defected with Reckless?

  16. ‘In Clacton, clearly most of the credible local candidates did not want to go up against Carswell,’

    Nut that’s because Carsawell is a credible candidate who is locally very popular

    One cannot say the same for Reckless on either count, so I think it’s the candidate that will ruin it for UKIP this time round

    Also, it’s worth considering that it took Reckless three attempts to win Medway – which prior to Bob Marshall Andrews had been fairly reliably Tory

  17. Tim – it could be that this area likes principled rebels. Both BMA and Reckless voted against EU legislation, tuition fees, State interference etc. When do the Tories select here?

  18. Has the writ been moved yet?

  19. I don’t think Parliament is sitting again ’til after Conf season. The by-election is “due in November” is the nearest the nationals have speculated date wise.

  20. Interesting. Because while it might look good for the Cons now, Clacton might flip over their momentum and we have no idea what the situation will be come November.

  21. Mr Nameless,

    you’re totally right. We have seen these media hype “tory revival” stories before…this year’s budget was talked up as a “blinder” by Osborne which would win back lots of UKIP voters, because it appealed to the “grey vote”….

    of course a week later, the first clegg/farage debate simply reignited the ukip engine….

    now, cameron has done a good speech and the feeling is exactly the same, “blinder”, “game changer”, “a real tory PM”; all the usual hype has been reproduced in spades…post next week where carswell gets a 30%+ majority, the narrative and mood will be different. Rochester & Strood is a good UKIP bet at evens, so for the betting fans among you, i would definitly recommend that trade on betfair. those ukip odds will shorten in rochester after Carswell’s clear-cut victory.

    It seems likely that Carswell will extend his already impressive majority of 28% next week.

  22. Peter Crawford- I very much agree.

  23. I don’t think there were any credible local Conservative candidates in Clacton. Whether there is in Rochester will depend upon the quality of the local councillors.

  24. Medway was only “fairly reliably Tory” because the Tories were in power for a long while & that seat went by & large with the national swing. As previously noted, as Rochester & Chatham (it was officially the Chatham division of Rochester before 1950) it was rather Labour-inclined until Feb.1974, when the (later to return) Tory MP Peggy Fenner held on although Labour won more seats nationally. Before that Labour managed to win in the Tory years of 1951 & 1955. It was always a marginal, basically, in whatever guise it had except in some of the stronger Tory years in more recent years. On these boundaries, it’s clearly Tory-inclined except in a very strong Labour year indeed.

  25. i read the rather considered view here (i think it was from The Results or maybe Peter Crawford) that estuarial Kent is probably more Tory than it has been in ages…certainly dartford, gillingham, gravesend , even Chatham aren’t the marginals they were in the 60s through to the 80s and 90s…Dartford used to be solidly labour after the war, as Margaret Thatcher, the former tory candidate there, would testify….regions change.

  26. Dartford was a huge seat including Crayford and Erith.

  27. It was until 1955, but stayed Labour after that right up to 1970.

  28. It must have been more reliably Labour yes. In fact the Tory breakthrough in safety didn’t happen until 1983 with more boundary changes of course. It was still close in 1979 and labour held the council in 1976 in a generally poor set of elections. Think they were behind in votes. All this has been detailed before but labour would have piled up about 40000 votes in the 1951 dartford in 1997.

  29. but there is a broader point about estuarial kent: rochester, chatham, gravesend, gillingham, sittingbourne…these places were more marginal in the past than they seem to be now. the swings in those seats in 2010 were much greater than the national average to the tories.

    I wouldn’t be focusing on those seats if i were labour.

  30. Probably not – but they have to sort that out.

    Actually the 2005 result in Medway was a relatively good one for both parties.

    Pete Whitehead reconstructed Rochester and Chatham (1979 seat) on the 2010 result and IIRC Labour still didn’t do too badly – about 35%

  31. There is of course the question of whether a big swing means a total and decisive rejection, or whether it just means that it is a high swing area.

  32. mildly interesting development on betfair. after showing the tories were more likely to win rochester than ukip early yesterday, the money has been going on ukip in the last few hours…there’s £13k in the market, so there’s real money beginning to be put in here. latest ukip are 1.91 (10/11) and tories 2.28 (5/4)…it seems like insiders are putting money, because there’s no new information out in the last 24 hours except the poll which showed the tories leading labour for the first time in 2 and a half year on yougov.

  33. There has been the odd Tory lead at other times since then – I think including YouGov.

    I don’t have any inside information here but I would have thought the Tories can save it in the by-election.

  34. The odd 0 lead in You Gov, no actual lead I think.

  35. The gap in actual votes cast in the May local elections was of course 1%.

  36. So based on last night’s results, what I wonder would be a decent result here for Labour? I would suggest they might struggle to poll 15%. And the Lib Dems will surely lose their deposit.

  37. Nobody now seriously believes that Labour will come better than third here, which shows just how much they have lost ground in Kent.

    I think Mark Reckless is now favourite for the by-election, but he will have to work hard if he wants to retain this seat for UKIP in the general Election.

  38. Surely not.

    Miserable Old Git, who has lived in Rochester, says Labour are going to win!

    And here was me thinking this site was increasingly full of idiots posing as experts with local knowledge!

  39. Reckless will win by over 10% imo and just about hold in the GE

  40. Barring miracles – Boris replacing Cameron / Miliband getting some charisma, for example – there’s really no doubt that Reckless will win his seat back, and comfortably.

    Whether he holds it at the genearl election is another matter, and it’s far too far off to say; the UKIP bandwagon may have stalled by then … or it may still be accellerating. Let’s face it, Cameron is like a rabbit in the headlights, with his mantra “only the Tories can give you a referendum” (where have we heard that before? Ah. The Tories. And they lied). Meanwhile, Miliband STILL believes that UKIP only take from Tories, and so sticks to the soft target of the LibDems. But then, Ed never did have a clue. Labour are dead in East Kent; and UKIP are taking their votes. Look at the Euro election results.

  41. My current prediction for the by-election:

    UKIP 38%
    Con 32%
    Lab 23%
    LD 3%
    Green 2%
    Oth 2%

  42. The Lib Dems will still manage 13-15%.

  43. I think labour will be under 20.

  44. My current by election prediction:

    UKIP- 43%
    Conservatives- 33%
    Labour- 17%
    Lib Dems- 3%
    Green- 2%
    Other- 2%

  45. Andrew: not only that, but I’m increasingly convinced that Labour are potentially going to hurt themselves by trying to push the LD vote further down.

    Essentially if the LD vote hangs at 9 or 10 Labour will still safely take most of their LD targets (maybe missing out on Cambridge and Bermondsey), but the Tories could miss out on most of theirs. If the LD vote is as low as 6 come the GE the Tories could well snatch up another large crop of 10 or so marginal seats whereas Labour would only get about another two. Clearly that’s bad maths from Labour’s perspective.

  46. At this early stage, I’ll guess-
    Reckless (UKIP)- 45%
    Tory- 30%
    Labour- 19%
    Green- 2.5%
    Lib Dem- 2%
    Others- 1.5%

  47. It seems like other people are using the Labour performance in recent by-elections to predict their share at under 20%. Personally I think that’s a mistake because Rochester is a constituency where Labour have a serious core vote, unlike Clacton or Newark for example. So it won’t collapse in quite the same way.

  48. It’s not altogether conceivable though Andy that Labour will necessarily be able to stay above 20% here. Granted they’re stronger here than in Clacton, so yes It would be strange if the same 14% collapse happened here, but 9% isn’t imposible. In a lot of Essex and North Kent, I think they can lose votes to UKIP in a big way potentially, so nothing in this byelection would be that much of a surprise would be a mistake. With respect Andy I don’t think it is a mistake, all three of the main Westminster parties have suffered two terrible byelection results this week, I expect the same to happen here come next month.

  49. Labour will be squeezed badly here, they aren’t going to be putting much effort in while UKIP and the Tories will. Also this by election fight will be billed as a straight UKIP vs Tory fight which will of course do damage to Labour’s prospects

  50. Yes that is true. I still think Labour will clearly get a better result here than in Clacton, given they have more strength here traditionally, with this having had a long history of being a bit of a bellwether area between the Tories and Labour.

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