Saffron Walden

2015 Result:
Conservative: 32926 (57.2%)
Labour: 6791 (11.8%)
Lib Dem: 6079 (10.6%)
Green: 2174 (3.8%)
UKIP: 7935 (13.8%)
Others: 1658 (2.9%)
MAJORITY: 24991 (43.4%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Essex. The Uttlesford council area and part of the Chelmsford council area.

Main population centres: Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, Stansted Mountfitchet.

Profile: The largest and most rural seat in Essex, taking in the north-west of the county along the M11 and including the rural hinterland of Bishops Stortford and Chelmsford. The main population centres are Saffron Walden itself and Great Dunmow, both historic market towns (Saffron Walden was a seventeenth century centre for growing Saffron), but the bulk of the constituency is made up of small rural villages. This is an affluent and attractive area, that regular scores well in surveys of the best places in Britain to live. The Largest single employer is Stansted Airport, situated just outside the village of Stansted Mountfitchet.

Politics: Safe Conservative seat, held by the party snce 1922. Its most high-profile MP has been Chancellor of the Exchequer and Conservative leadership contender Rab Butler who represented the area between 1929 and 1965. Since 1977 it has been represented by Sir Alan Haselhurst, the former Deputy Speaker.


Current MP
ALAN HASELHURST (Conservative) Born 1937, Hemsworth. Educated at King Edwards School, Birmingham and Oxford University. Former manager in the chemicals industry. MP for Middleton and Prestwich 1970-1974. First elected as MP for Saffron Walden in 1977 by-election. PPS to Robert Carr 1973-1974, PPS to Mark Carlisle 1979-1981. Chairman of Ways and Means (the Deputy Speaker) 1997-2010. Unsuccessfully stood to be Speaker of the House of Commons in 2000 and 2009. Knighted in 1995.
Past Results
2010
Con: 30155 (55%)
Lab: 5288 (10%)
LDem: 14913 (27%)
UKIP: 2228 (4%)
Oth: 1785 (3%)
MAJ: 15242 (28%)
2005*
Con: 27263 (51%)
Lab: 8755 (17%)
LDem: 14255 (27%)
UKIP: 860 (2%)
Oth: 1887 (4%)
MAJ: 13008 (25%)
2001
Con: 24485 (49%)
Lab: 11305 (23%)
LDem: 12481 (25%)
UKIP: 1769 (4%)
MAJ: 12004 (24%)
1997
Con: 25871 (45%)
Lab: 12275 (22%)
LDem: 15298 (27%)
Oth: 1298 (2%)
MAJ: 10573 (19%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
ALAN HASELHURST (Conservative) See above.
JANE BERNEY (Labour)
MIKE HIBBS (Liberal Democrat) Contested Basildon and Billericay 2010.
PETER DAY (UKIP)
KARMEL STANNARD (Green)
HEATHER ASKER (Residents for Uttlesford)
Links
Comments - 108 Responses on “Saffron Walden”
  1. This is such a safe Conservative seat that no one has commented on it.

    I would just say for what could be the only comment on this seat that the Lib Dems haven’t done very well here in recent years, which must mean that Haselhurst doesn’t have any serious opposition here, particularly seeing as Labour have really struggled here in the last few decades.

  2. There was an erroneous report of Haselhurst’s retirement a few weeks ago. It still might happen: he was first elected in 1970 for Middleton & Prestwich at the age of 32.

  3. He is one of the Tories’ longest serving MPs mind.

  4. If re-elected he would be expected to serve until 2020, by which time he will be 83/4..

    That raises immeasurably the chances of a by-election which makes any seat a harder retention task. I wouldn’t claim there is a danger here of the losing it, but it is tempting fate to continually put up candidates that might not, for whatever reason, last the distance..

  5. “This is such a safe Conservative seat that no one has commented on it.”

    Labour almost won this seat in 1945 though in fact, Southend on sea was the only other Conservative held seat in Essex tahe election.

  6. SAFFRON WALDON 1945

    RA Butler Conservative 16,950 46.90%
    SS Wilson Labour 15,792 43.70%
    G Edinger Liberal 3,395 9.39%

    Majority: 1,158 (3.20%)

  7. that’s not really true – the so-called National Liberals, who were of course really Tories, did hold on in Harwich.

  8. Didn’t a certain Mr Churchill retain Wanstead and Woodford against an Independent? That is as Essex as Brentwood etc and in 1945 was also administered under Essex.

  9. And at that time, it will have included Chigwell (I think), which is still administered by Essex CC.

  10. I believe ‘Wanstead and Woodford’ and ‘Brentwood’ were in the Epping seat which was marginally Labour.

    Southend was held by the Cons with a maj of around 3,000.

    Probably held because of the Guiness family effect.

  11. Though I should like to thank Surrey Politics for posting the 1945 result for Saffron Walden, and indeed for other constituencies where Labour wouldn’t get anywhere near to 40% these days. It’s always good to be reminded from time to time that the (psephological) past is something of a foreign country.

  12. Tory yes your right, Woodford was a Con Hold for Sir Winston Churchill in 1945.

  13. Sorry I just mentioned Brentwood as an example of another Essex town- I was just trying to point out that Woodford is just a much of the traditional county of Essex as anywhere else in the county is.

    I am reasonably sure Chigwell was in Woodford in 1945 but I am very happy to be corrected.

    Alas I was wrong about the PM’s constituency’s name, which was simply ‘Woodford’.

  14. The county council elections in Essex used to be very good for Labour and they used to have overall control when they had Barking and Walthamstow within its boundaries.

    Since 1965, they only have ever had minority control.

  15. Only just noticed that Sir Alan Haslehurst was born in Hemsworth. I doubt very much that many Tory MPs have been born in that locality, especially pretty plummy ones like Sir Alan.

  16. There has been talk of a plot to deselect Sir Alan Haselhurst. However, it seems to have come to nothing.

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/02/20/Deselections-First-Casualties-of-Conservative-Civil-War

    According to Mr Harris-Quinney, the instigators were Cameroon modernisers.

    Although Sir Alan is probably not on my wing of the party, I have always liked him- an excellent Deputy Speaker and a true gentleman.

  17. Incidentally, I am puzzled as to why Cameroon modernisers would target Haselhurst. As I suggested above, it’s not as if he is known for being terribly right-wing.

  18. That is strange. In fact he must be, apart from the issue of gay marriage which he voted against (and which is not necessarily a good indicator of whether someone is a right-wing or left-wing Tory anyway), one of the most centrist, least partisan & least right-wing of all Conservative MPs – one of the only remaining dripping wet anti-Thatcherite backbanch Tory MPs of her era. Perhaps the Cameroons think him old-fashioned, but inasmuch as there are some seats which will always have Tory MPs, of which this is clearly one, it’s not unpleasant to have just the odd throwback to the old days.
    He was first elected for Middleton & Prestwich in 1970 – a former constituency in which I continue to have a lot of relatives.

  19. Well, I’d rather have Haselhurst in Saffron Walden than some tieless, two dimensionally energetic type prattling on about the global race.

  20. The local press suggested that the opposition to Haselhurst was primarily due to his age. There aren’t many opportunities for ambitious Tories in the East of England to move up whilst they hold almost all the seats, so bright young things have an interest in there being as many open seats as possible. Harris-Quincey is probably talking nonsense – certainly breitbart.com is not a particularly reputable journalistic outlet.

  21. I would also question the reliability of Breitbart.com. The article linked to above contains this sentence: “There was a time when Conservative Party members chose their Members of Parliament, their leaders and voted on Party policy”.

    Conservative members have only relatively recently been given a direct vote in leadership elections, while to my knowledge it has never been the case that members get a vote on policy.

  22. The Conservatives have increased a total of 10.7% here since 1997, almost double the national increase of 5.4%. Does this indicate a trend towards the party in North Essex, maybe because of demographics?

  23. Well it’s well-known that Essex has got stronger for the Conservatives over & above the national average since 1997. This clearly applies to the north as well as the south of the county, the only serious exception being Colchester.

  24. Indeed. Colchester is complicated perhaps by the presence of a longstanding Lib Dem incumbent in a seat that might otherwise be Tory-held, like neighbouring seats. Certainly they would have done better in Colchester had Bob Russell not won in 1997.

  25. Well I wasn’t making any claims about Breibart’s reliability or otherwise- I was simply interested to come across the views of Mr Harris-Quinney who is after all Chairman of the Bow Group.

  26. The Results- of course there are other factors that distinguish Colchester from the majority of Essex seats- including the university. See the Harwich and N Essex thread.

  27. Worth mentioning also that there have twice been massive boundary changes in Essex since 1992. This seat must contain a lot less territory than it did then – perhaps the areas it has lost were weaker for the Tories?

  28. This seat hasn’t changed as much as many in Essex. It’s lost the Halstead area to Braintree, which would be pretty good Tory territory, but gained some equally Tory territory though there are a few LD-inclined outer Chelmsford suburbs in the seat now as well. If anything the areas gained might be a tad weaker for the Tories, at least in some cases (though the village of Writtle is very prosperous compared with Chelmsford itself, immediately to its east), than the areas lost.Not that has made or will make much difference – it’s still a small-town, at times rural seat, though with a somewhat more suburban element included at its southern extremity.

  29. Might the good increases for the Tories here be partly attributable to the effectiveness of Sir Alan Haselhurst as a constituency MP, or would it be due to the Tories’ strengthening all over Essex generally anyway?

  30. more the latter than the former.

  31. I suspected that. Would an increased majority for the Tories here in 2015 be a possible result?

  32. The Results- yes, I’d have thought so- I think 30% plus.

  33. Prediction for 2015-
    Conservative- 53%
    Liberal Democrat- 24%
    Labour- 12%
    UKIP- 9%
    Others- 2%

  34. It is possible that Labour will overtake the LibDems for second place here.

    This seat has traditionally been on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party, not least because this enabled Butler to hold off a seat in which the Liberals were for long comparatively well organised.

    It will be interesting to see how the Conservatives react to a pincer challenge by the LibDems and UKIP. This will depend to a considerable extent on their candidate at the next General Election.

    The Tories are safe here for the forseeable future, though.

  35. ‘Might the good increases for the Tories here be partly attributable to the effectiveness of Sir Alan Haselhurst as a constituency MP, or would it be due to the Tories’ strengthening all over Essex generally anyway?’

    I would suspect Barnaby’s answer is correct although it should be noted that Saffron Walden is the most un-stereotypically Essex seat in the county –

    There aren’t too many fake orange sun tans, estuarry accents, Sun readers, or Barrats homes, and it’s no real surprise that it has last been represented by two very left-leaning Tory MPs – Hasslehurst and the brilliant Butler

    Having said that with Hasslehurst now forced out, I very much suspect his replacement will be in the Essex man mould – like nearly every other Essex MP

  36. No, it’s an extremely Essex seat. You appear to be confused because you believe an idiotic stereotype is true of an entire county of over a million people. This is very much not the case.

  37. ‘You appear to be confused because you believe an idiotic stereotype is true of an entire county of over a million people. This is very much not the case.’

    As with nearly every other stereotype, there’s also a lot of truth, behind it

    i should have added another factor that defibnes Essex man – a strong dislike of socialism and the Labour Party – although again I suspect you would dispute that, not because you disagree, but because you wish it weren’t so

  38. Tim

    This seat stretches surprisingly far south into Essex man territory, taking in the north and west suburbs of Chelmsford. It is not just the rural far north west of Essex around Stansted airport.

    Every “brilliant” politician needs a ruthless killer instinct, and Butler famously lacked it. “He was handed a loaded revolver then refused to pull the trigger”, as Enoch Powell described Butler’s failure to stop the coronation of Douglas-Home. He was an earlier version of D.Miliband or Portillo, destined never to be party leader due to a lack of backbone and a tendency to haver, and like those two he disappeared off to do something else when his leadership ambitions were thwarted.

  39. “…D.Miliband or Portillo, destined never to be party leader due to a lack of backbone…”

    I find that a bit harsh on Portillo. Granted he should have stood in ’95, but he can hardly be blamed for losing his seat and being unable to contest the subsequent contest. Similarly in 2001 I don’t think he can be blamed for being eliminated at the penultimate stage by a single vote due to tactical voting.

  40. There are areas of Essex where the stereotype is true, but Essex has a very large population which cannot be characterised using one single stereotype. I’m far from alone in describing myself as being from north Essex rather than just from north Essex, because there is a big difference between Brentwood and the Tendring peninsula, to pick two examples.

    Broadly speaking, the Essex man stereotype describes a subset of working-class residents of the county, mostly skilled or semi-skilled, concentrated in towns in southern Essex that grew rapidly post-war. Where you find them further north, it’s primarily people whose parents or grandparents came from London. There are differences between the ‘indigenous’ (if you’ll excuse the word) population of north Essex and those who hail from London going back a generation or two. I doubt they’re psephologically significant, but they are still easily recognisable.

    The rural population, which describes most of this seat, conforms to a rather different stereotype, as do the middle-class areas of Essex (obviously there’s an overlap). There’s also a cultural difference between middle-class areas in southern Essex, which are defined by proximity to London, and middle-class areas further north where commuters are outnumbered by those employed locally.

    Labour has done rather badly with the skilled and semi-skilled working class in Essex in recent years, but then again it’s not a group we’ve performed particularly strongly amongst anywhere. Nevertheless, you only have to compare the Labour performance in somewhere like Basildon (which is normally what people mean when they invoke Essex Man) and our performance in places like Billericay (which is, like just about every area of south Essex on a hill, rather posher) to see that it is not Essex Man who has a particular hatred for Labour, it is his more middle-class neighbours.

  41. So Alan Haselhurst’s successor as MP here might be completely different from him ideologically, and perhaps in the mould of Mark Francois or Douglas Carswell.

  42. ‘I find that a bit harsh on Portillo. Granted he should have stood in ’95, but he can hardly be blamed for losing his seat and being unable to contest the subsequent contest. Similarly in 2001 I don’t think he can be blamed for being eliminated at the penultimate stage by a single vote due to tactical voting’

    That’s a strange analysis Kieran

    Portillo’s massive unpoularity in 1997 was why he lost the safe Tory seat of Southgate in the first place – how can he not be blamed for that?

    Likewise, he lost out in 2001, because he had lost his one-time allies on the hard right of the party – like Eric Forth and Roger Gale – who were fuming at his admission that he had dabbled in homosexuality when he was at university, and were happy to vote for Ken Clarke out of pure spite

    I wasn’t aware how far south into Essex man territory this seat does stretch, but I’d still argue that Saffron Walden is the antithesis of an Essex town

  43. ‘Portillo’s massive unpoularity in 1997 was why he lost the safe Tory seat of Southgate in the first place – how can he not be blamed for that?’

    The swing against hime wasn’t actually much greater than the outer-London average was it?

    Anyway…just to clarify the situation for people. Sir Alan Haselhurst has NOT been de-selected, he was re-adopted a couple of weeks ago.
    The Breitbart report posted futher up thread is a little misleading.

  44. John’s absolutely correct. The results for the Tories were just as catastrophic in other north London seats such as Brent N (though things have got even worse for them since), Ealing N and Finchley/Golders Green in 1997.
    I don’t see how Tim can so blithely say that Saffron Walden is the antithesis of an Essex town. It’s just as much a part of Essex as Basildon, Billericay or Sarfend. It’s just that the north of the county is culturally different from parts (though not all) of the south in some ways.

  45. It’s arguable, but I agree not really provable, that Portillo attracted enough raw hatred in 1997 to make the difference between narrowly holding his seat and narrowly losing it. Certainly Sir Sydney Chapman held on to his neighbouring seat, which had a broadly similar majority and profile to Southgate.

    What is completely unarguable however is that Portillo did not have the bottle to challenge John Major in 1995. Despite having gone as far as installing dozens of phone lines into his campaign HQ, in the end he was too weak to rise to Major’s put up or shut up challenge, which was aimed primarily at him. As Alan Clark wrote, that act of spinelessness evaporated Portillo’s chances of ever leading the Tory party. The parallels with David Miliband are uncanny – bottling out of challenging the unpopular sitting PM, losing a leadership election afterwards in opposition, and then leaving parliament in a huff not long afterwards.

    Had Portillo challenged Major he would certainly have done well enough to force Major to resign, probably eliciting a second round battle between himself and Heseltine which in all likelihood he would have won. The subsequent history of the Tory party might have been very different.

  46. HH, the history of the Tory party would have different in so much as the Labour would still have won a landslide in 1997, and whilst Portilo might have narrowly held his seat, he would still have been finished as Tory leader.

  47. ‘Had Portillo challenged Major he would certainly have done well enough to force Major to resign, probably eliciting a second round battle between himself and Heseltine which in all likelihood he would have won. The subsequent history of the Tory party might have been very different.’

    The first bit is almnost certainly true but I don’t think he would have won in 1995

    The Tory Parliamentary Party was a very different animal prior to 1997 – and there were plenty of wet(ish) MPs in marginal seats from whom electing Portillo as leader would be equivalent to putting a loaded gun to their heads and pulling the trigger

    Of course the Tories got masscacred in 1997 – but Tory MPs didn’t know that at the time, and personally I think they would have gone down to an even bigger defeat with the Spaniard at the helm.

    And let’s remember this was the hardline, right wing, ‘he who dares’ Portillo – one of the least liked members of a vastly unpopular government.

    It’s easy to forget quite how unpopular Portillo was at the time

    Although they are not quite as universally disliked today, it would be the equivalent to installing George Osbourne as leader

  48. ‘I don’t see how Tim can so blithely say that Saffron Walden is the antithesis of an Essex town. It’s just as much a part of Essex as Basildon, Billericay or Sarfend.’

    As I said before, the lack of estuary accents, fake suntans, Barrats houses, and the verey pleasant picturesque nature of Saffron Walden makes one forget one is in Essex

    Culturally it’s very different

  49. He would most likely have held his seat, as party leaders always do, and could well have been able to carry on as leader. The party could not have pinned the blame for 1997 on Portillo after less than 2 years as easily as they pinned it on Major after 7. Spared the Hague leadership, the 2001 defeat would probably not have been so awful, and the modernisation process would most likely have started a lot earlier. All conjecture though.

  50. “It’s easy to forget quite how unpopular Portillo was at the time

    Although they are not quite as universally disliked today, it would be the equivalent to installing George Osbourne as leader”

    I don’t think Osborne is as hated as Portillo was, which in some ways is a compliment for Portillo because Osborne is still seen as too lightweight by many to be really hated.

    Portillo might have done better than Major in 97 by virtue of sapping the very high Referendum vote, though it’s easy to argue either way.

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