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
Con: 30155 (55%)
Lab: 5288 (10%)
LDem: 14913 (27%)
UKIP: 2228 (4%)
Oth: 1785 (3%)
MAJ: 15242 (28%)
Con: 27263 (51%)
Lab: 8755 (17%)
LDem: 14255 (27%)
UKIP: 860 (2%)
Oth: 1887 (4%)
MAJ: 13008 (25%)
Con: 24485 (49%)
Lab: 11305 (23%)
LDem: 12481 (25%)
UKIP: 1769 (4%)
MAJ: 12004 (24%)
Con: 25871 (45%)
Lab: 12275 (22%)
LDem: 15298 (27%)
Oth: 1298 (2%)
MAJ: 10573 (19%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ALAN HASELHURST (Conservative) See above.
MIKE HIBBS (Liberal Democrat) Contested Basildon and Billericay 2010.
HEATHER ASKER (Residents for Uttlesford)
Comments - 108 Responses on “Saffron Walden”
  1. I agree with Tim. This part of the county has more in common with neighbouring Cambridgeshire and Suffolk than it does with the London commuter territory of southern Essex.

  2. Could Michael Portillo have still been leader of the Conservatives into the 2005 election, or would he have only been leader in 1997 and 2001?

  3. Whilst it’s undoubtedly true that the Saffron Walden constituency is more like some in Suffolk than some in south Essex, all that proves is that Tim doesn’t understand Essex. It’s not just London overspill.

  4. I don’t know this area so I would obviously defer to Edward but I would imagine this to be the sort of seat that has a rural profile most uncommon to many Essex seats one would think of. In that sense I would agree it has a lot in common with Suffolk, but would Cambridgeshire be a stretch? Whatever the similarities to neighbouring counties, it does sound rather genteel and well heeled in a completely different manner to some other safe Tory seats in this county.

  5. Actually quite a lot of Essex is rural, even in the south. A lot of Brentwood & Ongar is rural for example.

  6. It’s similar to quite a lot of bits of Cambridgeshire – and indeed Saffron Walden looks more to Cambridge than to Braintree or Harlow. But the neighbouring constituencies in Cambridgeshire combine rural and suburban areas, and are therefore a little different in character if you take them as a whole. So yes and no.

    It is more rural than most of Essex, but then again there are very few counties where the majority of the population lives in urban areas.

  7. Thanks Edward for that response. From your own experience would you say that North Essex overall is distinguishable from South Essex, since a lot of the well known stereotypes that exist in relation to Basildon and the like don’t seem to apply as heavily in a lot of the Northern half.

  8. They’re certainly distinguishable, but it’s very difficult to say where one begins and the other ends – it’s much like northern and southern England in that regard. Broadly speaking, it’s about how much of an influence London exerts over an area.

  9. Interesting. The closer links to the likes of Cambridge in your Northern half of the county would appear to suggest that the further away you get from the south, the further Essex is from London literally and metaphorically. Is this particular area any good for London or not really Edward?

  10. I believe that, as Edward implies, the good burghers of Saffron Walden & many of its surrounding villages read the Cambridge Evening News & very much look to Cambridge as a regional centre – it’s much nearer than London. Of course, in the Colchester area Cambridge is pretty distant, and it’s Colchester itself which is the regional centre. It isn’t basically a Cockney-exile town, having its own distinct culture. Chelmsford isn’t Cockney either, and the strong LD presence isn’t stereotypical of S Essex, but it’s a much shorter journey to London & would have far more commuters to the capital. It is perhaps surprising that Brentwood is so culturally different from most of S Essex; its politics are very different from those of the boroughs of Basildon, Thurrock, Epping Forest & even Harlow further north (Harlow is more akin to S Essex culturally, since so many of its inhabitants have roots in London rather than other parts of Essex), even though it is very close to Romford & Harold Hill. I consider that the S Essex subregion consists, in a cultural sense, of most of the boroughs listed above, Castle Point, Southend-on-Sea, Rochford (at least in part), Havering, parts of Redbridge & Barking/Dagenham, and I’d submit Broxbourne too even though it’s in Hertfordshire; its politics & culture are extremely similar to Epping Forest next door. I don’t think that the rest of Essex really belongs to the subregion, not even Brentwood which is more prosperous than its surrounds for the most part. I see a bit of kinship politically & culturally between Brentwood & the Woodford area, even though they are some distance apart.

  11. Excellent analysis there, Barnaby. It’s really quite informative, cheers.

  12. Labour was always a respectable second here back in the days of Rab Butler – what has led to the collapse in its support?

  13. That’s a good question- It is funny how ever since the 1970’s the Liberals have been in second place, and remain so to this day, perhaps it’s because of strength in particular places. Labour still only managed third even in 1997.

  14. In the days of Rab Butler, the Liberals didn’t really exist as a nationwide party.

  15. It would have had a fair-sized agricultural Labour vote until the 60s, in common with many other E Anglian seats – and as we’ve said this seat has traditionally had more in common with E Anglia than London even though it contains Stansted airport. That vote came under pressure & finally petered out in the late 60s/early 70s, some of it going to the Liberals and some to the Conservatives. The towns in the constituency really aren’t very working-class & have never been very Labour-inclined, as would be pretty clear if one were to visit Great Dunmow & Saffron Walden, though that did have a bit of a Labour presence until relatively recently, and some of the villages such as Felsted with its minor public school are very upmarket.

  16. ‘and I’d submit Broxbourne too even though it’s in Hertfordshire; its politics & culture are extremely similar to Epping Forest next door. ‘

    I always see Broxbourne as more of an Essex seat than a Hertfordshire one, even thought it’s in the latter

    Demographically it’s very similar to Epiing Forest

  17. I stand to be corrected by Edward or Barnaby, but I would have thought Epping Forest would be a notch above Broxbourne.

    Epping Forest is the spiritual and actual home of TOWIE and Birds of a Feather….people from humble origins who have done well enough to buy a mock mansion in Chigwell, with a gravel drive and set back from the road behind voice-activated gates. I don’t think Broxbourne is quite so wealthy. There are of course some less salubrious parts of Epping Forest like Debden and Loughton, but I’m guessing they are a minority of the seat.

  18. ‘In the days of Rab Butler, the Liberals didn’t really exist as a nationwide party.’
    The Liberals certainly had a good vote here by the the time of the 1964/1966 elections and the 1965 by-election that followed Rab’s retirement.. I recall there was a swing to Labour at that by-election and can imagine it was perhaps a target seat at the 1966 election when the Tory majority was just 3.000 or so.

  19. Butler’s successor as MP for Saffron Walden was Peter Michael Kirk, who died very young aged 48 in 1977.

    There is a picture in Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography of Butler canvassing in Saffron Walden in the 1977 by election, which was won by Alan Haselhurst.

  20. ‘Butler’s successor as MP for Saffron Walden was Peter Michael Kirk, who died very young aged 48 in 1977’

    It’s very young

    I’ve always seen Haslehurst as very much a figure of the Parliamentary establishment

    Certainly since I’ve been interested in politics he seems to be very low profile and you don’t see or hear much from him

  21. HH – that’s true to some extent about your comparison between Broxbourne & Epping Forest, but Chigwell isn’t really typical of the latter authority or constituency. Chigwell is very wealthy, with a fair-sized Jewish community, unlike anywhere else in the constituency (or in Broxbourne too, even though some members of my own family are buried in a Jewish cemetery in that borough). The rest of Epping Forest, while generally not poor, is less high-class mixed owner-occupied & council housing. It’s worth noting that although the principal towns in the Broxbourne constituency are not very upmarket, the constituency does include some very prosperous villages although some of these are in the Welwyn Hatfield district rather than in the Borough of Broxbourne.

  22. i do n’t think Loughton is particularly downmarket, anyway not in terms of its housing which is quite spacious and expensive. There’s also a synagogue there.

  23. A beautiful part of Essex…solidly Tory, but in a very small ‘c’ Conservative kind of way. Basically, UKIP will not threaten here…as in many Essex seats, they may come a very distant second, but that will be it. No political earthquakes for the good people of this constituency.

  24. This is by far the poshest Essex seat so is less susceptible to UKIP

  25. Conservative Hold. 18,000 maj

  26. A new political party has been formed here.

    Residents4U were just featured on BBC news. They have district and County Cllrs and are bidding to take control of the local council.

  27. Good luck with that in one of the most staunchly Tory seats in the country…

  28. Residents groups often do well in Tory areas. They run Epsom & Ewell.

  29. Well, good luck to them in any case. I find the ‘4 U’ bit rather chavvy for this particular seat (it’s somewhat posh, despite being in Essex).

  30. Uttlesford recorded the strongest Remain vote in Essex, though Leave won narrowly.

    I vaguely remember Barnaby mentioning a few years ago that Saffron Walden seems to have different attitude to Europe compared to other parts of Essex.

  31. “I vaguely remember Barnaby mentioning a few years ago that Saffron Walden seems to have different attitude to Europe compared to other parts of Essex.”

    Partly, perhaps, because it contains Stansted Airport. Though that didn’t help the Remain vote in Crawley (Gatwick).

  32. Yes it is.

  33. Sir Alan may not be reselected.

  34. That would be extremely harsh on a very good MP… he may be almost 80 but seems in good health

  35. Sir Alan Haselhurst has u-turned and decided to stand down after all.

  36. I doubt he had much choice.

    I gather the Leader or Chief Whip speaks to MPs ‘of an age’ and asks them if they can give 100% over the next 5 years.

    I’m frankly amazed we still have some MPs and Cllrs aged 85+.

  37. There’s apparent disquiet that CCHQ have added a third name to the shortlist for this seat.

    Although this seems to be due to who has been added: Laura Farris is an international barrister specialising in equality law who sits on the Equality & Human Rights Commission panel.

    She formerly worked for the BBC and then worked for Hilary Clinton in New York.

    She is also the daughter of the late MP Michael McNair-Wilson and the niece of former MP Patrick McNair-Wilson.

    I can see why Cons members may not warm to her!

    I imagine these contests – or rather when the final 2 or 3 meet – must be akin to an episode of the Apprentice boardroom.

  38. I don’t know why anyone would complain about being given more choice. If you don’t like a candidate, don’t pick her!

  39. Presumably when no ‘choice’ is given at all.

    ConHome says CCHQ are routinely adding a third name at the same time as excluding a local name the Association wanted.

    In one case the local Party was given a shortlist of one (which would appear to be in breach of their own Rules and can only happen if the previous MP wants to seek re-adoption and the Assoc Exec agree).

    Just look at the number of SpAds suggested to seats. I realise Labour do it too, but two wrongs don’t make a right. If a person is talented they should be selected based on that merit and not be foisted upon constituencies by either the chairman of the Cons Candidates’ List or the Labour NEC.

    It’s bad enough when people complain that eg an MP is effectively selected by a small local Party of 200. Still worse when in fact just one or two people decide surely.

  40. Kemi Badenoch selected here for the Tories. After failing to get selected for tory target of Hampstead and Kilburn- perhaps for being a brexiter when a remainer was desired – she has now got a seat for life.

  41. Kemi Badenoch’s maiden speech:

    One to watch – rather reminiscent of Michael Portillo, certainly on the right of the party, but well-spoken and no backward-looking dinosaur. Or like Daniel Hannan – including the backstory of growing up under a failing socialist regime – but without Hannan’s patronising self-righteousness. And of course, Spectator contributors have a history of going far in the Tory party…

    She put up a staunch defence to the criticisms of Parliament that Laura Pidcock memorably raised a week or two ago. Perhaps they will one day sit on opposite front benches.

  42. Certainly one to watch though if I can be excused for being somewhat partisan I have to say my estimation of her has went significantly down after her speech, not because I think it was bad, indeed it will have went down very well amongst a Conservative or the non aligned which at the end of the day is what counts. Rather my criticism is that her speech revealed either her own incredible dishonesty or incredible stupidity. I’m referring in particular to her references to growing up in a failing socialist country, problem being Nigeria didn’t elect its first even moderately left of centre government till long after she had moved back to Britain, in fact during her time in the country in the 80’s Nigeria was beset by many economic problems caused by IMF imposed austerity measures and demands for deregulation, mass privatisations and public sector reform so yeah hardly a peoples republic.

    And her attempt to conflate the then pitiful state of Nigeria’s infrastructure (a third world country beset by multiple civil wars and incompetent military juntas) with state ownership…as I said totally deceitful or totally stupid it has to be one or the other.

  43. No that’s fair enough, that’s not being partisan, that’s fact-checking. Very few people in this country will know anything about the political history of Nigeria, or bother to investigate it, so it’s an area where she can probably get away with some lying. If she has, to put it charitably, stretched the truth to suit her own political narrative, then you are absolutely right to call her out on that.

    Incidentally, how do you know about the country’s history? Personal connection or do you just have an unusually detailed knowledge of global politics?

  44. Polltroll
    “Incidentally, how do you know about the country’s history?”

    I did a module in uni on the politics of African nations post independence and Nigeria was one of the countries studied. I confess though it isn’t the country I know most about, I chose to do my coursework for the module on Angola which I found more interesting what with being an actual Socialist (and most definitely failing) state though again I’m pretty sure that had more to do with the decade long civil war between the Soviet backed MPLA Communist government and the American backed FNLA opposition.

  45. She spoke very well indeed. I’m slightly surprised at the local association in Saffron Walden choosing someone so emphatically on the right of the party though. Always struck me as a pretty centrist/ moderate type of constituency. It has none of the brashness of some of the other Essex seats. A very beautiful part of the country.

  46. I used to know a Tory councillor from Saffron Walden (who unbelievably used to drive all the way to the pub I use in Brentford once a week), and he was very right-wing indeed. No doubt he still is.

  47. Essex is an odd place anyway. Towns like Brentwood are very affluent, but much more right-wing than towns in Surrey or Berkshire (which vote Tory but are more centrist/socially liberal). I guess much of the affluence in Essex though is ‘working class done good’, as opposed to the other Home Counties.

  48. Well you say that but have always been one or 2 Labour councillors in Brentwood, and for many years its council was LD-controlled. Certainly the Conservatism in Brentwood is a bit less visceral than in other parts of South Essex (whether actually in Essex or in Havering).

  49. Yeah, fair point. Even at the national level the Lib Dems always performed reasonably well in Brentwood, though UKIP got 17% of the vote there in 2015 which is quite high, particularly for such a well-off town. There was also only a small swing to Labour in Brentwood and Ongar, while in many Surrey/Berks/Bucks seats there was a 4-5% swing to Labour.

  50. My only experience of Essex was a year or so ago when myself and some friends were driving in that neck of the woods and we thought for a laugh we’d visit the home of TOWIE itself Chigwell and see if the stereotypes are true…it didn’t disappoint, apologies if anyone here lives there but I’ve never been anywhere more ridiculous. In the short time we spent driving around we saw a bright pink Land Rover, a zebra print Bentley and a very large house that appeared to have a giant three story Venus de Milo statue built into the front wall…the old phrase “you can’t buy taste” has never been more appropriate.

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