Sittingbourne & Sheppey

2015 Result:
Conservative: 24425 (49.5%)
Labour: 9673 (19.6%)
Lib Dem: 1563 (3.2%)
Green: 1185 (2.4%)
UKIP: 12257 (24.8%)
Loony: 275 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 12168 (24.6%)

Category: Safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Kent. The western part of the Swale council area.

Main population centres: Sheerness, Sittingbourne, Minster, Queensborough.

Profile: A north Kent seat, this covers Sittingbourne and the Isle of Sheppey. Sheppey is divided from the mainland by the Swale (after which the local authority is named) though it is accessible by bridge, a new four lane bridge linking it to the mainland was opened in 2006. Sheppey itself is largely marshland (there are three prisons in the isolation of the marshes) and nature reserves for birdlife. Along the northern coast are a string of villages like Minster, Warden and Leysdown-on-Sea with popular beaches. To the west the island is the more industrial Sheerness, a major commercial port and the main route for imported cars coming into the UK. The other, more populus, part of the seat consists of Sittingbourne.and surrounding villages like Newington, Borden, Bapchild, Teynham, Iwade and Milton Regis, an area of agriculture and commuters that tends to be more Conservative than Labour voting Sheerness.

Politics:


Current MP
GORDON HENDERSON (Conservative) Born 1948, Gillingham. Former operations manager to a gift manufacturer. Swale councillor 1986-90, 1991-95, Kent councillor 1989-93. Contested Luton South 2001, Sittingbourne & Sheppey 2005. First elected as MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey in 2010.
Past Results
2010
Con: 24313 (50%)
Lab: 11930 (25%)
LDem: 7943 (16%)
UKIP: 2610 (5%)
Oth: 1782 (4%)
MAJ: 12383 (25%)
2005*
Con: 16972 (42%)
Lab: 17051 (42%)
LDem: 5183 (13%)
UKIP: 926 (2%)
Oth: 671 (2%)
MAJ: 79 (0%)
2001
Con: 13831 (37%)
Lab: 17340 (46%)
LDem: 5353 (14%)
UKIP: 661 (2%)
Oth: 673 (2%)
MAJ: 3509 (9%)
1997
Con: 16794 (36%)
Lab: 18723 (41%)
LDem: 8447 (18%)
Oth: 1116 (2%)
MAJ: 1929 (4%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
GORDON HENDERSON (Conservative) See above.
GUY NICHOLSON (Labour) Educated at Central School of Art & Design. Hackney councillor since 1998.
KEITH NEVOLS (Liberal Democrat) Contested Sittingbourne and Sheppey 2010.
RICHARD PALMER (UKIP) Former paramedic.
GARY MILLER (Green)
MAD MIKE YOUNG (Loony) Contested Sittingbourne and Sheppey 2001, 2005, 2010.
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Comments - 102 Responses on “Sittingbourne & Sheppey”
  1. I doubt there will be further defections this parliament from Conservative to UKIP, but if there is one, Henderson must be the most likely by a distance.

  2. Despite people on here suggesting this will be a UKIP gain, I’m predicting a Tory hold. Henderson is a working class local man who’ll appeal to UKIP voters. If Henderson were a middle class, run-of-the-mill former SpAd, the Tories would be in trouble here.

  3. I also think that this will be a fairly comfortable Tory hold but I am almost certain that UKIP will come a strong second. I live in the constituency and the UKIP candidate looks quite impressive and a good fit with the area. UKIP also did very well in the KCC elections gaining three council seats in the constituency. We have also had a leaflet from them already this year and they seem quite well organised.
    It will be a very interesting seat to watch IMO.

  4. Democracy – Interesting post. What’s the situation in neighbouring Gillingham and Rainham? I have a funny feeling UKIP might take it by a whisker. What do you think?

  5. I’m not completely clear what has been happening there in recent weeks but I don’t exactly disagree with your suggestion. I know that the Tories are already campaigning there as well as in Rochester and Strood – I know several people who have been involved in this but haven’t had much feedback as to their perceptions of how much effort the other parties are putting in. I am certain that the Lib Dems are a spent force in this area and I am also fairly confident that Labour will not put a huge amount of effort into any of these seats – I think the Rochester by-election demonstrated that.
    Therefore I guess that the obvious conclusion to this is that UKIP will most likely become the main challenger to the Tories in this area. Whether this will translate into winning seats I am not too sure but I guess it’s not out of the question. They will doubtless put a lot of effort into Rochester and Strood so it will be easy for them to shift resources to neighbouring seats if they think that they have a good chance of winning. Thanet South isn’t that far away either!

  6. Another UKIP leaflet through the door today. This time from the local councillor. They are certainly going to put in a strong effort this year. They seem to be concentrating mainly on local issues which I think is probably the most sensible course of action for them to take. Whilst I don’t expect them to win this seat it would appear that they have a strong local association with enough boots on the ground to put up a tough fight.

  7. At this stage I would predict something like:

    Con 40
    UKIP 35
    Lab 18
    Lib 4
    Others 3

    A constituency poll in this seat would be very interesting.

  8. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date Democracy.

    I agree with you, Labour are finished in this seat and the other north Kent seats (Dartford, Gravesham, Chatham and Aylesford, Gillingham and Rainham) for the foreseeable future. The Lib Dems are also finished in this part of Kent too but I think they’ve got some hope in the near future in Maidstone and The Weald as I heard Helen Grant (Ann Widdecombe’s Tory replacement) is not popular there, plus the Lib Dems won a council ward from the Tories there in July last year. The Tory majority there is only about 5,889. It was 14,856 at then 2005 General Election when Widdecombe last stood as an MP. If the Lib Dems don’t win there in May, I’m pretty sure they’ll win in 2020.

  9. Yes I agree that the Lib Dems do have a lot of local strength in Maidstone but are unlikely to take the seat just yet – I guess it is moving their way demographically and Ann Widdecombe had quite a large personal vote which probably accounts for the large decline in the Tory majority in 2010.
    I think I would be correct in saying that UKIP have taken a lot of Labour votes in this area. Our UKIP Councillor was a Labour candidate a while back and they won a council seat in Sheppey very convincingly which is traditionally an area of Labour strength in the area.

  10. The story of the result here in 2005 is absolutely fascinating. Henderson was actually ahead in the first count, but after the second recount I think extra votes for Derek Wyatt were found in the Tory pile, thereby resulting in the tables turning from Henderson looking like winning by 118 to Wyatt miraculously scraping back by a mere 79 votes- the Lib Dems didn’t do too well, probably because some of their votes must have gone to Wyatt at the last minute.

  11. Vote counters make a lot of mistakes, which is why activists try to watch them like hawks….

    Being mostly local government employees, they also tend not to be very friendly to Tories

  12. That result was interesting because I believe Wyatt himself had at one point during the count actually told his staff they were to be made redundant, so sure were he and his team at that stage that they were going to lose the seat. I can only imagine his shock when he realised the unaccounted votes were all his- the declaration for this seat was an absolute delight, right down to the expressions of Wyatt and Henderson’s faces respectively- a long draining night. There were even murmurs when the Veritas candidate’s votes were announced, almost as if he had actually denied the Tories victory.

  13. I live in the area and the UKIP team are extremely well oiled. They know local issues inside out and have been raising money for local projects for a number of years.

    Henderson comes across as a man of the people, but everyone I have spoken to has commented how he is only popping up now with the election looming but has been strangely absent.

    Finally I seem to be getting UKIP leaflets on a weekly basis and when their canvassers knock on the door they are engaging and well informed.

    I am yet to be convinced that Labour and the Tories haven’t lost my address.

    I am a Tory, I want to vote for Henderson but the guy just isn’t giving me a single reason to do so. This will be decided by voter turnout on the day and I believe the Kippers are more committed which will see this seat change hands by the narrowest of margins.

  14. Thanks for the info Sunderland Sam. Even though you say UKIP are highly organised I’m not sure they’ll appeal to voters of the leafy village in this seat. I have a friend who lives in Hartlip and simply couldn’t image anyone there voting UKIP as it is too genteel.

  15. Can’t see them taking this on a 22% swing from fourth. A good second will be UKIP’s aim.

  16. I am not sure whether this seat will change hands or not although I currently edge towards a narrow Tory hold. However I do beg to differ that all the leafy villages will necessarily vote Tory! Whilst I think that your assumption that Hartlip will vote Tory is a correct one, the village that we live in (nearly as leafy!) was covered in UKIP flags and posters last year and the year before.
    I also strongly agree that Henderson has largely been a fairly invisible MP and has probably only recently recognised that his seat is under threat. We had our first Conservative leaflet last week compared to at least three from UKIP.

  17. At the moment I’d suggest the result will be something like
    Conservative 17,000
    UKIP 15,000
    Labour 9,000
    Lib Dems 1500

    It’s worth noting that the leafy villages made up the majority of the Swale West county ward in 2013 and that was a clear UKIP win, so there’s obviously UKIP support out there. There were also a lot of UKIP Boards in Hartlip in 2014 which was surprising.

  18. Labour seem to have gone for an early Electoral Address here – they were received yesterday. Isn’t this a bit early for an Electoral Address?

  19. As requested here are the results of my Straw Phone Poll of this seat

    CON——40%
    LAB——-30%
    UKIP——22%
    LD———4%
    GREEN—3%
    OTHS——1%

    7.7% swing to Labour, but the CON’s still hold with a 10% lead

  20. Hmm – looks plausible but I think that UKIP will be in second place tbh.

  21. “As requested”

    lol, yeah, ok Paul…

  22. Sittingbourne and Sheppey update folks:

    The UKIP steamroller moves on as before with another large flurry of posters and leaflets appearing. Had our one and only Labour leaflet today – delivered by post. UKIP and Tory ones have been flooding the letterbox by contrast. Even the Lib Dems have managed one but their candidate is spending a lot of time campaigning in Maidstone I hear. Labour are quite clearly not putting in any effort here at all and will most likely come a poor 3rd place IMO. Its interesting that I haven’t seen a single Tory poster on any houses/driveways yet – just a few large roadside ones that look like BNP posters mainly due to the absence of any significant amount of blue on them. Compare this to the dozens of conspicuous UKIP posters and even flags all over a lot of peoples houses and I think the level of enthusiasm is quite astonishing.
    I think that the fact that this has been a low profile seat will help UKIP and I am fairly sure that they will manage a strong second place here. Judging by their leaflets – a lot of them focusing a lot on the borough council elections the same day, I think that what they are hoping for is a strong second place showing in the parliamentary election and several councillors elected to give them a strong base to launch a serious bid for the seat next time round.
    We’ve had council candidates from both the Tories and UKIP canvassing here – both were reasonably impressive but it seems to me that UKIP have by far the best grasp of local issues – something that Labour in particular seem to have spectacularly failed to do – at least judging by the leaflet that has just arrived – I can imagine it going down like a lead balloon with most people round here but tbh it looked like quite a generic national leaflet although it did have a picture of Guy Nicholson.
    The next few days will be very interesting!

  23. I was at the candidates debate hosted by local radio and in my opinion UKIP – Lib Dem – and Green candidates shone. They had a full grasp of local issues.

    The Labour candidate was a good speaker, and had clearly leant a few lines and did well in the Fishing section of the debate what seemed oblivious to Green/Brown field housing plans and the closure of critical services particularly on the Island.

    The defending MP and conservative candidate said he’d give the people more of the same for the next 5 years which wasn’t received too well.

    Judging by the Audience and the feedback after the show UKIP really are going to be very very close to snatching this seat.

  24. Thanks for that Sunderland Sam – I hadn’t heard about that debate unfortunately – do you know if any others are happening here?

  25. ”There were also a lot of UKIP Boards in Hartlip in 2014 which was surprising.”

    Ok, thanks Sebastian

    ”Whilst I think that your assumption that Hartlip will vote Tory is a correct one, the village that we live in (nearly as leafy!) was covered in UKIP flags and posters last year and the year before.”

    Ok, thanks Democracy and thanks for the update. I thought Hednerson would have an easy ride here but it seems he could be in trouble here.

  26. Democracy,

    The last proper Q+A debate was the radio one I believe and the final Hustings was held on the 29th.

    If you visit the Sittingbourne FM website, Election 2015 Coverage and Debate and then scroll down the page you will see, just above the 2010 results a link to listen again.

    It’s worth a listen just to hear the UKIP candidate recommend a Green Lib Dem UKIP coalition (In Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of the closest seats in the country come the count.

  27. Thanks for the info Sunderland Sam. I agree that this seat could be very close. It seems to me that this is one of the least well known UKIP prospects and has therefore not attracted much media or campaign attention which could well help UKIP.

    Have you met Richard Palmer? If so then what was your impression of him?

  28. I haven’t net him as such. If you listen to what he sees he does get nervous and tongue tied but when he gets his point across he speaks sense and seems to win the arguments.

    Look past his lack of media training and listen to his ideas for the local area and it is difficult to argue with him.

    He is even trident sceptic which matches my views perfectly.

  29. That’s interesting. On the subject of Trident – does he propose that alternatives should be looked at or is he in favour of complete nuclear disarmament?
    I assume that you intend to vote for him?

  30. From what I can gather, he appears to have doubts about the benefits of replacing it whilst NATO has its own collective deterrent.

  31. I see – I can’t imagine many Kippers being in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

  32. l don’t think this seat will be close for a moment – l’m sure it’s a straightforward Tory hold.

  33. I don’t know. On the radio he said that the cost for a weapon that will almost certainly not be used is too high. The money should be spent on defence but not in a large black hole and more conventional weapons will be as much of a deterrent.

    I am as Sebastian says unsure why we need this when we as a part of NATO can use a fraction of our trident budget to help NATO protect us all.

    As for my voting intentions, as I mentioned above, I still regard myself as a Tory, but seeing Gordon Henderson (Or not seeing him as the case has been) over the last 5 years I simply can not vote for this man. I have written to him on two occasions, once using the old postal system and once using who represents me. I did not receive a reply either time.

  34. “I am as Sebastian says unsure why we need this when we as a part of NATO can use a fraction of our trident budget to help NATO protect us all.”

    If we want the Americans to continue to “protect us all” we have to do our bit and maintain an up to date deterrent. The idea that the US would sit back and watch while we allowed our nuclear capability to wither away is naïve. They’ll help us with the cost if necessary.

  35. Not really wanting to get bogged down on this tangent, but I was under the impression that NATO was a collective of several countries, not just America, and that all those countries contributed to it?

  36. Conservative Hold. 9,000 maj

  37. I’m expecting a Conservative hold but majority of 2-3000 in line with my prediction above.

  38. Interesting that the result here was almost identical to North Thanet.
    My prediction for this seat was pretty awful although at least I got the second place right which was more than Paul Way did!

  39. I also came fairly close on the Lib Dem and Labour percentages which is encouraging!

  40. If Goprdon Henderson can get a five fiure majority in this seat, which is far from the most prosperous part of East Kent, he is likely to be safe next itime on any likely redistribution of the area. The only exception would be if the left drastically re-orgnised and got a landslide acoss the South-East.

    It is perhaps more remarkable in retrospect that Bob Wyatt managed to hang on here in 2001 and 2005 than that this seat went Conservative in 2010.

  41. There is chatter going on on the Wetmooreland and Londsale site, of all places, abou t the Labour candidate in Sittingbourne and Sheppey in 2015 having been very left-wing.

    Politics is always a compromise between putting forward one’s own view and promoting a platform that gets majority support.. Have Labour here lost their political sense?

    I must say that it seems to me that the UKIP platform seems more in tune with this seat than Labour’s middle-class intolerance.

    Sittingbourne and Shepway is Number 39 on the UKIP target list. It is number 17 if you only count seats where UKIP is in second place. The swing UKIP need is 12.32%. In fact, though, I think this is probably a better prospect for UKIP than some other seats that are notionally higher on their list.

  42. Yes, I think UKIP will do well here in 2020 impression Henderson is building up a good personal vote here so it’d be hard to dislodge him at the General Election.

    It’s hard to believe this was a Labour seat just over five years ago!! How times have changed!!

  43. To be fair, I don’t have a huge amount of information on the Labour candidate here to give a proper judgement as to how left wing he was/is – only the leaflet that came which seemed very lefty.
    I am not sure that Henderson has much of a personal vote – from what I gather from those who I know that were actively campaigning , the result here has a lot to do with the scare of a Lab/SNP pact frightening a lot of would be UKIP voters to the Tories.
    Were it not for this then I think that they would have been serious contenders for the seat.
    I think that UKIP will continue to play a large role in local politics here and have firmly established themselves as the main opposition to the Tories here not only for this seat but also on Swale council.

  44. Reading the local press, it seems the Labour candidate is angling to have another go in 2020!!! I met him a couple of times and he seemed a nice enough chap, but I’m not convinced this is the sort of seat he should be looking for… He came across as a bit too metropolitan and a little too rehearsed.

    The local press also seem to have decided Henderson won’t be running again – not sure what they base this on though… Possibly the fact that he hasn’t exactly put a foot right since being re-elected! There are certainly ambitious people in his local party looking to replace him – but the man most mentioned by the press failed the assessment last time and is rather vulnerable if he were to make a direct challenge unless he finds another job.

    UKIP seem to be capitalising on their local election success by getting a fair bit of coverage, and challenging the Tory administration on Swale with more gusto than Labour ever seemed to manage, but whether that could translate into GE success in 2020 is anyones’ guess. Some local byelections would be very interesting – UKIP obviously didn’t run enough candidates in May, but weren’t far off the winners in many wards outside of Faversham – and even came within a 100 or so of snatching a safe Tory ward their too – so are well positioned if any byelections were to crop up.

  45. Gordon Henderson has suffered 30% burns to his body after using petrol to light a bonfire.

  46. Ouch!

  47. By his own admission this was caused by him being rather stupid. It seems he’s relatively OK, considering. Could have been a lot worse if his wife wasn’t around to immediately put the fire out though.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-37008441

  48. ‘By his own admission this was caused by him being rather stupid. It seems he’s relatively OK, considering.’

    Suffering 30% burns is unbelievably serious, although he does look relatively okay in the photo he’s released from his hospital bed

    As a Thatcherite red-tape hater, I wonder what Mr Henderson was planning to use the bonfire for?

  49. All I’d say to him if I had the chance is that we have health and safety regulations for a reason, clearly you need them more than most.

  50. There would be something delightfully ironic in burning yourself on a bonfire of health and safety regulations…

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