Taunton Deane

2015 Result:
Conservative: 27849 (50.3%)
Labour: 5347 (9.7%)
Lib Dem: 12358 (22.3%)
Green: 2630 (4.8%)
UKIP: 6921 (12.5%)
TUSC: 118 (0.2%)
Independent: 96 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 15491 (28%)

Category: Safe Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Somerset. The whole of the Taunton Deane council area.

Main population centres: Taunton, Wellington, Bishops Lydeard, Wiveliscombe.

Profile: Set in the vale between the Quantocks and the Blackdown Hills Taunton is the county town and largest town in Somerset, the administrative centre for both Taunton Deane council and Somerset county council. The seat also includes the smaller, but more industrial town of Wellington to the west. To some extent Wellington is a home for Taunton`s commuters but it is also a manufucturing town in its own right, with textile, beds and aerosols all important local industries.

Politics: Taunton was traditionally a Conservative seat, its past MPs including most notably Edward du Cann, long time Chairman of the 1922 Committee and, as of 2015, one of the few surviving ministers from the MacMillan government. Since 1997 it has changed back and forth between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, initially won by Jackie Ballard for the Lib Dems in 1997, it was narrowly gained by the Conservatives Adrian Flook in 2001 (a victory put down to Jackie Ballard`s vociferious support for a hunting ban in an area known for its stag hunting). Flook in turn held the seat for only a single term before he was defeated by Jeremy Browne. Browne retired after a single term and the seat again moved back into the Conservative column.

Current MP
REBECCA POW (Conservative) Born Somerset. Educated at Imperial College London. Former broadcaster, journalist and gardener. First elected as MP for Taunton Deane in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 24538 (42%)
Lab: 2967 (5%)
LDem: 28531 (49%)
UKIP: 2114 (4%)
MAJ: 3993 (7%)
Con: 25191 (42%)
Lab: 7132 (12%)
LDem: 25764 (43%)
UKIP: 1441 (2%)
MAJ: 573 (1%)
Con: 23024 (42%)
Lab: 8254 (15%)
LDem: 22798 (41%)
UKIP: 1140 (2%)
MAJ: 226 (0%)
Con: 23621 (39%)
Lab: 8248 (14%)
LDem: 26064 (43%)
Oth: 318 (1%)
MAJ: 2443 (4%)

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

2015 Candidates
REBECCA POW (Conservative) Born Somerset. Educated at Imperial College London. Broadcaster, journalist and gardener.
NEIL GUILD (Labour) Educated at Kings College Taunton and Swansea University. Local government officer and former soldier.
RACHEL GILMOUR (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Cheltenham Ladies College and SOAS. Management consultant. Contested Nottingham North 1997, Totnes 2001.
LAURA BAILHACHE (UKIP) Educated at Heathfield Community School and Oxford University. Solicitor.
BRUCE GAULD (Independent) Former lab assistant and porter.
MIKE RIGBY (Independent) Somerset councillor.
Comments - 448 Responses on “Taunton Deane”
  1. Makes more sense

  2. I wonder how many other Lib Dem stalwarts are going to be lined up to try and win loads of seats in 2020?

  3. Do you mean 13-15 seats in total, or 13-15 in addition to the 9 they currently hold?

  4. Could be anywhere between 5 and 35, depending how things pan out.

  5. Hemeling is right, but I tend to think it’ll be in the teens.

  6. I’m not even beginning to speculate at this stage but one thing is apparent the Libs appear to have found their niche again amongst not just Remainers but also liberal Tories.

    To all those who cheered May’s overtures towards Labs WWC vote as a stroke of tactical genius I say hold your horses, this is still early days and yet the Tories already look to be peeling away their liberal vote. Like every other party at the moment the Tories coalition is fragile and frankly at odds with each other.

  7. Con Estimate
    Sure that isn’t just what you “hope” will happen?
    If the Tories face swings the likes the Libs have been pulling off against them of late (both at Westminster and locally) the Tories are in BIG trouble. Now of course I’m not saying that will happen but frankly there is more evidence as of yet that the Libs overtures towards Liberal Tories is going far better than May’s overtures towards the WWC Brexiters.

  8. David Cameron spent a huge amount of time and effort courting west country Lib Dem voters, we now know he was doing this under the radar pretty much from 2010 onwards and not just a few months ahead of 2015 as we assumed. He holidayed regularly in Cornwall and was very well liked and respected there. I don’t think it’s controversial to suggest that Theresa May might find it hard to match Cameron’s performance in the west of England. I think Tories hugely underestimate how many Lib Dem voters merely lent their votes in 2015 and how likely they may be to spring back to their usual allegiances. Though it’s far too early to make predictions at this stage.

  9. “I would agree were it for the fact that the alternative to the Conservatives is a Corbyn-led government propped up by a separatist party.”

    Piffle. There could be a Con-led coalition held in check by the Lib Dems as per 2010-15. I’d vote for that ahead of what we have now.

  10. This is also the price to pay for having neglected Conservative Party local organisations. All the main parties, except the Conservatives have recruited a lot of new members and re-signed lapsed members since the General Election and referendum. The Conservatives still run everything from HQ in London.

    The Conservative Party won the last election on a choice presented to the electorate of Cameron vs Milliband and the SNP. In many Lib Dem seats, voters plumped for Cameron. It was a national campaign that masked weakness at local level.

    Without careful local campaigning from the Conservatives the Lib Dem voters will return to their normal home. Particularly with Clegg gone and an EU issue to reunite them. The Lib Dems only need enough seats and wins to be back in the game and are on course to do this.

    A few Lib Dem gains could cost the Conservatives power and Theresa May would be out.

  11. If in 2020 it’s looking close (a la 2015, for example), then the Lib Dems will be squeezed hard again in eg S-W England.

    OTOH, if polls are as currently and everyone’s predicting a Tory landslide then Lib Dem-inclined voters may well feel safe enough to vote for the party of Farron in seats where they are in first or second place (whether up against Labour or Cons – if the result of ‘their’ seat isn’t going to affect the national outcome, they might as well vote for what they’d prefer – including perhaps even some Tory voters in Lib-Con marginals if they’re like Hemmelig and actually like the idea of a Cons govt, but one that is reined in somewhat).

  12. I think talk of the Lib Dems’ demise in the SW is overstated. They probably won’t get back to pre-2015 levels anytime in the foreseeable future, but Hemmelig is right about Cameron outperforming there.

    With Tories headed to a landslide, I think a lot of LD voters will come home; Europe isn’t all the LDs are about (and their Europe stance (second ref on terms) might not even play too badly here) and Europe was never what appealed to voters in this area. It’s the moderate economics, opposition to Tories while not being Labour, etc. Any number of seats are possible regains, although I think they’d top out in the region at around a handful in 2020.

    But many of the Cornwall seats, Taunton Deane, Wells, Yeovil, Bath, Thornbury, Cheltenham, some of the Devon seats, maybe even Chippenham could come back under the right circumstances.

  13. The best that the Lib Dems could hope for at the next general election would be to get back to where they were in 1992 when they had 20 seats. Aside from Richmond Park, they should be able to hold onto the seats that they currently have and be looking to pick up the following constituencies:

    Cambridge (the only Labour seat that they have any real chance of taking)
    Kingston & Surbiton
    St Ives
    Edinburgh West
    North East Fife

    That would give them decent representation across the UK with only the Midlands (arguably their weakest area) remaining Lib Dem free. All depends on boundary changes and whether they can continue polling in double figures. Next year’s county elections should give us a better idea of where the Lib Dems currently stand.

  14. Yes, Torbay and Yeovil are long shots really but may still be doable. Cheltenham is more likely despite the larger majority as it did vote Remain by a reasonable margin and the LDs still run the local council so they do have good organisation in place. Eastbourne is also a bit of a long shot really as despite the small majority, I think the LDs would only have a good chance if Stephen Lloyd stands again. Still, like Cheltenham, the LDs are in power locally and that combined with Lloyd reselected as their candidate could make a difference.

  15. The boundary changes mess up Lewes for the Lib Dems. Eastbourne is a better prospect. I would add Portsmouth S, as they have recovered at a local level and this seat has four competitive parties and one of the lowest winning vote shares in 2015.
    The Cheadle/Hazel Grove are of Stockport will be one to watch in the local elections but boundary changes make a big difference here.

    I would also add Brecon and Radnor, as the Lib Dems won this in welsh elections in 2016, but boundary changes will make a big difference here too.

    It is easy to get to 25-30 seats where they have a real prospect and would target to get back in business. almost all of these are currently Conservative held.

    In many seat they lost in 2015, they will drop back further without an incumbent MP.

  16. Definitely agree with your last sentence. They’ll probably drop back in North Devon, the Cornish seats, Sutton & Cheam and every seat they lost to Labour except Cambridge.

  17. Con Estimate
    “I think the Liberal Democrats will claw back a lot of the votes they lost to Labour in 2015”

    Is that predicated on anything or is that just more wishful thinking?

    Frankly the “Red Dems” are the demographic the Libs have the least hope of ever winning back and I say that as an ex Lib Dem!!! The coalition was toxic to those people and Corbyn actually goes down well amongst many of them and for those that aren’t fussed about Corbyn they are still very unlikely to leave Lab now. I’d go as far as to say the Red Dems are Labs new core vote I,e students and middle class Guardianistas. the day the Libs win them back is the day they head for a landslide victory…

  18. I think their prospects (ON CURRENT BOUNDARIES):

    North East Fife
    Edinburgh West
    East Dunbartonshire
    Hazel Grove
    Thornbury & Yate
    Brecon & Radnorshire
    Kingston & Surbiton
    Sutton & Cheam
    Taunton Deane
    Newton Abbot
    North Devon
    North Cornwall
    St. Ives
    Truro & Falmouth
    St. Austell & Newquay
    Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross
    Ross, Skye & Lochaber
    Oxford West & Abingdon

    Now, most of those are not *great* prospects. They’d be foolish to target the lot. But I think they stand a decent chance, with a strong effort, in all of those. I think they should target:

    2 seats in Cornwall (St. Ives, North Cornwall)
    1 seat in Devon (probably Torbay)
    2 seats in Somerset (Taunton Deane, Yeovil or Wells)
    2 seats in Avon (Thornbury, Bath)
    and so on by region, and focus resources strongly.

  19. Red Dems voted for the party when it had a social democratic appeal with leaders like Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. The appeal of the party today is less ideological. The people voting Lib Dems are doing so because they are protesting at the Government’s handling of Brexit. There are former Lib Dems I know who are likely to never go back because of their policy on a second referendum. On the other hand they may well pick up support from people who never voted Lib Dem. As one voter in Richmond said to a Lib Dem canvasser, ‘I fucking hate you but I’ll vote for you to get rid of Zac’

  20. The most interesting thing about the by-election in this particular ward yesterday is that its a seat the Lib Dems have never held previously.

    Indeed its been a solid Conservative seat since its creation in the 70’s

    We live in interesting times indeed.

  21. On the possibility of Lab->Lib movement.

    They’ll certainly get some votes back from Labour – particularly in the seats they lost to the Tories last time, as Labour voters realise that the Lib Dems are the lesser of two evils. They’ll also get some votes from people who are left of centre but don’t get on with Corbyn – a potential pool of millions. As for the “red dems”, personally I have noticed a softening of attitudes towards the Lib Dems in the Guardian, above and below the line, since they left the government and especially since Brexit – I’ve said before that on the list of people/movements for left-leaning voters to hate, there are loads of them above the Lib Dems nowadays. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it’s so embarrassing any more to be a Liberal Democrat voter.

    Overall they will probably pick up a fair number of voters from Labour, but that may be as much to the Tories’ cost as to Labour’s as the Labour voters easiest to pick up will be the ones living in the Con/LD marginals.

  22. If I had to guess where the majority of any Lab losses to the Libs would come from I’d say it will be in the more affluent areas of the big Northern cities, the likes of Liverpool Wavertree, Garston and Halewood, Newcastle North etc Now that their out of coalition the Libs can become he de-facto “not Labour” vote for the middle classes again. I’d expect some reasonable improvements in those kind of areas but nowhere near enough to challenge for the seats again since when they used to be in contention they also relied on students which the Libs will probably never again win in the same numbers as they once did.

  23. The Llb Dems add nothing useful to political life
    – in the way that the other parties do and are a necessary part of democracy.
    I think the Tories will most likely hold all their seats against them in 2020.

    (In which case the LDs would only have 4 seats on the draft new boundaries).

    Majorities could be somewhat tighter as it looks like Lab>LD tactical voting could return.

    It is important that the Government presses on with Brexit – in line with the referendum result. However, we still want an arrangement with the EU from outside it. If we are on the road to that by the time of the next election, that should re-assure Remain supporting Tories/wavering Tories that they are not overlooked.
    I don’t actually think they are being, but there is a perception of it which needs to be addressed.

  24. * Leaving the EU by 2019 but a lot more tidying up after.
    Not all the by-elections are about the EU, however. Whether there were any particular factors about this one.

  25. I meant to add – sorry for additional post –
    the LD core vote is probably slightly less then the 8% they achieved in 2015.
    Which is why once cracked, other parties have a good chance of retaining those votes (although I do think tactical voting by Labour could return now the coalition is history).

    I hope UKIP holds up aswell. From 2013 onwards, I became convinced they do the Lib Dems a lot of damage (although some disagree with me and think they are still a net damage to the blues).

  26. JJB: I believe that liberalism — even the social liberalism of the Lib Dems, which is not the classical liberalism I myself ascribe to — is incredibly valuable politically. The Lib Dems are THE voice of liberalism in Britain (even someone who more often than not votes Tory like myself can see that). A western democracy needs a liberal party. Without the Lib Dems, we do not have that, and our democracy suffers between a right-wing party that is only occasionally sympathetic to liberalism and a left-wing party that is essentially never sympathetic to liberalism. Liberalism must exist alongside conservatism and socialism for our democracy to function. It’s shameful that you believe the Lib Dems add nothing. Please educate yourself.

  27. JJB demonstrating that the Lib Dems are hated more by the right than the left these days.

  28. Con Estimate
    Its an interesting conundrum, I’d have assumed that anyone who has voted for the Libs that long wouldn’t be fazed by the coalition, prior the merger with the SDP the Liberals always came across as more moderate Tories (in my view) so I would have assumed old Liberal voters would have been at least somewhat right leaning and thus would be fine with the coalition or more likely to jump to the Tories post coalition.

    To answer your question though while I have no idea how widespread your Grandfathers sentiment is I doubt its a particularly widespread one. Mainly because I think its fairly obvious that the bulk of votes the Libs lost to Lab where of the variety Kennedy picked up in 01 and 05 when the Libs where to the left of Lab, it remains to be seen whether the Libs will ever get them back, I for one am doubtful.

  29. In general it seems the Lib Dems have always picked up more voters from the governing party, for two simple reasons: (a) governing parties have more votes to lose, and (b) governing parties are far more likely to disappoint their voters because they actually have to govern.

    The Lib Dems will start picking up Labour votes when there is another Labour government. So maybe, Rivers, those votes are secure for a good while yet 😉

  30. “At the moment a Corbyn-led government could be whatever the voters imagine it to be – these people are often disappointed when their party actually gets into power and the government isn’t as radical as they were hoping.”

    Or alternatively they might be disappointed when the government *is* as radical as they were hoping, and they discover they have been sold snake-oil which exacerbates rather than resolves their grievances.

  31. CE, I don’t doubt you’re right about the Scottish Tories doing better, but there’s just not that much room for them to plausibly gain seats. The Lib Dems would have to make very few inroads for the Tories in Scotland to be able to cancel out those gains. The Tories’ better prospects are against English Labour.

  32. The Tories can’t snatch any seats from labour in Scotland because Labour has exactly one seat in Scotland. They won’t win it.

    I think all four of those are trending Tory BUT I don’t know that they’ll win all or even one that soon.

  33. If Ruth Davidson stands in either Edinburgh South or Edinburgh South West at the next UK general election she would probably have a decent chance of winning.

  34. Decent chance, but I doubt she’d pull it off. Which would be better for her, do you think? I’d guess SW, but not positive.

  35. And you actually think that will happen? A Tory majority government in Scotland? Please, please be joking.

  36. My sense is that Ruth Davidson is already close to the Tory ceiling in Scotland – I very much doubt that in the current climate they will ever exceed 25%.

    Hysterical fighting talk aside, it seems to me that Ruth Davidson realises that nobody is better-placed than her to lead the fight to keep Scotland in the UK – and for that reason she must stay in Holyrood where she is needed. In a generation historians may look back on her as the woman who saved the union.

  37. Shows the power of certain individuals and re-affirms my belief that if the Tories were made up solely of “wets” like Ruth Davidson they’d be electorally unstoppable. As much as some peeps here may cheer them on I don’t think the Tories realise how electorally damaging the likes of Davies, Bone, Leigh, Jackson et al are nationally.

  38. So if is electorally advantageous to the Tories to move towards the centre, what about the Labour Party? Are you going to start calling for Corbyn to fall in line with the neoliberal consensus?

    If the Tories were made up solely of “wets” then there would be a gaping hole on the right of British politics, which would gleefully be filled by UKIP or something even nastier. All parties which aspire to govern must put forward something of a coalition of different political philosophies. Even the SNP, which at times appears to be a gestalt conglomeration of tribal groupthink, actually has the same socialist/Blairite schism as the Labour Party, it’s just better at hiding it.

  39. I think it’s the sheer force of Ruth Davidson’s personality that has driven her party’s success as much as anything. She’s one of the few politicians capable of doing “fun” without that compromising her ability to do “serious”, somewhat reminiscent of Charles Kennedy in his prime in that respect.

  40. Polltroll
    “So if is electorally advantageous to the Tories to move towards the centre, what about the Labour Party?”

    Totally different dynamics, these days the electorate is split into two main categories, those that think things are mostly heading in the right direction (they mostly vote Tory) and those that think we’re going backwards for whatever reason (they vote in many different directions, Lab/UKIP/Green/SNP) The Tories can win by appealing to the status quo (centre), Labour can’t.

    “If the Tories were made up solely of “wets” then there would be a gaping hole on the right of British politics”

    A hole? Yes. A gaping hole? No. the Tories would peel some of their ultra Conservative right to the likes of UKIP but they’d more than make up for it by basically swallowing up the Lib Dems and the Lab right. Indeed doing so would guarantee near right wing hegemony since it would put Lab on parity with a far right UKIP. So we’d have one big centre right party (the Tories) on about 40% then two smaller parties on about 20% each. Labour and UKIP. From the Tories perspective that’s better.

    “All parties which aspire to govern must put forward something of a coalition of different political philosophies”

    But when one of those philosophies earns your party the label “nasty party” and is near solely responsible for making the majority of the country never consider voting for you its clearly more of a liability.

  41. But when one of those philosophies earns your party the label “nasty party” and is near solely responsible for making the majority of the country never consider voting for you its clearly more of a liability.

    If you replace “nasty party” with “terrorist sympathisers”, then that sentence could just as easily apply to Labour…

  42. I also notice the situation you mention (a dominant centre-right party, with smaller right-wing, centre-left and left-wing groupings) is basically the state-of-play in Germany. And Angela Merkel, having enjoyed a period of extraordinary political success, is for the first time in her career looking vulnerable as everything that once appeared certain is suddenly uncertain.

    I agree that Labour can’t win solely by appealing to the centre. But I’m not sure the Tories can either any more – the electorate is too fragmented for the old rules of politics to apply any more.

  43. Wondering how the LD vote will do here. I’d expect Taunton itself was Remain, but since the seat is the same as the district, we know that the seat was 52.9% leave. That seems to me like a targetable seat by LD standards for the SW.

    I’d expect the LD vote to go up, largely from Labour and Green and a few Tory remain types, and UKIP to bleed a bit to the Tories with the result that they hold steady. An inversion of 2010 doesn’t seem implausible, albeit with a few more votes for UKIP and a few fewer for the LDs.

  44. Former MP for Taunton and Former Conservative Party Chairman, Edward du Cann has died at the age of 93.

  45. Wiveliscombe & West Deane Ward By-election:

    Green 600 45% (+ 36%)
    LibDem 359 29% (+18%)
    Cons 352 26% (+5%)

    Green Gain from Ind.

    43% Turnout.

  46. The other independent councillor in this two member ward nominated the successful green candidate.

  47. Rebecca Pow has joined the government as a junior culture Minster, replacing Micheal Ellis.

  48. Tory Cllr John Gage, 48, has denied historic abuse allegations against a teenage boy.

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