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”
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  1. I am still unclear why the Tories recovered here
    in 2001 and 2003 – when things were looking far from
    well for them nationally
    but lost in 2005/2007/2010.
    Even in 2011, the council is hung.

    This is partly old ground from the previous site, but I don’t think we quite got to the bottom of it.
    Clearly by 2010 there was incumbency
    but the 2005/7 results are particularly noteworthy.

  2. The Tory win in 2001 has been attributed by many by the support of the LD MP from 1997-2001, Jackie Ballard, for abolishing hunting with dogs in a constituency where (especially then when it included a large part of Exmoor) the practice was widespread, and such views were unpopular. In contrast, in 2005 Jeremy Browne was at most neutral on this issue, and avoided upsetting pro-hunting voters, so he may well have attracted Tory-LD floaters who had deserted the LDs in 2001.

  3. I know this explanation has been put forward but I’d have thought Exmoor had little LD support anyway
    but the margins were close throughout
    so perhaps it is the whole reason.

    Perhaps the 2003 result is the most strange.
    That was a big Con majority

  4. Exmoor is of course a very strong area for the Conservatives generally but I understand the Ballard effect led to an unusually high turnout there – and also meant the local Conservatives had more helpers on the ground than usual.

    This latter effect was also evident in other constituencies in the area in fact inc. West Dorset.

  5. Thanks.
    I’m trying to cut the number of partisan comments to stop spoiling the new site
    but if I may be allowed to say
    it’s disappointing from my point of view that we then lost the seat again when the party was doing better nationally (although not well enough).

    I’m really baffled by the 2003 result though.
    Although there were Tory gains nationally it was quite a problematic year for us against the Lib Dems
    yet the council was easily gained after the Ballard effect had passed.

  6. I take the point about W Dorset, which of course the LDs tried again in in 2005 – but appear to have ruined it by putting up a candidate called Justine McGuinness

  7. The effect carried over to 2005 as well in W Dorset – quite a lot of people connected to the local hunts were involved in the Conservative campaign, especially in the villages in the north of the constituency – the whole hunting controversy galvanised a degree of political activism among this group. You may note the turnout went up quite a lot in 2005 as well. Not an accident I think.

    The Lib Dem candidate wasn’t very impressive, it is true.

  8. Local election result:

    Con: 8,941 (29.14%)
    LD: 8,335 (27.17%)
    UKIP: 5,655 (18.43%)
    Lab: 4,236 (13.81%)
    Ind: 2,431 (7.92%)
    Green: 1,080 (3.52%)


  9. It does look like Taunton town isn’t going brilliantly for the Tories, unlike the rural areas of Somerset which are holding up pretty well and achieving net swings from the Libs.
    Any LD losses seem to be going to other parties with a few signs of life for Labour aswell.
    Still a marginal seat though

  10. It’s being reported that there will be an open primary meeting to select the next Conservative candidate, which will be held at 7pm on Monday 15th July 2013.

  11. Rebecca Pow selected by open primary.

  12. For the Conservatives that is.

  13. The Tories must surely take this seat on a normal day?

  14. Whats a normal day? They won it in 2001 and failed to win it in 2010. Its a tough one, but its a realistic target.

  15. Given Jeremy Browne is indistinguishable from a Conservative. the outcome won’t make that much difference.

  16. I think Wells and Somerton and Frome are the Tories’ best bets for gains in Somerset- Yeovil and Bath are clearly not realistic prospects and Taunton is a long shot- the 2013 locals were certainly not too inspiring.

  17. ‘Given Jeremy Browne is indistinguishable from a Conservative. the outcome won’t make that much difference.’


  18. @Matt
    Provided you don’t have any last minute disasters, I’d have thought you would win here.

  19. I’d have thought the LDs are favourite to hold this but the seat does have a history of being a bit unpredictable.

  20. Well the LDs were riding high to some extent in 2010 only 5% behind Labour nationally whereas since the coalition started, it’s been downhill for them; to a much bigger extent than the Tories.

  21. But look at the history Winds. This is a seat of small swings, it’s been marginal since 1992 and even in 1997 we only managed to win it with a 4% majority but still won it back in ’05 having lost it in 2001. I’m not sure if we’ve won the popular vote here in local elections since the 1990s (we certainly didn’t in 2007 or 2003 and we didn’t this year) but we held steady when other parts of Somerset were going pear shaped.

    Browne’s pretty much made for this seat so a narrow hold I’d predict, but a hold none the less.

  22. Given that The Lib Dems took seats from The Tories in this constituency in both sets of local elections since the last general election. I would suggest that this is a Lib Dem hold.

    Intestingly the Tories 2010 PPC was selected just a couple of months after the 2005 general election. So he had nearly five years of active campaigning and I was told that the Ashcroft polling found he had the highest name recognition of any PPC in the country. Not to mention full annual marginal seat funding. Without these advantages i suspect the new PPC does not stand too much of a chance.

  23. ‘I think Wells and Somerton and Frome are the Tories’ best bets for gains in Somerset’

    I think they will take Wells, but people have been predicting the Lib Dems to lose Somerton & Frome at every elkection siunce they won in 97 and whilsat you wouldn’t expect the Tories to pick a candidate as out-of-touch as Ms Ress Mogg again, David Heath has seen off challengers befdore

  24. Somerset is notoriously idiosyncratic in elections, springing surprises regularly – Yeovil in 1983, Taunton in both 2001 and 2005, Wells in 2010.

    I would not bet on the Tories winning either Taunton or Somerton & Frome. Even Wells I wouldn’t be all that sure about.

  25. Mr Rees Mogg was also pretty ‘out of touch’ by most yardsticks yet won comfortably enough in NE Somerset. While his sister was certainly not an ideal candidate for S&F I don’t think the Tories failed to take the seat only or even mainly because of her.

    HH is right that these seats are a little unpredictable. What will really worry the Lib Dems in this area, though, is the potential for UKIP to take a chunk of the ‘anti-everything’ vote that in recent years has tended to gravitate to the Lib Dems. The Tories could win seats like S&F next time even with a lower vote share than in 2010 if this scenario materialises.

  26. There is also a substantial tactical vote from natural Labour supporters in all these places (especially in Taunton but also in Frome) at least some of which is prone to unwind

  27. Why is this anti-everything vote so much higher in the south west than anywhere else?

  28. Runnymede- indeed. The Conservatives were ahead of the Lib Dems by about 10% in S and F and 16% in Wells- in part because of UKIP.

  29. “Why is this anti-everything vote so much higher in the south west than anywhere else?”

    Perhaps a legacy of the strong non-conformist traditions in the area and perhaps the economic base which was traditionally things like fishing and small scale agriculture (as against the more industrial regions which created a conformist base for the Labour party and Trades Unions for example while the South East was of course the conformist heartland as the centre of established power. A little simplistic perhaps, but you can see some of these patterns from elections a century or more ago and there’s a remarkable continuity in alot of such places. Parts of East Anglia exhibit similar characteristics

  30. ‘While his sister was certainly not an ideal candidate for S&F I don’t think the Tories failed to take the seat only or even mainly because of her.’

    She actually failed to hold the seat as boundary changes prior to 2010 made this seat a tory one

  31. Thanks for your ideas Pete.

    It might also reflect the high proportion of retired people in the south west. Younger people who are anti-everything generally don’t vote at all, whereas older people are more likely to express their feelings using their vote.

  32. I think Pete is pretty near the mark. Re the generational aspect I think the anti-everythings tend more to be male, 35-55 rather than retired – though certainly not exclusively so.

    I think this group are often very locally-minded as well which is something the Lib Dems have successfully tapped into in the past.

  33. I think it’s a healthy state of affairs for voters to question the three party orthodoxy.

  34. It’s the Lib Dems who tend to be very passionate and angry about lots and lots of things but have no idea what.

  35. How will Conservatives feel if the LDs put Miliband into Downing Street after the next election?

  36. Not as bad as the remaining Lib Dem voters would.

  37. We knew they wanted to last time.

  38. It’s pretty clear I think that quite a lot of Lib Dems want a deal with Labour next time – but not all. It will be interesting to see how the tactical battles develop at a local level in the run up to the next GE.

  39. ‘It’s pretty clear I think that quite a lot of Lib Dems want a deal with Labour next time’

    It’s an impossible choice – as a Lib Dem myself I wouldn’t want a deal with Tories or Labour

    If the Lib Dems do a deal with Labour – they will be hated in the Thatcherite press to levels never seen before

  40. It depends somewhat on the arithmetic.

    If Labour have both most votes and most seats, as the Tories had in 2010, then it will be seen as natural for them to form a Lib-Lab coalition.

    If Labour have fewer seats and fewer votes but still go for a coalition with the Lib Dems it’s asking for trouble.

    Seats are the key, more so than votes, as we saw in 1974. Labour getting slightly more seats than the Tories despite getting fewer votes must be quite a high possibility. That would almost certainly also result in a Lib-Lab deal, but as Tim says they could quite quickly run into legitimacy problems with the press and the electorate.

  41. ” Labour getting slightly more seats than the Tories despite getting fewer votes must be quite a high possibility.”

    Yes I would think this is the likeliest outcome

  42. I think HH’s summary of the most likely situation is correct.

    To be honest, I find all the coalition-inspired opprobrium aimed at the LD’s somewhat mystifying, as those lambasting them clearly haven’t considered the situation the LD’s found themselves in back in 2010. Support Labour and you’re supporting a tired unpopular government. Support the Tories either in full coalition or by confidence and supply and you’ll be criticized by the moderate left and lambasted by (some) mindless Tory-haters on the far left. Sit on your hands and stay out of anything and you’ll be seen as irresponsible and irrelevant.

    The LD’s took the only real option available to them. I think if they campaign hard on the “what could we realistically have done in 2010?” and “we’ll work with whoever can provide stable government after 2015” (e.g opening the door to Labour) lines of argument, they’ll still poll 18-19% and hold the majority of their seats.

    I don’t think the economy will rescue them in 2015 (I broadly agree with HH and Richard on this) and they will have to deal with the fact that the current government has been shambolic at times in some respects. But, they will have the advantage of incumbency and also will have participated in economic and welfare reforms that, in their hearts, the majority of the sensible public realize are necessary.

  43. A confidence and supply arrangement was a realistic option, and I was very surprised that the LD’s didn’t seem to give it serious consideration. Minor parties in coalitions almost always suffer in the polls, while parties offering confidence and supply have much greater space to be critical and expound their own views.

    Given that a Lab-LD coalition was never realistic, it would have been easy to explain and could have left the party in a far better position than they are now.

  44. Is the high LD vote here mostly as a result of Tory tactical voting?

  45. i totally agree with chris k’s last post

    there’s nothing for the lib dems in the demand and supply argument made by war of dreams

    None of their Mps would be in government – therefore they would have no say in the direction that government took – and they would be easy to portray by the press as people who bottled it when their country needed them most

  46. I agree with Tim on this – the lack of influence would have meant that none of the kudos of being in government would have rubbed off, and yet it would have done little to temper the criticism.

    I also suspect that some of the more difficult issues within the coalition would have been magnified – tuition fees were difficult enough with them being in government, but it would surely have been even more difficult for LD MP’s to vote for tuition fees if they were free of the constraints of being active participants in the government.

    And, if a minority Tory government had suffered defeats on this and a few other issues, they would surely have had sufficient reason to go back to the country – at which point they’d have portrayed the LD’s, as Tim points out, as ‘bottle jobs’ who weren’t ready for government.

    I can see WarofDream’s point, but I don’t think C&S was any more palatable than any of the other options.

  47. Much of the criticism the Lib Dems face is about vocally supporting policies which they previously opposed. This would clearly be tempered if they weren’t doing this.

    I’m not sure where the kudos of being in goverment appears; perhaps a little from some Conservative supporters, but this is greatly outweighed by the criticism.

    It would be a great risk for the Conservatives to go quickly back to the country. When previous governments have tried this, they’ve received something very similar to the previous result. Yes, sections of the press would be sure to portray the LDs as bottlers, but this criticism would be less problematic for them than the major parties, as many of their (ex-)voters didn’t expect them to get into government and in some cases saw this as a positive thing.

    If the Tories really couldn’t govern, they’d doubtless consider a snap election, but more likely they’d be doing lots of negotiating with other parties – including the Lib Dems – to win their support on critical policies, and avoiding controversial non-core bills.

  48. Interesting post, and you’re certainly correct that some of the criticism relates to tuition fees etc.

    But to be honest, most of the criticism I hear is from vociferous voices on the less who bang on endlessly about “evil Tories” – and in supporting them, the LD’s are seen as propping up an evil administration.

    Therefore, any perception of propping up a Tory administration was going to lead to unpopularity on the left wing of the LD’s and potential Lab-LD switch voters – so the LD’s were right to think that they may as well be involved in a viable government, rather than simply propping it up or trying to cobble together an unsustainable centre-left coalition.

    Whilst I’m not a massive Nick Clegg fan, I think in time he will be seen as a reasonably moderate, centrist individual who tried to do the best he could for his party, and recognised the need to at least have a stable government, however unpopular it was in some quarters.

  49. Above post should read “…..vociferous voices on the left”

  50. “If the Tories really couldn’t govern, they’d doubtless consider a snap election, but more likely they’d be doing lots of negotiating with other parties – including the Lib Dems – to win their support on critical policies, and avoiding controversial non-core bills.”

    Whilst outside the Westminster bubble, the economy would have rapidly spiralled down the plughole, due to the political uncertainty and the inability of a minority Conservative government to get an austerity budget through parliament.

    Some kind of National Government as in 1931 might have come about.

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