2015 Result:
Conservative: 19551 (40.7%)
Labour: 4166 (8.7%)
Lib Dem: 16265 (33.8%)
Green: 1557 (3.2%)
UKIP: 6540 (13.6%)
MAJORITY: 3286 (6.8%)

Category: Marginal Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Devon. The northern part of the Torbay council area.

Main population centres: Torquay, Paignton.

Profile: Torbay is a natural bay on the south coast, sometimes called the English riviera. The constituency consists of two of the three towns that sit upon the bay, Torquay and Paignton (the third, Brixham, is in neighbouring Totnes). Both towns are popular seaside resorts and the constituency includes tourist attractions like Paignton Zoo, Kents Cavern and Babbacombe model village.

Politics: Politically Torbay is a marginal between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders held the seat between 1997 and 2015, but often by narrow margins. In 1997 his majority was only twelve, it increased in 2001, but fell back to just over 2000 in 2005. In 2015 the seat finally fell to the Tories. This has also been a comparatively good seat for UKIP, who held their deposit in 2005 and 2010. At a local level Torbay has an elected mayor, currently Conservative Gordon Oliver who defeated his predecessor, deselected Conservative incumbent Nick Bye running as an independent in 2011.

Current MP
KEVIN FOSTER (Conservative) Born 1978, Plymouth. Educated at Heles School and Warwick University. Barrister. Coventry councillor 2002-2014. Contested Coventry South 2010. First elected as MP for Torbay in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 19048 (39%)
Lab: 3231 (7%)
LDem: 23126 (47%)
UKIP: 2628 (5%)
Oth: 1177 (2%)
MAJ: 4078 (8%)
Con: 17288 (37%)
Lab: 6972 (15%)
LDem: 19317 (41%)
UKIP: 3726 (8%)
MAJ: 2029 (4%)
Con: 17307 (36%)
Lab: 4484 (9%)
LDem: 24015 (50%)
UKIP: 1512 (3%)
Oth: 251 (1%)
MAJ: 6708 (14%)
Con: 21082 (40%)
Lab: 7923 (15%)
LDem: 21094 (40%)
Oth: 3223 (6%)
MAJ: 12 (0%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
KEVIN FOSTER (Conservative) Born 1978, Plymouth. Educated at Heles School and Warwick University. Barrister. Coventry councillor 2002-2014. Contested Coventry South 2010.
SU MADDOCK (Labour) Educated at Leeds University. University fellow.
ADRIAN SANDERS (Liberal Democrat) Born 1959, Paignton. Educated at Torquay Boys' Grammar School. Policy officer. Torbay councillor 1984-1986. Contested Devon and East Plymouth 1994 European-elections. MP for Torbay 1997 to 2015.
ANTHONY MCINTYRE (UKIP) Retired teacher. Contested South West region 2014 European elections.
Comments - 269 Responses on “Torbay”
  1. He is certainly independent minded and perhaps the least pro coalition LD MP

  2. I’d love to see the Lib Dems get a really good kicking here.

  3. I have a request to Pete Whitehead.
    Pete, do you have an estimate of how the 1979 over-sized Torbay seat would have voted in 2010 please?

  4. “I’d love to see the Lib Dems get a really good kicking here.”

    No kidding.

  5. ‘I’d love to see the Lib Dems get a really good kicking here.’

    I’m sure there are a few Lib Dems who would like to see you get a really good kicking Joe – and it wouldn’t have to be here [lol]

  6. yes but who would supply it?

  7. ‘yes but who would supply it?’

    I’d be more than willing to offer my services Barnaby [lol] for a reduced fee

  8. Sounds like Joe is a rower, a rugby fan and about 8 feet tall.

    Not sure I’d fancy your chances Tim.

    Didn’t Adrian Sanders infamously give one of his fellow Lib Dems a good kicking a few years back?

  9. “Pete, do you have an estimate of how the 1979 over-sized Torbay seat would have voted in 2010 please?”

    I don’t but I should have thought it would be LD but wit a considerably smaller majority. Brixham has never been one of the LDs better areas in Torbay (it has actually been quite good for Labour at times), though Blacthcombe is good territory for them. I should think the Tories have always led in the area overall in general elections which means it would have been a Tory seat in 1997 and possibly 2005 but not in 2001 or 2010

  10. ‘Not sure I’d fancy your chances Tim.’

    Neither do I – but of course I was only jesting

    Of the main towns that comprise Torbay – Torquay, Paignton and Brixham – which is the most Lib Dem?

    I remember Torquay itself being a lot smarter than both Paignton and Brixham – although I thought the latter had a charm of its own

  11. 6 foot 6.
    Apologies for my rather aggressive post.

    Thanks Pete for your estimate – it’s what I also suspect.

    At the 2000 count on the elections program, Angela Browning said that the Tories had gained Brixham from Labour.

  12. ‘At the 2000 count on the elections program, Angela Browning said that the Tories had gained Brixham from Labour’

    That’s interesting – I thought the Labour challenge in the South West was limited to large towns and cities, even in 2000 – given that they started to lose councils as soon as getting elected in 1997

  13. Perhaps Labour did have a few councillors in Torbay in the 1995 and 1997 conditions
    but lost them again in their first mid-term set back
    in 2000.
    In 1990 they gained their first councillors their since 1974 but I never actually noticed that Brixham, outside the seat of course, was one of them,
    I assumed Brixham was LD v Con

  14. All the results are still on the Torbay council website

    It seems that only one ward was consistently Labour – St Marys and St Peter’s – which is in Brixham. The last boundary change seems to have divided that ward.

    They still have a councillor in Tormorhun.

    Actually, though Labour are clearly third, they do respectably enough in most wards, and there is clearly some tactical voting at General Elections. Adrian Sanders is one of the least enthusiastic LD MP’s regarding the Coalition

  15. It’s funny really to think that before Sanders came in as the Lib Dem candidate here that Rupert Allason actually increased the Conservatives’ majority here in 1987.

  16. ‘Didn’t Adrian Sanders infamously give one of his fellow Lib Dems a good kicking a few years back?\

    he was involved in a scuffle in 2008 with arch-thatcherite mark littlewood, who at that time, for reasons i can’t quite fathom, was chairman of liberal vision

    given that the policies that littlewood now advocates are waaay to the right of peter bone, perhaps his run in with sanders prompted his lurch to the right

    ‘Adrian Sanders is one of the least enthusiastic LD MP’s regarding the Coalition’

    In April 2009, Sanders appeared in The Sunday Telegraph list of best value MPs.

    In October 2011, he was the only Liberal Democrat MP to vote for the motion to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

    I doubt either of these things would have done him much harm

  17. 9/4 available with Ladbrokes on the Conservatives to win. That’s very generous. Should be evens or something close to that.

    Considering that the LDs usually do better in local than general elections, it’s telling that the Conservatives were well ahead of the LDs in the last local elections here.

  18. With respect, I think both of your points are tripe.

    Assuming Sanders stands again this seat is most likely a Lib Dem hold and the 9/4 odds on a Tory gain reflect that. Evens would be ridiculous odds.

    The Lib Dems don’t “usually do better in local than general elections” here. The council has a habit of swinging regularly between the Cons and Lib Dems. The Tories have quite often outpolled the Lib Dems here in local elections and continued to lose parliamentary elections.

  19. H.Hemmelig is completely correct. I specifically remember that, in the 2001 general election campaign, people got very excited because the Conservatives had handed the LDs a severe beating in local elections the year before, and assumed that Sanders was in danger. In fact, the Tory candidate Christian Sweeting went down like a lead balloon in the constituency, and Sanders, defending a majority of some 12 votes, won by over 8,000. The Tories still haven’t fully recovered from that & I predict that they still won’t next year either.

  20. It may depend here on which effect is the stronger: a recovery in the Labour vote at the LibDem’s expense or Conservative loss of votes to UKIP.
    I agree that 9/4 on the Conservatives to win is generous; but it is hardly a sure thing for them either.

  21. Frederic why do you persist in this delusion that UKIP take votes solely or even mainly from the Conservatives. It is very clearly not the case and especially in this region there is a large amount of LD/UKIP split voting – you only have to look at European election results in this borough to see that

  22. “he was involved in a scuffle in 2008 with arch-thatcherite mark littlewood, who at that time, for reasons i can’t quite fathom, was chairman of liberal vision”

    Mark Littlewood comes across as one of the biggest pricks in politics/the media. Like the right wing equivalent of Polly Toynbee.

  23. Don’t hold back Neil, say what you think for goodness sake

  24. Despite his fall of 9.7% in 2005, Adrian Sanders remained above his 1997 level because of his excellent performance in 2001. I think the result in 2005 was wildly volatile because of the Lib Dems having run Torbay in the last few years.

  25. Unfortunately the record – could – be stuck,
    something like

    LD 39 -8%
    Con 38 -1%
    UKIP 12% +7%
    Labour 9% +2%
    Green 2% +1%

    (a possible credible scenario)

    But I think this is a decent prospect for a Conservative gain next time.

  26. Hello Joe. It could be a close result here next time, but I too have Adrian Sanders down to hold onto this seat. It’s funny though, because were the pattern to continue, then the Lib Dems would increase again significantly like they did here in 2001 and 2010, but then if things aren’t great for them in 2020 the record you describe could well be broken and the Conservatives might take it back by then.

  27. If UKIP increase by 7% then surely the Tories would fall by more than 1%. Though on the other hand I think Lab would be very disappointed not to return to double figures. At this stage I’d go for

    LD 39
    Con 35
    Lab 12
    UKIP 10
    Oths 4

  28. Maybe Labour will go a bit higher – I think in 2011 we saw them bounce back a fair bit – but only just into double figures I would have thought.

  29. Given Sanders only won by 12 votes in the first place way back in 1997, it is probably through sheer hard work and local popularity that he has been able to still be here some 17 years later. The Tories will have been disappointed not to have taken this from him in 2010, having got closer to Sanders in 2005 after their bad result in 2001. They may now be waiting a while to have another chance, maybe six years, maybe more?

  30. Torbay is a surprisingly isolated place, with only two roads in (across the windy moors on the A380, or winding along the cliffs from Teignmouth on the A379). It is hemmed in by the cliffs to the north, the moors to the west, the sea to the east, and the Dart to the south.

    In my experience this fosters an unusually parochial feel about the place, and in this context Adrian Sanders benefits significantly from being “Mr Torbay”. Born and educated in Torquay, a former local councillor and hotelier, I do not think the Tories will have much chance of winning this back until her retires.

  31. I hadn’t thought of it as being isolated because it’s quite urban – but that is logically true.
    I don’t know Torquay very well atall but have stayed near Paignton/Goodrington Sands and Brixham, and in a village near the Dart – just outside the seat.

    The rather faded urban resort perhaps gives the Lib Dems the extra votes in General Election turnouts.

    There have been some very odd turnarounds though in the early 2000s though even elsewhere. Parties just getting hammered on either side 3 or 4 years later.

    There results are a bit more static now but the Tories have not made it back yet

  32. Both Paignton and (surprisingly) Brixham feel very working class in places. You would expect a pretty strong natural Labour vote there, which must be heavily squeezed down by the Lib Dems.

    Torquay and surrounding villages like Babbacombe feel more prosperous and middle class, though perhaps less than they were a generation ago. The Tories must also do well in the rural bits on the north bank of the Dart.

  33. Brixham of course outside the seat (after 1979)

  34. Perhaps then we should be comparing some of this to N Norfolk where a traditional Labour vote has collapsed to the LDs although at least for the Tories this seat is still marginal.

    I think I posted on the old seat that I read in around 2008 that 1% of the population here was bankrupt and the average salary about £12,000.

  35. Yes. That probably explains a lot of the Lib Dem strength in Totnes. Most of that seat is very well to do and therefore it’s a surprise the Tories aren’t further ahead, though Totnes town has got a bit of a bohemian / Green feel about it.

  36. Dartmouth is a naval town of course & fairly naturally trends Tory, although it does have a Labour councillor as well. Kingsbridge is a sailing centre & the Tories don’t do too badly there either. Only really Totnes itself is a true Lib Dem centre in the seat, though I suspect the LDs in a general election would be a long way ahead of the Tories in the town itself. Perhaps Brixham’s presence in the seat helps the LDs a bit though & may have caused the Tories to have a more modest majority.

  37. Labour usually hold Townstal – Dartmouth.

  38. I think in a lot of these Lib Dem-held seats with the Tories in second place, be they close or not, the incumbents have effectively squeezed the Labour vote down to their advantage over the years. There’s a very long list- Torbay, Norfolk North, Lewes, Colchester, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Eastleigh, Sheffield Hallam, Portsmouth South etc. etc.

    But the bizarre reverse here for Sanders in 2005 was very much in stark contrast to some other seats the Lib Dems had gained in 1997 and similarly held onto comfortably with rocketed percentage increases and majorities alike in 2001. Here however, this saw in 2005 an almost as big decrease as big an increase it had four years earlier. Though given how volatile the whole situation with the local council makes things electorally here, perhaps that’s not really a big surprise, but it is still unique in some sort of way.

  39. It’s unusual but not completely on it’s own.
    Lib Dem majorities have gone up and down in some other seats and given their opponents hope, only for the squeeze to be re-asserted again.
    The Tories did quite well in Yeovil in 2001, and in David Steel’s seat on one or two occasions.

  40. Yeovil of course a retirement

  41. But there are some seats the party hold where they stay solid and don’t really slip back and then have to recover, and only really then if the incumbent has indeed retired.

    The weirdest thing about some of these is that where the Lib Dems gained in 1997 with a marginal majority, they more often than not then went onto build a seemingly monolithic stronghold for the incumbent as the elections went by. But in Hereford, for example, a more obvious long-term target, they won in 1997 with a fairly sizable 6000+ majority and then fell all the way back to knife-edge 900 majorities in 2001 and 2005, so that proves there’s no real guide that can be used to judge all Lib Dems who were incumbents in how they fared when jumping at the chance of first-time incumbency. In 2005, for example, a year when the Tories did very well against Lib Dems, Guildford’s Sue Doughty and Ludlow’s Matthew Green both bit the dust, for example, and they were both incumbents. So there is no clear rule when it comes to being a Lib Dem MP electorally, and a lot clearly depends on hard work and getting things done once you’re in.

  42. Don’t you think all these predictions make a mockery of the actual voting itself. If they all knew who we were voting for then why waste the time.

    It is however disappointing that still after all these years Torbay’s been voting in either the Tories or Lib Dems and yet Torbay is still one of the most deprived areas in the country.Come on wake up Torbay! We need a change.

  43. James McMurray is tipped to be the UKIP candidate. A recent defection to UKIP from the Conservatives. James was elected as a Tory on neighbouring Teignbridge District Council (Teignmouth Central ward) in 2011. He tried to become the Conservative PPC in 2013.

  44. I suppose one ought to be suspicious of people defecting having failed to win selection…!

  45. ‘He tried to become the Conservative PPC in 2013.’

    That says it all really – yet another case of sour grapes I would suspect

  46. Adrian Saunders MP has an article at LibDemVoice.

    “The message the Party is delivering also needs to be analysed. … I do not see many of the 25 per cent target voters our strategy is currently aimed at residing in my seat, or the seats of many colleagues located on the periphery of the UK.

    I’d guess that they represent no more than 5% of my electorate meaning I have to win votes from the 95% whom the Party isn’t interested in talking to at the moment!”

  47. Surely being a seaside seat, this is just the sort where LDs would switch to UKIP?

    I say this profoundly ignorant of local knowledge, but I notice more than one poster above confirms it as deprived.

    I don’t mean this necessarily makes UKIP competitive in the seat as a whole, more that LD could lose as much to UKIP as do Cons in this seat perhaps?

  48. Well looks like Torbay has finally woken up!

    LABOUR 3176
    UKIP 14,666

    It will be very interesting to see how the By Election in Newark turns out.

  49. I presume that is the Euro vote?
    I think this seat is pretty much safe for Sanders, but when he retires there is a good chance it’ll flip.

  50. ‘Yes’ Iain thats the Euro vote.

    Adrian Sanders is a fabulous guy, he’s just on the wrong team, he is worthy of better.

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