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. on paper this would be now the Lib Dems’ third SW target (amazingly ahead of seats like Bath, Cheltenham and Yeovil) but in practice I think they’re probably finished here

  2. In an interesting twist, Adrian Sanders has popped up as the candidate for the by-election for Torbay UA, Clifton with Maidenway (Thursday, November 5, 2015).

    It’s a LibDem-held seat until now..

  3. majority of 42

    Can’t quite decide whether this is a sign that Torbay is seen as a clear target for 2020 or a sign of desperation (Lib Dems couldn’t find anyone else)

    Could be very interesting…

  4. Given a first time incumbency effect, this might not be the easiest seat for the LibDems to win back. The UKIP vote also need to be taken into account.

    If (some of) Brixham were to moved into this seat when the number of MPs is reduced it is hard to see this helping the LibDems given that Tornes is a safe Conservative seat. The fishing vote from Brixham might help the LibDems, but I doubt how many people these days actually work in the fishing indusry.

  5. agreed this will be a lot harder for the Lib Dems to win back than the swing required suggests.

    AFAIK the aborted boundary changes left this seat unchanged – not that that means anything really. Doubt the fishing vote from Brixham would help – Lib Dems do worse there than in Paignton or Torquay.

    How many former MPs in recent years have been elected (or at least contested) council elections after leaving office?

  6. I expect it will be a target in 2020 purely because there’s not exactly a lot else for their supporters in the area to do. Whether Lib Dems have any realistic chance of retaking it – I’ve got my doubts on that but five years is a long time

  7. David Drew in Stroud did. I believe he quit though after he did re-win the seat.

  8. Loads and loads of former MPs have become councillors

  9. Ron Atkins in Preston was a local councillor for many years after losing Preston South in 1983. He was the oldest Councillor in the country when he retired aged over 90. He is now aged 98.

  10. Sorry that should have said: I believe he quit though after he NOT did re-win the seat.

    Adrian Sanders is being report on LibDem Voice which would suggest they’re taking it relatively seriously:

  11. I got my last post wrong. Ron Atkins was MP for Preston North, which he lost by 29 votes in 1979. He retired as a Preston Councillor in 2010, when he was 93.

  12. FS – interesting, thanks.

    They certainly liked/like their elderly Cllrs up here in the North West. Either that or they have very small ward parties.

    I recall one of my first council meetings I covered as a trainee was Sefton and they had a 90-year-old Cllr. I think Ellesmere Port did too and Knowsley and Liverpool both then had a few in their 80s.

  13. A Bonfire Night By-election eh. I’m glad I’m not covering that. Although I imagine Torbay is more genteel than Lewes or Glasgow.

  14. I wonder whether the bad weather in Devon might have an effect on the Clifton-with-Maidenway result – maybe elderly Tories being more likely to brave the elements and vote?

    Interestingly the Lib Dems only held the ward in May because the Con vote dropped as well.

  15. I think Adrian Sanders will probably be back in politics this time tomorrow. While the Conservative candidate only finished 46 votes short of our second candidate they got 468 votes less as a party. The 2011 results suggest we did better in 2015 as well. Adrian Sanders is also popular locally, I think he could well get a sympathy vote and get more people out because of who he is.

    If he does win I don’t think we can leap to any conclusions about the future of this seat. Council elections mean little and this has special circumstances surrounding it. From a personal point of view it will be nice to see him back.

  16. On the flip side, if we lose then I doubt we will be able to make any sort of comeback, especially if our biggest figure in the area fails to hold a council seat.

  17. He has indeed held on.

  18. He’s pretty much smashed with 69% of the vote.

  19. *smashed it

  20. Clifton-with-Maidenway (Torbay) result:

    LDEM – 69.2% (+39.3)
    CON – 14.8% (-13.7)
    UKIP – 10.0% (-9.7)
    LAB – 3.3% (-9.0)
    GRN – 2.7% (-6.8)

    Kevin Foster must be having a queasy feeling at breakfast…

  21. whoa. I guess elderly Tories weren’t more likely to turn out after all!

    Not hugely surprised that he held if I’m honest but shocked at the scale of the majority and didn’t expect the Tory vote to practically halve. That said by-elections throw up weird results sometimes so probably wouldn’t read too much into it

  22. I think this just goes to show how useless local by elections are in showing the true national picture.

  23. This is an incredible result, 26.5% swing? Everything everyone has already commented though applies. Even so to increase your vote by almost 40% is impressive and I imagine they will feel quite buoyed by the result. Regardless of how irrelevant the result is I imagine the local party will constantly remind constituents with this poll in their leaflets, ‘It’s between us and the Tories’, etc. Also despite how irrelevant a result it is I would be pretty shocked and dismayed by the size of the majority if I were Tory.

  24. There have been a number of these results now for Lib Dems, though no movement in their direction in national polls. Most likely suggests people feel sympathetic towards them at local level, and that their supporters are motivated by local by-elections. Alternative interpretation is polls are wrong again, though fact that they haven’t surged in all local by-elections, only a selected few, suggests this is unlikely.

  25. Where is Gloy when we need him?

    Democracy’s post is of course absolutely spot on.

  26. Sorry I was desperately asking for paper but people kept giggling, running away, and leaving me there.
    Only able to respond now.
    Yes it was a truly stupendous result, and points to a big Lib Dem overall majority next time.
    UKIP are folding like rotten deck chairs – perhaps we’ll drive Labour into third place, then the Tories soon after.

  27. Too many more results like this and some Tory neophytes will be getting rather nervous about having given up their day jobs.

    There does seem to be a pattern of this type of thing happening in formerly held areas (Sth West London, Lewes borders last week, Inverness etc)… though the Wrexham result was novel..

  28. excellent momentum, expect the LDs to sweep the SW in 2020 with at least 10 gains, Farron has the midas touch

  29. The only logical conclusion

  30. “at least 10 gains”? That’s a very conservative estimate. I expect with momentum like this the Lib Dems will pretty much sweep the board in the West Country and win pretty much every seat. Tories might hang on to Christchurch if they’re lucky lol

  31. Win every South West seat?

    They’ll have to work pretty darn hard to win Exeter. 😉

  32. Another by-election on the horizon, this time in Tormohun (Conservative defence)

  33. It’ll be a tough one for the Tories to hold as this is primarily LibDem but with Labour having gained a seat in 2011..

  34. Adrian Sanders has asked Devon and Cornwall Police to investigate the Conservatives’ election return here, in light of the now admitted false returns re Battlebus 2015 and activists’ accommodation.

  35. His interview on the WAO was a bit funny, he seemed to be blaming the Tories for putting extra effort into the marginals. Er…like political parties do at elections.

  36. I think what comes out of this is that these days the boundary btwn. ‘national’ and ‘local’ campaigning is very hard to draw, because national resources are inevitably focused to some extent on marginals. Maybe the rules need clarifying somehow.

  37. SBJME19 – yes, it’s allowed as long as you declare the expenditure and it doesn’t take you over the limit.

  38. ‘Maybe the rules need clarifying somehow.’

    I’m not sure CH4 News – the best news program on British TV – has much of a case to be honest

    The nature of British elections is that people vote for a candidate rather than a party – therefore any campaigning, whether funded by central office or locally, will be about enticing people to vote for a candidate.

    How could it not

  39. “The nature of British elections is that people vote for a candidate rather than a party” – that’s the idea but in practice I suspect most people vote for the party.

  40. “Adrian Sanders has asked Devon and Cornwall Police to investigate the Conservatives’ election return here, in light of the now admitted false returns re Battlebus 2015 and activists’ accommodation” – and surely runs the risk of just looking like a bad loser

  41. Gerry Malone looked like a bad loser.

    A re-run here would be closer though.

  42. Malone had a better case than Sanders has. The majority in Winchester was only a couple of votes, and the dispute centred around whether any of over fifty ballots that were declared void should in fact have counted. That number of disputed ballots clearly could have changed the result.

    Here Sanders lost by several thousand, and it’s impossible to be certain whether any Tory overspending changed the result.

  43. ‘it’s impossible to be certain whether any Tory overspending changed the result.’

    But you could say that about any of the seats where the Tories are alleged to have overspent

    They either did so or they didn’t, and if they did, I’d say Sanders has a case

    Whether that’s enough to ultimately force a re-ballot, which must his aim, is another matter entirely and I very much doubt it

    And as history shows – with Winchester the most apt comparison – electorates tend not to be kind to those who force such contests

  44. Tim Jones: one difference with Winchester 1997 would be that the governing party would be defending the seat. That isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone at a time like this.

    Don’t expect this to happen though. You have to have a pretty strong case to overturn an election.

  45. “And as history shows – with Winchester the most apt comparison – electorates tend not to be kind to those who force such contests”

    I’m not sure Winchester is the most apt comparison, as it was nothing to do with campaign wrongdoing. Oldham East is a better recent parallel IMO, though it doesn’t really change your point except the Lib Dems who petitioned the election held their vote much better than the Tories did in Winchester.

  46. Kieran W – I take the opposite viewpoint.

    In election law, Fraud is a far stronger case than a couple of spoilt ballots.

    The size of any majority is immaterial.

    It can also lead to the prosecution of the Agent and/or Candidate and being convicted of an election offence bars from standing for 5 years.

    Cases are rare but then much of these offences are quite new to the Statute book.

  47. “In election law, Fraud is a far stronger case than a couple of spoilt ballots”.

    True, but because of that the level of proof required is higher; the criminal threshold of beyond reasonable doubt rather than the balance of probability. The case brought by Malone in Winchester only had to reach the latter threshold, so had a far higher chance of success than any challenge based on overspending.

    I take your point though that size of majority isn’t an issue when it comes to deciding on prosecution.

  48. Tormohun by-election result (Lib Dem gain from Con):

    Lib Dem – 1 126
    Con – 533
    Lab – 344
    UKIP – 315
    Green – 66
    TUSC – 27

    The area has also voted to scrap the post of elected mayor in 2019

  49. The Conservative Party has failed to comply with disclosure following statutory notices issued by the Electoral Commission on 18.02.16 and 23.03.16.

    The Electoral Commission therefore applied to the High Court today to enforce the notices.

    Here the new PCC and Agent here last May has been referred to police and the IPCC as she allegedly failed to declare expenses on the Return for Torbay.

  50. Depends if the candidate is found guilty. Usually it’s just the agent who carries the can in these things.

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