Totnes

2015 Result:
Conservative: 24941 (53%)
Labour: 5988 (12.7%)
Lib Dem: 4667 (9.9%)
Green: 4845 (10.3%)
UKIP: 6656 (14.1%)
MAJORITY: 18285 (38.8%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South West, Devon. Part of South Hams council area and four wards from the Torbay council area.

Main population centres: Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Dartmouth, Totnes, Brixham.

Profile: A picturesque seat on the South Devon coast, it takes in Brixham at the southern end of Torbay - the "English riveria", the small market and coastal towns of South Devon with their thriving tourist industry and up onto the edges of Dartmoor. Tourism is the main industry throughout the area. Like most south coast tourist towns a high proportion of people have come here to retire and the constituency has one of the highest proportions of over 60s in the country. In Salcombe in particular, which is also popular for sailing and yachting, this has pushed property prices up to some of highest outside London. Salcombe and Brixham also retain active fishing industies.

Politics: The seat and its predecessors have been represented by the Conservative party since 1924, thought at many recent elections it has been very tightly fought with the Liberal Democrats. The current MP, Sarah Wollaston, is unusual in having been selected in a true open primary with a postal ballot open to all electors.


Current MP
SARAH WOLLASTON (Conservative) Born 1962, Woking. Educated at Royal Naval School Tal Handaq and King`s College London. Former general practitioner. First elected as MP for Totnes in 2010. She was selected as the Conservative candidate in 2010 through an open postal ballot.
Past Results
2010
Con: 21940 (46%)
Lab: 3538 (7%)
LDem: 17013 (36%)
UKIP: 2890 (6%)
Oth: 2462 (5%)
MAJ: 4927 (10%)
2005*
Con: 21112 (42%)
Lab: 6185 (12%)
LDem: 19165 (38%)
UKIP: 3914 (8%)
Oth: 199 (0%)
MAJ: 1947 (4%)
2001
Con: 21914 (44%)
Lab: 6005 (12%)
LDem: 18317 (37%)
UKIP: 3010 (6%)
MAJ: 3597 (7%)
1997
Con: 19637 (37%)
Lab: 8796 (16%)
LDem: 18760 (35%)
Oth: 4024 (7%)
MAJ: 877 (2%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

Demographics
2015 Candidates
SARAH WOLLASTON (Conservative) See above.
NICKY WILLIAMS (Labour)
JULIAN BRAZIL (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Bristol University. Teacher. Contested Brent South 2001, Falmouth and Camborne 2001, Totnes 2010.
JUSTIN HAQUE (UKIP) Born London. Educated at Wandsworth Comprehensive and Newcastle University. Stockbroker.
GILL COOMBS (Green)
Links
Comments - 321 Responses on “Totnes”
  1. Well kudos to yougov for getting this dead right.

    Also kudos to me for correctly discerning that May’s huge poll leads didn’t pass the smell test a few months ago. But people will probably care less about this.

  2. I notice that Sarah Wollaston is part of the “gang of nine” Tory rebels who have tabled a dozen or so amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

    Quite the transformation from a former leave campaigner – and one which makes one wonder whether it was all a stunt, whether what she did had been planned all along. Or is she really less of a dogmatist, more open to changing her mind on the biggest issues, than your average MP is?

  3. I think it could be a bit of both, my gut tells me that she isn’t really inclined to pull stunts, and has throughout her career displayed sufficient independence of mind to suggest that she can alter her views on things.

    I always had her down as a ‘the EU isn’t perfect and it is up to someone to persuade me either way’ – she plumped for leave based on the non-renegotiation and then changed.

    Certainly not a snake like Warsi, who claimed to be a raging Faragista for years and then swapped at the last minute. It’s people like her who make me despise the Lords, no talent or ability, and never elected to anything in her life…

    Wollaston doesn’t really have a natural party I don’t think, she’s a bit nomadic in terms of her political outlook, but she does have a large natural constituency of voters who are of the right, but socially liberal and open to difference. Nomadic but not a wind sock who changes her mind or view according to the direction of the political wind.

    Parliament would be a better place with more Sarah Wollaston types.

  4. She is one of the least ideological people in politics you’ll ever meet. She’s not really a Tory and would be better to sit as an Independent

  5. @Matt Wilson

    Having met her she would have been very much at home in the Conservatives pre-Thatcher. That kind of old-school rural, centrist Tory is almost homeless now – a real shame in my view as they’d be the backbone of the kind of sensible, public-spirited and pragmatic Government that the public wants but the media barons and big donors who have far too much say don’t.

    She’s just essentially a ‘roll up your sleeves and do your bit for public service’ type. She has the job she wants – head of the Health Select Committee, and is basically pretty much impervious to either threats or bribery.

    As Luke says, Parliament would be significantly improved by more Sarah Wollastons.

  6. It does bemuse me that we have ministers in position who have experience of their field, and genuine experts like Wollaston on the back benches – albeit in positions of influence on select committees.

    Clearly there’s a requirement to stick to govt policy and collective responsibility whilst in the cabinet but the point still stands.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if she was the reason why open primaries weren’t rolled out more. Back benchers who are a bit cranky or eccentric can be dealt with much more easily than a free thinking, common sense type.

  7. That should say no experience in their field… damn typo.

  8. ‘Parliament would be significantly improved by more Sarah Wollastons.’

    Completely agree – although MPs that independent tend to do themselves no favours when it comes to getting the top jobs, and therein lies the problem

  9. “MPs that independent tend to do themselves no favours when it comes to getting the top jobs, and therein lies the problem.”

    I would have agreed with you before 2015, but it turns out you can rebel against your party 500 times in parliament and still be elected leader.

    You can argue that’s the exception that proves the rule, but there have also been many cases of Prime Ministers bringing awkward backbenchers into the government as a way of shutting them up (Robert Halfon, for example).

  10. I agree with everyone else. A huge amount of admiration for this lady. Compare her classy demeanour with the smug, self satisfied, witless Patel today in Parliament. It’s incredibly hard to believe that these two people are in the same political party.

  11. I can’t help feeling she must be a bit dim, or very naïve.

    I can’t believe she couldn’t have guessed what kind of campaign Leave would run and what kind of people would front it, having been in parliament with Bill Cash etc for 6 years. Much as I welcomed her defection from the dark side of course. But not reflective of good judgement.

  12. In relation to H Hemelig’s comments above whilst like him I welcome any repenting sinner back into the fold, I think Wollaston’s initial decision to back Leave was based on Cameron’s failure to get any meaningful repatriation if powers back from Brussels – a fair position

    Like half the Uk population, I hope the EU regrets making the then PM look like a fool

  13. I had a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels on Monday. They appear confident that Brexit isn’t going to happen in any meaningful sense.

  14. Hemmy: “I can’t help feeling she must be a bit dim, or very naïve.

    I can’t believe she couldn’t have guessed what kind of campaign Leave would run and what kind of people would front it, having been in parliament with Bill Cash etc for 6 years.”

    Just because you have disagreements with the people promoting a cause, or the arguments they are making to support that cause, does not mean you should reject the cause itself. Why does what you write about Sarah Wollaston not apply equally to, for example, Dennis Skinner?

  15. Why does what you write about Sarah Wollaston not apply equally to, for example, Dennis Skinner?’

    But Skinner has always been a maverick Eurosceptic whereas Wollaston hasn’t

  16. Exactly. Skinner believes the same things he believed in 1970. It’s not hard to see that he is principled to the point of supreme intransigence.

    I take Tim’s point about Wollaston but I’m not satisfied with it. To me and I assume to most politicos, whether you are for Remain or Leave is an issue of philosophy/principle and not simply dependent on the result of some grubby deal. Cameron made a huge error framing the debate that way.

  17. I think it is certainly true that very few people who were genuinely on the fence would have been convinced by what he failed to achieve.

    And as you’ve said before, the one thing the referendum did do was smoke out the faux Euro sceptics and also the fence sitters who would say whatever they felt necessary in order to make the next advance.

    I’ve much more time for a strong pro EU sort like Soubry, rather than a Javid.

    If Cameron wanted to be front and centre of a pro EU campaign he should have made the most passionate speech he could, and say why Briitain needed to lead the way in a reformed EU – getting genuine reforms in the interests of all members.

    Instead he made a hash of it and then looked slippery and dishonest.

    If Clegg hadn’t been damaged by various things I think he’d have made a much more suitable leader for the Remain side.

  18. “And as you’ve said before, the one thing the referendum did do was smoke out the faux Euro sceptics and also the fence sitters who would say whatever they felt necessary in order to make the next advance.”

    Cameron, Osborne and much of the government front bench were in that group. In retrospect it was always going to look ridiculous for Cameron to be extolling the virtues of a Remain vote when he’d hardly said a nice word about the EU since 1990. By contrast Leave were full of principled, long-term believers and crucially had armies of retired campaigners with time on their hands.

  19. Yes, I always had Osborne down as the more Eurosceptic of the two.

    With Hague being further anti EU than both.

    Of course he wasn’t the first or last foreign secretary to drift whilst in that post… perhaps they ought to have given that job to Liam Fox…

  20. Sarah is backing a 2nd Ref

  21. My MP (Soames) and Soubry as well as Greening the other day.

    Now Tories are coming out for a 2nd referendum it might be a game changer. But I still don’t see that there’s enough time, unless there is a delay to the March 2019 deadline.

  22. ‘Now Tories are coming out for a 2nd referendum it might be a game changer. ‘

    I agree with your assessment the other day that only a ‘No Deal Bexit’ will result in a 2nd referendum – and that will be on the back of widespread public anger, who will of course blame the politicians instead of themselves for getting us in this mess in the first place

  23. imo this will only divide the Tories more than anything else

  24. There’s the not insignificant possibility that the public would vote Leave a second time, or even for a hard Brexit.

    Nevertheless a 2nd referendum would enable us to finally be sure what kind of Brexit outcome the people want. And if that is a car crash cliff edge Brexit then so be it.

    Problem is there is no time for it now and probably it wouldn’t get through parliament without a significant number of Tory dissenters and 100% support from Labour.

  25. I must say I did find it a bit odd that Justine Greening was not among the rebels yesterday, given her big splash over the weekend.

  26. HH – does Soames ever rebel? He moans and tweets, but he isn’t listed amongst the rebels in any of the lists this week.

  27. He is a strong loyalist and doesn’t rebel on whipped votes. He does make his views forcefully known beforehand though.

    Though a wet, Soames is very much a military man so on very good terms with military right wingers like IDS.

    He is basically the old fashioned Knight of the Shires which barely exists any more. He politely but robustly engages with any constituent on issues of national importance. Contact him moaning about dogshit or noisy neighbours and he’ll tell you to bugger off. I prefer an MP who isn’t always pointing at potholes but he’s a dying breed nowadays.

  28. https://theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/07/sarah-wollaston-fights-to-save-totnes-seat-brexiters

    Looks like there’s a significant amount of entryism going on in Totnes. This looks ominous for Sarah Wollaston, to be honest.

    Given how popular and well-respected she seems locally, even among those who didn’t vote for her, it would be an absolute travesty for her to unseated by an angry and unrepresentative minority.

  29. Considering Sarah Wollaston was chosen by an open Primary – could the same situation not be needed again?
    James Cleverly was on the radio the other week saying they was absolutely no deselection issues in the Tories – only labour. Slightly bending the truth as while many more Labour Mp’s are at risk Multiple Tory Mp’s have or are going to face issues regarding their selection for the next election.

  30. I think the open primary happened because the LCA voted to delegate their own right to choose their candidate.

    What a public-spirited bunch. But if Arron Banks gets his way, the Totnes LCA of 2018 would be very, very different to its 2009 predecessor.

  31. “Considering Sarah Wollaston was chosen by an open Primary”

    Oh my giddy aunt, do we have to have this debate yet again, having gone round and round on the previous page.

    Forgive the shouting.

    SHE WAS NOT CHOSEN BY AN OPEN PRIMARY

  32. Whatever people’s views on Brexit round here – and it’s worth remembering that unlike the majority of the South west this was a Remain-voting area – I would have thought Sarah Wollaston is held in considerably higher regards than Arron Banks

    He’d have more success by trying to get rid of the mere handful of Remain-supporting Tory MPs in places like Essex, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire – Brexit heartlands

  33. ‘I would have thought Sarah Wollaston is held in considerably higher regards than Arron Banks’.

    Well you’d hope so but there’s no accounting for taste in 2018.

  34. Traditionally Tory MPs only tend to get deselected due to misdemeanours. Deselection attempts based on political views tend to fail, though the odd one like Anne McIntosh does happen from time to time.

    This maybe changing as the membership declines and becomes more focused on Eurosceptic zealots. My hunch is that Wollaston will be OK though. The much more feisty Soubry survived in a more leave-friendly seat.

  35. ‘Traditionally Tory MPs only tend to get deselected due to misdemeanours.’

    Not only Anne Mcintish – but Robert Banks, Tim Yeo, Nick Hawkins and Anthony Meyer were all forced to stand down after falling out with their local associations

  36. This seat probably voted narrowly leave like Broxtowe as it contains a few wards from heavily brexit Torbay district.

  37. Tim Yeo has gone? I didn’t know. No loss there. Not a great MP not well liked by constituents. Fell out with Gavin Williamson too so he’d be glad to be rid of him

  38. Tim Yeo got the push in 2015 I think – although I’m not sure how politically motivated it was as his successor holds similar liberal(ish) views

  39. To be fair, falling out with a sociopathic oddball like Gavin Williamson shouldn’t be seen as indicative of anything. Actually, it makes me think more of Tim Yeo.

  40. Soubry survived but only because the attempt to oust her was not so much a politically-motivated deselection attempt as a piece of cynical opportunism from a constituency chair who quite fancied being the MP himself. That’s quite different from the entryism going on here.

    Wollaston will probably be okay, but she is at more risk than Soubry ever was.

  41. Plus I suspect that if she was given the boot, she could probably win the seat as an independent.

  42. “This seat probably voted narrowly leave like Broxtowe as it contains a few wards from heavily brexit Torbay district.”

    Yes it’s important to emphasise this point – in fact no less than 40% of the total electorate of this constituency comes from Torbay district and generally speaking these would be relatively stronger Leave voting areas (the fishing port of Brixham plus some blue collar areas of Paignton).
    Conversely, Broxtowe constituency was probably somewhat less strongly for Leave than the district as a whole as that includes Eastwood which one would guess would have a much higher Leave vote, more akin to the Ashfield district which it borders.
    Lots of stereotypical crap talked about this constituency by political journalists etc who tend (as always) to conflate the constituency as a whole with the eponymous town. In this case the town of Totnes itself accounts for less than 1 in 10 voters in the seat with Brixham alone accounting for twice as many

  43. Interestingly Electoral Calculus – whose general predictions should be greeted with extreme caution – have this seat as having voted Leave

    South West Devon – much/most of which is in South Hams – is also down as a Leave seat – even more so

  44. The majority (c.60%) of the electorate of SW Devon is in Plymouth

  45. Thanks Pete – i was unaware it was that high

    I remember the old South Hams constituency had a large electorate

  46. I am starting to suspect Sarah Wollaston is planning on steeping down in 2022 so that threats to deselect her wont be effective on getting her to follow any whip.

  47. ‘I am starting to suspect Sarah Wollaston is planning on steeping down in 2022’

    I reckon she might do an Emma Nicholson and defect to the Lib Dems, which will only result in more hatred via social media

    Emma Nicholson herself, or Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne as she now is, actually rejoined the Tory Party shortly before the 2017 election

  48. Well, if I were Sarah Wollsaton, the reports that electoral fraudster Darren Grimes was sniffing around my seat would probably be enough to convince me to fight on.

  49. Also I think next tory Leadership election will be a combined battle of ideas about economics and how to do deal with Corbyn and Labour. Keeping Mayism and trying to defeat Labour that way or going to a more thatcherite ecnomoic policy and trying to defeat Labour prehaps more on non ecnomic grounds – Domnic Rabb for example I think would try and attack primally on Anti-semetism, IRA and dodgy associations of Corbyn and Mcdonnel. I think Rabb would certainly consider moving the British Embassy to Jersualam and use the antisemtism elements of Labour would very sadly and predictable sprout to partly justify it.

  50. My guess is Sajid Javid is May’s choice to succed her

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