Tunbridge Wells

2015 Result:
Conservative: 30181 (58.7%)
Labour: 7307 (14.2%)
Lib Dem: 4342 (8.4%)
Green: 2659 (5.2%)
UKIP: 6481 (12.6%)
Independent: 458 (0.9%)
MAJORITY: 22874 (44.5%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Kent. Most of the Tunbridge Wells council area.

Main population centres: Royal Tunbridge Wells, Paddock Wood, Pembury, Goudhurst, Hawkhurst,.

Profile: A semi-rural seat in West Kent. Royal Tunbridge Wells is a spa town (and, along with Leamington Spa and Wootton Bassett, one of only three towns in the UK granted the Royal prefix) associated in popular culture with the comfortable, curtain-twitching Middle classes and the mythical letters to the editor signed "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells". As well as the towns and villages surrounding Tunbridge Wells itself, such as Southborough, Pembury and Langton Green (birthplace of Subbuteo) the constituency stretches west across the Weald, taking in a swathe of rural villages like Goudhurst, Lamberhurst, Horsmonden, Hawkhurst and Sandhurst.

Politics: The seat has been Conservative since its creation in 1974, never having faced any serious challenge to their dominance at Parliamentary level (though the council was briefly controlled by the Liberal Democrats in the mid-90s). The seat was represented by Archie Norman between 1997 and 2005, the former Asda boss and sometime Chief Executive of the Conservative party who was expected to be a Tory highflier upon his election, but never really settled into the world of politics. He stood down in 2005 to be replaced by Greg Clark, the Conservative`s former head of policy.

Current MP
GREG CLARK (Conservative) Born 1967, Middlesborough. Educated at South Bank Comprehensive and Cambridge University. Former Director of policy for the Conservative party. First elected as MP for Tunbridge Wells in 2005. Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 2008-2010. Minister of State for planning 2010-2012, Financial Secretary to the Treasury 2012-2013, Minister of State for Cities and the Constitution 2013-2015, Minister for Universities 2014-2015. Secretary of State for Communities since 2015. Former member of the SDP.
Past Results
Con: 28302 (56%)
Lab: 5448 (11%)
LDem: 12726 (25%)
UKIP: 2054 (4%)
Oth: 1790 (4%)
MAJ: 15576 (31%)
Con: 21083 (50%)
Lab: 8736 (21%)
LDem: 11095 (26%)
UKIP: 1568 (4%)
MAJ: 9988 (24%)
Con: 19643 (49%)
Lab: 9332 (23%)
LDem: 9913 (25%)
UKIP: 1313 (3%)
MAJ: 9730 (24%)
Con: 21853 (45%)
Lab: 9879 (20%)
LDem: 14347 (30%)
Oth: 417 (1%)
MAJ: 7506 (16%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
GREG CLARK (Conservative) See above.
JAMES MACCLEARY (Liberal Democrat)
Comments - 59 Responses on “Tunbridge Wells”
  1. My forecast for this seat in 2015

    Con 50
    UKIP 16
    LD 16
    Lab 14
    Others 4

    Tunbridge Wells will produce a fascinating battle for 2nd place in 2015!

  2. Not sure where you get UKIP at 16% from

    They will struggle to get this in their best seats – and I don’t see this seat – set in the stockbroker belt – being one of them

  3. Votes cast in this constituency in May 2013

    Con 8237 37.6%
    UKIP 6647 30.4%
    LD 2930 13.4%
    Lab 2795 12.8%
    Oth 1272 5.8%

    You don’t see Tim, because you don’t look

  4. We did some house hunting in Tunbridge Wells, before deciding to move to Mid Sussex in the end.

    My distinct impression is that Tunbridge Wells is actually quite polarised between very nice areas and some very grotty bits. There are big grotty patches to the north of the town around High Brooms, and some to the south as well. By contrast there are very expensive millionnaires row areas to the east and west of the town.

    Certainly Tunbridge Wells doesn’t any more seem the kind of middling suburbia that it’s famous for, it seems much more polarised than that. I imagine there’s quite a big WWC population in the grottier bits of town and the high UKIP vote consequently doesn’t surprise me.

  5. I agree that it’s probably nicer to live somewhere where there isn’t too much of a disparity between rich and poor, if you have a choice in the matter. Otherwise there might be a “them and us” attitude which isn’t particularly attractive. Of course most of London is like that these days.

  6. Before kids it didn’t bother me, but more equal areas generally have much better state schools.

    In the polarised areas, the rich residents generally use private schools because the state school catchments all contain at least some of the very grotty areas which drags down the school performance and reduces their attractiveness to affluent parents.

    Modestly middle class people who can’t afford private schools consequently avoid moving to the area, reinforcing the polarisation.

  7. ‘Before kids it didn’t bother me, but more equal areas generally have much better state schools’

    I think that’s true

    When my family moved from Flintshire to Hove in the early 1980s, they were struck, as was I, by how bad the local state school was compared to that in North Wales – in literally every aspect imagineable

    It was so bad that my parents sent me to boarding school

  8. That’s what they told you anyway .. 😉

  9. In the early 1980s it would have been much harder for Tim’s parents to check the quality of schools in Hove before they moved there….there were no league tables or Ofsted ratings as there are today. Much as I generally dislike box-ticking they are an essential tool for parents now.

  10. Are the schools good in Bootle?

  11. I wonder if the reason UKIP did so well here in May was because Greg Clark previously was an SDP member?

    I dug up this gem on wikipedia:

    n December 2006, Greg Clark (a former SDP member, now a Conservative Minister), claimed Toynbee should be an influence on the modern Conservative Party, causing a press furore. Cameron later clarified this to say he was impressed by one metaphor in her writings – of society being a caravan crossing a desert, where the people at the back can fall so far behind they are no longer part of the tribe. He added, “I will not be introducing Polly Toynbee’s policies”. Toynbee expressed some discomfort with this embrace, adding, “I don’t suppose the icebergs had much choice about being hugged by Cameron either.”[15] In response to the episode, Boris Johnson, at the time a Conservative MP and journalist who had been severely criticised by Toynbee, rejected any association with Toynbee’s views, writing that she “incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair’s Britain. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and ‘elf ‘n’ safety fascism”.[16]

  12. ‘I wonder if the reason UKIP did so well here in May was because Greg Clark previously was an SDP member?’

    I would have thought 99% of the electorate would not even be aware of this, although UKIP’s syrong showing in Msay is a bit harder to explain here

    Whilst you would expect them to be popular in places like Boston and Basildon, you would not necesaarily expect them to be able to repeat the trick in the stockbroker belt

    I actually thought Edenbridge – a very working class town the straddles thre Sussex boarder – was in this seat, buts its actually in Tonbridge, which makes UKIP’s performance here all that more remarkable

  13. ‘I would have thought 99% of the electorate would not even be aware of this, although UKIP’s syrong showing in Msay is a bit harder to explain here’

    Of course, I know that really. 😉

    My mother is friends with this person who has a farmhouse in this seat which is why I commented here.

  14. Tunbridge Wells is rather more modest than its reputation.

  15. Its interesting what you say about Edenbridge Tim. I do remember Labour winning seats in the town and being shocked by this as it sounds like a typical douce home counties market town. This though was in the 1990s when all kinds of unexpected places returned Labour councillors and there isn’t much evidence of Labour support there these days. Having just looked on Google street view though I can see it is very far from salubrious in parts

  16. Edenbridge isn’t a working-class town predominantly. It does have a fair-sized council estate but the majority of the housing there is perfectly nice & probably pretty expensive. It was in the Sevenoaks constituency for a long time but was moved to Tonbridge & Malling, as Tim correctly says, in I think 1997. It isn’t entirely surprising that Labour got councillors there in 1995 because its council estate minority is not as small as in some neighbouring towns.

  17. I expect that UKIP has a very strong branch locally here (the cause of their strong performance) as I agree that it isn’t the most stereotypical of UKIP areas. They won a by-election here recently and I personally wonder if this seat is actually on the UKIP target list as a very strong branch is exactly what they will need to build on their May performance for 2015.

    I don’t think that this is the most likely UKIP gain but it is surely a possibility if their public support holds up.

    If there was a by-election here now I would know who to bet on (if I was a gambling person, of course)

  18. Not that strong UKIP expected to pick up seats at the local elections and failed totally with the conservatives winning 14-16 I believe on twitter they were boasting they would take 6. A very well organised campaign unit seems to have seen off the threat. Maybe other associations could learn from them

  19. If I’m not mistaken, Tunbridge Wells borough was the only part of Kent UKIP didn’t top the polls in the Euros.

  20. Not surprising since it’s one of the most middle-class, although I guess Sevenoaks is more so. Did UKIP top the poll there?

  21. @neil I think your right

  22. Andy, they beat the Tories by around 700 votes in Sevenoaks. Would imagine they won a hell of a lot of votes in Swanley, though it’s probably they did well in in Sevenoaks itself.

    In Essex it was a similar situation in that UKIP topped the polls everywhere except Uttlesford, which is home to Saffron Walden.

  23. Saffron Walden has always had a softer type of Conservatism than in most Essex seats. Its current MP is certainly an excellent example of that. Oddly though, even though my regular pub is in Brentford, there used to be a Saffron Walden Tory councillor who came every week! and he was REALLY right-wing. We don’t see him nowadays.

  24. Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association appears to be in rude health.
    The accounts for all the parties for 2013 (as published by the Electoral Commission) show that it had an income of over £716,000 last year.
    During the same period they ‘only’ spent £76,000.

    As a fun comparison, this is equivalent to 29% of UKIP’s income for the year – or 35% of the SNP’s income.

  25. Slighty odd that UKIP were ahead in Sevenoaks. In Surrey UKIP were only ahead in Spelthorne. Though there were only 112 off in Epsom and Ewell which has more in common with Epping Forest & Havering. I would thought UKIP would be ahead there rather than Sevenoaks,Tonbridge and Maidstone.

  26. Conservative Hold. 19,000 maj

  27. Southborough North (Tunbridge Wells) result:
    CON – 43.7% (-22.7)
    LDEM – 39.3% (+24.1)
    UKIP – 17.0% (-1.4)

  28. 55% for REMAIN here! Very good result for REMAIN considering the appalling night they’re having across Kent, Wales and England (except London and some of the major cities).

  29. Quite good. Remain at least won something in Kent. Total shut out in Essex.

  30. Sir Patrick Mayhew, MP here from 1974 to 1997 and Sec of State for NI from 1992 to 1997 has died aged 86.

  31. Yes- is Tunbridge Wells the wealthiest borough in Kent? It was interesting to see Leave carrying Sevenoaks, where only Swanley strikes you as being demographically Leave-friendly.

  32. The expected divergence between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling materialised. Remain won Tunbridge Wells by 10%, Leave won Tonbridge by 10%. Tunbridge Wells is the more middle-class council area.

  33. Yes- Tonbridge includes some rather C1/C2 areas like Aylesford and Snodland.

  34. Interestingly Tunbridge Wells was one of the dozen or so places that UKIP topped the poll in the local elections of 2013, so much must have changed since then to see this the only place in Kent to vote remain

    I think Sevenoaks is richer overall although it does contain Swanley – which I dare say probably tipped the balance in its somewhat surprising Leave vote

  35. It is interesting because I think most of us were expecting both Canterbury and Sevenoaks to be more likely to vote Remain than Tunbridge Wells.

  36. I was disgusted that Tunbridge Wells didn’t do what it was expected to do.

  37. Greg Clark – Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

    So DECC gone.

  38. Interesting development. I wonder where climate change policy is. Here or at Environment.

  39. The climate change remit *could* be split between this and environment. But I’m leaning more to the latter.

  40. MrNameless or someone like that: anyone know the size of Tunbridge Wells CLP? I ask because I was on a night out in T Wells yesterday, and happened to walk past the seat’s Labour office. Compared to the surrounding upmarket high street shops, it looked like a complete dump, covered in cobwebs and boarded up windows. (Maybe the latter was due to the actions of an out-of-control Momentum warrior armed with a brick…)

  41. Don’t have an accurate current figure or any way to check, but in 2010 CLP membership in Tunbridge Wells was 182. The rule of thumb is to multiply that by four, so call it 720-odd now. That’s about the size of a moderately large CLP prior to last May.


  42. That’s not unusual. Maxim is entirely right, CLPs are pretty much self-sufficient and revenue is only really donations and fund raising. Treasury reports are quite grim reading. Even in Leicester Liz Kendall’s office looks as if it’s never been used. However, I’ve heard that Ipswich still have their Labour Club and make a lot of money out of that, so much so they have their own bar staff on pay role.

  43. I still see a couple of Conservative Clubs around the country but yeah in the days the Conservative Party had 5 million members it was more a social activity.

  44. I haven’t been able to keep up with the Lib Dem potential here recently. I was calling out desperately for paper but people kept giggling and leaving me there. Really Disgusted.

    Comng 4th here was just bad luck, and a one off mad moment. The Lib Dems have done really well here before and the momentum now is stupendous. My prediciotn. Lib Dem gain by 5,000.

  45. Greg Clark keeps his cabinet position.

  46. Greg Clark just gave what I felt was a very powerful response in the house just now, he sounded like a leader (note ‘a leader’ not ‘the leader’ or ‘a future leader of . . .).

    I don’t think I have heard him much before. Can others (of any political stripe) comment on whether this would be typical?

    NB He made exactly the arguments that I thought the PM and her cabinet should have been making (i.e. the contrast on the economy from each party’s policies) in the weeks during and after the manifesto launches – so it’s about 5-6 weeks too late I suppose, but still hindsight is better than no sight, and better now than never if they want to regain a poll lead over Labour.

  47. As it happens, Mr Clark has on two or three occasions visited the office where I work, on a project widening the A21, because he is the local MP. The project is running hugely over budget and behind schedule, and as Secretary of State for Business & Investment it must be pretty embarrassing for the landmark infrastructure project on your own back yard to have gone so badly wrong.

    But from the feedback I had from more senior colleagues who spoke to him, he has been very sympathetic to and understanding of the problems we have experienced (which are mostly due to factors beyond our control), and he has admirably and skilfully defended the project to frustrated local residents who are having their commutes disrupted by continuing roadworks that are supposed to have finished by now.

    So he has at least handled that situation pretty well. But doing the PR for a construction company is not quite on the level of running a country…

  48. I agree that Clark has talent.

    Anyone else find the Tory performance here a bit underwhelming? Actually lost around 2% since 2015.

  49. I’m more surprised by Labour’s 12% bounce in the seat that is traditionally seen as the true blue voice of the home counties.

    Not that they came at all close to winning mind but interesting nonetheless that Lab got their best ever result here in 2017.

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