2015 Result:
Conservative: 24400 (43.5%)
Labour: 14606 (26%)
Lib Dem: 10152 (18.1%)
Green: 1332 (2.4%)
UKIP: 5481 (9.8%)
TUSC: 178 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 9794 (17.4%)

Category: Semi-marginal Conservative seat

Geography: Eastern, Hertfordshire. The whole of the Watford council area and part of the Three Rivers council area.

Main population centres: Watford, Abbots Langley.

Profile: Covers the borough of Watford and some of the commuter villages around it, including Abbots Langley and Langleybury. It is part of the London commuter belt, but is also an economic centre in its own right, housing the headquaters of several major companies such as JD Wetherspoon, Mothercare and Camelot.

Politics: Historically this was a classic Labour vs Conservative marginal, regularly swapping between the parties with the ebb and flow of party popularity. It was won by Labour in the 1997 landslide, with Claire Ward becoming the second youngest MP at the age of 24. Since then the Liberal Democrats have made strong advances in the seat, narrowly taking second place from the Conservatives in 2005 and making this a tight three way marginal by the time of the 2010 election. The Conservative victory here was in the face of a double handicap - not only did they start in third place behind the Liberal Democrats, but their original candidate for the election, Ian Oakley, was forced to stand down in 2008, and was later convicted of criminal damage and harrassing his Lib Dem opponent. Richard Harrington eventually won anyway, with a small majority over the Liberal Democrats in second. The collapse of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 left him with a far safer majority.

Current MP
RICHARD HARRINGTON (Conservative) Born 1957, Leeds. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Oxford University. Former Managing Director then Chairman of a holiday resort development company. First elected as MP for Watford in 2010. Junior international development minister since 2015.
Past Results
Con: 19291 (35%)
Lab: 14750 (27%)
LDem: 17866 (32%)
BNP: 1217 (2%)
Oth: 2084 (4%)
MAJ: 1425 (3%)
Con: 14634 (30%)
Lab: 16575 (34%)
LDem: 15427 (31%)
GRN: 1466 (3%)
Oth: 1292 (3%)
MAJ: 1148 (2%)
Con: 15437 (33%)
Lab: 20992 (45%)
LDem: 8088 (17%)
GRN: 900 (2%)
Oth: 955 (2%)
MAJ: 5555 (12%)
Con: 19227 (35%)
Lab: 25019 (45%)
LDem: 9272 (17%)
Oth: 234 (0%)
MAJ: 5792 (10%)

2015 Candidates
RICHARD HARRINGTON (Conservative) See above.
MATT TURMAINE (Labour) Head of Client Services for BBC Worldwide. Watford councillor since 2012.
DOROTHY THORNHILL (Liberal Democrat) Born 1955, Tenby. Former teacher. Former Watford councillor. Elected mayor of Watford since 2002.
NICK LINCOLN (UKIP) Born 1969. Businessman.
AIDAN COTTRELL-BOYCE (Green) Born 1987, Liverpool. Educated at Bristol University.
Comments - 586 Responses on “Watford”
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  1. A bit of fun coming in from the pub.
    No pints of Thatchers though.

    Electoral Calculus needs jazzing up to deal with UKIP.
    I plugged in Lab 29, C 25, LD 14 and left the rest for others
    and even the crude extrapolation goes a bit wonky.

    Labour MPs beheaded by Other (presumably UKIP in most cases) are
    Austin Mitchell, Tristrum Hunt, Caroline Flint, and “Phil Woolas”.

    But Tory losses to Other, presumably also mainly UKIP,
    srangely include Watford, and South Ribble.

    The LDs would lose Birmingham Yardley to Other.

  2. Labour can take Watford because of the high Liberal Democrat vote. The swing from that alone will allow Labour to take the seat, as it is a three-way marginal. Labour still should aim to take votes directly from the Tories to be sure of victory.

  3. I was personally very surprised when the Tories gained Watford in 2010.

    It looked to be Sal Brinton’s for the taking all the way I think. Now she’s in the Lords, this has got Labour gain written all over it I would say, albeit from third place.

  4. The Tory vote is disproportionately concentrated in the wards which lie outside the Watford borough boundary, which are far from negligible in terms of the percentage of the electorate. They do however also have a stronghold within the borough, in the Cassiobury Park area. It’s not surprising that the Tories have won quite frequently here since WWII; the result next time does depend a lot on whether the LD local vote switches to a large extent to Labour in a general election. It’s a very interesting contest, and while I think an LD gain is extremely unlikely, a lot will depend on how the anti-Tory vote splits. If it’s rather even, the Tories will hold on; if Labour eats a longer way into the LD vote, Labour can win. This seat is different from all the other constituencies in Hertfordshire because of the strong non-white vote in some of the town wards.

  5. It will be a Labour gain. Matthew Turmaine is a very strong local candidate, I thought it would have been Phillipa Latimer.

  6. “It looked to be Sal Brinton’s for the taking all the way I think. Now she’s in the Lords, this has got Labour gain written all over it I would say, albeit from third place.”

    You might say it has Labour gain written all over it, but since before 2010 you thought it had LD gain written all over it, then I think a familiar opticians advertising catchphrase is in order. To put it another way, you don’t seem to be very good at reading this seat.
    I will say, as I said on the predecessor thread till I was blue in the face, that this seat will go with the winner nationally as it almost always has. If Labour establish a clear lead nationally they will gain this. If the Tories remain the largest party then they will hold it. The LD vote will probably fade somewhat but this will be to the benefit of both other parties. There is of course some speculation that Dorothy Thornhill will be the candidate, which would mitigate against too dramatic a fall in the LD share (though I still think she would be unlikely to win)

  7. Mark Senior was very grumpy about this one.

  8. Labour rampers are going to be just as disappointed if they think seats like this are just going to fall into their lap. These latest set of county council results were really pretty poor for Labour, in Hertfordshire as elsewhere. At least Mark Senior takes the trouble to do serious analysis and give reasoned arguments for why he thinks a particular result might happen, which is much better than going around various threads asserting ‘this will be a Labour gain and that’s a fact. No further discussion required’

  9. Pete stop criticising me. I don’t even support Labour.

    I never really thought she would definitely gain it in 2010, so stop trying to put words in my mouth.

    I don’t think Labour are dead cert to gain this at all actually- It would a 4% swing and it would all be down to how far the Lib Dems’ vote would fall.

    I suspect Pete that the only reason why you’re having a go at me is because yet again in your superior manner you profess to being the go-to man for this seat just because you’re from Hertfordshire gives you a right. It doesn’t.

  10. Well he is from that area – although not sure born there.
    And he is the most knowledgeable person here for information.

    I have to confess even I thought this seat would probably go Lib Dem – the Tories didn’t look good in third place and I felt Labour would end up third.

  11. Btw, Pete, do you have any figures at hand yet for the County Council elections in Hertfordshire.
    I’m most keen on Welwyn and Hatfield, and St Albans.

  12. by constituency that is.

  13. Joe I’ve put some figures here http://vote-2012.proboards.com/thread/529/hertfordshire?page=13
    Since then I have done some more detailed working out of how each ward would have voted so the figures drawn from there might be slightly different. I shall post these on each of the individual constituency threads

  14. Many thanks Pete
    Looks like not too bad from a C position – Labour doing quite well in St Albans.
    Annoying that the LDs are still quite strong there though.

    I think Labour may recover a bit in W&H
    but it’s striking how badly they are still doing in Hemel H.

    I’ll have a proper study later.

  15. On 4th May this year John Freeman became the oldest living former MP. He was Labour MP for Watford from 1945 to 1955:


    “John Freeman: Face to face with an enigma

    War hero, Labour MP, New Statesman editor, diplomat, TV interviewer: John Freeman, now in his nineties, combined celebrity with impenetrable privacy. In the first of a series of articles to celebrate the NS centenary, we explore the remarkable life of a man who chose never to look back.”

  16. The last of the Conservative councillors in Watford defected to the Lib Dems recently. The only other conservative councillor in the town is now an independent. There are also no conservative county councillors in the town following the recent election. However, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the current MP hangs onto the seat. Funny thing politics!

  17. The seat does include some territory outside of the borough itself, but there must be a lot of vote splitting between local and national contests.

  18. LAB 35
    CON 29
    LD 20
    UKIP 9
    GRN 5
    OTH 2

  19. Personally I’m not ready to predict a Labour gain at this stage. It is more than possible if Labour are, roughly, level with the Conservatives nationally come election day, but it is far from easy. I have Labour gaining a lot of seats before they get hold of this one, at least at the moment.

  20. After being lectured by Mr. Whitehead about this seat a couple of months back, I too am weary to dare make any sort of prediction here.

  21. Good

  22. Don’t think I was shut up by him- Believe me, I was not. Comments such as yours really do come across as arrogant as well.

  23. If you don’t like a particular comment the best thing to do is simply ignore it in my experience. Otherwise it goes on forever.

  24. One of the most pleasing results for me in 2010 – after obvious ones like Richmond Park, Brentford and Isleworth, Bristol NW, Harrogate & Knaresborough, Elmet & Rothwell, Oxford West & Abingdon etc.

    Local elections continue to show even poorer Con results but I expect this to be a C-Lab battle, and still a very uphill one for the latter.

  25. For some reason I see this as a three way battle that’s tough to predict. It’s easy to write off the Lib Dems nationally, but their resilience in Watford on a local level makes this more complicated. I see Bob from a few months ago making a completely ridiculous tribal post about how Labour are sure to gain. After Claire Ward squandered this seat (and I tend to be Labour leaning myself) in 2010 somehow finishing in third, they’ve only gained a bit of ground in local politics. A big change from a borough they once controlled.

  26. It remains to be seen whether the LDs can transfer their local support into general election votes. I suspect there are several wards which vote for LD councillors but a Labour or a Conservative MP.

  27. “It remains to be seen whether the LDs can transfer their local support into general election votes. I suspect there are several wards which vote for LD councillors but a Labour or a Conservative MP”

    Yes. However people who vote Lib Dem locally are happy to vote for them nationally if they think they have a chance at winning the seat, as in Watford, Sutton and Carshalton.

  28. It must come up on the doorstep a lot that people think the lib dems are for local, but of course there’s always the risk it could take off should the libs enter a better period, which looks unlikely before the election. Assume nothing though

  29. Harrington * 21,155
    Ward 19,238
    Bitchton 13,816
    Green 1,676
    UKIP 1,545

  30. I think Harrington will narrowly hold on here in 2015:

    Con 33.1
    Lab 32.2
    LD 25.5
    UKIP 5.9
    Others 3.3

  31. I think so too.

    The Lib Dems might drop a bit further than that though.

  32. With such a large Lib Dem vote to squeeze, I would have thought Labour would be favoirites to win here – even if Harrington is the type of Tory Lib Dem voters could vote for

    Beimg in Hertfordshore counts against Labour certainly – is there any other English county that has swung from Labour to Tory quite so forcefully over the last decade

  33. I don’t think Labour did that badly in Hertfordshire in 2013 relative to prior expectations.

    Hemel Hempstead was the only constituency which they held previously where there was no recovery for them.

  34. I wonder if long-running Watford mayor Dorothy Thornhill has ever been tempted to run as the Lib Dem candidate. Three consecutive terms as mayor is a good record.

  35. I believe John Freeman is the last MP from the 1945-50 still alive – is this correct?

  36. That is correct,Joe-John Freeman is 98 and turns 99 next month. However, he was MP for Watford from 1945-1955, not 1945-1950.

  37. He was not in fact defeated in 1955 but decided not to stand. The seat was gained by Frederick Farey-Jones for the Conservatives and reverted to Labour in the shape of Raphael Tuck in 1964. Tuck retired too, in 1979, and the losing Labour candidate was none other than Tony Banks who was defeated by Tristan Garel-Jones.

  38. I never said John Freeman was defeated (I know he stood down), I simply said he was MP for Watford from 1945-55.

    As for what will happen here in 2015, it ought to go Labour given its reliable bellweather status (it only avoided going Conservative in 1970 by 76 votes), but the Liberal Democrats have still been doing well locally on the other hand, and still control Watford District Council.

  39. On the District and County Council the Tories are non-existent in Watford. The last councillor they had defected to the Lib Dems.

    This is probably hardest seat to predict of all IMO. Very much depends on the swing Labour/Lib Dem voters go. That itself is complicated by the local strength of the Lib Dems.

    Demographically it looks like one which Labour would prima facie do very well with, but they’ve just been unable to compete with the Lib Dems locally.

  40. I never said you did say that Lotus A.White. It was just information I thought some might be slightly interested in. (I have a 1955 Times Guide somewhere which is a useful source for that election. A personal friend of mine was a candidate in that election, aged 28.)

  41. It’s odd that the LDs haven’t selected anyone yet. You’d think they’d want to build up the profile of their candidate in one of their best target seats.

  42. You’re very quick in getting wind of all these selections.

  43. The two best sources are Twitter searches and using the Google News option on their search engine.

  44. Of course 20 years ago you would have had to wait days or even weeks to find these things out, so it just goes to show how far we’ve come technologically in that time.

  45. “Living Former MPs – Parliament”:


  46. Andy… do you think Dorothy Thornhill needs a higher profile?

  47. I don’t mind but I thought the LDs might have wanted to make the selection by now.

  48. I agree re the Lib Dems. They’ve already selected their candidate for nearby St Albans (Sandy Walkington) which is also a target, but Watford is even narrower, so you’d think the local branch would have done so already.

    Not sure what the timetable for selection is either. Lib Dem Voice regularly posts the dates of upcoming selections and Watford is yet to show up. Dorothy Thornhill would make an interesting candidate. She has been elected 3 times consecutively as mayor so surely has a good profile.

  49. 2015 estimate – a range on either side though.
    It could go Labour.

    *Con 37% +2%
    Lab 34% +7%
    LD 24% -8%
    UKIP 3% +1%
    Green 2% +0.5%

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