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”
  1. ” Devil’s advocate session over. Apart from my sarcastic use of “normal”, I think I’ve been pretty fair.

    48 hours before we should get the result here – though it will probably be later. Plenty of time for anyone who tips Harrington to increase his majority to explain why, in the face of what looks to be a 5% or so swing to Labour in England. I hope that there was more to those tips than “I want him to win”, “he works hard”, or “1992, 1992, 1992, 1992″.

    May 6th, 2015 at 1:00 am ”

    Stop it – you’re making me laugh.

    I hadn’t noticed this post actually – perhaps because it was so long. Need to have short snappier posts.

  2. Thanks for the declaration Andy.

    Both the returning officer and Richard Harrington have good clear voices.

    Fantastic result this one.

  3. ‘I might even be able to understand how “The Lib Dems did not actually do significantly worse than expected”’

    In terms of voteshare they did not.

  4. Joe — I noticed you weren’t visiting this site much before the election. Was that because you were very gloomy about the Tories’ prospects because of the opinion polls (if you don’t mind me asking)?

  5. Andy – no – I think I have detailed what I expected on some other threads (Possibly Tamworth and Brentford and Isleworth – and a bit about what I was up to on the Oxford West and Abingdon thread).

    I thought there was some credible chance of an overall majority but didn’t expect the Lib Dems to collapse this severely.

    I thought the most likely result is the Tories north of 300 seats and another coalition with the LDs.

    I was helping in 4 seats (Twickenham, Richmond Park, Brentford and Isleworth, and Oxford West and Abingdon).
    I noted all the dates down and tried to stick to the plan as much as possible, although some things changed as we went along.

    All this coincided with a very busy period at work, so I basically decided to not look much at things in the media and get on with the campaign.

    I never believed Labour were likely to get close in vote share – although there was a credible chance they could.
    Mainly because of the improving economy and the negative ratings of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

    like other people I had moments in the last two days when I was concerned.

  6. There was a good response on the doorstep from the start of the year also in all of those seats.
    It didn’t feel like we were sliding to defeat although I am a little wary of whistling to keep our spirits up.

  7. The naming of Dorothy Thornhill to the Lords pretty much puts paid to her running here again…

  8. And with it the Lib dems’ chances of ever winning this seat..

  9. The list of nonentities we have seen today, from all parties, is a walking advert for Lords reform

  10. I hope Corbyn makes good on his promise not to appoint any more members to the Lords in order to put a bit of pressure on the institution. It’s the only constitutional issue I agree with the SNP on. It would at least put real pressure on the Lib Dems to match that level of radicalism as well.

    There are a small number of people like David Steel, Michael Forsyth etc with some gravitas who I don’t have a problem with but the place really should be scrapped in its current form.

  11. “And with it the Lib dems’ chances of ever winning this seat.”.


  12. Antiochan you are basing that on what exactly? The Lib Dems vote share in this seat is unnaturally high due to Thornhill keeping them from completely imploding. Without Thornhill running this time the Lib Dem vote share would have probably collapsed into the low teens, perhaps even high single figures.

    I know Watford fairly well and I get the impression that a lot of the past Lib Dem support both here and in St. Albans are Tory inclined/centre-right votes. Farron is not the kind of Lib Dem leader who will appeal to voters in seats like this one. Lamb would have played better here but even with him as leader I doubt the Lib Dems would get anywhere near to winning here for a long time.

  13. don’t know Watford very well at all but I’d imagine the Lib Dems’ prospects are finished for the foreseeable future at least. Their resources would be much better spent elsewhere

  14. Mikeinsdevon, you might look at the makeup of the council before pontificating here… The Tories have very poor traction in Watford. Thornhill like everyone else standing for the LibDems was bulldozed by the Reverse Cleggasm of 2015.

    The result here in 2014, which was pretty dire for LibDems most everywhere was not bad at all. The party holds the majority on the council, the Chairman’s role and the Mayoralty. The second party by a long way is Labour, with the Tories scarcely figuring.

    As for Dorothy Thornhill one should note that it was not her that scored the great result in 2010 but Sal Brinton.

    So Thornhill not running again as PPC (or Mayor) is not the end of life as we know it..

  15. Given that the LibDems’ prospects in Watford are finished for the forseeable future,, why did Cameron appoint the FAILED LIbDem candidate in May 2015 as a Life Peer?

    This shameful act demeans both the LibDems and the Tories. How many votes will it cost them?

    I wonder how many LibDems were reputable enough to refuse nomination as a Life Peer.

  16. Antiochan yes the Lib Dems do hold the council but in Watford as with St Albans a large chunk of their local vote votes Tory at the general (I know these seats fairly well). Farron taking the party back to the left will be highly counter productive in getting these voters to vote for a Lib Dem candidate in a general election.

  17. Hilarious to see the amount of Lib Dem ramping on various parts of this site!

  18. LOL

  19. This business about Farron not appealing to the centre or the centre right intrigues me in light of the fact that he has turned Westmoreland from a Tory zone into a “safe” LibDem seat.. obviously he does have something to say to Tory voters!

  20. But the type of local Lib Dem local voter/Tory general voter is extremely different ideologically to the voters in rural Cumbria. These voters in the London suburbs/exurbs (like Watford and St Albans) tend to be of the fiscally conservative, socially liberal variety. However Farron is quite clearly a social democrat on issues pertaining to the economy/welfare etc. which is direct contrast to the views of the people who vote Lib Dem locally and Tory nationally in seats like Watford. Farron is also quite religious and the way he talks can come across as ‘holier than thou’ which again will put off these type voters. Cumbria is a much more socially conservative place than Hertfordshire and a great deal less fiscally conservative (less wealthy etc.) thus Farron goes down far better there.

    Farron may well help a Lib Dem recovery in places like Cornwall and rural Wales but he almost certainly won’t in Hertfordshire or much of the London commuter belt (except perhaps SW London if the Tories shove through Heathrow expansion).

  21. Fundamental error here is that Watford is a Labour/LibDem seat in sentiment, with a Tory MP as a legacy of 2010 unpopularity of Labour and 2015 unpopularity of LibDems.

    This is not Epsom or Ascot..

  22. Rubbish. Seats with a 10,000 Tory majority are not “labour-liberal” in sentiment.

    There will be a serious LD local decline following the poor general election result.

  23. What is local attitude to the appointment of the 2015 LibDem candidate as a life peer?

  24. No it isn’t a Lib Dem/Labour seat at the national level what planet are you on Antiochian??? It is a lean Tory seat in national politics which Labour can win if they are comfortably ahead in the national popular vote. The Tories underperformed here for a while but their vote share is more back to where it ‘should be’. It may not be posh like Ascot but Tory seats don’t need to be posh just look at seats like Nuneaton…

    The Lib Dems will probably not feature here nationally here for a long time due to their local vote being largely based on local campaigns and popular local figures (like Thornhill). Watford does not contain many ‘natural’ Lib Dem demographics and their local vote is ‘loaned’ from other parties (a lot from the Tories). I think it more likely than not the Lib Dem vote share will fall again 2020 due to them over performing this year.

    As I have said above the Lib Dem local vote in Watford (and St Albans) is Tory inclined at the national level. Labour is the main social democrat party in Watford. If the Lib Dems were serious about converting these local votes into national ones they would go more down the libertarian, centre-right route…

  25. How can anyone say the LibDem vote overperformed this year? It wasn’t even as good as 2005…

    If Watford was that Tory it wouldn’t have way more LibDem and Labour councillors than Tory ones and it wouldn’t have been represented by Labour for so many years… It looks rather like a sort of Eastleigh

  26. Clearly Watford is a hotbed of granola munching, banker hating, russel brand enthusing progressives who have accidently elected a baby blood sucking tory

  27. It’s not that similar to Eastleigh. The LD’s at least managed second place there. Labour are also 4th in Eastleigh.

  28. There is a great deal of comparison with St Albans going on. I live in St Albans, I don’t know Watford as well but if it’s anything like St Albans the Liberal vote won’t seriously decline on a local level whatsoever.

  29. Yes and as I keep saying the Lib Dem local vote votes for other parties (a lot the Tories) at the general election. The Lib Dems did over perform this year as without Thornhill (who’s not going to be the candidate next time) and the false Lib Dem ramping about have a chance of winning the seat the collapse of the Lib Dem vote share would have been far worse. Thus when these two factors are no longer at play in 2020 expect a delayed Lib Dem collapse.

  30. It is also worth mentioning that Watford constituency contains 5 wards from Three Rivers. This year in the local elections these 5 wards elected 3 Tories and 2 Lib Dems. However at the general the Tories would have probably at least comfortably carried all 5.

  31. I was underwhelmed by the Thornhill performance frankly. Sal Brinton did way better.. there is more to the LibDems in Watford than Thornhill.. I am sure she won’t stand again..

    A LibDem win in Watford would probably come with a swing from Labour rather than a bigger swing from the Tories.

  32. The Lib Dems couldn’t win in Watford by taking mostly from Labour unless they can get Labour down near single digits which given the demographics and the Lib Dems spell in coalition with the Tories is extremely unlikely in the foreseeable. No a Lib Dem win in Watford would come (however extremely unlikely it seems now) by getting the vast majority local Lib Dems to vote Lib Dem nationally instead of for the Tories. Part of the reason the Tories did so badly in Watford (and St Albans for that matter) before this general election was that the Lib Dems were previously quite successful in getting said ‘centre-right’ voters to vote for them nationally. With the large Lib Dem vote drop these voters (who may have still voted Lib Dem locally) switched back to their ‘natural party’ and thus the Tory vote share rocketed upwards.

    Antiochian you clearly don’t know this part of the country too well, in the boroughs of Watford, Three Rivers and St Albans there is a large amount of split ticket voting between the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Lib Dem support here has never been mostly from left wingers as it has been in other parts of the country.

  33. As I have said before typical Con-Lib swing voter in this part of Hertfordshire tends to be of the comfortably off, socially liberal, fiscally conservative variety. Exactly the sort of people who probably won’t find Farron particularly endearing. Unless of course the Tories go back to their old hard-line socially conservative positions and undo the progress of the Cameron years…

  34. with Dorothy Thornhill joining Sal Brinton in the House of Lords I wonder if that might damage the Lib Dems’ prospects here (the last two unsuccessful candidates getting peerages)

    As I said earlier I really don’t know the area well at all but I’d imagine that kind of cronyism would be very off-putting to a lot of potential voters?

  35. Will Dorothy Thornhill be standing down as Mayor? If she does I don’t see Liberal’s winning the next Mayoralty not sure who would, both Labour and Tories in for a good shout.

  36. Probably already discussed but I’m shocked by the collapse of the Tory vote in Mayoral elections, fourth behind UKIP. That I imagine might have been hard to swallow.

  37. “As I have said before typical Con-Lib swing voter in this part of Hertfordshire tends to be of the comfortably off, socially liberal, fiscally conservative variety.”

    And what evidence do you have for that, exactly? Which parts of Herts have you lived in? Certainly I never found Hertfordshire particularly socially liberal when I lived there. I suspect Lib Dem strength here and in Three Rivers is based primarily on local activism and is nothing to do with either fiscal conservatism or social liberalism.

  38. It’s interesting how the LDs managed to poll 24% in 2010 and 26% in 1983 despite the fact that not many people are actually particularly liberal in terms of policy. As HH says it shows how successful the party must have been at local activism without mentioning too many of their policies which they must have known wouldn’t be popular with more than about 10% of voters except in a handful of liberal-minded seats like Cambridge and Oxford West.

  39. Indeed. Perhaps 2015 actually reflected for the first time since 1970 just how many ‘Liberal’ voters there actually are in the UK?

  40. And a lot of votes they did get this time might be residual in places they look set to fade away in longterm maybe.

  41. Yes, although the LD vote may rise slightly overall next time, they could suffer some pretty big drops in those seats where a previously popular incumbent stood and narrowly lost and doesn’t stand again, such as Lewes. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of others. I can’t see more than a token number trying to win back their seats in 2020 although I think Baker is the only one to have make the announcement so far. Of course Charlie Kennedy’s seat will sadly be another.

  42. I can certainly see Julian Huppert standing again. Cambridge is unlikely to be radically changed in the boundary review so I think he’d give it another go. Martin Horwood is another one that comes to mind. Maybe Steve Webb too if Thornbury is not torn to shreds though I have a feeling that it probably will be.

  43. Baker is not the only one, Stephen Lloyd has also announced he will not stand again.

  44. Yes, although he only lost Eastbourne narrowly and the Conservatives’ vote declined there (when it increased in most of the seats they won from the Liberal Democrats), so it may be possible for the Liberal Democrats to recover Eastbourne next time, as they still control Eastbourne council and as my fellow Greens do not exactly have great amounts of support in that town.

  45. would think Eastbourne is probably the Lib Dems’ best chance of a gain in 2020

  46. All the defeated Lib Dem MPs (I think)

    Don’t know:
    Andrew George (seems the type to try again)
    Steve Gilbert
    Dan Rogerson
    Nick Harvey (first elected in ’92, probably not)
    Adrian Sanders (again, seems the type to go again)
    David Laws (I’d think not)
    Duncan Hames (I’d think unlikely that both he and Swinson would)
    Steve Webb (I could see him trying, though seat may be butchered)
    Stephen Williams (doubt he’d see the point)
    Mike Thornton
    Ed Davey
    Paul Burstow
    Simon Hughes (could see him trying, though quite old now)
    Simon Wright (would be pointless, not sure he’d be selected anyway)
    John Hemming (has said he hasn’t decided)
    Roger Williams
    Jenny Willott (could see it)
    Gordon Birtwistle
    Mark Hunter
    David Ward
    Mike Moore (don’t see it as likely)
    Mike Crockart (could see him going again)
    Jo Swinson (I’d think quite likely though there may be no seat there)
    Alan Reid
    Danny Alexander (I think has said he hasn’t decided)
    John Thurso
    Bob Smith (I’d be surprised)

    Tessa Munt (said she wants to go again)
    Martin Horwood (‘parliamentary spokesman’ for Cheltenham)
    Julian Huppert (not sure if this is right, but have a feeling he’s said he wants to)
    John Leech (Has said he wants to run again)

    Stephen Lloyd (not interested in trying again)
    Norman Baker (said he doesn’t want to, seat probably butchered anyway)
    Vince Cable (ruled it out)
    Lynne Featherstone (Lords)
    Bob Russell (ruled it out)
    Lorely Burt (Lords)
    Charles Kennedy (dead)

  47. David Laws has as good as ruled out running again. Not that any remotely competitive constituency would have him anyway

  48. I think the Lib Dems will be lucky to make any gains TBH in 2020, though I think they might do well and make progress in some seats where you might not expect it…

  49. the member from Watford has been made Minister for Refugees

  50. I see the whole council here is up for election in May… currently the Tories have just 5 seats with 18 Lib Dems and 13 Labour… any thoughts on what might happen? I expect the LDs might do OK again, but surely given the GE result the Tories must make gains.

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