Westmorland & Lonsdale

2015 Result:
Conservative: 16245 (33.2%)
Labour: 2661 (5.4%)
Lib Dem: 25194 (51.5%)
Green: 1798 (3.7%)
UKIP: 3031 (6.2%)
MAJORITY: 8949 (18.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal Liberal Democrat seat

Geography: North West, Cumbria. Most of the South Lakeland council area.

Main population centres: Kendal, Windermere, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Ambleside.

Profile: A large rural seat in Cumbria. The seat includes Kendal, Windermere, Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale and Ambleside, but not the historic county town of Appleby-in-Westmorland. It also includes Lake Windermere, Coniston Water and much of the Lake District. The local economy is largely based on agriculture and tourism.

Politics: In 2005 the Conservative shadow minister Tim Collins was defeated in this seat by a tiny majority, the lone victim of what had been described as a Liberal Democrat decapitation strategy against Conservative frontbenchers in marginal seats. In 2010 the new Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron managed a further huge swing in favour, making this into a solid enough Liberal Democrat seat to withstanding even their 2015 drubbing.

Current MP
TIM FARRON (Liberal Democrat) Born 1970, Preston. Educated at Lostock Hall School and Newcastle University. Former manager in higher education. Lancashire councillor 1993-2000, South Ribble councillor 1995-1999, South Lakeland councillor 2004-2008. Contested North West Durham 1992, South Ribble 1997, Westmorland & Lonsdale 2001. First elected as MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2005. PPS to Menzies Campbell 2006-2007, President of the Liberal Democrats 2010-2015. Leader of the Liberal Democrats since 2015.
Past Results
Con: 18632 (36%)
Lab: 1158 (2%)
LDem: 30896 (60%)
UKIP: 801 (2%)
MAJ: 12264 (24%)
Con: 22302 (45%)
Lab: 3796 (8%)
LDem: 22569 (45%)
UKIP: 660 (1%)
Oth: 309 (1%)
MAJ: 267 (1%)
Con: 22486 (47%)
Lab: 5234 (11%)
LDem: 19339 (40%)
UKIP: 552 (1%)
Oth: 292 (1%)
MAJ: 3147 (7%)
Con: 21470 (42%)
Lab: 10459 (21%)
LDem: 16949 (33%)
MAJ: 4521 (9%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
ANN MYATT (Conservative) Educated at Bookwell School and Leeds University. Consultant dermatologist. Contested Hemsworth 2010.
JOHN BATESON (Labour) Educated at Kendal Grammar School. Semi retired examiner and teacher. Contested Westmorland and Lonsdale 2001.
TIM FARRON (Liberal Democrat) See above.
CHRIS LOYNES (Green) University lecturer.
Comments - 1,107 Responses on “Westmorland & Lonsdale”
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  1. This is where Labour lost their deposit IIRC in 2010. Where there any other seats?

    Great upgrade Mr. Wells. Many thanks.

  2. Although Labour in recent years have had very few to no councillors in this constituency, their performance here in 2010 was still pretty embarrassing IMHO.

    Their candidate Jonathan Todd polled only 1, 158 votes (2.2%), and their vote dropped by 5.8%, nearly all of which may well have gone straight to Fallon. Had circumstances been different and this was still a safe Conservative seat, this obviously wouldn’t have happened. Let’s not forget also that the Conservatives did disastrously here because of Fallon’s popularity- Their vote share also fell, but by even more- 8.8%. So here’s a question- Where there any other seats in 2010 where the Conservative vote fell by more than the Labour vote?

  3. Could anybody explain Farron’s popularity here?

  4. Search me.

  5. It is a bit perplexing the extent of Farron’s popularity yes.

    He just kept working the seat through the 2001 and 2005 General Elections, and by the time 2010 came round he had clearly built up some massive personal following I suspect.

    But besides all that, for many years prior to Farron’s victory the Lib Dems had been making strides on South Lakeland Council. So in the end perhaps it’s not just Farron but really just the Lib Dems’ strength in this area of Cumbria coalescing around him to build up a huge majority. This was already a target seat before Farron, when Stan Collins made this marginal in 1997.

  6. But then having said at all that it’s difficult really to say why the Lib Dems ever really became successful in South Lakeland in the first place.

    Because if you look at the districts of Cumbria- Barrow-in-Furness, South Lakeland, Copeland, Allerdale, Eden and Carlisle (All great picturesque names I reckon!), it is only South Lakeland where the Lib Dems have any strength, dominate the council and currently control it. Virtually elsewhere in the county, they are weak- Especially in Allerdale and Copeland, the latter where they have no councillors.

    So all this suggests to me that the Lib Dems in Cumbria chose years ago to work one district in the county, and the arrow must have landed on South Lakeland on the dartboard.

  7. ‘Search me.’

    Indeed! Haha.

  8. Sometimes you just get certain idiosyncratic seats where it looks like the Tories SHOULD win, but in fact don’t. And this admittedly, is one of them.

    But I do see parallels with a seat like Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is also a constituency in the far North of England that has a Lib Dem MP. I suppose the fact that this isn’t by the border with Scotland is one difference.

    Farron for all his appeal to people in the constituency still continues to dumbfound the psephologists among us as to why he does so well in natural Conservative territory.

    The big push came here in 1997, but it didn’t in Penrith And The Border for example. And the simple reason for that is that that constituency in 1992 produced a safer result than W&L did for the Tories, and therefore that indicated that going into 1997 that would be their only real safe seat left in Cumbria. The Lib Dems had been making headway locally in South Lakeland before 1997, and that is why they began to do well that year.

    But going back in time a lot further, it is easy to forget that the Liberals first challenged the Tories realistically in the old Westmorland seat back in the two general elections of 1974, and even before then had finished in second place in several general elections after the war.

    In other words, there has always been some kind of Liberal tradition in South East Cumbria, or to give it its proper district title, South Lakeland.

  9. The Tories got over 60% here in 1983 which must have been in their top 30 best results in terms of vote share.

  10. Yes but that was then and this is now Andy.

    And besides the results in Penrith and The Border from 1987 to 1997 were all better for the Conservatives in terms of vote share and majority.

  11. Why Tim Farron should attract so many votes is totally bizzare to me. Its not the fact that he is on the left of the LDs, its more his extremely annoying personality, pomposity and general fauxness.

  12. Farron has also managed to annexe and keep the former Labour vote in Kendal which at one time was quite strong

  13. Tim Collins was by most accounts an unpopular MP who neglected his constituency….or at least stood back and allowed his opponents to paint his tenure that way. As with his colleague in Solihull, this gave the Lib Dems the opportunity they needed to win the seat.

    Remember the Westminster & Lonsdale selection when Michael Jopling stood down was highly controversial, with Mr Collins attracting a lot of detractors from the start, not least Peter Thurnham MP, who as a local resident was very angry at being passed over for the seat in favour of a London-based SPAD.

  14. Ofcourse it turned out that peter thurnham was entirely unfit to be a conservative mp based on his actions later.
    N all honesty the right person was selected.
    I don’t buy this story about collins being particularly bad or unpopular. It sounds like the usual nasty lib dem campaigning techniques to me.

  15. “Ofcourse it turned out that peter thurnham was entirely unfit to be a conservative mp based on his actions later.”

    In fact he defected to the Lib Dems almost instantly after failing to be shortlisted for Westmorland.

    In those days overt chicken running in the Tory party was not frowned upon in the way it is today, but even so he was an MP with a very marginal seat and it raised eyebrows that he was not prepared to defend it.

    Maybe you’re right about the nasty Lib Dem campaigning techniques. The point is though that other targets of the decapitation strategy like Letwin, May and Davis combatted them very effectively….for whatever reason Collins did not.

  16. I think the turning point came here in 1997 when Collins was first elected- Given the bad night the Tories had, the Conservative vote share here fell by about 15%, which was indeed above the Tories’ national fall.

    About 6% of this went to Stan Collins the Liberal Democrat candidate, and Labour back when they still had some kind of vote largely via Kendal were also up by the same amount.

    It was this I think that made W&L highly marginal and a realistic LIb Dem target. When Farron came in in 2001, he just started to work the seat and being up against a figure such as Collins as he was, gave him years to build up support for him and the party in the constituency. Amazingly, Farron between the years of 2001 and 2010 has increased the Lib Dems’ vote share here by 26.2%. That to me suggests that Farron during his twelve years nearly in this constituency as candidate and MP has been an assiduous campaigner and a force to be reckoned with down on the ground.

  17. And since 1992 the Liberal Democrat vote share has gone up from 27.5% to 60.0% in 2010- A remarkable continuous 32.5% increase.

    The fact that the Liberal Democrats have kept increasing at five successive general elections here must be some kind of an electoral record and is highly indicative of their local government success in South Lakeland one would have to say.

  18. Tim Farron is a Liberal MP in the mould of David Penhaligon, someone who plays so hugely on being a local character that he comes across as false, grating and condescending to some, nevertheless it is an effective strategy for building a massive personal vote in the constituency.

    Alan Clark called Penhaligon “a bouncy, commonplace little turd” and said that “when that type of Liberal gets elected you can never get them out again”. I think that refers to Farron quite well.

  19. It will probably take a retirement or boundary change or both for the Tories to win this back.
    An element of shell shock in local organisation must have happened I think – a bit like in seats like Northavon/Thornbury and Yate although I can see that one unravelling on the Lib Dems.
    This one looks more fundamental damage

  20. My sister was resident here at the time Tim Collins was first elected. She is & was biased, but is perfectly capable of giving credit where it’s due, and gave me the distinct impression that he was making himself rather unpopular in the constituency quite some time before he actually lost it. He was apparently seen as rather bumptious & not in tune with constituents for the most part.
    It’s strange to look back at the 1945 election and see that in the then North Cumberland seat – the nearest equivalent to today’s Penrith & the Border, though it didn’t include Penrith – the Liberals enjoyed one of their few English victories, whereas in Westmoreland the Tories won with the greatest of ease, as they did in the then Lonsdale division. Nowadays of course the exact opposite is the case – the Tories are as safe as houses in Penrith & the Border, and the LDs look very safe here.

  21. Collins probably never wanted such a northern seat. He would have preferred, and been much better suited to, a safe seat in Essex, Kent or Surrey.

    Not long after he lost Westmorland he joined the A-list and tried to be selected in a few safe seats in these areas. Doing that rather than trying to repair the damage in Westmorland probably weighed against him and in the end he gave up.

  22. The comparison to Penhaligon is very interesting.

    One thing they definitely have in common is that they both increased the third party vote by a huge margin in a relatively short space of time- Between February 1974 and 1983, he increased the Liberals’ vote by a whopping 39.66%, even bigger than Farron’s although when he first stood the Lib Dems were already in second place, unlike Penhaligon.

  23. Penhaligon in fact had a 13% increase in 1979 against the national trend for the Liberals because he managed to tactically convince the remaining Labour voters in Truro that were left to go straight to him. Labour went down by 13.12%, and Penhaligon went up by 13.02%, so he took nearly all of their decrease. The Conservatives were only up 0.13%.

    I kind of get the feeling that had Penhaligon lived he would definitely had challenged for the leadership of the Liberals and possibly the Lib Dems. Knowing how popular he was, he probably would have increased his vote share and majority again in 1987- Taylor did it at the by-election, even if he didn’t manage to do all that well at the general election after.

    This discussion should really be moved to Truro and Falmouth I think.

  24. The interesting thing is that Collins had no idea he was going to lose at 10pm on election night in 2005. He appeared on TV seeming extremely confident and I don’t think he was pretending he’d done well when he knew he hadn’t.

  25. Well it must have gone to a recount because the margin by which he did lose in 2005 was only 267 votes.

    He must have known from canvass returns beforehand in the weeks of campaigning that it wasn’t looking all that good for him.

  26. I think its pretty clear he was a poor MP, surely he couldn’t be much worse than Farron though. I only hope Farron sticks around long enough to come to a sticky end.

  27. But Joe R as JJB said upthread the Tories will struggle to ever get this back.

    Unless Farron ever goes, then they could be out in the cold here for a long time.

  28. Agree with the above – I think Farron’s vote will fall back a bit, and Labour should really be able to at least save their deposit, but not by much – something like:

    LD – 55
    Con – 33
    Lab – 6
    UKIP – 4
    OTH – 2

  29. I would also add the selection of Gareth McKeever, a London-based executive at Morgan Stanley, didn’t help the Conservatives. Incidentally, he is now a Deputy Chair of Kensington & Chelsea Conservatives.

  30. Looks like a good prediction.

    RE Gareth McKeever he was from Northern Ireland originally I think. The fact he was a banker may not have endeared him to people in a place like this particularly.

  31. ‘I would also add the selection of Gareth McKeever, a London-based executive at Morgan Stanley, didn’t help the Conservatives.’

    Good grief. The Tories didn’t help themselves there. Almost as bizarre as having Louise Mensch in a constituency like Corby.

  32. It might account for the fact that the Tories dropped 8.8% of their vote in what turned out to be one of their most disastrous results of the night, albeit in special and somewhat locally unique circumstances.

  33. It’s easy to denigrate Farron, Joe – I myself absolutely can’t stand him, finding him almost as irritating as Simon Hughes, which is saying a great deal in my case – but it’s clear he has worked this constituency extremely hard, almost certainly far more than Collins did. Quite how the LDs have ended up getting into the strong position they have here, however, is still rather hard to understand – safe Tory seats are rarely thrown away as dramatically as this one is simply by constituency inactivity. The demography doesn’t really conform to that of a typical LD seat in a rural or semi-rural area, and it doesn’t have the faint intellectualism which I feel does exist in Solihull – another seat where the LDs have come from apparently nowhere, though more suddenly in that case.

  34. The Lib Dems are just loved in South Lakeland for some bizarre undecipherable reason.

    I suspect it has a lot to do though with the fact that locally Labour have never really been viewed as the anti-Conservative party to support, and so people in recent years have challenged the Tory traditionalism of this part of Cumbria by voting for an alternative, but yes I agree it still seems a little bit odd.

  35. Actually that’s true. Even when Labour used to have a couple of council seats in Kendal we still came third in the constituency overall

  36. I know that Labour currently hold a couple of the Ulverston seats but they obviously lie in the Barrow and Furness constituency.

    Labour standing back locally in South Lakeland to make way for the Lib Dems explains a lot and obviously increases their chances of electing councillors against the Tory candidates.

  37. I was Labour candidate in 2001 and managed to hang on to 11% of the vote. It was obvious that the LD’s were prepared to spend hugely in W&L. The Tories were incredibly inept. The Labour vote is returning, but we start from such a low position.

  38. Cumbria totals:

    Con: 39,581 (31.6%)
    Lab: 34,876 (27.9%)
    LD: 23,282 (18.6%)
    UKIP: 14,591 (11.7%)
    Ind: 7,013 (5.6%)
    Green: 2,798 (2.2%)

    Change since 2010 general election:

    Con -7.81%
    Lab -2.90%
    UKIP +9.49%
    LD -5.71%
    Green +1.66%
    Others +5.27%

    Swing, Con to Lab: 2.45%

  39. We may be the smaller party in W&L, but we are the only one to have our own history. ( Lord ) David Clark’s The Labour Movement in Westmorland is an excellent read and hugely recommended.

  40. Ironically, given recent results, this was one of the few seats where the Alliance/Liberal vote fell in 1983.

    Changes on notional 1979 result:

    Con: +4.40%
    Alliance: -0.15%
    Lab: -5.91%
    Oth: +1.66%

  41. Ann Myatt selected as Conservative candidate:


  42. Farron’s popularity is but probably not to do with his politics but because locally at least he comes across as genuine and hard working, he is very approachable and genuinely seems to put a lot of effort into local issues, I would say he has created the Lib Dem popularity in the area not the other way round. Not that this isn’t true of other MPs, but when compared to Collins this obviously makes a big difference.

  43. It’s not actually as surprising as you’d think. He works the seat consistently hard. Pretty much all Labour supporters recognise that he is a) a good constituency MP and b) Labour is never going to win the seat – so he soaks up that vote. This is further reinforced by high visibility campaigning that shows Lib Dem strength – garden stakes in particular

    Most swing voters and actually many conservatives, also recognise that he is a hardworking MP that will stand up for the area (even when it really conflicts with more general logic – e.g. pushing for A&E at Kendal, which would be at the cost of two far larger population centres in Lancaster and Barrow).

  44. Farron is quite an exceptional constituency MP I must say.

    I know he has had his detractors on this site in the past but I personally can’t find what there is to dislike about the man- I too agree with Robert and Carl he does come across as very personable and hardworking, and he was rewarded for this last time out with that incredible result.

    Perhaps for at least another good few general elections, I would hasten to say the Tories may be out of the picture here.

  45. I too was perlexed by how wel the controversiall Farron did in 2010 – especially in a seat with such a long history of Conservative representation – so its good to hear how constituency focussed he is

    It’s similar to the likes of Nothavon, Lewes and Norfolk North which the sitting MPs have turned into pertsonal fortresses through sheer hard work.

    As the example of Harrogate shows in 2010, once they go so too the seat

  46. Farron comes across as very dislikeable to me
    but I can’t disagree there must be reasons for these results, to coin a phrase.

  47. “…there must be reasons for these results…”

    The near dissapearance of the Labour vote in these parts would be one of those reasons.

    I think in future we’ll look back on the 2010 result here as somewhat freakish. A bit like the 2001 result in Kingston & Surbiton when Ed Davey ended up with a majority larger than the Conservative vote. I would expect disgruntled anti coalition lefties to push the Labour vote back well into double figures here, with the consequence that Farron will never again win as easily as he did three years ago.

    He will continue to win though, for as long as he stands.

  48. ‘A bit like the 2001 result in Kingston & Surbiton when Ed Davey ended up with a majority larger than the Conservative vote.’

    It’s been done to death on this sire but the 2001 result in kingston & surbiton was largely due to the Tories selecting a dislikeable, right-wing chandidate who was almost a caricature of all the reasons people began to dislike the Tories so much in the 90s

    Of course Davey would probably have won against a muich stronger candidate, but this is one of many seats in 2001 where the Tories did themslves no favours in their selection of a candidate

  49. I know various local factors were at play with regards to Farron’s hold in 2010, but I think that now he has a five-figure majority although it may never stay that way he now indeed has a safe seat for as long as he wants it.

    The Conservative candidate selected here may have made a slight difference given his fall in vote share, but Farron as many on here will attest was largely aided by a tactical switch of Labour supporters, many of whom from Kendal, once one of the party’s few areas of strength in South Lakeland, now largely Lib Dem locally.

  50. The Conservative candidate has been very quiet so far – presumably a big September launch is due.

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