2015 Result:
Conservative: 35201 (60.3%)
Labour: 10046 (17.2%)
Lib Dem: 3953 (6.8%)
Green: 2970 (5.1%)
UKIP: 5352 (9.2%)
NHA: 616 (1.1%)
Independent: 12 (0%)
Others: 238 (0.4%)
MAJORITY: 25155 (43.1%)

Category: Ultra-safe Conservative seat

Geography: South East, Oxfordshire. Contains the whole of the West Oxfordshire council area.

Main population centres: Witney, Carterton, Woodstock, Chipping Norton, Burford, Charlbury.

Profile: Large rural seat in the West of Oxfordshire, including the Oxfordshire part of the Cotwolds. This is the affluent rural England of the "Chipping Norton set" (the name given to the media to the social circle around David Cameron and his wife, including Elizabeth Murdoch, Matthew Freud, Rebekah Brooks and Charlie Dunstone). There is agriculture here, but other important parts of the local economy are high-tech motorsport, the large RAF base at Brize Norton and tourism from the Cotswolds and Blenheim Palace.

Politics: Generally a very safe Conservative seat, made even more so by the extra support party leaders normally enjoy at the ballot box. The seat has been won by the Conservatives since its creation in 1983, originally being held by former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. Between 1999 and 2001 it was briefly represented by Labour when the then MP Shaun Woodward defected to Labour after being sacking for opposing Section 28. Since 2001 it has been represented by David Cameron.

Current MP
DAVID CAMERON (Conservative) Born 1966, London. Educated at Eton and Oxford University, where he was a member of the infamous Bullingdon club. Former Conservative party researcher, special advisor to Norman Lamont from 1992-1993 and Michael Howard 1993-1994, and director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Television from 1994-2001. Contested Stafford 1997. First elected as MP for Witney in 2001. Vice-Chairman of the Conservative party 2003-2004, local government spokesman 2004, head of policy co-ordination 2004-2005, shadow education secretary 2005. Leader of the Conservative party since 2005, Prime Minister since 2010. David Cameron was promoted to shadow education secretary after the 2005 election, being seen as Howard`s preferred choice as successor. His speech at the 2005 Conservative party conference, and a lacklustre speech by the then frontrunner David Davis saw him become the favourite and he was elected leader of the Conservative party in December 2005, despite allegations of drug use surfacing during the campaign. As leader of the Conservative party Cameron sought to rebrand the Conservative party, making the environment a central plank of policy, pushing for the selection of female candidates and largely avoiding traditional Conservative issues such as immigration. This lead to large Conservative leads mid-term, but these fell back as the 2010 election approached, particularly after the leader debates which saw Liberal Democrat support surge. The Conservatives fell short of a majority, and Cameron became Prime Minister at the head of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. He is married to Samantha Cameron and the couple have four children - their oldest son Ivan was severely disabled and died in 2009, their youngest daughter Florence was born after Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010.
Past Results
Con: 33973 (59%)
Lab: 7511 (13%)
LDem: 11233 (19%)
GRN: 2385 (4%)
Oth: 2667 (5%)
MAJ: 22740 (39%)
Con: 26571 (49%)
Lab: 11845 (22%)
LDem: 12415 (23%)
GRN: 1682 (3%)
Oth: 1356 (3%)
MAJ: 14156 (26%)
Con: 22153 (45%)
Lab: 14180 (29%)
LDem: 10000 (20%)
GRN: 1100 (2%)
Oth: 1770 (4%)
MAJ: 7973 (16%)
Con: 24282 (43%)
Lab: 17254 (31%)
LDem: 11202 (20%)
Oth: 1401 (2%)
MAJ: 7028 (12%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
DAVID CAMERON (Conservative) See above.
DUNCAN ENRIGHT (Labour) Educated at Oxford University. Publisher. West Oxfordshire councillor since 2012.
ANDREW GRAHAM (Liberal Democrat) Born Birmingham. Teacher and playwright. East Hertfordshire councillor 1995-2011. Contested Clacton by-election 2014.
SIMON STRUTT (UKIP) Contested Buckingham 2010 as a Cut the Deficit candidate. Contested South East region 2014 European Elections for UKIP.
STUART MACDONALD (Green) Born 1946, Glasgow. Educated at Hitchin Boys Grammar and Cambridge University. Professor. Contested Witney 2010.
COLIN BEX (Wessex Regionalist) Architect. Contested Windsor and Maidenhead 1979, 1983, Portsmouth North 1997, Wells 2001, Dorset South 2005, Witney 2010, Eastleigh 2012 by-election.
CLIVE PEEDELL (NHA) Born Botley. Oncologist.
DEEK JACKSON (Land Party) Comedian. Contested Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 2010.
VIVIEN SAUNDERS (Reduce VAT in Sport) Born 1946, Sutton. Educated at Nonsuch County High and London University. Golf club owner and former British Open Champion. Awarded the OBE in 1997 for services to golf.
CHRIS TOMPSON (Independent)
NATHAN HANDLEY (No description)
BOBBY SMITH (Give me back Elmo)
Comments - 2,068 Responses on “Witney”
  1. Sorry for late post.
    Was calling out desperately for paper at the count but nobody would help, and missed the declaration.

    Overall Lib Dem majority in 2020, gains at Cannock and Wolverhampton NE aswell.

  2. @Ecowirral I agree I struggle to see the Tories getting beyond the low 40s in a general election but it is also possible to see Labour dropping into the mid 20s which would translate into a huge Tory landslide.

    ‘It surprises me when people (even tories like yourself) are so reluctant to acknowledge the damaging effect of the PLPs failed coup on Labour’s chances at the next election.’

    Well the PLP gambled on Corbyn going quietly and allowing a new competent, non-toxic leader to be chosen in an orderly fashion. If this had happened Labour’s poll ratings would be far, far better than they are now. Instead Corbyn didn’t go and this the spotlight was drawn back onto Labour for a period of months and there is a very strong correlation between Corbyn’s Labour being in the news and negative poll ratings. Essentially when people (who have short memory spans anyway) forget Corbyn exists thus how useless and extreme he is the gap between Labour and the Tories narrows but when he or one of his associates find themselves as headline news the gap yawns wide. The ‘coup’ if you wish to call it that simply hastened the inevitable, if that hadn’t happened something else would have done to deliver Corbyn’s Labour mass publicity and wreck their slow improvement in the polls.

  3. Re. Witney I wonder which wards did not vote for Courts? I imagine Leffman landslided her own ward of Charlbury and Finstock but when else? I’m not sure if Enright would have carried any but I guess the odd one in Witney town is possible e.g Central? Or West if he’s got a really high local profile there.

  4. I find it puzzling that the Tory lead appears to have markedly increased in the last two weeks.Labour turmoil has abated – at least for the moment – whilst the economic news has become more gloomy. That leaves the post – Tory conference bounce – but normally that fades away after a week or so. It appears to be more enduring this year! However, it is somewhat counterintuitive , and is not being confirmed by elections on the ground – whether Witney or local by elections.

  5. Today’s YouGov has the Tories at 42% – so Mori’s 47% was probably an outlier. But Labour is down at just 26% – so a Tory lead of 16%.
    Witney ,however, would suggest that Labour is on 30/31%.

  6. Oh come on you know you can’t infer national vote shares from a single by-election with a low turnout. Be serious.

  7. @Graham it is very possible that Labour is being hit disproportionally in WWC white van man marginal seats of the Nuneaton like character where the UKIP vote is breaking for the Tories and WWC Labour voters are ditching their party. Whereas in metropolitan seats and wealthy safe Tory seats like this one their vote stagnates as the small minority people who would vote Labour in a place like Witney are more likely to be ‘true believers’. This is another huge problem that I believe Corbyn has: he is likely to cause the redistribution of the Labour vote in a very unfavourable way for a first past the post electoral system.

  8. I understand that point , but – if anything – I would have expected Labour to have underperformed in relation to its underlying vote share in a seat where the LibDems appeared to have momentum as the challenger. In terms of resources Labour invested much less in the contest yet still managed to effectively resist the LibDem attempt to squeeze their vote. Given the outcome , had Labour mounted a fullscale assault on the seat ,a 20% vote share would probably have been realistic for them!

  9. My comment was in reply to Runnymede!

  10. If you think more than half the shadow cabinet resigning, a vote of no confidence and the second leadership election in a year doesn’t have any implication on the situation then you’re pretty naive really

  11. I think Pepperminttea may have a point. I have no doubt at all that the Corbyn regime is very appealing to a hard core of Labour voters – which exists even in seats like Witney. Indeed, I suspect it might even bring some very discouraged left-wing voters out to vote.

    The problem is, that at a national level, this hard core just isn’t very large and many Lab-Con swing voters (of which there are not large numbers in a seat like this) will certainly be discouraged by Corbynism.

  12. “This is another huge problem that I believe Corbyn has: he is likely to cause the redistribution of the Labour vote in a very unfavourable way for a first past the post electoral system.”

    Exactly the conclusion I was coming to – that if Labour vote holding up ‘OK’ in Witney means anything, it’s that Labour’s vote share will likely fall where it will hurt them most – in the marginals – perhaps partly mitigated by previously considered ‘safe’ seats with high WWC falling substantially but not enough to lose the seat.

    But of course, as Runnymede says you can’t draw sound conclusions from one by-election. I was just reinforcing your point that this result doesn’t in any way discount the current national VI polls, and if anything might give pause for thought to honest Labour members.

  13. The more marginal Batley and Spen would have been a far more interesting and informative by-election had it been contested “normally”. Of course it’s been discussed ad tedium as to why that didn’t happen and the pros and cons of that decision.

  14. @Matt the PLP assumed Corbyn would go quietly and then they could have selected a new leader in a clean, civilised contest not riddled with homophobia, anti-Semitism etc. Labour then would not have had a months long crisis, would have a leader who appeals to people beyond the hard core activist base (e.g Watson) and thus would an undoubtedly have better poll ratings than now, in fact I would guess that they’d probably be ahead of the Tories given that party’s problems which get largely get ignored now as Labour’s problems are many times worse.

    The fact is Corbyn’s personal approval ratings are diabolical and it was never that Corbyn was becoming popular pre coup its just people were beginning to forget he existed it’s really only when he’s not in the news that Labour’s position goes up. Sure the ‘coup’ drew mass attention to Labour but if it hadn’t happened something else would have come along and thrust Labour into the spotlight wrecking any improvements that had been made.

    The best thing for Labour would have been for Corbyn to graciously bow out after the wave of resignations and the vote of no confidence and allow the PLP to try to fix the PR nightmare he has caused as it is he didn’t and so consequently Labour is in a terrible state.

  15. In recent weeks there was a local by election in Nuneaton which saw Labour gaining the seat from the Tories on a big swing so I find the evidence far from compelling.
    The message of the polls has been rather odd over a period of several months. Back in the summer when the Labour civil war was at its most intense Labour’s vote share in most polls barely budged at all – yet now that the waters have calmed a fair bit Labour has suddenly fallen back! It does not really add up!

  16. A YouGov opinion poll has just been published with the figures Con 42%, Lab 26%, UKIP 12%, LD 8%, Green 5%. It’s in line with all the other recent polls. I think these polls are a better guide to the situation than the result of the Witney by-election where people had the chance to register a one-off protest vote.

  17. @Graham local by elections have zero bearings on showing who people want to be the government the two things are not even vaguely comparable and I wish people would stop treating it as such.

    It does make some sense. Moderate Labour voters may have hoped that Smith would defeat Corbyn and the coup would succeed. Now Corbyn won and the hard left is here to stay many may have simply given up.

  18. Plus these huge Tory leads are not just the odd outlier they are showing up everywhere giving no legitimate reason to just write them off.

  19. You’re being far too generous. There was no intention to have a clean smooth change of leadership. It was to remove Corbyn by any means necessary. Otherwise Owen wouldn’t have been canvassing for support in December of 2015

  20. IMO Witney and Oldham West are both supremely unrepresentative of the marginal seats where Labour needs to do well in order to win an election. Oldham West has a far higher than average ethnic minority population, and Witney is a very middle-class, Oxford University-influenced constituency. To say Labour are doing okay because they did relatively well in these two seats is a wrong analysis in my view.

  21. @Peppermintea
    But Corbyn’s re-election happened a month ago – and was widely expected for a few weeks before that! I still cannot see how that explains the sudden jump in the Tory lead. The only thing that makes any sense at all is the post Tory Conference boost , but even that was over two weeks ago.Corbyn’s recent PMQ performance has been quite good – he seems a good match for May in that arena really. I just find it odd in that there is nothing that sticks out!

  22. Labour also had a good result at the Tooting by election which on the basis of the last few polls ought to have been a Tory gain! Indeed that was mooted as a possibility by some at the time – but it came to nothing despite a good Tory candidate.

  23. I think you are clutching at straws, especially re. PMQs – which hardly any real people take any notice of.

  24. I am not a Corbynite at all – and have only voted Labour at one of the last five general elections!

  25. EcoWirral – you could equally argue that’s because over the last months it’s meant the more and more the public see and hear JC & JMc, the lower their ratings go.

    Yes, Corbynites blame the PLP.

    But at least both sides finally recognise how far behind they are.

  26. ” it’s meant the more and more the public see and hear JC & JMc, the lower their ratings go.”

    @Lancs exactly this.

  27. Don’t get me wrong I don’t blame the PLP solely. I think the labour party as a whole needs to take responsibility. I’d foolishly hoped once the leadership election was over then the party will unite. Im beginning to come to the conclusion the labour party will never reconcile its differences. Brighton Labour has been forced to split I suspect it won’t be the only one. I’m just so angry, I’ve been a part of this party for as long as I can remember and it isn’t the first time I’ve been called a Trot or we argue about our purpose but I’ve never felt the party being torn apart in the way it has been. This will always be my party no matter what but I’m not sure long it will be a party those who don’t feel the same way have torn it to pieces.

  28. I think its fair to assume that we have learnt very little of meaningful substance to show us the way forward.

    True the LD’s have regained confidence and can look forward knowing that there is a slow way back,
    that way back may be more fruitful in labour held seats lacking a youthful vote who do not see Corbyn as being the face of a future Labour government.

    Duncan Enright was a decent candidate for Labour here in an a seat they were never going to take.
    perhaps traditional Labour voters here decided to go LD rather than giving Corbyn supporters an endorsement.

    combine this disillusionment with the reality that UKIP has peaked and is on a downward slope with many of their supporters having had their day in the sun with the BREXIT vote then arguably the Conservatives stand to hold on to their election gains

  29. I’m new to making contributions to this site but not to reading it avidly.

    Does anyone know what’s happened to the Boundary Assistant site? Once you get into it it comes up with “Service unavailable”

  30. “I understand that point , but – if anything – I would have expected Labour to have underperformed in relation to its underlying vote share in a seat where the LibDems appeared to have momentum as the challenger.”

    There are plenty of middle-class university types in Witney, which explains Labour’s better than expected performance relative to the national opinion polls.

  31. “And yes, current polls are MUCH worse than those just before the coup, which showed labour approaching parity (and actually being ahead in one poll). That wasn’t a great position, either, but it looks a heck of a lot better than polls in the last couple of weeks.”

    From what I can gather Labour’s voteshare has only dropped slightly since the summer, the change in the lead has been largely caused by the Conservatives consolidating their support at the expense of UKIP.

  32. ‘From what I can gather Labour’s voteshare has only dropped slightly since the summer’

    Yep. The Ipsos CON 47 poll had LAB on 29%, i.e. only a point or two behind what they’ve been polling throughout Corbyn’s leadership and what they managed in 2015.

    On the LDs of course they’ll be delighted with the swing after so many years of dismal results everywhere. It does hint at potential to challenge seriously in other by-elections (though the right seat may not come up any time soon). But perceptions of the result are slightly skewed by using 2015 as the base point. The Libs/LDs have traditionally got in the 20-30% range here at GEs prior to 2015 so it is more a reversion to the norm than an earthquake. And probably not even that because in GE conditions I think they’d fall short of 20%.

  33. “From what I can gather Labour’s voteshare has only dropped slightly since the summer, the change in the lead has been largely caused by the Conservatives consolidating their support at the expense of UKIP.”

    Today’s YouGov had them on 26%. It’ll be interesting to see if future polls confirm that sort of level.

  34. Ipsos Mori for several months had Labour at 34/35 so this month has seen a big drop with that pollster. On the other hand , the 47% given to the Tories is rather out of line with other pollsters who – like YouGov today – have them on 42/43%.

  35. Percentages are meaningless in by-elections, because large numbers of people see no point in rubber stamping the inevitable result. The Tories can count on an extra 10,000 or so votes in 2020.

    Votes cast, however, are of some significance, because they tend to be cast again in future unless the voter has reason to vote tactically or actively changes their mind. Unless people actually thought the Lib Dems could win, I don’t see either factor applying to them. Though I don’t think they have a capacity to improve on yesterday’s result either.

  36. It was a pretty on-par by-election performance for a Tory-held seat 6 years into a Tory/Tory-led government. Perhaps slightly above par if you factor in this being the seat of the ex-prime minister. New prime ministers get honeymoon poll boosts which don’t usually transfer to by-elections, cf. John Major and Ribble Valley in early 91. This really is a case of move along and nothing to see here, as I and indeed Runnymede predicted it would be. I don’t think the Lib Dems’ 30% really means all that much in the greater scheme of things, given that their national poll ratings remain stuck around 8%.

  37. Perhaps the most significant thing about this result is the confirmation that, with UKIP in their so-called “death spiral”, the Lib Dems are returning to their former position as the natural third party.

    Summed up quite nicely here: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/lib-dems-regain-position-as-britains-last-desperate-choice-20161021115783

  38. Polltroll – I doubt that.

    The LDs are the 4th, 5th or 6th Party at present.

  39. Hmm, maybe I’m suffering from some mild Plopwellitis 😉

  40. Maxim Parr-Reid

    Political Betting has the fieldwork dates for that YouGov poll as 11/10 – 14/10.

  41. The Witney by election points more to Labour being on 30/31%

  42. It ‘s hardly puzzling in the context of the national polls ! A fall of 2% is a respectable result, and leaves Labour with a higher vote share in Witney than 2010 – when their national share was 29.7%. .Moreover, the Tories should have been helped by the UKIP collapse here but still ended up losing 25% of their 2015 vote share.

  43. I don’t agree with the commentary (which I’ve seen in a few places) suggesting the LDs are back to being the natural 3rd party/party of protest. For a start it overlooks the fact that in national polls they are generally doing no better than 2015. But also I just think the current political environment makes it much harder for them to satisfy the concerns of those who want to protest against Labour and the Conservatives than was once the case. On Brexit, immigration, refugees etc. – the issues of the day – their positions could hardly be more at variance with those of many disillusioned voters*. Post coalition and whilst Corbyn’s around they also have no chance whatsoever of recapturing the left protest vote that they used to get during the New Labour years. So they are left with a small core vote and whatever they can achieve through the type of local campaigning they do at local by-elections and did in Witney. That is virtually impossible to replicate in more than a handful of seats at a GE, and also less effective because voters are naturally more concerned with national issues and who the govt will be than at by-elections and local elections.

    * It is true that polls suggest that even these days many LD supporters have very different views to their politicians. For instance LD voters supported the ‘listing foreign workers’ proposal when YouGov polled it. It may be that their lack of media coverage can sometimes help them by not exposing voters to their actual policies/positions.

  44. I agree with Jack Sheldon.Also given the effort made in the seat , the LibDems should be disappointed not to have squeezed the Labour vote – very different to Newbury and Christchurch back in 1993. It strongly suggests that they have not been forgiven by left of centre voters for the Coalition , and will find it difficult in 2020 to attract tactical Labour votes in 2020 in the seats lost to the Tories last year.

  45. The Lib Dems may not be there yet but they are certainly moving in the right direction. It’s just that they have a very long way to go to recover to their 2005/2010 position – clearly this isn’t going to happen in one parliamentary cycle.

    Meanwhile, the current impasse where many (English) voters are choosing between the lesser of two evils cannot hold indefinitely. The Lib Dems look best-placed to fill that gap but if they do not then someone else will.

  46. The LD’s best hope is the Blairite/Wet, “Brexit was economic suicide” vote, particularly if Corbyn stays the course.

    If the early indications in 2019-2020 are that Brexit is widely considered the best thing to have happened to the country, they’re toast.

    If it’s widely deemed to have been a disaster, they could achieve, or indeed have the opportunity and yet fail to achieve, just about anything.

  47. @Exiled Voter

    Maybe. However, I know lots of Blairite/Wet voters (as you described them) and despite their serious reservations about Corbyn at this stage I don’t sense that they are about to abandon Labour. Where Labour is losing out is more with its socially conservative/Brexit voting voters in the Midlands and North than with socially liberal, Remain voting voters in London. That may change but I’d be surprised. Even if it did I’m not sure it would deliver many seats.

  48. @Graham you can’t really extrapolate from by elections to who people want the government to be. In 2020 Courts will easily clear 50% when the national government is on the line. As for Labour ,15% is close to their floor in Witney (their absolute ceiling in a landslide being ~30%) due to the presence of a significant chunk of public sector academic type voters given the proximity to Oxford so you definitely cannot extrapolate Labour’s national vote share from this by-election.

  49. @Peppermintea
    I do understand your point , bu,t as a statement of fact, Labour polled higher at the by election in terms of vote share than at the 2010 General Election – which is not what current opinion polls on the whole would have led us to expect! Add to that the massive LibDem effort and their failure to squeeze Labour , I believe they can derive some comfort – and satisfaction – from the result. Had Labour mounted the same effort as the LibDems , a vote share of 20% would surely have been likely.

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