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Reading West

2010 Results:
Conservative: 20523 (43.18%)
Labour: 14519 (30.55%)
Liberal Democrat: 9546 (20.08%)
UKIP: 1508 (3.17%)
Green: 582 (1.22%)
Others: 852 (1.79%)
Majority: 6004 (12.63%)

Notional 2005 Results:
Labour: 19447 (45.2%)
Conservative: 14467 (33.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 6806 (15.8%)
Other: 2301 (5.3%)
Majority: 4980 (11.6%)

Actual 2005 result
Conservative: 14258 (33.9%)
Labour: 18940 (45%)
Liberal Democrat: 6663 (15.8%)
Green: 921 (2.2%)
UKIP: 1180 (2.8%)
Other: 141 (0.3%)
Majority: 4682 (11.1%)

2001 Result
Conservative: 13451 (32%)
Labour: 22300 (53.1%)
Liberal Democrat: 5387 (12.8%)
UKIP: 848 (2%)
Majority: 8849 (21.1%)

1997 Result
Conservative: 18844 (38.9%)
Labour: 21841 (45.1%)
Liberal Democrat: 6153 (12.7%)
Referendum: 976 (2%)
Other: 575 (1.2%)
Majority: 2997 (6.2%)

Boundary changes: contains all of the old Reading West and gains parts of the divided wards of Battle and Whitley from Reading East.

Profile: Reading is a commerical centre and commuter town in the Thames Valley in Berkshire. It is an affluent town, home to light, hi tech and service industry. It houses many corporate headquarters, including Microsoft, Sage, British Gas and Prudential. Reading West is the less urban of the two Reading seats – while it includes several council estates such as those at Southcote and Whitley, it also stretches out to the West of Reading itself to take in more rural areas including Theale, Tidmarsh and Pangbourne, the site of Pangbourne College, formerly a Royal Naval College. The annual Reading Music Festival is held at Little John`s Farm at the North of the constituency. The seat also includes Reading FC`s Madejski Stadium. John Madejski, the Reading FC Chairman, is a notable donor to the Conservative party.

portraitCurrent MP: Alok Sharma (Conservative) Chartered accountant

2010 election candidates:
portraitAlok Sharma (Conservative) Chartered accountant
portraitNaz Sarkar (Labour) Waltham Forest councillor since 2004.
portraitDaisy Benson (Liberal Democrat) Born 1978. Educated at Edinburgh University. Press advisor. Reading councillor.
portraitAdrian Windisch (Green) Educated at JFS Comprehensive and Westminster and Southampton Universities. Senior engineer working in construction. Contested Reading West 2005.
portraitBruce Hay (UKIP)
portraitHoward Thomas (Common Sense)

2001 Census Demographics

Total 2001 Population: 98571
Male: 49.9%
Female: 50.1%
Under 18: 23.7%
Over 60: 17.4%
Born outside UK: 9.6%
White: 90.5%
Black: 3.5%
Asian: 3.1%
Mixed: 2.2%
Other: 0.7%
Christian: 69.5%
Hindu: 0.7%
Muslim: 2.4%
Full time students: 2.4%
Graduates 16-74: 20.4%
No Qualifications 16-74: 26.5%
Owner-Occupied: 72.7%
Social Housing: 16.3% (Council: 10.1%, Housing Ass.: 6.2%)
Privately Rented: 8.1%
Homes without central heating and/or private bathroom: 6.4%

NB - The constituency guide is now archived and is no longer being updated. The new guide is at

190 Responses to “Reading West”

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  1. Welcome back to this thread. The gremlins have been resolved!

    Incidentally, and looking at some previous posts on this thread, as a regular contributor to this site I am interested to read fair and reasoned criticism about candidates that may affect the General Election result, but I do hope people will avoid being unnecessarily rude about them.

  2. It falls within my area, so I should advertise my write-up of the announcement that the LibDems have announced the shortlist of candidates, from which they will choose on Jan 8th 2010.

    Also UKIP have apparently selected Bruce Hay.

  3. LibDems selected well-known and highly-regarded local councillor Daisy Benson to run in the general election.

    Here’s my report.

    It seems all sides are convinced this choice will shake-up the race and make it a much more closely contested seat – which has to be a good thing.

  4. Are they really? It will surely take more than a well-known local councillor to prevent this from remaining a Lab-Con contest. In any case, although Salter’s retirement will clearly help the Tories, it’s likely to be fairly close anyway.

  5. Why will the identity of the Lib Dem candidate affect the closeness of the race in what is clearly a Labour/Conservative marginal? It would be possible I suppose if she enjoyed some spectacular local popularity in her ward which might carry across to general election votes but only then if that came disproportionately at the expense of one or other of the two parties which are in contention here. I note however that the ward she represents is in Reading East so she is unlikely to have any profile in any part of this seat.

  6. Barnaby beat me to it – but I thought of it first :p

  7. Pete – you’re a mind-reader now are you? 🙂

  8. Does anyone know why there was such an extraordinary result in 2001 please? Very strong Labour supporters would have expected a 7% swing surely? Perhaps Labour underperformed in 1997?
    Even 2005 is better for Labour than 1997.

    As Martin Salter is standing down this time, looks like a Con gain to me.

  9. If the new poll with the 2% tory lead is reflected in the general election: labour will hold this seat with a 5-7% majority. 🙂

  10. I’ve a sneaking feeling that, if Labour sustain their recent improvement in the polls, it will mostly be to the benefit of marginal seats in the north and midlands.

    I think middle south-east England made its mind up to boot out Labour several years ago and would not bet on Labour holding on in paces like this. I think Labour have a far better chance of holding Halifax, Keighley and Dewsbury than they do of holding Reading West or Dover.

    We could be heading for an extremely polarised result between north and south.

  11. Peterelectionfollower: I think that Martin Salter probably achieved a particularly strong “incumbency effect”.

    In recent times (by contrast with its predecessors in early post-war years, which changed hands on tiny swings and majorities), Reading seats have tended to swing quite heavily. One reason is that this is an area with a high turnover of local residents, with correspondingly less settled political identifications on the part of individual electors.

    Also, I suspect that demographic changes in this constituency may be helping Labour. By contrast with the very wealthy areas in the West of this constituency, and the middle class areas around the University in Reading East, the central Reading parts of this constituency are actually quite grotty, particularly for the South East, and my impression, although it is now many years since I lived in them, is that they may well be becoming more so. And, whilst I disagree with his economic recipe to address the situation, I agree with Hesseltine’s psephological point that there is a shameful advantage for Labour where communities are neglected.

  12. P.S. My last post crossed H.Hemmelig’s. I agree with him about Dover, living next door, it just does not feel like a likely Labour hold, not least because of their weakened position at local level. But we desperately need more local reports on the Dover thread on this site. However, I do think that Reading West is a plausible Labour hold.

    H. Hemmelig mentions a polarised result between the North and the South. However, I think it particularly important that Labour may actually be gaining ground in Scotland, particularly from the Scottish Nationalists. I think that this may result in the polls overestimating Labour support in England (and Wales, where there are some signs that the South Wales marginals are good prospects for the Tories) by 1-2%. Not a lot, but enough to give the Tories perhaps 10 extra seats, which at the present state of play could be all important.

    There is also the problems that there are effectively several elections going on; Labour/Tory marginals, as here, Tory/LibDem marginals, Labour/LibDems marginals (e.g. In Durham and North Central London), and safe seats where disillusioned voters may shift to “Others”. National opinion polls that analyse by class and by broad regions have difficulty coping with the varying swings in the different types of context.

    All this said, the national polls are probably a better guide to the likely result in Reading West, partly because of the comparatively low local identification, than in many other seats.

    Could I add something else. I expect the Green and UKIP votes to increase here. Whichever of the major parties here loses more votes to these smaller party candidates may well, as things stand, lose the seat.

  13. Frederic makes an interesting point about demographic change having a bigger impact on Reading than elsewhere in the country, a view which is supported by Dr Philip Giddings.

    Anyway the main three Reading West candidates went face-to-face this weekend with Peter Henley, which I’ve written up with all the appropriate links here.

    From my own point of view I don’t think the LibDem candidate will win Reading West, but I do think there will be a swing towards the LibDems which will upset the calculations and make this seat much harder to predict.

    Additionally as the town is the regional trade union HQ and it is virtually the last Labour seat in a 100-mile circle, you can guarantee it will be the location of a more intense battle – something which is being proved on the ground.

    So I actually think this will be a place where the cameras will be coming to make it one of 2010’s electoral barometers for the nation and I’d warn you all off any hasty predictions.

  14. I have a very low personal opinion of Daisy Benson and don’t wish to see her elected as an MP here or elsewhere.

    She is, however very hard-working and has a high media profile. I think she will probably do better than anyone else at resisting a squeeze from the other two parties.

  15. Pingback: Reading West « Martinsnottheone’s Weblog

  16. Reading has changed its mind and is now counting on the night.

  17. And so it should! Take it away, Rick Wakeman with King Arthur.

  18. Martin Salter’s departure gives Labour a real headache in this seat.

    In 2001 Salter , in his first defense of the seat, achieved a swing in his favour of 7.5%, the 2nd best Labour result in the country. (By comparision the swing in Reading East was 2.5%). He appears to have retained much of this advantage in 2005.

    In his absence a significant personal vote is up for grabs – probably 2,000 – 3,000 votes which means Labour start their defence of an already vulnerable seat with a much reduced margin.

    Incidentally in 97 when Labour won both Reading seats both the candidates were local councillors. Despite a relatively robust performance at local level (Labour remain the largest group on the council – just!) , come 2010 both Labour candidates do not have a local background. Given that local roots can be an advantage , it seems a curious approach.

  19. Why is Martin Salter standing down..?

    Everything I’d read about him has siad he is one of the most highly reagrded MP’s of last 13 years.

  20. Salter seems to think its time for a (personal) change and after 13 years he wants to do different. Hes told the local papers that after the election hes going to be spending 6 months on a trip to Australia and New Zealand.

    Theres no expenses issue -Salter did not claim a 2nd home allowance. And his political opponents have not made any adverse comments – given that he successfully sued the Conservatives for libel in 2005 perhaps once bitten twice shy!

  21. Chris/SPT – May I suggest you have a look at Jane Griffith’s blog as you will find someone who is VERY critical of Mr Salter…

  22. Matt, I know there is no love between Messrs Salter and Griffiths. Jane Griffiths proved to be an extremely entertaining MP partly because she spent so much time falling out with her own party. I’m not sure however that I’d rate her political judgement much more than her personal finance skills (how does an MP end being declared bankrupt??).

  23. Cons Gain= 1,000 maj

  24. CON 6000

  25. If Martin Salter was standing here he would hold on by about 1000 votes.

  26. Lab Hold

    Maj 1300

  27. Con maj 3,000

  28. Daisy Benson Maj 1

    Any majority over one is just vanity ;0)

  29. Martin may have left as he to avoid loosing.
    Its now close between Cons and Lab.
    I hope to come ahead of Ukip this time, keeping my deposit.

  30. Candidates Confirmed;
    Daisy Benson (Lib Dems),
    Bruce Hay (UKIP),
    Naz Sarkar (Labour),
    Alok Sharma (Conservative),
    Howard Thomas (Common Sense)
    Adrian Windisch (Green).

  31. I have only recently moved to the area, but have voted in every election since I came of age and will do so here, though I am undecided as to for whom.
    Can anyone tell me, is this now regarded as a three-way marginal seat? (Lib. Dem. activists need not answer).

  32. I don’t think so, the favourite was Alok, then Naz.

    Daisy, Bruce and myself have a more distant hope.

    But who knows what will happen in the last 10 days.

  33. This remains a clear Lab-Con contest.

  34. Lindsay,

    I think Barnaby is correct.

    The Lib Dems start with a significantly lower vote than in Reading East (partly due to Salters personal vote?) and only return councillors in Tilehurst ward in Reading. With the exception of Theale I dont think they figure in the West Berks wards either.

    Daisy Benson is a local councillor but she represents the Redlands ward which falls in Reading East.

  35. Reading West has traditionally been contested by Labour and the Conservatives, with the Lib Dems trailing behind. This year popular MP Martin Salter, who overturned a big Tory majority to win the seat in 1997, is standing down. This could let back the Conservatives, who narrowly took (more urban) Reading East from Labour in 2005.

    There is an additional factor that both Labour and Conservative candidates are Asian, which might send ‘mildly’ racist voters into the arms of the Lib Dems (and rabid racists to UKIP). However, if you want Tories in you should vote Tory, if you don’t want the Tories in you should vote Labour. Anything else is a gesture.

  36. Also of bearing in this seat is that the Conservatives selected a great candidate in Alok Sharma, while the Labour candidate is, to put it nicely, rather incompetant. I really think that the quality of candidates is important and in this seat will probably be the deciding factor.

  37. I fear this seat is harder for Labour to hold than the bald figures suggest. If only Salter had stood again!


  38. You were right Barnaby… it was harder for Labour than the bald figures suggested.

    A 12% swing to the Tories!

    6,000 majority for Alok Sharma.

  39. I fear Alok Sharma has built up a large enough majority to survive the next election, even if Labour wins, they’ll probably need a majority of around 50 to win here.

    Martin Salter was very popular here, before he came it was a seat the Tories held with a majority of 12,000. Arguably, Labour’s campaign here was not as effective as it could have been.

    if the next election were held tomorrow, Sharma would probably be left with a majority of around 2500.

  40. Labour’s shortlist for this seat has been announced,

    Cllr Victoria Groulef – Labour’s leader on Wycombe Council

    Christine Quigley – stood in May 2012 as a list candidate for the London Assembly elections

    Debbie Watson – former Minster ward Councillor

    The selection will take place on December 2nd.

    Far from a guaranteed gain for Labour but possible with a good campaign.

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