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Watford

2010 Results:
Conservative: 19291 (34.94%)
Labour: 14750 (26.72%)
Liberal Democrat: 17866 (32.36%)
BNP: 1217 (2.2%)
UKIP: 1199 (2.17%)
Green: 885 (1.6%)
Majority: 1425 (2.58%)

Notional 2005 Results:
Labour: 16571 (33.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 15421 (31.2%)
Conservative: 14630 (29.6%)
Other: 2757 (5.6%)
Majority: 1151 (2.3%)

Actual 2005 result
Conservative: 14634 (29.6%)
Labour: 16575 (33.6%)
Liberal Democrat: 15427 (31.2%)
Green: 1466 (3%)
UKIP: 1292 (2.6%)
Majority: 1148 (2.3%)

2001 Result
Conservative: 15437 (33.3%)
Labour: 20992 (45.3%)
Liberal Democrat: 8088 (17.4%)
UKIP: 535 (1.2%)
Green: 900 (1.9%)
Other: 420 (0.9%)
Majority: 5555 (12%)

1997 Result
Conservative: 19227 (34.8%)
Labour: 25019 (45.3%)
Liberal Democrat: 9272 (16.8%)
Referendum: 1484 (2.7%)
Other: 234 (0.4%)
Majority: 5792 (10.5%)

Boundary changes:

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.

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. The original Conservative 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.

portraitCurrent MP: Richard Harrington (Conservative) born 1957, Leeds. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Oxford University. Founder of a property development company and former Managing Director then Chairman of a holiday resort development company. Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel.

2010 election candidates:
portraitRichard Harrington (Conservative) born 1957, Leeds. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Oxford University. Founder of a property development company and former Managing Director then Chairman of a holiday resort development company. Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel.
portraitClaire Ward(Labour) born 1972, North Shields. Educated at Loreto College and Hertfordshire University. First elected as MP for Watford in 1997. Government whip since 2005 (more information at They work for you)
portraitSal Brinton (Liberal Democrat) born 1955. Educated at Benenden and Cambridge University. Company director. Former BBC floor manager and Bursar of Selwyn College, Cambridge. Cambridgshire County Councillor 1993-2004. Contested Cambridgshire South East 1997, 2001, Watford 2005.
portraitIan Brandon (Green) Hertfordshire councillor.
portraitGraham Eardley (UKIP) Credit controller.
portraitAndrew Emerson (BNP) Educated at Reading Blue Coat School. Lecturer. Former Labour party member. Contested Broxborne 2005, South East 2009 European elections.

2001 Census Demographics

Total 2001 Population: 102019
Male: 49.1%
Female: 50.9%
Under 18: 22.8%
Over 60: 18%
Born outside UK: 12.7%
White: 87.5%
Black: 2.3%
Asian: 7.3%
Mixed: 2%
Other: 1%
Christian: 67.6%
Hindu: 1.8%
Jewish: 1.3%
Muslim: 5.1%
Full time students: 3%
Graduates 16-74: 22.7%
No Qualifications 16-74: 23.7%
Owner-Occupied: 74.6%
Social Housing: 15.8% (Council: 13.4%, Housing Ass.: 2.5%)
Privately Rented: 7.8%
Homes without central heating and/or private bathroom: 5.9%

NB - The constituency guide is now archived and is no longer being updated. The new guide is at http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide

698 Responses to “Watford”

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  1. Carpenders Park ward lost to Hertsmere constituency too, despite lack of road connection.

  2. Indeed so – I should have mentioned that although it is a broadly neutral change in terms of the Con/LD battle. I suspect it makes more sense to have that in the seat rather than Moor Park and that is no doubt what Labour would have preferred. It is obviously not for that reason that I personally would also prefer for Carpenders Park to remain in Watford rather than being moved to Hertsmere, rather for the reason you state.

  3. After a number of pretty poor election results in Watford, including failing to take the very marginal Central ward, a rather better result for Labour in their sole stronghold of Vicarage last night:
    Lab 917 (52.9; +2.8)
    LD 403 (23.2; -4.3)
    Ind 190 (11.0; +11.0)
    Ind 129 (7.4; -0.7)
    Con 95 (5.5; -3.7)
    Majority 514
    Turnout 29.47%
    Lab hold
    Percentage change is since May 2011.
    Even since they started their headlong plunge down the national polls, the LD vote has been very resilient in local elections in Watford but here at least it’s dropped a bit despite the Tory vote also dropping, and the absence this time of the Greens. Labour will be desperate to spread this improvement into other wards in the Borough & start its fightback after years of LD domination – the Tories will be keen to do the same.

  4. This is the only ward in Hertfordshire where Asian politics play a part, even though Asians are still a long way from forming the majority of the electorate. The Independent who came third was an Asian who had been a prominent memebr of the LDs in this ward and clearly will have taken much of any Asian LD vote which might otherwise have gone to the (white) LD candidate. Still it is a solid Labour result, though as Barnaby says they have performed well here in recent years without seeing much recovery in other wards (their result in the CC division of Vicarage Holywell was one of the best in the country in 2009 while their vote continued to haemorrage in the other 5 divisions of the borough).
    Rather more encouraging for Labour anyway than the recent Nascot by-election result was for the Tories – and that a ward they will be defending next May

  5. In Watford for a few days. What a dire town centre! Can’t believe this a Tory seat it looks so run down. I admit I’ve only been in the town centre but it strikes me as one of those places that has fallen on hard times (if it was ever on good times). I suppose those people that are at the bottom of the socio-economic scale don’t vote at all!

  6. By-election in central ward on 15th November after Lib Dem Councillor moved away. Expect Labour to throw everything at it but Lib Dems will probably hold on.

    Very odd place Watford – there is a Conservative MP but only 1 Conservative Councillor in the Borough (out of 36) and even he is likely to lose his seat next time he is up for election. Bit like Norwich where conservatives/lib dems are an endangered species on the council, but they hold the 2 mps.

  7. “BigD” – very odd post. You don’t have to live in a place that looks like Bath to vote conservative. In any case, I was in the town last week and it does not look in bad shape at all. Very few vacant shops and if you know anything about the region then you would know it is the main area for jobs in the county. If you think Watford looks bad then you are gonna be in trouble when you visit somewhere like Luton.

  8. As is well known, the borough isn’t coterminous with the constituency. The Tories are strong in all the wards outside the borough which are included. Mostly they look like areas where you’d expect a decent Tory vote, too, as is Cassiobury Park within Watford itself.

  9. The Lib Dems within Watford itself though have remained strong in local elections though since 2010 – one might have thought it would see a Labour and /or Con recovery
    but perhaps there will continue to be a lot of split voting.

    I know someone at work who lives in Watford and she says the local situation seems to be on the back of Dorothy Thornhill.

  10. Jo James – that is correct.
    Barnaby – borough & constituency are indeed not one and the same. But it is a red herring. The extra wards (largely in Three Rivers District) are evenly split between Lib Dem council seats, labour seats and Conservative seats. Three Rivers is also a Lib Dem Council, with a Labour stronghold in South Oxhey.

  11. No Chris, South Oxhey isn’t in this constituency. It’s in SW Hertfordshire. I know this for a number of reasons, not least that I was working there during the general election,and there were posters up for David Gauke, not Richard Harrington. Oxhey itself, however, which is almost entirely owner-occupied and middle-class, is in this constituency. Pete Whitehead will certainly confirm that this is the case, coming as he does from very nearby. If S Oxhey had been included, yes it would have been quite a lot harder for the Tories to win, a great deal harder (I’d submit) for the LDs, and easier for Labour. So, it’s no red herring.

  12. Barnaby – oops, my mistake. I think the plan was to add it to Watford, but the boundary changes have not happened of course. However, my red herring point still stands entirely. The extra, non Watford Borough, wards have 14 council seats. Of them, 12 are held by the Lib Dems, with only 2 held by the Tories. So in summary: 50 council seats in Watford constituency, of which only 3 are held by Conservatives. To put that into context, there are 3 green party seats as well.

    (n.b Cassiobury Park is in Park Ward – 2 Lib Dems and 1 independent.)

  13. “The Tories are strong in all the wards outside the borough which are included. Mostly they look like areas where you’d expect a decent Tory vote, too”

    The Tories are certainly not strong in all the wards outside Watford borough. Langleybury and Leavesden wards (which both have a fair amount of council built properties) are very poor territory for them and while Abbots Langley is somewhat more favourable they have not won it since 1992. I don’t know when they last won in the other two wards – the last time they elected other than LD councillors was in 1990 when they were both won by Labour. Langleybury and Leavesden would have been quite comfortably carried by Claire Ward in 1997 and 2001 and overall she would have carried the Abbots Langley part of the seat before 2005 since when they have been carried by Sal Brinton. This area is therefore distinctly unhelpful to Tory prospects.
    The two wards south of Watford – Carpenders Park and Oxhey Hall are certainly much more favourable but for a while the LDs had all the council seats there too and overall the Three Rivers wards would have voted LD in 2005 and were probably more or less neck and neck in 2010 (perhaps an ever so slight Tory lead then)

    Interestingly, on plans to add South Oxhey to the seat, this formed not only the initial proposals of the recent boundary review but also the one before 1997 (Abbots Langley, Langleybury and Leavesden were to go to St Albans). Ironically it was the Conservatives who objected most strongly – understandably enough given that at the time they rightly saw Labour as the threat in Watford and without a doubt the addition of South Oxhey would have helped Labour. However if these boundaries had been adopted, I estimate that if votes had beenc ast the same way as they were (and there are obvious caveats about that) then the Conservatives would have won a slightly higher percentage of the vote in Watford and would have won a larger majority of probably about 3,000 over a very evenly divided opposition (my figures put Labour just into second place on those boundaries. The situation is mirrored funily enough in 2005 when those boundaries would have given Labour a much larger majority (about 3,500) and with the Conservatives still (just) in second place. The caveats I mention are that obviously ahd these boundaries been adopted, the Lib Dems would have become far more active in South Oxhey than they actually have been, just as they became far more active in Carpenders Park and Oxhey Hall and this would no doubt have increased their vote somewhat in the area, but still it would have been a far tougher seat for them with South Oxhey in rather than Abbots Langley. The revised proposals are the optimum from a LD point of view as these now removed Carpenders Park and Oxhey hall and keep the Abbots Langley wards in the seat. This probably reduced the Conservative notional majority to about 6-700. Of course they are not likely to come to fruition ironically as LD MPs look set to vote against the boundary changes, but in any case they had probably missed their chance here even on the most favourable boundaries.

  14. Hi Pete

    Do you expect Watford (on current boundaries) to most likely be a Con hold or a Lab gain in 2015?

    I think the LD vote here will be stickier than in many places, which makes the seat quite hard to call IMO.

  15. Obviously much depends on the national situation then. If it is as I expect and the Conservatives are perhaps a couple of points ahead of Labour nationally or even if they are about neck and neck I think the Conservatives will hold. If Labour have a clear lead in the popular vote nationally and enough seats to win a majority in Parliament then I’d expect this to be one of those seats but I don’t expect that scenario so my money would be firmly on a Conservative hold. I think the Conservative share in 2010 was still artifically low because I suspect a number of Conservative inclined voters were persuaded to vote tactically for the LDs so the Tory share should rise a bit even if it falls a bit or stays level nationally. It has been mooted that Dorothy Thornhill might stand here in 2015 and if she does I expect she would limit the extent to which the LD vote falls so they might be in the high 20s rather than the low 20s as they would with another candidate. Clearly though a large number of people in Watford take a different view about who they want running their local council and who they want running the country and on that Watford remains in many ways a pretty good belwether

  16. Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly.

    Your arguments make sense and on balance I agree.

    The Tory share of the vote has held steady at 30-35% here through both the Labour landslides of 1997 and 2001, and in 2005 and 2010 when the Lib Dems were taking Watford by storm locally.

    I therefore would not expect the Tory vote to go beneath 35% regardless of what happens nationally.

    It’s worth mentioning also that the appalling candidate problems the Tories had here must have cost them some votes in 2010.

    Therefore the key factor is whether enough Lib Dems go over to Labour to push them back over 35% of the vote. Given the Lib Dem domination locally I’d say it’s unlikely, although it might get very close. As you say, they’d probably achieve it only if Ed Miliband wins an overall majority.

    Incidentally, what would you say the Lib Dem vote in Watford is based on? Is it more leftist votes disillusioned with Labour (big Asian population here)? Or soft Tories and dogshit politics, as in somewhere like Sutton?

  17. Its predominantly the latter. There was a bit of the former evident following the Iraq war in a couple of wards where the relevant demographics live but that support has more or less reverted to Labour now anyway. The LD local surge predated all that stuff and was more to do with the ineptitude of the local Labour council and the inability of the frankly equally inept local Tories to capitalise on that. The LDs had made some inroads into several wards in the 1990s (I seem to remember them first winning the popular vote in the constituency in the local elections in 1994) but of course it was the election of Dorothy Thornhill in 2002 which saw them take off in a big way.

  18. I trust Pete Whitehead’s jugement here.

    A reduced tory majority of 1500 over Labour is probably the most likely scenario in 2015 IMO.

  19. I agree. I have no local knowledge of this but clearly the Lib Dems remain in a very strong position locally- If they lose second place to Labour here it would be disappointing for them though I would suspect on the back of their current success.

  20. I agree. I have no local knowledge of this but clearly the Lib Dems remain in a very strong position locally- If they lose second place to Labour here it would be disappointing for them though I would suspect on the back of their current success.

  21. The Results

    I think it’s very likely the Lib Dems will lose 2nd place, but they will remain a relatively close 3rd.

  22. If Thornhill was the Liberal Democrat candidate, their chances of losing second place would probably be somewhat reduced. It is after all something of a surprise that Sal Brinton did not manage to take this in 2010 and that the Conservatives jumped from third to first.

  23. Pete

    Thanks for answering my question.

    “of course it was the election of Dorothy Thornhill in 2002 which saw them take off in a big way.”

    Could we then surmise that if Watford had not chosen to have an elected mayor, the Lib Dem local strength would probably not have impacted the parliamentary seat to the same extent that it has?

    If this had remained an ordinary Lab-Con marginal as in 1997 and 2001, the Tories would probably have gained it by a bigger majority in 2010?

  24. What is interesting to note is that this seat has in the past been contested by two future Liberal Democrat MPs- Mark Oaten (Winchester 1997-2010) in 1992 and Duncan Hames (Chippenham 2010-present) in 2001.

  25. “If Thornhill was the Liberal Democrat candidate, their chances of losing second place would probably be somewhat reduced.”

    I don’t really agree with that. Even if Thornhill is the candidate, I think they are pretty much guaranteed to come third. Like Pete says, the Lid Dems missed their chance here and the only way for them is down.

    There is no chance of the Lib Dems staying above 30% here and it’s pretty certain that Labour will pick up the 4% extra necessary to go back above 30%.

    The only questin is whether Labour go from third to first or third to second. I think the latter is most likely but the former is possible if the election nationally goes well for them.

  26. Labour cannot possibly gain this though. Their chances of moving back into second place may well be high, but Harrington’s opposition will be split in 2015 and so Labour probably won’t manage to get enough votes off the Lib Dems to take this back at the first attempt.

  27. Most likely you’re right, but I think Labour can gain the seat if their national result was similar to current polls.

  28. ”Most likely you’re right, but I think Labour can gain the seat if their national result was similar to current polls.”

    But a lot of commentators on here believe that a likely scenario in 2015 may well be another hung parliament- I on the other hand would be very surprised if either the Tories or Labour weren’t able to win an overall majority- The polls may tell us Labour are on for a huge landslide of near-1997 proportions, but nothing’s saying the polls will stay still the way they are now in two and a half year’s time….

  29. “Could we then surmise that if Watford had not chosen to have an elected mayor, the Lib Dem local strength would probably not have impacted the parliamentary seat to the same extent that it has?”

    Very much so – in fact it wouldn’t have even imapcted the local council to the same extent

    “What is interesting to note is that this seat has in the past been contested by two future Liberal Democrat MPs- Mark Oaten (Winchester 1997-2010) in 1992 and Duncan Hames (Chippenham 2010-present) in 2001.”

    Yes that is a quite interesting fact actually. There may not be many seats where something similar could be said – certainly not many unwinnable seats (which Watford was in 1992 and 2001). Both of these of course were local to Watford, unlike Ms Brinton

  30. I’m about 80% certain the next election will be a hung parliament.

  31. There are of course other seats to have been contested by more than one future Lib Dem MP- Eastbourne, contested by David Bellotti and Stephen Lloyd and Lewes contested by David Bellotti and Norman Baker. Although to be fair in both cases both seats were later won by Bellotti and Lloyd and Baker respectively, unlike in the case of Watford where neither were eventually elected as the MP for that constituency.

  32. Claire Ward seemed a rising star in 1997 but came across as rather robotic New Labour – I don’t wish to take this too far with an attack on candidates but could it have been an issue which allowed the Lib Dems to emerge?

  33. The most memorable thing about Claire Ward is that she married a plumber, telling the tabloids that handymen turned her on more than the upper middle class politicos she mingled with at Westminster.

    Coupled with her lack of advancement from the backbenches, it indicates that being elected extremely young (age 24), she maybe realised politics wasn’t for her and probably wasn’t all that bothered about losing her seat.

    I doubt we will see her stand again here or elsewhere.

  34. Say what you like about Claire Ward, but she increased her majority in 2001- So she might have had potential :(

  35. I’m not saying anything personally bad about her.

    However, Labour’s results in Watford were below par in both 1997 and 2001 if you compare with quite similar towns on the London perimeter like Stevenage, Basildon and Harlow.

    In 2005 and 2010 their results in Watford were disasterous.

    I don’t know enough about the place to know how much Claire Ward was responsible for that, but this is Pete’s local patch and he seems to think the local Labour party bears at least some responsibility.

  36. There can’t be many seats where Labour came third with more than 25% in both 1983 and 2010.

  37. I don’t think Claire Ward’s personality was a significant factor

    “However, Labour’s results in Watford were below par in both 1997 and 2001 if you compare with quite similar towns on the London perimeter like Stevenage, Basildon and Harlow.”

    I wouldn’t say that Watford is very similar to those towns. All of them are New Towns with a majority of council built property while Watford is a much more socially mixed town. The increase in the Labour share in 1997 was certainly not as high here as in the New Towns but actually their decline since then has not been as great either. This simply reflects that it is a much less elastic seat than them with far fewer swing Lab/Con voters. This was always reflected in local elections also where before the LD surge there were a number of safe (but not overwhelming) Labour wards and a couple of very safe Tory wards with very few wards which were prone to change hands. Compare Basildon which elected a full slate of Conservatives in 1992 and none two years later – in Watford there would have been only one ward won by the Tories in 1992 and by Labour in 1994/5

  38. Yes I take your point.

    Watford is an old town with a more varied and entrenched social make up than the new towns.

    Perhaps somewhere like Bedford might make for a better comparison. That’s another old town a similar distance from London which has seen less swing in either direction than the new towns, and has also seen a lot of Lib Dem success in recent years.

  39. Yes Bedford is fairly similar in a number of ways, though of course much further from London, there is still a sizeable commuting element I think. My own impression of Bedford is probably skewed by the fact that I have always approached it from the south side and am more familiar with the centre, south and west of the town than the more affluent north side.
    Other towns which bear some similarity would be the somewhat larger Reading and the somewhat smaller High Wycombe. Actually St Albans is not quite so different to Watford as many people might imagine

  40. The irony about Bedford, Reading and St Albans is that like Watford, at local government level, all four have shared rather similar Liberal Democrat strength in the not-so-distant past.

  41. I don’t think there has been much Lib Dem success in Reading locally

  42. Watford, white British:

    2001: 79.12%
    2011: 61.88%

    Using this rate of change the white British percentage will go below 50% in about November 2018.

  43. Is that the constituency or the Borough Andy?

  44. I was quite surprised by the changes in Watford – I did not think they had been so great. I was one of the White British residents here at the time of the 2001 census and lived there till 2006. I often still visit the place and hadn’t particularly noticed such a large increase which has involved a more than doubling of the Asian population and a near tripling of the Black population> interestingly it is the Indian and ‘other Asian’ population which has grown much more than the Pakistani population which long formed a significant block in West Watford. Similarly it is the Black African rather than the Black Carribean group which has grown significantly. It will be interesting to see the ward breakdowns here, whether the concentrations are greatest where they were previously

  45. Barnaby – it’s for the borough. That’s the only data available at the moment. Ward data comes out on 30th January.

  46. There was a programme on Radio 4 earlier today all about John Freeman and his Face To Face TV show from the 1950s/1960s. Actually I didn’t realise he was involved in the programme until today.

  47. Intresting that the labour have done so badly here since 2001 (-19% vs -11 nationally) given the demographic change.

  48. Yes Andy, he’s probably best known for that, rather than his time as an MP or TV executive.

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