The Torymander, Part 5: East Anglia and Southeast England

And now, dear readers, we come to beating heart of the Conservative Party. These counties aren’t completely Tory (with a few exceptions), but their massive margins in this region allow them to essentially not care who wins in Scotland. Labour has some residual strength in a few of these counties, but even that has been diminished or co-opted by UKIP in recent years. They’ve mostly been reduced to a few city centers and university towns. Consequently, the Tories do take some losses here due to seat reductions. However, many of the counties have good growth numbers which limit the losses. If you thought that Labour’s margins in Northern England were impressive, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The current running totals are as follows: 150 Safe Labour, 119 Safe Conservative, 1 Safe Liberal Democrat, 15 Likely Labour, 15 Likely Conservative, 2 Likely Plaid Cymru, 5 Lean Labour, 10 Lean Conservative, 1 Lean Liberal Democrat, 1 Lean Plaid Cymru, 15 Tossup.





Norfolk and Suffolk:



The counties of Norfolk and Suffolk can best be described as old school. It’s actually these areas, not Cumbria, that have the highest rates of gun ownership in England. The Labour Party never had much strength here outside of Norwich and Ipswich. In both local and national elections, the Liberal Democrats are typically the second party, though UKIP has made large gains here in recent years.

Due to solid growth numbers, both counties stay at the same number of seats (Norfolk has nine and Suffolk has seven). There are only four seats of interest. The Norwich seats trade some territory around, with Norwich North gaining the city center, moving it from Safe Conservative to Likely Conservative. On the flip side, this causes Norwich South to move from Safe Labour to Likely Labour. This is a long shot gerrymander on the part of the Tories, but Norwich South is on the lower end of Likely Labour. With the Tories’ current poll numbers, this would be one of the easiest Likely Labour seats for them to flip. The lone LibDem seat in the area, North Norfolk, moves a few points rightward but remains Lean LibDem. Norman Lamb is a survivor. He won’t be easy to beat, but I’m sure that Team Blue will make a go of it. The only other notable seat is Ipswich in Suffolk. It expands and moves from Likely Conservative to Safe Conservative. This is a good example of why the Tories want a seat reduction; it doesn’t take much to move some of these market town seats from swingy to firmly Conservative.





In the past, Essex has been a major battleground. It was critical to John Major’s shock victory in 1992. Today, it’s a Conservative stronghold. The county’s growth numbers are decent, but not stellar, so it goes from eighteen seats to seventeen seats. The seat that gets eliminated is Witham, currently occupied by International Development Secretary Priti Patel. Not to worry, though; she’s a minister and a rising star, so a seat will be found for her. There are really only three competitive seats in the county: Thurrock, Colchester, and Harwich and Clacton. Thurrock barely changes and remains a Tossup. Colchester is in theory Safe Conservative, but the Tories only captured it in 2015 due to the LibDem collapse. They’ll probably keep it, but it’s worth mentioning. Harwich and Clacton is UKIP’s only seat. Douglas Carswell is locally popular in Clacton, which is why the Tories removed territory near there and added areas to the north of the old boundaries, where he’s weaker. Under these new lines, he wins by only two points instead of almost eight points, so this is a Tossup





This one kind of typifies the counties in Southern England. The market town is competitive, the rural areas are Tory blowouts, and the university town is very, very leftist. True to form, Cambridge is a Labour-LibDem marginal. It flipped to Labour by about a point in 2015, and the LibDems are pretty confident about getting it back (though their fall here was much smaller than their diminishments in most of the rest of the country). Cambridge actually gets a few hundred votes more LibDem and stays a Tossup. Peterborough has long been an important Tory-Labour marginal in close elections. The new version moves slightly to the right, but stays Lean Conservative. All six other seats in the county are Safe Conservative strongholds.


Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire:



Hertfordshire is mostly a suburb of London at this point. All eleven of its constituencies are Safe Conservative at present. Labour always has a long shot chance at Stevenage when they’re competing for the majority, but they’re miles away from that right now.

Bedfordshire is another matter. Bedford itself is a Tory-held Tossup seat, and remains so in this new iteration. Both Luton seats are Labour-held, and are in fact Safe Labour. At first I couldn’t figure out why the commission didn’t attempt to pack one of these and make the other competitive. Once I dug down into the wards, I realized that Labour’s strength is too evenly spread throughout the city for that to work. All three rural seats are Safe Conservative.


Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire:



Buckinghamshire has seven seats, and they’re all Safe Conservative. It should be noted, though, that the Buckingham constituency is the seat of Speaker John Bercow, who is technically nonpartisan. For our purposes, though, we’re counting him as a Tory.

Oxfordshire is one of the few hotbeds of Tory Remainers outside of London. The Conservatives here tend to be very well-to-do; it’s where a lot of the country’s elite live if they don’t live in London. Oxford East is Safe Labour. The other five seats are technically Safe Conservative. However, Oxford West and Abingdon used to be a LibDem seat and could theoretically be again if enough Tory Remainers bolt. I don’t think that it’s likely to happen, but keep your eye on the seat if the LibDems look like they’re surging.

Berkshire is pretty boring. Slough, which is a major corporate and industrial center with a large immigrant population, is Safe Labour. The other seven seats in the county are Safe Conservative.


Kent and East Sussex:



These two counties currently have twenty-five seats between them. They lose one seat collectively, so under this map they have 24 seats with High Weald being shared between them. Technically, I guess that Kent loses the seat, so it goes from seventeen seats to sixteen seats. As I said earlier, there are a few counties where the Tories completely dominate, and this is one of them. Consequently, the lost seat is a Tory one. South Thanet should technically be competitive because Nigel Farage didn’t get completely clobbered there in 2015, but I’m counting it as Safe Conservative due to how unusual that race was.

East Sussex is mostly Tory strongholds, but it does feature what is in my opinion the most brilliant move of this map. The Tories are really playing some four-dimensional chess here. They lost Hove in 2015 to Labour, so they solved that problem by cracking Brighton Pavilion. That seat is the only one that the Green Party has in Parliament. The newly-constituted Brighton Central and Hove is theoretically a Lean Labour seat with the Tories as the second party. However, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, could choose to run there. If she does, the seat almost certainly goes blue. Lucas may instead choose to run in Brighton North. That new seat would have barely voted Tory with Labour as the second party. If she runs there, she starts out with a theoretically bigger base. However, she could definitely lose their too. And just like that, Team Blue probably gets the Greens out of Parliament and could pick up either one seat or two. Brighton Kempton also goes from a Tossup seat to Safe Conservative, bringing the tally for that category in the county to six.


Surrey and West Sussex:



Surrey keeps all eleven of its constituencies. All eleven remain Tory blowouts. There’s a good reason that J.K. Rowling chose Surrey as the setting for Harry Potter’s hellish childhood. The Dursleys represent exactly what she thinks of your typical Tory family.

West Sussex is a similar story; the county is home to eight Tory stronghold constituencies and nothing else.


Hampshire and The Isle of Wight:



The Isle of Wight is currently coextensive with the most overpopulated constituency in Britain. This new map adds a new seat to fix that. Both seats are Safe Conservative.

Hampshire is another solidly Tory county, but not uniformly so. Both seats in Southampton are fairly swingy. Team Blue managed to capture Southampton Itchen in 2015 (along with blowout flips of Eastleigh and Portsmouth South against the LibDems). Team Red still holds Southampton Test. The new arrangement in Southampton does what we’ve seen in several multi-seat small cities in these maps – it moves the city center from the redder seat to the bluer seat to make the former one more competitive. Southampton Test is now the one that voted Tory, and in fact by the numbers is on the Likely/Lean Conservative line. We’ll go with the latter out of an abundance of caution. Southampton Itchen, on the other hand, was now barely won by Labour and is a Tossup. Now of course the LibDems could make a comeback in Eastleigh or Portsmouth South (or both), but they lost those pretty badly last time. Even a ten precent improvement wouldn’t get them those seats back.


All of this leads us to the new running totals. Notice that the Tories more than doubled their safe seat count in this one region. Without further ado, the current totals are: 245 Safe Conservative, 154 Safe Labour, 1 Safe Liberal Democrat, 16 Likely Labour, 16 Likely Conservative, 2 Likely Liberal Democrat, 2 Likely Plaid Cymru, 12 Lean Conservative, 6 Lean Labour, 1 Lean Liberal Democrat, 1 Lean Plaid Cymru, 21 Tossup.

Check back next week for the final English part in the series, the West Country!

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  • rdelbov January 27, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Great stuff

  • Greyhound January 28, 2017 at 2:18 am

    Interesting. Though I do think the Tories might be making a mistake in trying to flip Brighton Pavillion–The Green Party is most useful to the Tories on the fringe of viability. A single seat that would probably otherwise be held by Labor is a small price to pay for them continuing to siphon ~4% of the votes from Labor in seats across the country.

    R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

    • Jon January 28, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I’m fairly sure the increase in Green party from roughly 1% in 2005 and 2010 to 4% in 2015 mostly came from disgruntled LibDems rather than Labour. Those are likely to return home to LibDems regardless; but another large factor for the Green party doing so much better in 2015 than before was simply running in a lot more seats.

      45, M, MO-02

    • Son_of_the_South January 28, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      See your point. Maybe it would have been better to pack Brighton Central and just reclaim Hove. Still, that’s not really how British parties generally think. They try to produce a map that will give them the biggest majority possible if they win. Maybe that’s risky, but it’s their general playbook.

      24, R, TN-09
      Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

  • ukconservative January 29, 2017 at 11:22 am

    The map really does look very blue-the only areas in the South East the tories do not win are the pockets of high minority areas, and university towns. They win most of the university seats in an even year as well. The tories run well in the very wealthy counties e.g Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and the less wealthy working class doing well type areas like Essex or Kent. As regards Brighton, bear in mind this is the closest thing the UK has to San Fransico culturally, and even so, the tories win one seat, (Kemptown-outside the urbancore), and are competitive elsewehre in the town. There is an inbuilt left wing majority in Brighton though, and it is gewtting more left wing as older tory voters there die off, and younger left wing types move in. I can’t see Caroline Lucas losing here-she is best thought of as a competent version of Jeremy Corbyn, pretty left wing but focused far more on economics than social stuff-so not offending the old patrotic and socially conservative labour working class core vote.

  • ukconservative January 29, 2017 at 11:29 am

    The other comment is about Carswell’s seat, the only UKIP constuency (at present) in the UK. UKIP are an odd party, and Carwell an odd character. UKIP began as basically right wing tories (Cruz types), and this is where Farage came from. Over the last 5 to 10 years, their support base has turned to the new peoples army of dissatisfied white middle income voters (Trump types), and they are definitely a majority in the party now. Farage was brillaint at keeping the 2 wings together, hence all the fighting now he’s gone. The new leader is more a trump type than a cruz type. Carswell isn’t either really, he is more of a libertarian-the closest US comparison might perhaps be Julian Amash. I cannot see Carswell running again for UKIP in Clacton, if anything he is more likely to run as a tory, if they will take him back post Brexit now Cameron has gone. And the type of voters who live in Clacton-very old demographic, retirement town, are exactly the types which UKIP may lose back to the tories post Brexit.

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