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Sat, 28 March 2020

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By Hft
By Dods General Election Hub 2019

ANALYSIS The most plum Tory seats up for grabs after wave of sackings and resignations under Boris Johnson

ANALYSIS The most plum Tory seats up for grabs after wave of sackings and resignations under Boris Johnson
9 min read

After a raft of suspensions, defections and retirements from the Tory party the next election is the best chance in a generation for an aspiring MP to bag themselves a job for life.


Following the decision by Boris Johnson to remove the whip from 21 no-deal rebels and prevent them from standing again, there are now more than 30 seats where a Conservative was elected in 2017 which will need a new candidate.

And while constituencies like Amber Rudd’s in Hastings and Justine Greening’s in Putney are likely to be lost at the next election, there are a number with huge majorities that have been held by the party for decades.

Although the Commons has twice ruled out an October election, a snap poll is still widely expected before the end of the year, so here is a run-down of the most plum vacancies:

Beaconsfield - Majority: 24,543

The leafy Buckinghamshire seat has been held by the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve since 1997, but he had the whip withdrawn last week after voting against the Government on the rebel bill.

He has long been at odds with his local party though, who passed a vote of no confidence in him back in March after his continued support for a second EU referendum.

But Mr Grieve got more than 65% of the vote in the 2017 poll, and the seat has always returned a Tory MP and never with a majority of less than 13,000, making it one of the safest seats around.

With the train to London taking less than 25 minutes it makes it a very attractive prospect, but constituency party chairman Jackson Ng says no decision on a replacement has been made.

Newbury – Maj: 24,380

The West Berkshire constituency was won by Richard Benyon in 2005 from the Liberal Democrats at the third time of asking, but has since become a rock-solid safe seat, and the Tories have held the constituency for all but seventeen years since its creation.

Mr Benyon, regularly touted as Britain’s richest MP, was another of the 21 rebels to lose the whip and be barred from standing as a Tory, and confirmed he would not run to be an MP again. No replacement has been found as of yet.

East Surrey - Maj: 23,914

The seat has only ever returned a Tory MP in it’s 100-year current incarnation, which Sam Gyimah has held since 2010, and was Thatcher-era minister Sir Geoffrey Howe’s for nearly 20 years.

Another of the 21 rebels to get the sack he leaves an appealing vacancy in the heart of the commuter belt south of London, the constituency has great transport links and is home to plenty of well-heeled villages like Oxted. 

Sevenoaks - Maj: 21,917

Since 1885 the only time the people of Sevenoaks have not elected a Tory MP was in 1923, and even then Ronald Williams only served for one year before the Liberal was replaced by another Conservative.

Former defence secretary Michael Fallon has been the MP since 1997, but confirmed his intention to step down from Parliament at the next election last week, leaving another highly-desirable constituency within striking distance of London with no prospect of ever losing it.

Devizes - Maj: 21,136

Another seat which last returned a non-Tory MP way back in 1923, former energy minister Claire Perry has been the MP since 2010 and got a whopping 62.7% of the vote in 2017, but she too has revealed she will not be standing again.

It was previously held by the former Cabinet minister Michael Ancram, who even in the Labour landslide of 1997 maintained a 10,000 vote majority, making this Wiltshire constituency rock-solid Conservative.

North East Bedfordshire - Maj: 20,862

The seat has always been held by a Tory since its creation in 1997, and had an increasing majority ever since Alistair Burt took over in 2001, rising to more than 25,000 in 2015, before dipping slightly two years ago.

Mr Burt, a former foreign office minister, is another of the Tory rebels who had the whip withdrawn over the rebel bill, and has since confirmed he will not be standing again, having been in the Commons since 1983.

Grantham and Stamford - Maj: 20,094

Grantham is famously the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher, but the boundaries were changed in 1997 to add much of the old Stamford and Spalding seat.

It remained a staunchly Tory constituency however, with Nick Boles taking over as the MP in South Lincolnshire in 2010 following Quentin Davies’ defection to Labour. Mr Boles has also now left the party, resigning the whip earlier this year over Brexit, describing himself as sitting as an "Independent Progressive Conservative".

Mid-Sussex – Maj: 19, 673

The seat held by Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, it has been resolutely Tory since its creation in 1974, its majority never dipping below 5,000, and regularly in the high teens.

Sir Nick had the whip removed last week, sparking a selection process for the sought-after constituency, which includes the leafy commuter towns of East Grinstead, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill.

South West Hertfordshire - Maj: 19,550

Tory since its creation in 1950 from the Watford and Hemel Hempstead seats, ex-Cabinet minister David Gauke has been its MP since 2005 until having the whip removed last week.

Another commuter belt constituency, this time north of London, it is full of affluent villages and sits below the picturesque Chilterns, making it a highly desirable place to stand.

Orpington - Maj: 19,461

The safest of the 21 Tory-held seats in Greater London, it has been in the party’s hands for all but eight years in the 1960s since its creation, but it feels a long way from Zone 1 as its boundaries push up against the North Downs, there aren’t many MPs in the capital who have hill farmers as constituents.

Held by the Prime Minister’s brother Jo Johnson since 2010, it will be up for grabs again now that the former minister sensationally quit his Cabinet role saying he will stand down at the next election.

Meriden – Maj: 19,198

Named after the village at its heart, traditionally regarded as the Centre of England, this large and mainly rural West Midlands constituency was a swing seat until boundary changes in the 1980s which significantly dented Labour’s chances of winning it, and it has been held by the Conservatives since 1979.

Dame Caroline Spelman has been the incumbent since 1997, when she won with a wafer thin majority of 582, but that has been growing ever since and shows no sign of turning back, despite the Tory grandee’s decision to stand down citing months of abuse and death threats over Brexit.

West Dorset – Maj: 19,091

Located on the picturesque Jurassic Coast and featuring the historic market town of Dorchester, it has been in Tory hands ever since 1885.

Held by the former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin, another of the 1997 intake who have decided to stand down at the next election, he would have been prevented from running as a Tory anyway after helping the rebel bill blocking no-deal to pass.

Despite being a marginal in the 2000s the Conservatives have shrugged off the challenge from the Lib Dems and turned it back into a safe seat in the past two elections.

Hertford and Stortford – Maj: 19,035

An affluent semi-rural seat north of London containing the ancient market town of Hertford and the popular commuter hub of Bishops Stortford, it has been held by a Tory since its creation in 1983.

Mark Prisk has been the MP since 1997, but revealed last week he would not be standing again as he did not feel he could serve another five years.

The 22-year-old constituency party chairman expects a bun-fight to take over the highly-coveted seat, but Alexander Curtis said there would have to be local contenders and the final decision taken by association members, not a party loyalist parachuted in by Number 10.

And here are three opposition parties will be targeting:

Hastings and Rye – Maj: 346

Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd won the East Sussex seat from Labour in 2010, but saw her majority cut to just 346 in 2017, often joking that if left-wing independent candidate Nicholas Wilson, who got 412 votes, hadn’t stood then she would have lost her seat.

The ex-work and pensions secretary quit last weekend in a shock move, saying she will run as an independent candidate at the next general election, though she did not specify where, but Labour – who have selected the same candidate who narrowly missed out two years ago – will see Hastings and Rye as a top target.

Aberconwy – Maj: 635

The North Wales constituency, created in 2010, has been held since then by Guto Bebb but he saw his 4,000 vote majority slashed last time out by Labour.

He lost the Tory whip as one of the 21 rebels and will not stand for re-election, making the seat - which features the historic seaside resort of Llandudno - another key target for Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

Broxtowe – Maj: 863

Anna Soubry also won her seat in 2010 from Labour, but quit the party over Brexit earlier this year and now leads the Independent Group for Change.

It is unclear if she will stand again in the suburban Nottinghamshire constituency, but with the Brexit Party also targeting the seat Labour will expect to take it back at the snap election.

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The full list of seats which elected a Tory MP last-time out which will need a new candidate:

Beaconsfield - Dominic Grieve (Majority: 24,543)

Newbury - Richard Benyon (Maj: 24,380)

East Surrey - Sam Gyimah (Maj: 23,914)

Sevenoaks - Michael Fallon (Maj: 21,917)

Devizes - Claire Perry (Maj: 21,136)

North East Bedfordshire - Alistair Burt (Maj: 20,862)

Grantham and Stamford - Nick Boles (Maj: 20,094)

Mid Sussex - Nicholas Soames (Maj: 19,673)

South West Hertfordshire - David Gauke (Maj: 19,550)

Orpington - Jo Johnson (Maj: 19,461)

Meriden – Caroline Spelman (Maj: 19,198)

West Dorset – Oliver Letwin (Maj: 19,091)

Hertford and Stortford – Mark Prisk (Maj: 19,035)

Bosworth - David Tredinnick (Maj: 18,351)

Runnymede and Weybridge - Philip Hammond (Maj: 18,050)

Romsey and Southampton North - Caroline Nokes (Maj: 18,046)

Wantage - Ed Vaizey (Maj: 17,380)

Guildford - Anne Milton (Maj: 17,040)

Tunbridge Wells - Greg Clark (Maj: 16,465)

Bracknell - Philip Lee (Maj: 16,016)

South Cambridgeshire - Heidi Allen  (Maj: 15,952)

Penrith and the Border - Rory Stewart (Maj: 15,910)

Broadland - Keith Simpson (Maj: 15,816)

Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner - Nick Hurd  (Maj: 13,980)

Totnes - Sarah Wollaston (Maj: 13,477)

Eddisbury - Antoinette Sandbach (Maj: 11,942)

Winchester - Steve Brine (Maj: 9,999)

Montgomeryshire - Glyn Davies (Maj: 9,285)

East Devon – Hugo Swire (Maj:  8,036)

Rushcliffe - Ken Clarke  (Maj: 8,010)

Stafford - Jeremy Lefroy  (Maj: 7,729)

Stourbridge - Margot James (Maj: 7,654)

Wimbledon - Stephen Hamond  (Maj: 5,622)

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock - Bill Grant (Maj: ‎2,774)

Watford - Richard Harrington (Maj: 2,092)

Putney - Justine Greening (Maj: 1,554)

Broxtowe - Anna Soubry (Maj: 862)

Aberconwy - Guto Bebb (Maj: 635)

Hastings and Rye - Amber Rudd (Maj: 346)

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* There is also now a vacancy in Buckingham, after House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, first elected as a Tory in 1997, said he is quitting.

His majority in 2017 was 25,725, but none of the main parties stood against him. However in 2005, the last time it was properly contested, he had an 18,129 vote majority, and the constituency has always elected Conservatives since 1918, baring two brief periods, making it another potentially very safe seat.

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