General Election Predictions

General Election 2017 Seat by Seat Predictions: 2. Norfolk

21 Apr 2017 at 22:07

NORFOLK

Seats: 9
Current State of the Parties: Con 7, Labour 1, LibDem 1
Predicted State of the Parties: Con 8, Labour 1

Broadland

2010 Result:
Conservative: 24338 (46.2%)
Labour: 7287 (13.8%)
Lib Dem: 17046 (32.4%)
BNP: 871 (1.7%)
Green: 752 (1.4%)
UKIP: 2382 (4.5%)
MAJORITY: 7292 (13.8%)

2015 result:
Conservative Keith Simpson 26,808 50.5 +4.3
Labour Chris Jones 5 9,970 18.8 +4.9
UKIP Stuart Agnew 5 8,881 16.7 +12.2
Liberal Democrat Steve Riley 5,178 9.8 −22.6
Green Andrew Boswell 2,252 4.2 +2.8
Majority 16,838 31.7 +17.9
Turnout 53,098 71.1 −0.9

Sitting MP: Keith Simpson (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

Great Yarmouth

2010 Result:
Conservative: 18571 (43.1%)
Labour: 14295 (33.2%)
Lib Dem: 6188 (14.4%)
BNP: 1421 (3.3%)
Green: 416 (1%)
UKIP: 2066 (4.8%)
Others: 100 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4276 (9.9%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Brandon Lewis15 19,089 42.9 -0.2
Labour Lara Norris16 12,935 29.1 -4.1
UKIP Alan Grey17 10,270 23.1 +18.3
Liberal Democrat James Joyce 1,030 2.3 -12.1
Green Harry Webb18 978 2.2 +1.2
CISTA Samuel Townley 167 0.4 +0.4
Majority 6,154 13.8 +3.9
Turnout 44,469 63.7 +2.5

Sitting MP: Brandon Lewis (Con)
Prediction: Narrow Conservative hold

Should be another easy hold for Brandon Lewis. This seat was on UKIP’s target list last time but they failed to come anywhere near. Indeed, they didn’t even come second. It will be interesting to see where their votes go if they lose support. One slight fly in the ointment for Brandon Lewis is that he supported Remain in a very Leave constituency.

Mid Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25123 (49.5%)
Labour: 8857 (17.4%)
Lib Dem: 11267 (22.2%)
BNP: 1261 (2.5%)
Green: 1457 (2.9%)
UKIP: 2800 (5.5%)
MAJORITY: 13856 (27.3%)

2015 Result:
Conservative George Freeman6 27,206 52.1 +2.6
UKIP Anna Coke7 9,930 19.0 +13.5
Labour Harry Clarke 9,585 18.4 +0.4
Liberal Democrat Paul Speed8 3,300 6.3 −15.9
Green Simeon Jackson9 2,191 4.2 +1.3
Majority 17,276 33.1 +5.8
Turnout 52,212 67.8 −0.6

Sitting MP: George Freeman (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

North Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15928 (32.1%)
Labour: 2896 (5.8%)
Lib Dem: 27554 (55.5%)
Green: 508 (1%)
UKIP: 2680 (5.4%)
Independent: 95 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 11626 (23.4%)

2015 Result:
Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb 19,299 39.1 -16.4
Conservative Ann Steward56 15,256 30.9 -1.2
UKIP Michael Baker7 8,328 16.9 +11.5
Labour Denise Burke8 5,043 10.2 +4.4
Green Mike Macartney-Filgate9 1,488 3.0 +2.0
Majority 4,043 8.2
Turnout 49,414 71.7 -1.5

Sitting MP: Norman Lamb (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

This was the scene of my electoral defenstration in 2005. Despite adverse boundary changes, which took Fakenham out of the seat, Lamb’s majority increased in 2010 to more than 11,000. It was cut in 2015 to a very targetable 4000. The Tory vote has falld by a third since my election in 2005 and it’s clearly gone straight to UKIP. Their candidate last time was a well known local retailer. It’s a very eurosceptic constituency with even many Liberal Democrats voting Leave. Lamb has a big personal vote here, but with UKIP not standing, it would only take half of their 8328 votes to go to the Tory James Wild and Norman Lamb would be out. I had originally put this down as a LibDem hold, but I’ve changed my mind.

Norwich North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 17280 (40.6%)
Labour: 13379 (31.4%)
Lib Dem: 7783 (18.3%)
BNP: 747 (1.8%)
Green: 1245 (2.9%)
UKIP: 1878 (4.4%)
Christian: 118 (0.3%)
Independent: 143 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 3901 (9.2%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Chloe Smith 19,052 43.7 +3.1
Labour Jessica Asato 14,589 33.5 +2.0
UKIP Glenn Tingle 5,986 13.7 +9.3
Green Adrian Holmes 1,939 4.4 +1.5
Liberal Democrat James Wright 1,894 4.3 -13.9
Independent Mick Hardy5 132 0.3 +0.3
Majority 4,463 10.2
Turnout 43,592 66.9 +1.7

Sitting MP: Chloe Smith
Prediction: Conservative hold

This is the seat where I cut my political teeth back in the mid 1980s. It hasn’t changed a lot since then, although there are quite a few new build housing estates. This is another seat which goes with the prevailing political wind. Labour should have regained it last time. They had an energetic candidate in Jess Asato, but in the end Chloe Smith held on easily, as she will this time, I suspect. She was a Remain supporter in a Remain constituency. The LibDems have never had any traction in Norwich North. Their vote totally collapsed last time, and although it can only go up this time, one suspects it won’t be by much.

Norwich South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10902 (22.9%)
Labour: 13650 (28.7%)
Lib Dem: 13960 (29.4%)
BNP: 697 (1.5%)
Green: 7095 (14.9%)
UKIP: 1145 (2.4%)
Others: 102 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 310 (0.7%)

2015 Result:
Labour Clive Lewis 19,033 39.3 +10.6
Conservative Lisa Townsend 11,379 23.5 +0.6
Green Lesley Grahame 6,749 13.9 -1.0
Liberal Democrat Simon Wright 6,607 13.6 -15.7
UKIP Steve Emmens5 4,539 9.4 +7.0
Class War David Peel 96 0.2 N/A
Independent Cengiz Ceker 60 0.1 N/A
Majority 7,654 15.8
Turnout 48,463 64.7 +0.1

Sitting MP: Clive Lewis
Prediction: Labour hold

Labour won this from the LibDems in 2015 and the LibDems ended up a very poor fourth. Clive Lewis has been quite high profile and the UEA vote should see him win with little difficulty. The Greens always flatter to deceive here. It’s high on their target list but their vote actually went down in 2015.

North West Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25916 (54.2%)
Labour: 6353 (13.3%)
Lib Dem: 11106 (23.2%)
BNP: 1839 (3.8%)
Green: 745 (1.6%)
UKIP: 1841 (3.9%)
MAJORITY: 14810 (31%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Henry Bellingham12 24,727 52.2 -2.0
Labour Joanne Rust 10,779 22.8 +9.5
UKIP Richard Toby Coke12 8,412 17.8 +13.9
Green Michael de Whalley13 1,780 3.8 +2.2
Liberal Democrat Hugh Lanham14 1,673 3.5 -19.7
Majority 13,948 29.4 -1.6
Turnout 47,597 65.4 +0.1
Sitting MP: Sir Henry Bellingham (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

South Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 27133 (49.3%)
Labour: 7252 (13.2%)
Lib Dem: 16193 (29.4%)
BNP: 1086 (2%)
Green: 1000 (1.8%)
UKIP: 2329 (4.2%)
MAJORITY: 10940 (19.9%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Richard Bacon 30,995 54.3 +4.9
Labour Deborah Sacks6 10,502 18.4 +5.2
UKIP Barry Cameron7 7,847 13.7 +9.5
Liberal Democrat Jacky Howe8 4,689 8.2 -21.2
Green Catherine Rowett9 3,090 5.4 +3.6
Majority 20,493 35.9
Turnout 57,123 72.4

Sitting MP: Richard Bacon (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

South West Norfolk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 23753 (48.3%)
Labour: 9119 (18.6%)
Lib Dem: 10613 (21.6%)
BNP: 1774 (3.6%)
Green: 830 (1.7%)
UKIP: 3061 (6.2%)
MAJORITY: 13140 (26.7%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Elizabeth Truss8 25,515 50.9 +2.6
UKIP Paul Smyth9 11,654 23.3 +17.0
Labour Peter Smith8 8,649 17.3 −1.3
Liberal Democrat Rupert Moss-Eccardt10 2,217 4.4 −17.2
Green Sandra Walmsley11 2,075 4.1 +2.5
Majority 13,861 27.7 +1.0
Turnout 50,110 65.1 −1.1
Conservative hold Swing -7.2

Sitting MP: Liz Truss (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

Of all the so-called safe Conservative seats in Norfolk, this one that is most volatile. It has seen a huge demographic change in the last 20 years. It almost went Labour in 1997 but Gillian Shephard just held on. UKIP have got a foothold here, but with a split opposition Liz Truss is not under threat.

To see the complete list of seat by seat predictions, click HERE

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Where Were You When Theresa May Called the Election?

21 Apr 2017 at 13:29

It was one of those moments when you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news. I was sitting in my car outside Wembley Stadium… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At just after 10am I was driving down the M11 from Norfolk when a news alert from Sky flashed up on my phone. “Prime Minister to make a statement live in Downing Street at 1115am.” Like everyone else, my brain started whirring as to what it could possibly be. I switched from radio station to radio station and none of the clever pundits and commentators seemed to have a clue. I rang a couple of MPs and nor did they. Could it be a death in the Royal family? No, that would be announced from Buckingham Palace. Could it be military action somewhere? No, it would need to be announced by the Americans at the same time and they were still asleep. In the end I narrowed it down to two possibilities, but even then I couldn’t really be very sure given that neither seemed very likely. I thought she would either announce she was standing down from being PM or that she was announcing an election. I couldn’t read Twitter while I was driving so didn’t see Adam Boulton notice that the government logo wasn’t on the lecturn, which was a giveaway that it wasn’t a government matter. Well, we all know what happened next. I picked my jaw up from resting on the steering wheel, cancelled my meeting at Wembley and headed straight to the LBC studios. It was going to be quite an afternoon…
*
The best thing about this announcement was that it genuinely took everyone by surprise. Can you remember the last time a big announcement like this didn’t leak in advance? There wasn’t even any speculation. Several commentators tried to suggest that they had predicted this all along, but none of them were very convincing. John Rentoul seems to have the biggest claim to have seen it all in his crystal ball. I’m sure there have been occasions when the government has managed not to leak but I can only think of one, when back in April 1989 the Thatcher government made the announcement that they were to repeal the National Dock Labour Scheme. I was involved in that, and so, coincidentally was David Davis. He, my boss as the British Ports Federation and myself were the only three people outside government who knew about it. It was the best kept secret, well, since the last one.
We had decided to hold a one day conference for the employers on the subject and scheduled it for April 6 1989. A few days before the conference one of the civil servants phoned and told us to prepare for an announcement that the Scheme was about to be repealed. “When’s the announcement,” we asked tentatively. “I haven’t told you this, but it will be on 6 April,” he said. Oh. My. God. The day of our “Preparing for a Strike” conference. We knew no one would believe this to be complete coincidence, but that is exactly what it was. We debated whether to call it off, but decided the downsides of that were worse than people thinking we were in collusion with the government.
Mobile phones had only just been invented, and I remember spending half that day with a massive Vodafone handset glued to my ear. The employers themselves hadn’t got a clue what was about to hit them. And nor, more importantly, had the Transport & General Workers’ Union. Finally, at 3.30, Norman Fowler, the Employment Secretary stood up in the Commons and made the announcement. “Thunderbirds are go,” said my informant, the MP for Boothferry, David Davis. We then made the announcement to the employers who received the news in stunned silence. They thought it was a joke, or prelude to some sort of role play exercise. But it wasn’t. It was for real. The T&G union under Ron Todd was caught totally on the hop. They never really thought this day would come. They thought Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t dare do it. Like many others, they underestimated her. Just as we have all seemingly underestimated Theresa May…
*

There were signs of course, but we all missed them. I was told in March that Lynton Crosby had been seen coming in and out of Downing Street in recent weeks. I assumed it was all about devising a strategy to respond to the CPS decision on election expenses at the last election. How wrong can you be…
*
The decision of the prime minister not to take part in leaders debates is disappointing to say the least. I totally understand the logic of Lynton Crosby’s advice, but sometimes politicians have to see the wider picture. Of course, there is nothing for Theresa May to gain from doing debates, but I take the rather old fashioned view that debating your opponents about the future of the country is what election campaigns should be all about. You do it as a candidate at a local level, and so should party leaders at a national level. We live in an age when voters expect nothing less than to see their potential prime ministers debating each other. To fall back on the ridiculous defence that it is what she does every week at PMQs is frankly to insult the intelligence of the electorate. The last PMQs before the election will be next Wednesday, 30th April. That leaves six whole weeks where the PM and the Leader of the Opposition won’t lock horns. Of course the PM will do one to one sit down interviews, but in my humble opinion, that’s not quite going to cut it. I suppose no one will change their vote as a result of the decision not to take part in leaders’ debates, but I still think it’s the wrong call.
*

The latest YouGov poll shows the Tories on 48%, a lead of 24% over Labour. Landslide territory. However, Jeremy Corbyn isn’t having any of it and still genuinely thinks he will win. It would be a massive turnaround, it has to be said. My instant prediction is a Tory majority of 74. I’m going to repeat my seat by seat predictions, which I did at the last election. I did wonder whether to repeat the exercise given that my predictions were only marginally better than the pollsters, but hey, it’s a bit of fun. I do think that the performance of the Liberal Democrats is going to be key to these predictions and I firmly believe that this election offers Tim Farron a massive opportunity, given the state of the Labour Party. I had thought it would be UKIP which would be the recipient of a lot of ex Labour votes, especially in the North. That may still be the case, but it seems to me that Tim Farron has very skilfully made the LibDems the party of the 48%. Anecdotally virtually everyone I know on the left is going to vote LibDem. A straw in the wind maybe, and it may not ripple much outside London. But don’t bet against a very strong LibDem revivial…
*
I’m going to be on the radio six days a week during the election campaign. From this Saturday I’ll be hosting a weekly Saturday morning show on LBC from 10am-noon, in addition to my weekday Drivetime show. If I’m honest, this is the first time for many years where I’ve thought I’d like to be a candidate again. Who wouldn’t want to be in Parliament over the next five years? But it was a fleeting thought and I dismissed it almost as soon as I had had it. At the age of 54 my time in politics has been and gone, and why would I give up the best job I have ever had? I’m going to aim to give the best coverage of the election you will hear on UK radio, so I do hope you will tune in from time to time.

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General Election Predictions

General Election 2017 Seat by Seat Predictions: 1. Essex

20 Apr 2017 at 22:50

Essex

Seats: 18
Current Political Makeup: Con 17, Independent 1
*Prediction: Con 18

1. Basildon & Billericay

2010 Result:
Conservative: 21922 (52.7%)
Labour: 9584 (23.1%)
Lib Dem: 6538 (15.7%)
BNP: 1934 (4.7%)
UKIP: 1591 (3.8%)
MAJORITY: 12338 (29.7%)

2015 Result:
Conservative John Baron 22,668 52.7 −0.1
Labour Gavin Callaghan 10,186 23.7 +0.6
UKIP George Konstantinidis 8,538 19.8 +16.0
Liberal Democrat Martin Thompson 1,636 3.8 −11.9
Majority 12,482 29.0 −0.8
Turnout 43,028 62.9 −0.7
Conservative hold Swing −0.4

Sitting MP: John Baron (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

2. Braintree

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25901 (52.6%)
Labour: 9780 (19.9%)
Lib Dem: 9247 (18.8%)
BNP: 1080 (2.2%)
Green: 718 (1.5%)
UKIP: 2477 (5%)
MAJORITY: 16121 (32.8%)

2015 Result:
Conservative James Cleverly 27,071 53.8 +1.2
UKIP Richard Bingley 9,461 18.8 +13.8
Labour Malcolm Fincken 9,296 18.5 -1.4
Liberal Democrat Matthew Klesel 2,488 4.9 -13.8
Green Paul Jeater 1,564 3.1 +1.7
Independent Toby Pereira 295 0.6 N/A
BNP Paul Hooks 108 0.2 -2.0
Majority 17,610 35.0 +2.2
Turnout 50,283 68.4 -0.7

Sitting MP: James Cleverly (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

3. Brentwood & Ongar

2010 Result:
Conservative: 28793 (56.9%)
Labour: 4992 (9.9%)
Lib Dem: 11872 (23.5%)
BNP: 1447 (2.9%)
Green: 584 (1.2%)
UKIP: 2037 (4%)
English Dem: 491 (1%)
Independent: 263 (0.5%)
Others: 113 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 16921 (33.4%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Eric Pickles 30,534 58.8 +1.9
UKIP Mick McGough 8,724 16.8 +12.8
Labour Liam Preston 6,492 12.5 +2.6
Liberal Democrat David Kendall 4,577 8.8 −14.6
Green Reza Hossain6 1,397 2.7 +1.5
English Democrat Robin Tilbrook 173 0.3 −0.7
Majority 21,810 42.0 +8.6
Turnout 51,897 71.6 −0.3
Conservative hold Swing −5.4

Sitting MP: Eric Pickles (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

4. Castle Point

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19806 (44%)
Labour: 6609 (14.7%)
Lib Dem: 4232 (9.4%)
BNP: 2205 (4.9%)
Others: 12174 (27%)
MAJORITY: 7632 (17%)*

Conservative Rebecca Harris 23,112 50.9 +6.9
UKIP Jamie Huntman 10 14,178 31.2 +31.2
Labour Joe Cooke 11 6,283 13.8 −0.9
Green Dom Ellis12 1,076 2.4 +2.4
Liberal Democrat Sereena Davey 13 801 1.8 −7.6
Majority 8,934 19.7 +2.7
Turnout 45,450 66.7 −0.2

Sitting MP: Rebecca Harris (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

I wavered on this one last time and in the end predicted a narrow UKIP win. How wrong could I be?! I won’t be making that mistake this time. Rebecca Harris should increase her majority.

5. Chelmsford
2010 Result:
Conservative: 25207 (46.2%)
Labour: 5980 (11%)
Lib Dem: 20097 (36.8%)
BNP: 899 (1.6%)
Green: 476 (0.9%)
UKIP: 1527 (2.8%)
English Dem: 254 (0.5%)
Others: 153 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5110 (9.4%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Simon Burns 27,732 51.5 +5.4
Labour Chris Vince 7 9,482 17.6 +6.7
UKIP Mark Gough8 7,652 14.2 +11.4
Liberal Democrat Stephen Robinson 6,394 11.9 −24.9
Green Angela Thomson 1,892 3.5 +2.6
Liberal Henry Boyle 665 1.2 +1.2
Majority 18,250 35.9
Turnout 53,817 68.5

Sitting MP: Simon Burns (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative Hold

Chelmsford has been a LibDem target all through my adult life. Yet they’ve never quite managed to unseat either Norman St John Stevas or Simon Burns. Just when they looked as if they might, they were thwarted by boundary changes. Simon Burns trebled his majority in 2010 and although he is standing down, it would take a political earthquake for this seat to go LibDem.

6. Clacton

2010 Result:
Conservative: 22867 (53%)
Labour: 10799 (25%)
Lib Dem: 5577 (12.9%)
BNP: 1975 (4.6%)
Green: 535 (1.2%)
Independent: 292 (0.7%)
Others: 1078 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 12068 (28%)

By-Election Result (Oct 2014)
UKIP: 21113 (59.7%)
Conservative: 8709 (24.6%)
Labour: 3957 (11.2%)
Green: 688 (1.9%
Lib Dem: 483 (1.2%)
Others: 388 (1.2%)
BNP: 1975 (4.6%)
Green: 535 (1.2%)
Independent: 292 (0.7%)
Others: 1078 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 12068 (28%)

2015 Result:
UKIP Douglas Carswell 19,642 44.4 N/A
Conservative Giles Watling 16,205 36.7 -16.3
Labour Tim Young 6,364 14.4 -10.6
Green Chris Southall11 1,184 2.7 +1.5
Liberal Democrat David Grace12 812 1.8 -11.1
Majority 3,437 7.8 N/A
Turnout 44,207 64.1 -0.1

Sitting MP: Douglas Carswell (Independent)
Prediction: Conservative gain

With Douglas Carswell standing down and Nigel Farage ruling himself out, this seat will now inevitably return to the Tories. Arron Banks may well stand but he should save his money.

7. Colchester

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15169 (32.9%)
Labour: 5680 (12.3%)
Lib Dem: 22151 (48%)
BNP: 705 (1.5%)
Green: 694 (1.5%)
UKIP: 1350 (2.9%)
English Dem: 335 (0.7%)
Others: 55 (0.1%)
MAJORITY: 6982 (15.1%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Will Quince 8 18,919 38.9 +6.1
Liberal Democrat Bob Russell 8 13,344 27.5 −20.5
Labour Jordan Newell 8 7,852 16.2 +3.8
UKIP John Pitts9 5,870 12.1 +9.2
Green Mark Goacher 10 2,499 5.1 +3.6
Christian Peoples Ken Scrimshaw11 109 0.2 +0.2
Majority 5,575 11.5
Turnout 48,593 65.5 +3.2
Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat Swing 7.2

Sitting MP: Will Quince (Con)
Prediction: Probable Conservative hold

Bob Russell had held this seat for the LibDems for 18 years until he was surprisingly usurped by Will Quince in 2015. Given that the seat voted 53-47 to leave the EU the LibDems may not be hopeful of winning this seat back. Quince has proved to be an assiduous constituency campaigner, a worthy successor to Sir Bob. But if the LibDems are to make a meaningful breakthrough it is in seats like this that they need to make gains. The only way they will do that is if they can squeeze back the Labour vote..

8. Epping Forest

2010 Result:
Conservative: 25148 (54%)
Labour: 6641 (14.3%)
Lib Dem: 10017 (21.5%)
BNP: 1982 (4.3%)
Green: 659 (1.4%)
UKIP: 1852 (4%)
English Dem: 285 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 15131 (32.5%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Eleanor Laing5 27,027 54.8 +0.8
UKIP Andrew Smith5 9,049 18.3 +14.4
Labour Gareth Barrett 7,962 16.1 +1.9
Liberal Democrat Jon Whitehouse6 3,448 7.0 −14.5
Green Anna Widdup 1,782 3.6 +2.2
YPP Mark Wadsworth 80 0.2 +0.2
Majority 17,978 36.4 +3.9
Turnout 49,348 67.1 +2.6

Sitting MP: Eleanor Laing (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

9. Harlow

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19691 (44.9%)
Labour: 14766 (33.7%)
Lib Dem: 5990 (13.7%)
BNP: 1739 (4%)
UKIP: 1591 (3.6%)
Christian: 101 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4925 (11.2%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Robert Halfon 21,623 48.9 +4.0
Labour Suzy Stride 13,273 30.0 −3.7
UKIP Sam Stopplecamp 7,208 16.3 +12.7
Green Murray Sackwild 954 2.2 N/A
Liberal Democrat Geoffrey Seeff 904 2.0 −11.6
TUSC David Brown 174 0.4 N/A
English Democrat Eddy Butler 115 0.3 N/A
Majority 8,350 18.9 +7.7
Turnout 44,251 65.1 ±0.0

Sitting MP: Robert Halfon (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

A massive result for Rob Halfon last time, and it’s likely he will increase his majority again in June.

10. Harwich & North Essex

2010 Result:
Conservative: 23001 (46.9%)
Labour: 9774 (19.9%)
Lib Dem: 11554 (23.6%)
BNP: 1065 (2.2%)
Green: 909 (1.9%)
UKIP: 2527 (5.2%)
Independent: 170 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 11447 (23.4%)

Conservative Bernard Jenkin 24,722 51.0 +4.1
Labour Edward Browne5 9,548 19.7 -0.2
UKIP Mark Hughes5 8,464 17.5 +12.3
Liberal Democrat Dominic Graham5 3,576 7.4 -16.2
Green Christopher Flossman 2,122 4.4 +2.5
Majority 15,174 31.3 +7.9
Turnout 48,432 69.9 +0.6

Sitting MP: Bernard Jenkin (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

11. Maldon

2010 Result:
Conservative: 28661 (59.8%)
Labour: 6070 (12.7%)
Lib Dem: 9254 (19.3%)
BNP: 1464 (3.1%)
UKIP: 2446 (5.1%)
MAJORITY: 19407 (40.5%)

2015 Result:
Conservative John Whittingdale 29,112 60.6 +0.8
UKIP Beverley Acevedo15 7,042 14.7 +9.6
Labour Peter Edwards16 5,690 11.8 −0.8
Independent Ken Martin 2,424 5.0 +5.0
Liberal Democrat Zoe O’Connell17 2,157 4.5 −14.8
Green Bob Graves18 1,504 3.1 +3.1
Sustainable Population John Marett 116 0.2 +0.2
Majority 22,070 45.9 +5.4
Turnout 48,045 69.2 −0.4

Sitting MP: John Whittingdale (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

12. Rayleigh & Wickford

2010 Result:
Conservative: 30257 (57.8%)
Labour: 7577 (14.5%)
Lib Dem: 7919 (15.1%)
BNP: 2160 (4.1%)
UKIP: 2211 (4.2%)
English Dem: 2219 (4.2%)
MAJORITY: 22338 (42.7%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Mark Francois 29,088 54.7 −3.1
UKIP John Hayter8 11,858 22.3 +18.1
Labour David Hough 6,705 12.6 −1.9
Independent Linda Kendall9 2,418 4.5 N/A
Liberal Democrat Mike Pitt10 1,622 3.0 −12.1
Green Sarah Yapp11 1,529 2.9 N/A
Majority 17,230 32.4
Turnout 53,220 68.3 +2.4

Sitting MP: Mark Francois (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

13. Rochford & Southend East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19509 (46.9%)
Labour: 8459 (20.3%)
Lib Dem: 8084 (19.4%)
BNP: 1856 (4.5%)
Green: 707 (1.7%)
UKIP: 2405 (5.8%)
Independent: 611 (1.5%)
MAJORITY: 11050 (26.5%)

Conservative James Duddridge 20,241 46.4 -0.4
Labour Ian Gilbert 10,765 24.7 +4.4
UKIP Floyd Waterworth8 8,948 20.5 +14.7
Green Simon Cross9 2,195 5.0 +3.3
Liberal Democrat Peter Gwizdala 1,459 3.3 -16.1
Majority 9,476 21.7
Turnout 43,608 60.6

Sitting MP: James Duddridge (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

14. Saffron Walden

2010 Result:
Conservative: 30155 (55.5%)
Labour: 5288 (9.7%)
Lib Dem: 14913 (27.4%)
BNP: 1050 (1.9%)
Green: 735 (1.4%)
UKIP: 2228 (4.1%)
MAJORITY: 15242 (28%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Alan Haselhurst 32,926 57.2 +1.7
UKIP Peter Day8 7,935 13.8 +9.7
Labour Jane Berney 6,791 11.8 +2.1
Liberal Democrat Mike Hibbs 6,079 10.6 −16.9
Green Karmel Stannard 2,174 3.8 +2.4
Residents for Uttlesford Heather Asker 1,658 2.9 N/A
Majority 24,991 43.4 +15.4
Turnout 57,563 71.4 -0.2

Sitting MP: Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
Prediction: Definite Conservative hold

15. South Basildon & East Thurrock

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19624 (43.9%)
Labour: 13852 (31%)
Lib Dem: 5977 (13.4%)
BNP: 2518 (5.6%)
UKIP: 2639 (5.9%)
Others: 125 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5772 (12.9%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Stephen Metcalfe 19,788 43.4 -0.5
UKIP Ian Luder 7 12,097 26.5 +20.6
Labour Mike Le-Surf 8 11,493 25.2 -5.8
Liberal Democrat Geoff Williams9 1,356 3.0 -10.4
Independent Kerry Smith10 401 0.9 N/A
Independent None Of The Above X 253 0.6 +0.3
Independent Stuart Hooper11 205 0.4 N/A
Majority 7,692 16.9
Turnout 45,593 64.1
Sitting MP: Stephen Metcalfe (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

16. Southend West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 20086 (46.1%)
Labour: 5850 (13.4%)
Lib Dem: 12816 (29.4%)
BNP: 1333 (3.1%)
Green: 644 (1.5%)
UKIP: 1714 (3.9%)
English Dem: 546 (1.3%)
Independent: 617 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 7270 (16.7%)

2015 Result:
Conservative David Amess 22,175 49.8 +3.8
Labour Julian Ware-Lane 8,154 18.3 +4.9
UKIP Brian Otridge6 7,803 17.5 +13.6
Liberal Democrat Paul Collins7 4,129 9.3 -20.1
Green Jon Fuller8 2,083 4.7 +3.2
English Democrat Jeremy Moss 165 0.4 -0.9
Majority 14,021 31.5 +14.8
Turnout 44,509 66.6 +1.5

Sitting MP: David Amess (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

17. Thurrock

2010 Result:
Conservative: 16869 (36.8%)
Labour: 16777 (36.6%)
Lib Dem: 4901 (10.7%)
BNP: 3618 (7.9%)
UKIP: 3390 (7.4%)
Christian: 266 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 92 (0.2%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Jackie Doyle-Price 16,692 33.7 −3.1
Labour Polly Billington10 16,156 32.6 −4.0
UKIP Tim Aker11 15,718 31.7 +24.3
Liberal Democrat Rhodri Jamieson-Ball 644 1.3 −9.4
CISTA Jamie Barnes 244 0.5 N/A
Independent Daniel Munyambu 79 0.2 N/A
All People’s Party Aba Kristilolu 31 0.1 N/A
Majority 536 1.1
Turnout 49,564 63.9

Sitting MP: Jackie Doyle-Price (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

I predicted this seat would go UKIP and it very nearly did in 2015. If Nigel Farage had stood here in this election I genuinely think he could have won. But it’s now likely that Jackie Doyle-Price will increase her majority.

18. Witham

2010 Result:
Conservative: 24448 (52.2%)
Labour: 8656 (18.5%)
Lib Dem: 9252 (19.8%)
Green: 1419 (3%)
UKIP: 3060 (6.5%)
MAJORITY: 15196 (32.4%)

2015 Result:
Conservative Priti Patel 27,123 57.5 +5.3
UKIP Garry Cockrill4 7,569 16.0 +9.5
Labour John Clarke 7,467 15.8 −2.7
Liberal Democrat Josephine Hayes5 2,891 6.1 −13.6
Green James Abbott6 2,038 4.3 +1.3
Christian Peoples Doreen Scrimshaw7 80 0.2 N/A
Majority 19,554 41.5 +9.1
Turnout 47,168 70.3 +0.1

Sitting MP: Priti Patel (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

To see the complete list of seat by seat predictions, click HERE

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General Election Predictions

General Election 2017 Seat by Seat Predictions: Predictions So Far...

19 Apr 2017 at 22:08

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A Few Election Thoughts...

19 Apr 2017 at 09:30

1. For the first time in seven years part of me wishes I was a candidate in this election. Exciting political times ahead. But I can’t/won’t be.
2. Watch out for an exciting announcement later today about something I’ll be doing for the next 8 weeks.
3. Virtually everyone I know who has always voted Labour says they’ll be voting LibDem.
4. Forget any thought of the election campaign starting in early May. It started today.
5. Watch out for the first ‘Jeremy Corbyn has had a day off’ story in the Daily Mail. Around May 14th, I’d say.
6. If Huw Edwards is assassinated anytime between now and June 8th, David Dimbleby will have made sure he has an alibi.
7. Will any broadcaster be brave enough to empty chair Theresa May if she fails to turn up to a leaders debate?
8. The LibDems have a massive opportunity in this election, but will Tim Farron blow it?
9. UKIP will do well to be seen as anything other than an irrelevance, which shows just how far they’ve fallen since 2015. How can they justify standing against MPs who voted for Brexit?
10. The most probably way for Theresa May to be defeated is if there is some sort of anti Tory alliance in 100 Tory marginals. It’ll never happen.
11. Can John Woodcock survive as a Labour candidate following his video today where he says he would never vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten? I’d say the odds are against. I suspect it doesn’t matter as his seat will go Tory, just like it did in the landslide of 1983.
12. I’m mulling over whether to do my seat by seat prediction, like I did in 2010. Not sure….
13. Guess who had a holiday in Spain booked for 4-9 June. Immediately cancelled.

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ConHome Diary: In Defence of Boris & What Will the Local Elections Bring For Jezza?

14 Apr 2017 at 14:33

Boris Johnson has copped a lot of flak this week, unfairly so in my opinion. The media, and indeed some of his colleagues, have been waiting for him to commit a diplomatic howler ever since he was appointed Foreign Secretary back in mid-July. I was certainly not a founder member of the Boris fan club, but one thing I do know is that he has a habit of outperforming people’s expectations. He did so as London mayor and I suspect he will do so in his current job. So far, he hasn’t put much of a foot wrong. I hear from Foreign Office sources that he reads his briefs, has much more of a command of detail than they had imagined and that he performs well with his counterparts in other countries. He has undoubtedly been marginalised in the Brexit negotiations but in his appearances in the House of Commons he has shown a mastery of his brief and has hardly put a foot wrong.
To criticise him for the fact that Germany and Italy vetoed his proposals on sanctions against Russia says more about them than it does Boris. I’m not a great fan of sanctions as they are often the political equivalent of virtue signalling, but in this case it was a perfectly sensible proposal.
*
I’m a great hoarder. I hate throwing things away. I cannot abide the thought of getting rid of books, but as I get older I know that at some point I’m going to have to. I’ve run out of bookcase space in the house and my partner certainly wouldn’t entertain the thought of building any more. I’ve always had this hankering to buy a Victorian rectory with a ready-made library, but I’m not sure that is ever going to happen. In my bedroom I’ve now got four columns of books stacked on the floor – all unread – which look as if they could topple over at any point. Probably in the middle of the night. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for Harriet Harman to fall on top of me…
*

In four weeks’ time we’ll be raking over the consequences of the local election results. Try as I might I can’t see how they can be anything other than bad news for Jeremy Corbyn, and that’s not me looking at things through blue tinted spectacles. All the signs are that Labour will lose heavily in Scotland. They’re on a 14% vote share there and it’s difficult to see them gaining control of any councils, let alone have a net gain in seats. There are 32 unitary councils in Scotland (with 1,223 councillors) and 22 in Wales (which have 1,264 councillors). In Scotland three quarters of the councils are under No Overall Control. Only 4 are controlled by Labour. The SNP is expected to make huge gains and increase the number of councils they control, and the number of councillors. The Tories will expect to increase their councillors too. Given the electoral system used, it’s difficult to guess by how many.
In England, there are 27 county councils up for election. These seats were last fought in 2013, which was a good year for Labour. Even traditionally Tory councils like Norfolk went to No Overall Control or Labour. Norfolk this year should see a Tory resurgence. Labour will spin that they’ve never done well in county council elections, but to lose seats in a mid-term Tory government is nothing other than a disaster. It’s expected they could lose more than 100 seats. I expect the Conservatives to remain broadly where they are or even to gain a few seats, with the LibDems doing the same. UKIP is defending 140 seats. Given their recent troubles I wonder if they might lose a high proportion of them.
There is also the Gorton by-election and some mayoral contests taking place on the same day.
*
The week after the local elections will be critical for Jeremy Corbyn. If the results are as I think they may well be, he’s going to come under huge pressure to step down and let someone else have a go. Labour MPs know another coup won’t succeed so it will all be up to Jezza. In the last there have been at least two occasions when he’s wanted to quit, but John McDonnell and Seumas Milne have put some lead into his pencil and he agreed to stay. Some commentators think things may be different this time. Wishful thinking I’d say. There is no way Corbyn will be allowed to quit until after September’s conference, because that’s when the left expects to get its leadership election rule changes through.
*

Former UKIP leader Diane James seems to think that someone owes her a seat in Parliament. She says she would only “accept” a Tory seat if it was a safe one. Seeing as she isn’t actually a Tory party member, I’d say she was whistling in the wind. She really doesn’t know how Conservative selections work, does she?

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ConHome Diary: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler

7 Apr 2017 at 13:23

Helen Szamuely, who died this week, wasn’t famous, but she should have been. She was a Brexiteer years before the word Eurosceptic was even invented. Her work in the broader Eurosceptic movement was vital to making the case for leaving the European Union. I first met her when I was running Politico’s. She loved to come in and shoot the breeze and discuss the latest ups and downs in the Westminster world. She loathed elected politicians and viewed them as a hindrance. Her perspective on the EU came from her own background, which she rarely spoke about. Born in Moscow and the daughter of an intellectual, she moved to this country as a child. Her English was faultless but there was always a trace of an accent. Freedom was her watchword, and it was the prism through which she saw everything. Her writing on Eastern Europe and Russia was incisive and ground-breaking, yet somehow she was never recognised for her work. Helen was a difficult character in some ways. Difficult to work with, she was an individualist who was certainly prone to the odd flounce. She succeeded me as editor of the Conservative History Journal but it has to be said that she and I had rather different interpretations of the word ‘deadline’! I shall miss her infectious laugh and cheeky nature. She loved a good gossip and although I hadn’t seen her much in recent years it was always good to catch up when we ran into each other. Peter North knew her far better than me and has written this marvellous tribute HERE [add link http://peterjnorth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/helen-szamuely.html ]. My thoughts go to her daughter Katharine, who was devoted to Helen, who in turn was so proud of her offspring. I know it’s a cliché, but Helen will be greatly missed by all who knew her. And if the Eurosceptic movement awarded honours for contribution to the cause, Helen ought to be awarded a retrospective peerage.
*
Labour’s latest vote catching policy is to propose that all primary school children should get free school meals. It’s one of those motherhood and apple pie policies that is quite difficult to argue against. It is likely to cost £1.2 billion and will, according to the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, be funded by putting VAT onto private school fees. This policy was last proposed by Labour in the 1983 Labour manifesto, the most left wing in its history. I have no idea how many people who send a child to a private school is a Labour voter, but this policy ought to reduce that number to close to zero. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the type of people who send their kids to private schools. Yes, rich people do. But there are thousands of normal people who do so too, who scrimp and save in order to give their children the best education possible. Putting VAT on school fees will add between £2k and £6k to their bills. It may be the straw which breaks the camel’s back.
*

I’ve done quite a bit of coverage on my radio show this week of the Prime Minister’s trip to the Middle East, especially to Saudi Arabia. On Monday I interviewed a documentary maker called James Jones. He has made a film called ‘SAUDI ARABIA UNCOVERED’. I hadn’t seen it when I interviewed him but I watched it on Youtube on the train home that night. I so wish Theresa May had been able to watch it before she set foot in Riyadh. It’s certainly an eye-opener, especially about the way women are treated in the Kingdom. Have a watch. You’ll be horrified and tell all your friends about it.
*
I suspect Michael Howard has spent the week metaphorically kicking himself. Not known for his loose lips approach to interviews, he appeared to suggest that if Spain didn’t back off Gibraltar Theresa May might well decide to go to war, in the same way that Margaret Thatcher had over the Falklands. Well, that’s what his words were interpreted as saying. What he was trying to do was point out that May has the same level of resolve as Thatcher. I suspect as the words came out of his mouth he was thinking to himself “Hmmm, maybe I could have phrased that better…”. We’ve all done it. He may not be a member of the government, but as a former party leader his words are obviously taken very seriously. The reaction was totally over the top, but that’s the media world we live in. Misspeak in a live interview and repent at your leisure.
*

Not easy being a West Ham fan at the moment… A bit like being a Shadow Cabinet member…
*
I’ve known Ken Livingstone for many years. We agree on very little but I’ve always liked him, always enjoyed talking to him. He was a good colleague on LBC for many years. But he really has gone off the rails on anti-semitism. It’s as if he can’t help himself. Why is no one advising him to stop doing interviews which inevitably make things worse? Why didn’t Labour’s disciplinary panel make it a condition of his rather to lenient suspension that he mustn’t do any more interviews on the subject? Unfortunately Ken has developed a form of Tourettes on this issue and he simply cannot resist mentioning the word Hitler. In a 13 minute interview with me on Wednesday afternoon he mentioned Hitler twelve times. I know, because I could see people on Twitter counting the mentions as the interview progressed. Not a good place to be.

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Why I've Said Yes to Hosting the Morning Show on Radio X

1 Apr 2017 at 09:52

This wasn’t supposed to be announced until Monday but Radio Today seem to have got hold of it, so I thought I’d share some news with you.

As you know, I’ve been hosting LBC’s Drivetime Show for four years now. LBC is part of Global Radio, which owns several massive music radio stations including Capital, Heart, Smooth, Classic, and Radio X. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at music radio and now the opportunity has presented itself, well, I just couldn’t say no.

From a week on Monday I’ll be taking over the mid-morning show on Radio X, replacing Vernon Kay. Don’t worry, it finishes at 1, so I’ll still have time to prepare for my LBC show!

Global Radio’s Richard Park said, announcing the move: “Iain has been with Global for seven years now and we feel he needs a new challenge. Vernon has left big shoes to fill, but we feel Iain’s eclectic musical tastes will draw the listeners in and they’ll soon get used to his political links between the tunes. I’m sure the handover from Chris Moyles will become appointment to listen radio.”

I might not know my Arctic Monkeys from my elbow, but, given the times we live in, the controller of Radio X, Matt Deverson, has clearly decided it’s about time his audience got a mix of music and current affairs. In fact, it’s a naked attempt to steal listeners from James O’Brien. I mean, who wouldn’t switch to me on Radio X playing the latest from Sparks mixed with a comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s new rather natty tracksuit?

Now, just as Chris Moyles has Dominic Byne, Pippa Taylor and Dave Masterman as his studio crew, I’m in the process of putting my own team together in order to ensure we get the right sound for Radio X. So far I’ve recruited Timmy Mallet, H from Steps and Kay Burley. If that isn’t a winning team, I don’t know what is.

On my first show Matt’s kindly agreed to suspend the Radio X playlist so listeners can get to know my own musical tastes. So in the first hour I’ll be lining up these rather excellent tunes…

Listen to your Heart by Roxette
Forever Young by Alphaville
Just Drive by Alistair Griffin
An Enya megamix
and Miss You Nights by Cliff Richard

In the second hour we’ll be taking calls on Brexit interspersed with sixty years of Eurovision hits.

In the final hour, to ensure the success of my first show, I’m delighted that Theresa May will be joining me for sixty minutes of chat and commentary on the songs of Meat Loaf.

And should there be any listeners left by 1pm, normal service on Radio X will resume with Dan O’Connell.

It’s gonna be epic!

UPDATE: For the record, this was an April Fool. I can’t believe the number of people who tweeted their congratulations. Gullible is the word which springs to mind!

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ConHome Diary: Amber & Boris, Sayeeda & Douglas & Keir Starmer's Mirror

31 Mar 2017 at 13:15

Listening to the BBC coverage of triggering Article 50 you’d think we were entering a period of national mourning. It started with the Today programme who relished interviewing anyone who had anything negative to say – and believe me, most of their carefully chosen guests did. In the section I listened to they did indeed have one pro Leave business guest. She was given all of two minutes to make her case. The five or six Remainers were left to witter on with hardly a challenge from the presenters. We’re going to have two years of this. The die is cast. Article 50 has been triggered; there is no going back, despite what some Remainers might cling onto. I had hoped that there would be a realisation from the likes of Nick Clegg and Hilary Benn that the thing to do now is unite behind Brexit and make the best of it. I suppose it was always a forlorn hope. Nick Clegg seems to have cast himself as ‘Remainer in Chief’ and has declared that the ‘phoney war is now over’ and Brexiteers must be held to account ‘for their false promises’. If he wishes to go to war with the British people over the way they voted, that’s up to him. We should admire people who stick to their principles, but we shouldn’t have any truck with politicians who fight the battles of the last war. Everyone’s attentions should now be directed to how we make a success of Brexit, or if you are of a less optimistic persuasion, make the best of a bad job.
*
It says a lot about the state of the British media that on the day before Article 50 was triggered all we could talk about were the respective legs of the PM and the Scottish First Minister. Who’d have thighed it.
*

I wonder when Kier Starmer looks himself in the mirror – and with that gelled hair, he must do so quite often – does he see the reflection of John Moore staring back at him?
*
A lot has been written about the rise in inflation in the last few weeks. Those who know nothing about economics appear to attribute it all to Brexit and the fall in the Pound. The truth is somewhat simpler. Since Brexit the price of oil has risen 60%, and that has now begun to come through in the inflation figures. If the rise in inflation was all down to Brexit the inflation rate would be far higher. In fact, it’s only 0.1% higher than Germany’s rate, and on a par with most of the rest of the main EU economies.
*

Alex Salmond is a genial cover. I host him every Wednesday afternoon for a half hour phone-in on LBC. He and Nicola Sturgeon are adamant that Scotland should have its own deal, given that Scotland voted 62-38 to Remain. I am sure Alex Salmond is sincere in that and genuinely believes the case he is making. Of course, I am sure that if Dumphries & Galloway or The Borders vote in a second Independence Referendum vote to remain in the UK he’d also allow them their own special deal to stay in the UK. And pigs might fly.
*
There were two new books out this week which may be of interest to ConHome readers. Sayeeda Warsi has written a book called THE ENEMY WITHIN, which is apparently how some people described her when she was a minister in the Cameron government. It’s certainly not a kiss and tell account of her time in government, instead it’s a thoughtful tome about the place of muslims in Britain today. It’s incredibly well researched (and heavily footnoted) and I hope it gets a much wider readership than just among muslims who are interested to read about the views of Britain’s first muslim cabinet minister. It deserves to. Douglas Carswell has also written a weighty tome called REBEL. It’s a call to arms to overthrow what he calls the Oligarchs and political interests that control our society. A powerful polemic, it ought to have a readership across the political spectrum. It’s certainly not a right-wing treatise; indeed, at times you think you’re reading the words of someone on the far left. Some of his recipes for dealing with out of control capitalism could emanate from the pen of Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, if Corbyn has any sense he will read this book and adopt a lot of its conclusions. But as I say, the key phrase there is ‘if he has any sense’. No doubt he and his little helper Seumas Milne couldn’t bring themselves to read a single word of a book they would regard as being written by someone on the extreme right. And therein lies their problem. Carswell is far more in tune with the views of the ordinary Brit than they ever will be.
*

I like interviewing Amber Rudd, although I don’t do it that often. On Wednesday she was on my show talking about triggering Article 50. I asked her if she thought that people on both sides should moderate their language and stop the insults. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘they should’. I immediately retorted, ‘Well that’s enough about you and Boris.’ She giggled and said, ‘Well I rather let myself in for that one, didn’t I?’ Good on her. It’s a pity that more politicians don’t react in the same way rather than go all hoity toity.

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When Will Someone Hold Highways England to Account?

25 Mar 2017 at 12:56

Back in the 1990s the Major government embarked on a much heralded programme of hiving off government responsibilities into stand alone and stand apart agencies. The idea was to keep politics out of these agencies. Fears were expressed that they would become politically unaccountable and a law unto themselves. Twenty years on it looks like those fears have been realised.

Take the Highways Agency, which of course nominally comes under the remit of the Department of Transport. Ever since its inception in 1994 it has been riddled with incompetent managers, few visible leaders and a lack of strategy for the nation’s trunk road and motorway network. It has a multi-billion pound budget. Its transformation in 2015 from an agency into a government owned company, Highways England, seems to have made little difference. Like Transport for London its only goal in life seems to make it more difficult for the car driver. TFL clearly have a policy of introducing policies designed to encourage all drivers not to drive in central London, yet they don’t have the balls to admit it. How else can you explain the appalling situation along The Embankment and Upper Thames Street, or the fact that you now cannot turn left from the Embankment onto Westminster Bridge, leading to more congestion on Parliament Square as you now have to go around Parliament Square to come back onto Westminster Bridge. And to top it all, there’s now going to be a year of disruption on the bridge as separate cycle lanes are introduced. I digress, but Highways England seems to be determined to follow suit. How else can you explain the rank incompetence of closing the M3 out of London on random nights with little or no warning until you happen to get within a mile of the section that is closed off. And then you try to follow the diversion only to find out that it is so badly signed that you end up exactly where you started.

On Thursday night I drove from London to Norwich. Well, at least I tried to. Normally it takes me around two and a half hours. On Thursday it took the best part of four hours. Firstly, the overhead gantries on the M11 informed me that Junction 9 was closed. That’s the A11 junction. OK, I thought, I’ll go on to Duxford and take the A505 back onto the M11. I followed the diversion until it tried to make me head back south on the M11. Luckily I was born and brought up in that area so I knew that was ridiculous and found my way through Great Abington back onto the A11. Job done, I thought. I was wrong. On the A14 at Newmarket the gantries informed me that there was no access to the A11 north and the signs said “Find an Alternative Route”. So helpful of them. They put up those signs in the full knowledge that there isn’t an alternative route to Norwich unless you head 30 miles or so down the A14 and go via Ipswich.

When I got to the A11 turnoff I was pleased to see it was, in fact, open. I shouldn’t have been so pleased because a few miles on, at Red Lodge, the road was indeed closed and we were all diverted back heading for Newmarket. So in the end I had no alternative but to head to Ipswich and drive up the A140.

Now I totally understand that roads need repairing, but the default policy of the Highways Agency seems to be close them off completely rather than install traffic lights and leave one lane open. And they do it with little notice. I follow HighwaysEast on Twitter but I had seen no information about these roadworks. When I sent them a tweet asking them why not they said it was because they don’t tweet about roadworks, they only tweet about ongoing incidents. That’s the public sector for you. No idea about customer relations whatsoever.



We have reached a stage in this country where car drivers have become a persecuted minority in this country. When a government agency like the Highways Agency considers it more important to install yet more speed cameras in places where they are not needed rather than prioritise the efficiency of the road network you know you have a body that is ploughing its own furrow with little reference to its supposed political masters. This is exemplified by the fact that its senior management very rarely ever do interviews. There is no way to publicly hold them to account for their actions. They’re not even really accountable to Parliament, except, rather nominally, through government ministers.

This is why I always reject the very lazy, but populist, argument that we should take politics out of the NHS. The budget of the NHS makes the Highways Agency look rather irrelevant. But to suggest that the NHS shouldn’t be politically accountable would be to send the NHS down the route that the Highways Agency took.

It is high time the government took Highways England back under the control of ministers in Marsham Street.

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