Voting in Hertsmere on 4 July

Everything you need to know

Oliver Dowden acceptance speech 2017
Oliver Dowden addresses the crowd after his 2017 victory in Hertsmere.

Who are the Hertsmere candidates?

CandidateParty
Ray BolsterVeteran peace campaignerInd
Oliver DowdenIncumbent and Deputy PMCon
John HumphriesShenley management consultantGreen
Emma MatanleBriefing writer and councillorLib Dem
Darren SelkusArmy veteran and business ownerReform
Josh TapperCivil servant and GoggleboxerLabour
General Election 2024, the candidates in Hertsmere, in alphabetical order
Conservative MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden in long shot turns to his left and smiles at the camera in Downing Street
The incumbent
Grid of four photos of candidates in the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency for the 2024 UK general election - clockwise from top left: Josh Tapper Labour, John Humphries Green, Darren Selkust Reform, Emma Matanle Liberal Democrat - their surnames are overlaid
The pretenders

There’s some detail about all of these candidates in the party guides we’ve already published – click the links in the table.

We updated this post on 7 June 2024 to reflect the final nominations for Hertsmere. There’s a complete list of candidates in all constituencies on the BBC web site. There’s a further update, made on 1 July, adding some information about Green dandidate John Humphries and Independent Ray Bolster.

The time has come. The election has been called and is in the diary for Thursday 4 July. You presently have no MP. Nobody does. There are now only candidates. Oliver Dowden, although he is still Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has carefully changed his social media bios to reflect this.

By election day, some of the 4,515 individuals – the largest number of candidates ever for a UK general election – who managed to get their papers in by the deadline will have wthdrawn and some will have lost the support of their parties but none can now be removed from ballot papers, so some electors will have to be careful not to vote for someone who has stood down. We also notice that YouTuber Niko Omilana, who has registered for election in multiple constituencies, contrary to the rules, is still on the list – eleven times.

The deadline for submitting a nomination passed on 7 June. Georgia Elliott-Smith from Gina Miller’s True & Fair Party, said she was going to stand here in Hertsmere but then disappeared and has not submitted her papers (looks like only four candidates ultimately got their forms in for True and Fair). Independent Ray Bolster, a mysterious late entry, has caught us by surprise. We know nothing about Ray and hope to learn more soon. Obviously we’re disappointed there’ll be no surprise come-back for the levitating Natural Law Party.

Close-up head-and-shoulders portrait of Hertsmere Parliamentary candidate Ray Bolster. He's an elderly man in an outside location, smiling, wearing a purple jumper.
Ray Bolster, independent candidate for Hertsmere

Update for 31 June 2024. We now know something about all six of the candidates standing in Hertsmere (the largest number of candidates in Hertsmere since 2010). Mystery independent Ray Bolster is a mystery no more. According to the Welwyn & Hatfield Times Bolster is an RAF Medical Corps veteran and a long-time anti-racism campaigner who fought against anti-semitism in London’s East End in the 1960s and was a founder of the Watford Anti-Racist committee in the 1970s. He’s picked this unlikely location to campaign for the Gaza vote, calling for an immediate ceasefire. We suspect Bolster may attract a few votes from voters who don’t feel represented by any of the larger parties on this issue but his complete absence from the first month of the campaign doesn’t bode well for his vote share. We’re pretty sure he doesn’t have a web site, a social media presence or any printed material. Hardly anyone entering a polling booth will know who he is. Good luck, Ray!

And the Greens. From recent press, we also now know more about our Green candidate, John Humphries. The party made a commitment to stand in every constituency in England and Wales at this election – a critical step for any national party with ambitions to government – and the Greens have stood in Hertsmere before, in 2010, 2017 and 2019. Humphries was the candidate in 2019. On the face of it the party of the environment ought to do well in a constituency that’s literally in the London green belt.

In some parts of the UK there’s been an effective but sometimes awkward alliance formed between Greens of the ecological variety and people more motivated by conservation and opposition to development. There’s a tension within the party between the historically more narrowly-focused environmentalists and the progressives with an interest in social issues and redistribution. It’s hard to imagine suburban green belt-warriors feeling much of a connection with the trans activists and de-growthers in the national party. The manifestos don’t tell us much about the green belt. Reform UK and the Liberals don’t mention it at all. Labour, Conservatives and Greens have essentially identical positions on protecting the green belt. No party dare go near the idea of dismantling the whole ridiculous apparatus and replacing it, for instance, with a rational set of protections for nature and green space while permitting a desperately needed house building.

PartyFrom the manifestoMentions
Conservative“Retaining our cast-iron commitment to protect the Green Belt from uncontrolled development…”2
Green“Elected Greens would seek to strengthen and prevent any rollback of existing protections of the Green Belt”2
Independent
Labour“Labour is committed to preserving
the green belt which has served
England’s towns and cities well
over many decades.”
1
Liberal Democrat“Everyone should be able to enjoy open green spaces, clean blue rivers and the beauty of Britain’s coast.”0
Reform UK“Legislate to ban ULEZ Clean Air Zones and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Scrapping Net Zero.”0
Mentions of the term ‘green belt’ in the 2024 party manifestos

The parties and the history. As a loyal reader of Radlett Wire you’ll be aware of our four-part guide to all the parties standing in Hertsmere: part one, the fringe parties (including Reform and the Greens); part two, the Lib Dems; part three. Labour; part four, the Conservatives. You’ll also have read our definitive history of the Hertsmere constituency, which goes back all the way to our very first MP, in 1983, disgraced Thatcher ally Cecil Parkinson.

Your new constituency. Like many constituencies in Britain, Hertsmere is a different shape for this election. In fact, it’s smaller, both geographically and in population terms. The purpose of the boundary changes was principally to bring the ‘electorate quota’ – the number of voters living in each constituency – to between 69,724 and 77,062 voters. Population change over the decades had caused some, mostly urban, constituencies to get much bigger than that and some, mostly rural, constituencies much smaller. The changes are thought to have strengthened the Conservative Party’s electoral advantage in Britain, but not by much – and certainly not by the enormous amount that was originally feared. The overall number of constituencies hasn’t changed.

Map showing the changes to the boundaries of the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency for the 2024 general election in the UK
Boundary changes

The effect in Hertsmere is not drastic – one Bushey ward has moved out of the constituency and one Hatfield ward in. The overall effect will be to reduce the voting-age population of the Parliamentary constituency by about 7%. Pollsters and news outlets have had the considerable headache of reflecting the new populations in their data. For instance, the Electoral Calculus projection we’ve been sharing here regularly is for the new constituency boundaries.

Voting in Radlett, whatever the election, is run by Hertsmere Council. They run the count and provide the polling places. The returning officer works for the council (when Sunderland and Newcastle race to get their results out first it’s a battle between two councils). Hertsmere will publish a list of polling places closer to the date of the election but it’s safe to assume the Radlett ones will be at Phillimore Hall, the Radlett Centre and the United Synagogue as usual.

Registering to vote. You’ve got until midnight on 18 June to get your name on the register. Once you’re registered you can apply for a postal vote but you’ll have to do it by the end of the following day, 19 June. If you think you won’t be able to get to the polling station on the day you can send someone to vote for you – a proxy vote. You’ve got until 5pm on 26 June to apply (and, if everything goes pear-shaped, you can set up an emergency proxy at any time up till 5pm on polling day).

Fun fact. You’ve still got time to stand for election yourself. You’ll need ten people to nominate you and £500, though.

Voter ID is now required for all UK elections. The Conservative government thought this would give them an electoral advantage, since young voters and poorer urban populations are less likely to have good ID, but Jacob Rees-Mogg thinks it’s backfired. Here’s a list of permitted forms of ID. Check it carefully because you may find you don’t have the right kind. It helps to be old. For instance, senior railcards and 60+ Oyster cards are okay but not young persons’ railcards or student ID. You don’t need to take the polling card you’ll be sent in the post. If you’ve got no valid ID you’ve got until 5pm on 26 June to apply for a voter authority certificate (you don’t need ID to get one, which seems like a bit of a loophole, but you will need to know your National Insurance number).


Hertsmere General Election preview, part four

The Conservative Party

Two men carry a lectern out into Downing Street for a speech by the Prime Minister
Lot of lectern action lately

This is it. The big one. The last of our four guides to the parties standing in Hertsmere at the next general election, whenever that is. We’ve done the fringe parties, the Liberals and Labour so now it’s time to tackle the incumbents, the 800-pound gorillas of Hertsmere politics, the Conservative Party, winners in Hertsmere since the constituency was created, for the 1983 general election – the ‘Falklands election’. The Tories have never even come close to losing here, not even in 1997, when Labour won the largest number of Parliamentary seats in history and squeezed the margin in Hertsmere to six percent.

Four Conservative politicians behind a desk at a press conference, microphones in front of them. Left to right: Margaret Thatcher, Cecil Parkinson, Francis Pym and Michael Heseltine
Cecil Parkinson (next to Thatcher), once MP for Herstmere and – in a competive field – probably the biggest heel in Conservative Party history

The history of the Tories in Hertsmere is essentially the history of the contituency so you’ll want to read our electoral history of Hertsmere, which covers the whole period since 1983 and its three MPs – including the ignominious departure of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite Cecil Parkinson in 1983 and of his successor James Clappison, dumped by the party for fast-track SPAD Oliver Dowden in 2015.

You might think that Hertsmere is one of those home counties contituencies that’s been approximately Tory since the battle of Hastings, or the end of the ice age. And you wouldn’t be wrong. A single county-wide constituency was first created over seven hundred years ago, in 1294, and it persisted until 1885. The Hertfordshire constituency returned – for most of that period – three MPs (the principal towns in the county also returned their own MPs). Before the franchise was expanded in the late 19th Century the electorate was tiny – In 1868, about 9,000 men in Hertfordshire (landowners and later the ‘ten-pound men‘) could vote. The first time they got a chance to vote for a candidate identified as a Tory was in 1727. He was a Jacobite noble called Charles Caesar, who was also Treasurer of the Navy. Between then and the seat’s final abolition in 1885 Tories dominated, with the occasional blip of Whig control. Between then and 1983 Radlett has bounced around between the constituencies of Watford, South West Hertfordshire and South Hertfordshire.

The odds

In a sea of disastrous polling data from the Sunak period, we’ve seen only one projection that suggests the Tories could lose in Hertsmere – and it’s a doozy. It’s the February 2023 MRP poll from the highly-reliable polling company Electoral Calculus. It gives Labour 509 seats and the Conservative Party 45. In this scenario the Tories aren’t even the official opposition. LOL.

February 2023 MRP poll from Electoral Calculus, showing the following data in a table:
Party	Number of Seats
at GE 2019	Predicted
Number of Seats	Predicted
Change
CON	365	45	?320
LAB	203	509	306
SNP	48	50	2
LIB	11	23	12
Plaid	4	4	0
Green	1	1	0
Reform	0	0	0
Total	632	632	0
Ouch

We know that even the slightly less extreme polling that’s been done since then has been causing panic bordering on hysteria in corridors and bars and meeting rooms in the SW1 area. Such an enormous swing is obviously unlikely and the most recent MRP polling gives Dowden a 1997-sized lead here in Hertsmere. That would bring Labour’s candidate Josh Tapper to within 3,000 votes of Oliver Dowden. We’ve noted before that Tapper must be praying the Gogglebox factor can get him a bit closer.

Chart showing vote share for the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency for the main parties in the period from 1983 to 2019
Vote shares in Hertsmere since 1983, showing swings to Labour in 1997 and 2017

Crown, church and land

They don’t call the Conservative Party the most successful political party in the world for nothing. This 300 year-old institution, which began life in the ferment after the English Civil War, is so wired into the constitution of middle England – especially rural and landowning England – that it seems almost to be part of the landscape.

The party’s various re-inventions, especially in the period since the industrial revolution, have seen it identified with business (which had previously been the domain of the Whigs), with the urban middle class and, much more recently, with working class voters, for whom the Tories came to stand for ambition, home ownership and the prospect of a better life for their children.

The fact that this last electoral coalition – the one assembled by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s that has seen the party running the country for 32 of the last 45 years – seems finally to be collapsing, in the wake of 15 years of flat wages, growing inequality and diminishing expectations – would, for any ordinary party, presumably mean the end. For the Tories it almost certainly means another re-invention – the Conservative Party is evidently indestructible and will still be with us on the other side of whatever apocalypse awaits us. Like cockroaches and the plague.

Our present Prime Minister – according to a polling firm one of the least popular party leaders in history – has made several increasingly desperate attempts at his own re-invention in the last year or two and, in his most recent effort, is trying to position his party as the ‘national security party’ or the party of geopolitical dread. It’s too early to say whether this relaunch will stick, of course, although the bookies aren’t convinced. At Radlett Wire we have a simple rule of thumb: when the Prime Minister puts a lectern outside Number 10 and makes a speech about nuclear annihilation it’s probably not his country’s security he’s worried about but his own.

The candidate

A composite image of Conservative MP Oliver Dowden, wearing a surgical mask and floating against a virtual reality background
Oliver Dowden floating in some kind of dimensionless alternate reality

We remain, as we have essentially since his election in 2015, deeply impressed by Oliver Dowden. He’s an intriguing figure. Not charismatic, not possessed of any apparent vision or of a distinctive political identity, nor even of deep roots in the Tory party. He is, in his party’s terms, an outsider, but his tenacity and his political instincts have kept him in or near the action since his first election – through one of the most turbulent periods in his party’s (and the Parliament’s) history. He’s a pragmatist – entering politics via David Cameron’s upbeat, socially-liberal, modernising regime, when CCHQ was like the marketing department of a Plc – and he had no difficulty subsquently lodging himself in the government of each successor Prime Minister. Only Liz Truss could find no use for him.

As we said in an earlier post here, when the s**t hits the fan he’s always ready:

For a second-tier politician, Dowden’s always been pretty close to the action (once a Number 10 staffer, always a Number 10 staffer). He was first to endorse Johnson to replace Theresa May but also first to resign as Johnson’s final crisis began. Joining #TeamRishi was another low-key masterstroke for our operator, although his return to the front bench was delayed by that weird 49-day Liz Truss thing, during which Dowden was very much on the outside…

From How does Hertsmere vote? Radlett Wire, updated 19 January 2024
An official photograph of Oliver Dowden MP with a British Army captain's hat crudely photoshopped onto his head
Captain Dowden of the Winter of Discontent Taskforce

We’ve sometimes called Dowden a bagman here. We don’t mean this disdainfully. The bagman is vital to a successful political party. Some politicians are far too grand for this kind of thing but Dowden is always quite happy, as the moment requires, to get his hands dirty, to dispose of a body, to endorse even the silliest talking points – privet hedges, woke roadsigns, hoarding stolen artefactsscolding Netflix and calling for Gary Lineker‘s dismissal on the regular. He’ll step up in defense of the indefensible on the Sunday morning programmes without complaint and he’ll take on the emptiest, gestural nonsense with gusto. For a while during the wave of industrial unrest of 2022 and 2023 he was put in charge of Rishi Sunak’s ‘Winter of Discontent taskforce’. We amused ourselves here trying to find any further trace of activity from the taskforce. None materialised. It was never more than an announcement – the kind of entirely hollow politics you need a strong stomach to pursue with enthusiasm. Dowden has a strong stomach.

Classic teflon

Oliver Dowden is as close to clean hands as you’ll get in the contemporary Conservative party, so-far unblemished by scandal. And even when he really ought to have got into trouble he’s somehow squeaked through, untouched. It was Dowden who appointed Boris Johnson’s friend and loan-arranger to be Chair of the BBC. Dowden who was in charge of propriety and ethics when the party was accused of covering up a rape. He’s never been close to the big money but he was one of ten Tory MPs who took paid jobs with party donors during 2022 and for some reason accepted a payment from the hedge fund that bankrolled Liz Truss’s experiment with credibility too.

Local hero

Dowden comes from up the road and went to a school a lot of Hertsmere kids attend. He knows the area and has been a diligent constituency representative. In our experience, he (almost always) answers letters from constituents (your mileage may vary). He’s never, as far as we know, phoned an elderly constituent in the middle of the night asking for money to give to ‘bad people’ and we’re pretty sure he doesn’t own a property portfolio. He’s always ready to make a speech about a car park next to a bin. For all this, as his constituents, we should be grateful.

There will be constituents who question his absolute committment to local concerns, though. The rail freight terminal on the old Radlett aerodrome land is one of those giant projects that will always present a problem for a government minister. He very much wants to be identified with the electors who are going to have an enormous warehouse blocking out their view or a busy new access road keeping them awake.

An aerial visualisation of the Radlett rail freight terminal planned for the old aerodrome land

It’s a delicate business, though. Dowden has felt able to participate in the dispute but has reserved his full-throated criticism for the actions of the local authority, Hertfordshire County Council in this case, who say they were obliged to sell the land for the development. It’s always much easier for an MP to criticise the council than to criticise his own government or a major business that may well be a party donor.

We feel for Dowden on this. He doesn’t want to be seen too vocally opposing a development that will bring work to the area at a time when everyone’s fulminating about the sclerotic planning system. The sheer scale of the development and its likely impact on the households affected makes it hard to ignore for a local MP, though.

He’s ready

Screenshot of a tweet from Oliver Dowden MP. Two photos of Dowden with local Conservative Party members. Text reads: Delighted to have been readopted as the Conservative candidate for Hertsmere this evening!

Dowden has been reselected by his local party (they do this sort of thing informally in the Conservative Party) but, as far as we know, he hasn’t actually lodged his nomination papers with the local authority so there’s still a slim chance he’ll run for the hills. We doubt it, though.

As a government minister he’ll evidently be able to draw on significant resources from his party during his campaign but Hertsmere is such a safe seat that it’s unlikely we’ll see many of the top brass here during the campaign. If he’s lucky he’ll be able to call on his friends at South Hertfordshire Business Club again, though. This is a club with no web site, no staff, no premises, no accounts and, apparently, no members (looks like it might share an address with the St Albans Conservative Association, though). According to the Electoral Commission the club gave £82,741.09 to Dowden’s office between 2017 and 2022, making use of a loophole that allows ‘unincorporated associations’ to give up to £25,000 per year to a political party or campaign without saying where the money comes from. Dowden’s not the only MP using this method of accessing anonymous money. There are a number of these secretive organisations, with names like The Portcullis Club and the Magna Carta Club (that one’s given £150,000 to Michael Gove since 2009). Interestingly, they seem to exist only to give money to Conservative politicians and campaigns. Details of the Dowden donations in this spreadsheet.


  • Dowden suffers from a very contemporary political problem. He’s from a nominally working-class background but he speaks and acts quite posh. The same problem afflicts Keir Starmer. But the iron rule is that neither will ever, no matter how much they protest, be accepted as working class. They both really ought to give up trying.
  • Oliver Dowden has had a few goes at the despatch box depping for the boss lately. We can’t say we’ve ever managed to get through a whole session. It’s too much. Watching him labour awkwardly through his scripted jokes is far too painful, like the nasty bit in a nature documentary about seals and killer whales.
  • It turns out that the dreadful Cecil Parkinson affair has not yet, over forty years on, been forgotten. A new documentary is in the works.
  • Here’s our big spreadsheet with all the Hertsmere election results going back to 1983 – the only place you’ll find all this information in one place (and we recently added Hertfordshire PCC results going back to 2012 for extra excitement).
  • We group together all our Oliver Dowden posts with the #DowdenLog tag and you can subscribe to these posts in an RSS reader if that’s your thing.
  • You can keep up with what Oliver Dowden does in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou and you can set up an email alert there too, should you be sad enough.
  • We’re on Twitter/X and Facebook and you can follow this blog in the fediverse. Search for @blog@radlettwire.co.uk in your fediverse client (e.g. Mastodon)

Hertsmere General Election preview, part three

Labour

The Tapper family, contributors to Channel 4's long-running TV series Gogglebox. Left to right: Amy, Dad Jonathan, mum Nikki and Josh. They're sitting in a row on their sofa and all laughing. Jonathan is holding the remote and pointing it at the TV
The Tappers

Part one of this general election preview is about the fringe parties (including Reform) and part two about the Lib Dems. Part three, about the Conservatives, is next.

Look, we promise we’re not going to go on and on about this but the recently-selected Labour party candidate for Hertsmere, Josh Tapper, USED TO BE ON GOGGLEBOX. That’s him, on the right, with (left to right) sister Amy, dad Jonathan and mum Nikki. You will certainly remember the Tapper family – they were on the programme for eleven series, from the very first programme in 2013 until 2018. Tapper’s TV history has certainly brought his candidacy a lot of national publicity – we can’t imagine the selection of a Labour Parliamentary candidate winning much coverage in The Sun without the Gogglebox factor, for instance.

A composite image of Conservative MP Oliver Dowden, wearing a surgical mask and floating against a virtual reality background
Oliver Dowden floating in some kind of dimensionless alternate reality

Right, that’s it. We’re not going to mention Gogglebox ever again. We’re sure Mr Tapper will be happy to know that. He’ll definitely want us to talk about the fact that he’s one of the youngest Labour candidates in the country (26) and that he’s been put up against no less than Deputy Prime Minister and privet hedge-botherer Oliver Dowden. Dowden has been reselected by his local party but has not yet submitted his nomination papers (so there’s still a slim chance he’ll run for the hills before the election).

After Gogglebox and Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Tapper found himself in Theresa May’s office, via a civil service apprenticeship scheme, and then worked for left-of-centre think-tank Demos. In 2022 he very narrowly missed election to Barnet council, in the Edgwarebury ward. Tapper is also great-great-grandson of the founder of legendary and late-lamented Aldgate kosher eatery Bloom’s which many will remember fondly (although not for the food).

Now for the politics

So, Tapper is the eleventh Labour candidate in the history of the Hertsmere constituency, since it was created in 1983. He will be hoping profoundly, of course, that he’s not the eleventh loser and he’s probably in with a better chance here than anyone since Beth Kelly, in 1997, who lost by 3,000 votes. That, of course, was the year of Tony Blair’s landslide, when Labour won the largest number of Parliamentary seats for a single party in British Parliamentary history – 418 (more than twice the party’s total at the last general election in 2019).

Sensible projections for vote share at the next election put Labour comfortably in government, of course, but they don’t quite put a Labour candidate into Parliament for Hertsmere. Electoral Calculus, which is the one we usually rely on here, still gives the Tories a comfortable 64% chance of winning in Hertsmere but their likely majority is very much in 1997 territory, which must be exciting for Tapper and his campaign.

Electoral Calculus projection for Hertsmere general election vote share

Hertsmere Labour candidates over the years:
Josh Tapper (2024/25) – civil servant, former Goggleboxer
Holly Kal-Weiss (2019) – special needs teacher.
Fiona Smith (2017) – ex-military, fund-raiser.
Richard Butler (2015) – Councillor in Hertsmere and Hertfordshire.
Sam Russell (2010)
Kelly Tebb (2005)
Hilary Broderick (2001)
Beth Kelly (1997) – NHS manager and one-time Borehamwood councillor, endorsed Josh Tapper for Hertsmere in 2024.
David Souter (1992)
Frank Ward (1987) – went on to stand for UKIP in 2015.
Ian Reed (1983)

Tapper’s mountain

Chart showing vote share for the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency for the main parties in the period from 1983 to 2019
Vote share in Hertsmere since 1983 (data)

The historic chart makes the challenge for Tapper clear. Even the precipitous fall in support that the Tories have experienced since 2019 – essentially unparalleled in British electoral history – is unlikely to put Josh Tapper into Parliament at the next general election. The grey bar in the chart shows the result in Hertsmere if YouGov’s January MRP projection is correct. It puts Labour about 3,000 votes from a majority – spookily close to that 1997 result. Labour’s bump in support in Hertsmere puts the party at roughly where it was in 2017, when the swing to Labour was the largest in decades and Theresa May got a nasty shock. Nationally, as well as in Hertsmere, the challenge for Labour this time is that the lost Tory votes will be shared between Labour, the resurgent Lib Dems, the insurgent Reform Party and, in some places, the Greens.

Many are already calling the next UK general election ‘the Gaza election’ and it seems certain that the war will be a doorstep issue in Hertsmere, a constituency with a high proportion of Jewish households. Our MP, as a Cabinet Office Minister, has been asked to address the issue on many occasions since 7 October. We’ll admit to having no idea what the impact on voting will be or how Tapper will respond, though.

Since we made the chart there’s been another YouGov MRP poll and it puts Labour even further ahead nationally, with over 400 seats, but it doesn’t move the result in Hertsmere so Tapper evidently still has a mountain to climb.

Of course, Labour will be hoping that Josh Tapper – a charismatic local boy and a TV star – has what it takes to claw back those 3,000 votes. It must be thrilling for him and for local Labour supporters to contemplate that narrowing national gap. If anyone can, we reckon Josh Tapper can.


  • Wikipedia has a list of all the Parliamentary candidates declared so far. Tapper is listed but we’re not 100% sure he’s submitted his official nomination papers and paid his deposit yet.
  • We’ve updated our guide to elections in Hertsmere, going all the way back to the very first election here, in 1983, and we’ve put all the voting data into a spreadsheet.
  • Money will be a concern – for Tapper and for all candidates in Hertsmere. Going up against a government minister in a safe seat like Hertsmere is not cheap. And we know that Oliver Dowden has access to big money for his campaigns, not just via his party but also via business donors. An ‘unincorporated association‘ called the South Hertfordshire Business Club, for instance. A club with no web site, no staff, no premises, no accounts and, apparently, no members (it shares an address with the St Albans Conservative Association, though), according to the Electoral Commission, gave £82,741.09 to Hertsmere Tories between 2017 and 2022. Details in this spreadsheet. Does Josh Tapper have access to that kind of money for his campaign?
  • The MRP technique used by YouGov is significantly more accurate than ordinary polling but not infallible. YouGov’s 2017 poll came very close, predicting the hung Parliament and some of the outlier results, but 2019’s was less accurate, underestimating the size of Johnson’s majority.

Hertsmere General Election preview, part two

The Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Party leader Ed Davey in front of a big fake clock with the words 'Time's Up for Rishi Sunak' on it. Behind the clock a groupf of Liberal supporters holding placards
Tick tock

Part one of this guide to the general election in Hertsmere, about the fringe parties, is here.

Okay, now it’s getting interesting. The next general election is still an unknown number of months away. It can’t be later than 28 January 2025, though, and the Prime Minister says he assumes it’ll be in the second half of this year. For some reason he’s explicitly ruled out 2 May 2024. Here in the Hertsmere constituency candidates are coming out of the woodwork (although only two have got as far as submitting their papers). We understand that Oliver Dowden, our MP, will stand again. Or at least that his constituency party has re-selected him – but there’s nothing official yet.

Reform Party Parliamentary candidate Darren Selkus
Darren Selkus, Reform Party candidate

Last year we published the first in a series of general election guides, introducing the fringe parties (taking in all the wannabes and also-rans and going all the way back to the independent Communists and the Natural Law Party). Darren Selkus, army veteran and CEO of an East London wood veneer company, who made it into the national press when he stood for the party’s earlier incarnation, the Brexit Party, in Essex in 2019, had already announced (on Twitter/X obvs) that he’s standing for the Reform Party (not so fringe these days) and he’s actually submitted his papers.

The Liberals chose their candidate last year and she is now also officially on the ballot. Two candidates have come forward for selection by Labour – one who used to be in the army and one who used to be on Gogglebox. Labour Party members in Hertsmere will be choosing their candidate at a meeting on 19 March (more about Labour in the next part of this four-part guide).

In other news

In May 2023 we learnt that Georgia Elliott-Smith, a sustainability consultant, was going to stand in Hertsmere for Gina Miller’s True & Fair Party, founded in 2021. Miller was going to be coming to Hertsmere to launch a campaign in June. We’re pretty sure this didn’t happen. Elliott-Smith’s candidacy was never formalised and she’s not listed on the True & Fair Party’s web site. Her LinkedIn makes no mention of True & Fair. Oh dear.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time but, in the space of a few years, the whole Miller project has gone from slightly ridiculous but quite influential to slightly ridiculous and, well, irrelevant. Gina Miller has said that there’ll be nine True & Fair candidates in the general election and the party is obviously still active but we’re going to go out on a limb and say the list of five candidates on the party’s web site might shrink a bit further as the election approaches.

Nothing from the Greens yet. They’ve put up candidates at the last two general elections and, before that, in 2010. One might argue that standing in Hertsmere would be a pointless exercise for a party so unlikely to win but they’ve announced they’ll be standing in every seat in England and Wales in the general election – a critical rite of passage for a party with national ambitions.

So, in this post, we’ll cover the Liberal Democrats. Next it’ll be Labour (the selection battle will be out of the way by then) and then, finally, we’ll consider the candidacy of the incumbent, Oliver Dowden, and the history of the Tories in Hertsmere (the blue line along the top of the graph).

A tale of woe

Every general election in Hertsmere since the constituency was created.

The Liberals in Hertsmere could have been contenders. In the first two elections of the constituency’s history – before they’d absorbed the SDP and were still just Liberals – the party was the second-largest in Hertsmere. It can’t be coincidental that the party’s decline here began at the following election – 1992. Liberal Democrat vote share here fell from the mid-twenties into the teens for the period until 2015 and then, precipitously, again, to between five and six percent in 2015 and 2017. Sophie Bowler, who stood in 2015, managed to secure the party’s lowest vote ever in the constituency and fourth place behind UKIP, although this might have had something to do with the fact that she was just too busy to do any campaigning. The party’s national collapse in this period, which came after the catastrophic coalition period, was the largest recorded since 1931 (and that was the Liberals too). In 2019 the party recovered somewhat and candidate Stephen Barrett, business manager in a local school, recorded a 12.6% share.

Hertsmere Liberal candidates over the years:
Stephen Barrett (2019) – secondary school business manager.
Joe Jordan (2017) – software engineer.
Sophie Bowler (2015) – compliance officer at a financial firm
Anthony Rowlands (2010)
Jonathan Davies (2005)
Paul Thompson (2001)
Ann Gray (1997)
Laurence Brass (1987) – now a Hertfordshire County Councillor.
Zerbanoo Gifford (1983 and 1992) – human rights campaigner.

We’re pretty sure that only one of these candidates has their own Wikipedia entry and that’s Zerbanoo Gifford, a veteran human rights campaigner.

Return to influence?

So, in the history of the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency, the Liberal Democrats have gone from contender to influential third party to basically irrelevant and – they must be hoping – back to some measure of influence. The only way is up. Of 13 Parliamentary by-election gains since 2019, four have been for the Lib-Dems (against seven for Labour, one for the Tories and one for George Galloway’s Workers Party). This pattern is likely to repeat in the next GE. The Electoral Calculus average of opinion polls suggests the Lib-Dems could win 40 or more seats nationally – five or six times the party’s 2019 low of eight seats, although their projection for Hertsmere is not quite so positive for the party and puts Reform substantially ahead of the Liberals.

Projection of general election result in the Hertsmere parliamentary constituency from Electoral Calculus in March 2024. Shows Conservative with 71% chance of winning, Labour 29%, all other parties 0%
Electoral Calculus projects that the Liberal vote in Hertsmere will fall by over 40% and gives the party a 0% chance of winning. Ouch.

So one of the LibDems’ new seats won’t be Hertsmere, but a good share of the vote here would put them back in a position to influence the outcome. The Liberal candidate thinks she’s the natural recipient of tactical votes. With Reform also surging there’s even a small chance that the Conservative vote will be squeezed enough to give Labour a go here. But when we say a small chance we mean a very, very small chance. We’ve only seen one – very extreme – projection of a Tory collapse that gives Labour Hertsmere (remember, even in the 1997 Labour landslide Hertsmere stayed firmly Tory – you can see how close they came in the graph above). Electoral Calculus gives the Tories a 71% chance of a win in Hertsmere, even with the party at 18% in the polls.

The candidate

Emma Matanle, Liberal Democrat candidate for the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency. Head-and-shoulder portrait against multiple Liberal Democrats placards. She's smiling and wearing a gree velvert jacket and black roll-neck top
Emma Matanle, Liberal Democrat candidate for Hertsmere

Emma Matanle was chosen as candidate for Hertsmere in March of last year. She’s very much a contemporary Liberal politician. Back when the Liberals were the party of free trade, individual liberty and progress, Liberal Parliamentary candidates used to be businessmen or sometimes University lecturers, Methodist firebrands, even the occasional working class radical. The party of freethinkers still attracts the odd outsider and eccentric (also the occasional certifiable loon) – and we love them for it – but it’s essentially now a bog-standard, and honestly rather charmless, party of the technocratic political centre, a category that’s been under a lot of pressure thanks to the populist turn worldwide but which survives in Britain thanks, mainly, to first-past-the-post voting.

Matanle’s LinkedIn (it’s a requirement for a contemporary politician to have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile) says that she’s currently writing briefings for the Local Government Information Unit, a membership body that does research for local authorities in the UK and elsewhere. We’re not 100% sure what writing briefings involves but it sounds like excellent preparation for 21st Century politics.

Conservative MPs are still, typically, entrepreneurs, lawyers, stock brokers, bankers and landowners (also hedge fund managers, of course). Further to the left they mostly now come from NGOs, charities, consultancies and think-tanks. In Labour it still occasionally happens that a working-class candidate makes it all the way to the Commons but in the Liberal Democrats this never happens. The party is essentially an entirely middle-class and professional entity.

That’s not to say that they won’t occasionally win in working-class seats – they’ll do so in the South West of England – but the membership is now all middle class and the elected politicians are from what is often now called the Professional Managerial Class – the credentialled elite who basically run all of our institutions. For a mainstream political party this is not necessarily a bad thing. The middle class might be skint but it’s still a large and influential group. A party that only appeals to this group – to the interests of school teachers, middle managers and small business-owners – can and will win elections, especially in the more prosperous South of England, although probably not in Hertsmere.

Our Liberal Parliamentary candidate, Emma Matanle, is from this new heartland. She’s spent time at the UN and at Chatham House (a hawkish international relations think-tank). She’s a qualified lawyer and a councillor in St Albans, volunteers for the Scouts and stood for Parliament once before, in South West Bedfordshire in 2019, polling a very respectable 10.2% of the vote, reflecting the same post-coalition recovery in the Liberal Democrat vote seen nationally in that general election.


How to keep tabs on your MP

Right at the base of our democracy is the idea of representation. We send our MPs to Westminster to vote on our behalf. How they vote is our business.

Of course, once they get to Westminster they usually become ridiculous figures – and they quite soon join one of the two available categories. They’re either pompous, wounded egomaniacs or grasping, bitter kleptomaniacs. This seems harsh but there are really hardly any exceptions. The number of MPs who make it through even their first term without some kind of psychic damage is tiny. Our electoral system favours dweebs and maniacs. The system shrugs off the normies – they’re gone after their first term – back to accountancy or running a charity with a disease in its name. These are the sane ones.

Anyway, here at Radlett Wire we’ve been keeping an eye on our MP – The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE, MP for Hertsmere – since he was elected in May 2015, displacing his predecessor James Clappison in one of those cold-blooded political assassinations the Tory Party is uniquely good at. It’s not clear yet to which category Dowden belongs. It sometimes takes decades for this to become obvious. We’ll keep you informed. Here’s how we keep up with him.

Oliver Dowden acceptance speech 2017. Photo from Hertsmere democracy team.
Oliver Dowden addresses the crowds after winning in 2017 by a majority of 16,951

Start here. Veteran social enterprise They Work For You maintains the best database of your MP’s voting record as well as a useful summary of their position on the most important issues. Over the years, the site has quietly become an integral part of the British electoral machine. MPs who initially resented it because it makes emailing your MP too easy have now adjusted to the flow of communications and take it for granted. You can sign up to get an email alert every time your MP does something interesting in Parliament.

Scene inside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Chaotic cables and piping under a low ceiling. A sign reads: No access unauthorised Respiratory equipment and overalls must be worn
Asbestos, rotting cables, leaking pipes.

Go to the source. Parliament may be falling down but its digital systems are a genuine wonder – and a model for Parliaments and assemblies around the world. It’s easy to call up your MP’s speeches in the house, questions for the Prime Minister, contributions to select committees, the works. You can also watch Parliamentary debates live while in session, debates in Westminster Hall and there’s an archive of video from committee sessions going back to 2007.

Set up a Google alert. The absolute backbone of lazy Internet research. There must be a billion live alerts running worldwide. Search for what you’re interested in, turn it into an email alert, set the frequency and level of detail. Simple. Our daily alert for ‘Oliver Dowden‘ is vital to this blog and regularly produces unexpected gems. For instance, Dowden, in his role as a senior Cabinet Office Minister, is responsible for enforcing the rules on foreign investments in UK businesses. The system was set up to impede the Chinese takeover of swathes of British industry – mainly because this is a big policy priority for our American allies. It’s a total mess, of course, and entirely ineffective, so Dowden is now planning an embarrassing u-turn but we’d have known nothing about any of it without our trusty Google alert.

An official photograph of Oliver Dowden MP with a British Army captain's hat crudely photoshopped onto his head
Captain Dowden

Pay attention to what they say. Dowden’s web site is pretty good. You can sign up for his ‘end of term report’ and read his columns for various local freesheets. None of this is very interesting, of course – in fact it’s almost the definition of paralysingly boring – but it’ll give you a sense of your MP’s priorities.

Socia media remains vital. Politicians are still active on X (formerly known as Twitter) and on Facebook. Some of the more adventurous have built audiences on Instagram and TikTok (do you remember Matt Hancock’s smartphone app, inventively called ‘Matt Hancock’, dating from back when he was just a figure of fun, before he became a Shakespearean farce?). You’ll often find politicians publishing statements, resignation letters and endorsements on social media without publishing them anywhere else. The platforms have become a proxy for a press office and the nearest we’ve got to an archive. During the Pincher affair we recorded over 70 resignation letters published on Twitter alone.

Subscribe. Most web sites still offer their content in a vintage format that many consider to be the last non-evil thing on the Internet. It’s called RSS and it allows to you add a feed to a simple reader app on your mobile or your computer and automatically get updates whenever new content is added. We’ve got one here at Radlett Wire and we’ve even got a niche feed for our MP. Add one or both to your RSS reader for ultimate convenience. RSS is still used extensively by journalists and researchers. It’s kind of a trade secret. Don’t tell anyone.


  • Our favourite RSS reader, now that Google Reader has gone, is a Mac app called Reeder. There are plenty of others – for all platforms.

Shall we fire this thing up again?

There’s an election coming. We can feel the electricity in the air.

A three-quarter-length portrait, taken in the light from a window in a long room at Windsor Castle in 2023 by photographer Hugo Burn and shows His Majesty King Charles III wearing the Royal Navy uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet and official medals and decorations. He leans on a small table, his sailor's cap and white gloves on the table.
This is not Oliver Dowden, it’s the King in a sailor’s uniform. That’ll be £8 Million.

We haven’t posted here for seven months. We took a break and meanwhile, you may have noticed, the world got even more dark and weird. But Rishi Sunak says his ‘working assumption’ is that we’ll have a general election in the second half of this year so the politics is about to get a bit more interesting (and then there’s the polling). Maybe it’s time to start blogging again.

So what’s our MP actually been up to?

In the intervening period, Oliver Dowden, who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister by Rishi Sunak after Dominic Raab resigned in April of last year (there was another bullying scandal. We know, it’s really hard to keep up). Dowden remains Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office and has continued to excel as a bagman, flitting from studio to studio, mopping up after everyone from Peter Bone to Boris Johnson to Suella Braverman (remember her?) to Michel Mone to the boss himself and picking up salient issues as they hit the inbox – strikes, Artificial Intelligence (for designing bioweapons and for getting rid of surplus civil servants) and Chinese takeovers of UK businesses, for instance. He’s got bit parts in the Covid Inquiry and in the Post Office scandal, of course (we could include definitely not covering up for a rapist in the Conservative Party, asking Netflix to tell everyone The Crown is made-up, casually snubbing the Greek Prime Minister and more-or-less constantly complaining about Gary Lineker but honestly this list is getting a bit long).

We don’t want to be too dismissive. Dowden did collide with a few big issues along the way – he addressed the UN about Ukraine, spoke for the government on the Gaza protests and called a Cobra meeting about the terror threat. The fact that Oliver Dowden actually ran the country for a few days during the Summer holidays may or may not fill you with dread.

Untouched by scandal

None of this is what you’d call inspiring is it? But this constant focus on the political nitty-gritty and selflessly stepping up to defend the indefensible when asked to has obviously served Dowden well. No detectable scandal (that 25 grand payment barely gets him into the top 50 MPs), no public shaming, he’s not been asked to leave via the back door of Number 10 once yet. Classic teflon.

The boss is back

A departure for the ages

It must be, er, bewildering (Upsetting? Galling?) for Oliver Dowden to see his first political boss David Cameron, who departed the scene like a thief in the night (humming) in 2016, actually re-entering government via the back door, though. In a just world Dowden would have eclipsed his sensei by now but, tragically, he finds himself down the table from the old Etonian again. It must be maddening, especially as Cameron didn’t even have to go to the trouble of getting elected this time – he just strolled into the House of Lords and picked up his ermine (and his £104,360 per year salary).

Perfectly normal

Head-and-shoulders portrait photograph of Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev in an ornate frame. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt and dark blue tie. He sits against a flag and emblem of Azerbaijan

So, let’s get to that portrait of the King. Oliver Dowden has chosen a photograph of Charles III wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, with the many medals and insignia he has earned in that role, taken in one of his castles. It’s A3-sized and comes in an oak frame1. If you represent a ‘public authority’ you can get one for nothing (you just have to send an email). What you’re required to do with it is not specified – although we assume you’re supposed to hang it on the wall in the lobby, like they do in Azerbaijan. The cost to tax-payers is expected to be £8 Million. And we’re all going to carry on acting like this is a perfectly normal thing for the government of a democracy to do in 2024.

YouGov MRP poll - chart with text that reads: Labour would win 120-seat majority if election were held tomorrow. Median seat count estimates in latest YouGov MRP, based on modelled responses from 14,110 British adults. Chart shows 385 seats for Labour and 202 seats for Conservative.
For a Tory MP this is what gets you updating your LinkedIn in January 2024

In our next post we’ll look at the recent polling, including last week’s allegedly hyper-accurate MRP poll, commissioned by Lord David Frost and paid for by a shadowy group calling itself The Conservative Britain Alliance (the Electoral Commission wants to know who they are), that’s put the fear of God into Tory MPs and triggered this week’s frenzied (and highly entertaining) festival of recrimination and panic in the corridors and meeting rooms of the House of Commons and CCHQ.


  1. Some people have raised concerns about the little camera at the top of the picture frame. We’re pretty sure you can just put a bit of tape or a Post-It Note over it, although we’re not sure if that’s actually allowed. ↩︎
  • As a Cabinet Office minister, Oliver Dowden remains responsible for the government’s 22-person propriety and ethics team – he’s this guy‘s boss. It’s still not clear what they actually do.
  • We’re urged to recognise Lord Cameron’s selfless devotion to duty. He’s promised not to collect his daily £342 House of Lords attendance allowance while collecting his £104,360 per year ministerial salary, for instance, and he’s had to give up the enormous sums he’s been earning as a consultant and adviser in the private sector. In every year since he resigned he’s claimed the allowance for former Prime Ministers – the Public Duty Costs Allowance (PDCA) – which runs to a maximum of £115,000 per year and it’s not known if he’ll continue to claim it now that he’s a minister. Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office hasn’t finished investigating the affairs of his former employer Greensill Capital, where Cameron’s salary was £720,000 per year (he was also given shares in the company and sold them just before it went bust for £3.3M)
  • At Radlett Wire we’re convinced that there’s some value in keeping an eye on the conduct of a local MP – especially in a constituency like ours that’s been dominated by one party since its creation forty years ago. It’s one of the worthwhile things that local blogs all over the country still do. We’ve grouped all the Dowden posts together with the tag #DowdenLog. You can use an RSS reader to subscribe to the blog or just to our gripping Oliver Dowden updates. If you follow Radlett Wire on Twitter/X, on Facebook and now in the Fediverse (search for @blog on Mastodon or your favourite ActivtyPub service) we’ll also share every Dowden post there.

Dowden steps up

For the Deputy Prime Minister, our MP, it’s time to become part of the story.

A composite image of Conservative MP Oliver Dowden, wearing a surgical mask and floating against a virtual reality background
Oliver Dowden floating in some kind of dimensionless alternate reality

You’re a successful politician, you’ve played the game, moved with the populist times, you’ve gone to America and come back an anti-woke crusader. You’ve picked your allies carefully. More to the point, you’ve measured out your support for the big beasts cleverly and you’ve not really put a foot wrong. In a cabinet stuffed with chancers and bullies and weirdos you’re practically a saint. But you’re stuck in the second tier and the clock is ticking. What to do?

Oliver Dowden’s come a long way from speech-writer and trouble-shooter in David Cameron’s office while his party was in opposition. He’s developed a reputation for political savvy and good timing. He’s moved around the fringes of power, taking up various important bagman roles and he’s never disgraced himself. But there’s less than a year to go before the most likely date for the next general election and Dowden must get a move on if he’s to make an impact before he’s back on the opposition benches and kissing babies at the fair.

He’s clocking up valuable hours at the despatch box and cultivating an implausible new ‘working class’ image (although he must realise that if it’s not possible for the leader of the Labour Party, it definitely won’t work for him).

So it’s easy enough to understand why he’s decided now’s the time to pick sides in the war of succession between Johnson and Sunak. Johnson’s allies are briefing that Dowden is the source of the leaked diary entries that kicked off the latest chapter of Johnson’s unconscionable persecution. They’re calling Dowden a ‘compliant tool of the blob‘. It’s game on.

And if you’re going to step into history, to become more than a footnote in the big monographs that will be written about the period you need to act. Dowden’s fervent hope is that taking his opposition to the Johnson faction up a gear and cementing himself more firmly to Project Sunak, he’ll secure a bigger job and a more important role, closer to the elemental core of Britain’s crown-constitutional weirdness, when the wheel turns and the Tories are re-instated, as they surely will be, to their natural leadership position in the fullness of time.

Hertsmere General Election preview, part one

The fringe parties

Nigel Farage raises a glass of red wine and his eyebrows in the green room at an episode of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions in Hurstpierpoint on 5 May 2017. He's wearing a blue suit and tie
“Fringe? Moi?”

Calm down. The general election could be as far away as 28 January 2025. It could be a lot sooner, though. Now that the Fixed Term Parliament Act is no more and Prime Ministers may call elections whenever they want, subject to the maximum term, the element of surprise is back. May 2024 looks good because it would coincide with some local elections. Earlier than that wouldn’t give the Conservatives time to claw back enough of Labour’s polling lead – which has been diminishing across the last few months but still stands at 16% or 200 seats. September 2024 is probably the latest it’ll practically happen. The unknown is how Rishi Sunak is feeling on any given day. Our money is on 2 May 2024.

Candidates have to submit nomination papers if they want to stand but they won’t be asked to do so until after Parliament is dissolved, so you’ve got plenty of time to raise the deposit if you feel like standing. Local parties are already selecting and adopting candidates. Oliver Dowden got the good news from his local party last month (Boris Johnson a month before that).

In Hertsmere, in addition to the incumbent, we now know about one other candidate for the 2024 general election. Darren Selkus, army veteran and CEO of an East London wood veneer company, has announced (on Twitter obvs) that he’s going to stand for election, for the Reform Party, successor to the Brexit Party and offspring of UKIP (Selkus stood for the party in the Hertsmere Borough Council election last week and polled 53 votes). If Mr Selkus does manage to get his papers in to stand in Hertsmere, he’ll be far from the first candidate from the populist right to do so, of course.

This post will be the first of our General Election previews and we’ll use it to discuss the fringe and populist parties that have stood in Hertsmere since it came into being in 1983. In later posts we’ll tell the stories of the bigger parties in the constituency.

The Referendum Party

A smiling Sir James Goldsmith campaigning for his Referendum Party at the 1997 UK general election. Behind him a party banner and a union flag

Buccaneer businessman, James Goldsmith – a man who, while still at Eton, won £250,000 in today’s money on the horses and promptly left school, a man who was a billionaire in the seventies, way before it was cool – started the Referendum Party in 1994, several years after Alan Sked founded the party that would become UKIP, but Goldsmith’s party will be remembered as the originator of the idea of a popular vote on EU membership. While UKIP was still a nerdy ginger group, Sir James was busy sending VHS tapes to five million British households (you’ve probably got one in your loft).

The Referendum Party was the absolute OG eurosceptic party, setting the tone for the two decades of populist tumult that would follow. Goldsmith’s party polled 1,703 votes in Hertsmere in 1997 and in the general election beat UKIP in almost every seat where both stood. The party’s programme looked pretty kooky back then but who’s laughing now? Goldsmith died later in the same year, the party disbanded and, well, the rest is history…

BNP

Photograph of British National party leader making a speech in front of a BNP union flag logo

Fast forward to the high-water mark for anti-immigration sentiment at the end of Labour’s 13 years in office. Immigration had increased steadily under Labour and a surge in asylum applications caused by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had put Blair and later Brown on the back foot (there was discussion of withdrawing from the ECHR). Local man Daniel Seabrook polled 1,397 votes for the British National Party in Hertsmere in May 2010, a few months after Nick Griffin, the party’s leader, made his controversial appearance on the BBC’s Question Time. In this period the party held 50 council seats and in 2009 won over a million votes in the EU Parliamentary elections and sent two MEPs, including Griffin, to Strasbourg, where the party joined with other European racist and nationalist parties in the formation of a new group, the Alliance of European National Movements. The BNP had been founded in 1982 by former members of the National Front and has subsequently, at least in electoral terms, disappeared entirely – a measure, let’s face it, of how thoroughly the party’s bitter, hateful worldview has been absorbed by more mainstream parties.

UKIP

The United Kingdom Independence Party, thirty years old this year, is a paradox. A party that, like other parties on this list, has now more-or-less disappeared but can make a reasonable claim to being the most important UK political party of the last twenty years and is responsible, in a pretty direct way, for one of the most consequential changes in modern British history. A party that’s never had more than two Westminster MPs but turned British politics upside-down and routinely polled millions of votes in general elections. A party that, at its peak, had Britain’s fifth largest membership but has now been reduced to a bitter, anti-woke husk that can barely fill a village hall (but supports Hyperloop).

UKIP first stood in Hertsmere in 2010 and, in 2015, candidate Frank Ward, a local councillor who, nearly thirty years earlier, had won almost 20% of the vote for Labour, achieved a pretty decent 6,383 votes, a high-water mark and more than twice the Liberal Democrat vote in that election. Ward’s breakthrough was, of course, part of a national surge that saw the party win 3.8 Million votes, making UKIP comfortably the third largest party in the UK. In the 2014 European Parliament elections, UKIP won more votes than all other UK parties and 24 seats in the Parliament. You know what happened next.

It’s been downhill since then, of course. In 2017 the UKIP vote in Hertsmere was cut to 1,564 and in 2019 the party didn’t stand at all. UKIP limps on, with a policy platform that looks more like the BNP’s than the old UKIP’s, and won a total of zero seats in the local elections (losing 25) last week. The party now has no elected positions anywhere in the UK and is led by one-time Tory Minister Neil “Cash for Questions” Hamilton.

The Brexit Party

You’ll remember the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage’s one-policy, post-referendum party, which had a short and checkered history and absolutely smashed it in the last ever UK election for the European Parliament. The party made an awkward, unreciprocated deal with the Conservatives and, as a result, stood down in hundreds of Conservative constituencies for the 2019 GE, including ours. Farage moved on and the Brexit Party became the Reform Party.

The Reform Party

Richard Tice

At last week’s local elections the party that grew out of the Brexit Party “struggled to make headway”, as they say in the media. They wound up with a total of six council seats in England and Wales and, where they stood, they averaged 6% of the vote. In Hertsmere candidates in Potters Bar and Shenley managed a total of 130 votes. Nationally, the party’s founder Nigel Farage has lost interest and President Richard Tice has somewhat sunk from view, although he can be seen on Talk TV fairly regularly.

In Britain, the rigid FPTP electoral system obviously doesn’t favour minority parties and, as a consequence, they tend not to bother developing detailed policy programmes. There’s not much incentive to workshop a forty-page manifesto when you’ll never ever get a chance to implement it.

Slide from a Reform Party presentation about economics:
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – REFORM UK SOLUTION
• BIG, BOLD, EFFECTIVE - £74 bn stimulus:
• Cut tax – zero income tax below £20k / year = save almost £1,500 /year per person
• Cut cost of living by reducing other taxes:
• Scrap VAT on energy bills = save £100 / year per household
• Scrap environmental levies = save £160 / year per household
• Reduce fuel duty by 20p / litre = save £240 / year per driver
• Cut wasteful Govt spending – save £5 in £100 = £55 billion per year
• Reduce VAT from 20% to 18% - save £300 / year per household
• Unlock Shale Gas Treasure: £1 trillion + of levelling up, by drilling down - will cut bills

So it’s interesting that Reform’s policy platform is quite well-developed. It looks a lot like those of some other European populist parties. The economics is interventionist and broadly expansionary, there’s a plan to invest in the NHS and it’s all costed and funded in some detail. As you’d expect there’s a lot of emphasis on tax cuts and energy independence. Immigration comes up but is not the primary concern. Although they’re probably due an update, the party’s four missions don’t look too different from the big parties’ (and no mention of ‘woke’).

Four-part platform of the UK Reform Party:
Lower Taxes
Secure Borders
CheaperEnergy
Zero Waiting Lists

So, if the Reform Party stands in Hertsmere, what are their prospects? Well, they don’t look too good. The current government’s policy platform sits squarely on the populists’ lawn – ticking all the boxes, especially the big one labelled ‘small boats’.

The always fascinating Electoral Calculus actually projects a 7.1% share for the Reform Party in Hertsmere, better than for the The Green Party, but still gives the Tories a 67% chance of winning.

Reclaim?

There’s another right-wing party we should look at, not least because this party has just done what the others on this list have rarely achieved and acquired for itself an actual MP.

A black and white photograph of Laurence Fox wering combat camouflage, from the Reclaim Party web site. The text 'your freedom, reclaim it' is overlaid.

You might say that Laurence Fox’s Reclaim is not quite a party. It may have leapfrogged the electoral process into Parliament but it doesn’t yet have a policy platform. When the party’s leader does get an opportunity to communicate his priorities, it’s essentially 100% anti-vax and anti-woke. If Reform resembles a scaled-down Fidesz or a Brothers of Italy, serious parties of the populist right, with programmes and long-term ambitions, Reclaim resembles a protest group, formed in the tendentious shouting match of social media – and, if we’re honest, more of a vehicle for its charismatic leader than a movement. The ‘leadership’ page lists only one person and that person’s photograph appears three times on the homepage. The manifesto is inchoate. Here’s the whole thing:

The political platform of the UK Reclaim Party - text under six categories: free speech, sovereignty, a dynamic economy, power of the state, rule of law and equality
The entire policy platform of Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party

It’s worth keeping an eye on Reclaim, though, the party has already attracted substantial funding from the usual billionaires and with a Westminster seat we can expect the money to continue to flow. Don’t rule out a rash of Reclaim Parliamentary candidates in 2024.

The Greens

A large group of Green Party campaigners gathered for a portrait with placards

Is it fair to put the Green Party on this list, in between the loons and the lefties? Perhaps not. They have managed to get one MP elected – unlike almost everyone else in this post (no, Laurence, Andrew Bridgen does not count) – and they have, to an important degree, set the agenda in metropolitan Britain and in Scotland for some years. They’re like the anti-UKIP – a party of huge emotional and cultural relevance to a big chunk of the electorate but with not the slightest chance of winning a general election.

Of course, with net zero now official policy for all the major parties, the Greens might fear that they’re beginning to look a bit redundant. And now that, out of the blue, trans rights has become a wedge ‘culture wars’ issue for general and national elections, the party’s principled stance on the issue might turn into a serious electoral risk that it’s hard to mitigate, as it has for the SNP.

The Greens first stood in Hertsmere in 2010. Candidate Arjuna Krishna-Das polled 604 votes – not at all bad for a first try (although it was less than half the BNP vote). The candidate disappeared for the next election, though, and in 2015 there was no Green candidate at all in Hertsmere. We looked into it at the time and learnt that Krishna-Das had – confusingly – defected to a ‘counter-jihad’ UKIP spin-off calling itself Liberty GB, an outfit that has now so thoroughly disappeared its own web site has been taken over by spammers.

Since the Green Party returned to the ballot in Hertsmere it’s been all good news. The party added c 50% to its vote in 2017 and nearly doubled that in 2019. Electoral Calculus projects another doubling for the GE, so that must be encouraging. What’s fascinating about the Greens in Britain though, is how urban they are. The party evidently does have rural support but, even in areas like ours, where big chunks of the countryside are threatened by developers, they’re not strongly identified with opposition to building on the green belt and certainly aren’t seen as standing for the big rural or suburban causes.

It’s a confirmation, if needed, that the Green Party is really a party of the young and of the university-educated and not of the people who actually occupy the green bits of the country. Having said that, the party now controls its first council and it’s a pretty rural one.

Communists and socialists

A red hammer and sickle motif

The fringe parties aren’t always on the right, of course. In 1983, the year the constituency came into being and the year of Margaret Thatcher’s second landslide, a candidate standing as an Independent Communist won 1,116 votes in Hertsmere. We’ve long been puzzled by this fact – that there were, apparently, over a thousand communists in this prosperous part of the Home Counties at around the high point of Thatcherism, but we did eventually notice that the candidate’s name, Ronald Parkinson, was pretty close to the name of the winning Conservative candidate, Minister and confidant of the Prime Minister Cecil Parkinson. Since then we’ve been advising fringe candidates in Hertsmere to change their names.

James Dry stood twice for the Socialist Labour Party in Hertsmere, in 2001 and 2005, polling over 500 votes on his second try. The party, founded and led to this day by one-time miners’ leader Arthur Scargill, stood in 114 Parliamentary constituencies in 2001 but a split in the party that year, over the matter of support for relations with comrades in North Korea (we kid you not), diminished its standing. The party hasn’t put up a candidate since 2010 but continues to campaign for the reopening of the coal mines.

Even further out

A group of men wearing Natural Law Party t-shirts participate in yogic flying
Cutting crime

We’ve saved our favourite till last. In the early nineties, the worldwide Transcendental Meditation movement saw fit to start a transnational political party, the Natural Law Party. The idea was to apply the principles of TM, including the magical practice of yogic flying, to social and political problems. The party stood in at least 74 countries and even put up a candidate for President of the United States. In Britain the lavishly-funded party stood in every single Parliamentary seat and did so twice. In Hertsmere the party never did better than 373 votes (and we suspect the movement’s connections with Hare Krishna may have contributed to that total). The party’s presence across the country gave it access to TV election advertising and its broadcasts caused much amusement, not to say consternation. In this one, UK party leader Geoffrey Clements claims, for instance, that the yogic flyers had already reduced the crime rate in Liverpool and improved exam results across the whole country (he doesn’t address the fact that, if it’s possible for TM to improve things so much before they’ve been elected, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to vote for them).

It’s tempting to think that what we need now, at this fractious time, is another political party that can solve deep social problems by the power of thought alone and without going to all the trouble of being elected.

2023 Local elections in Hertsmere – the results

Okay, let’s face it, the local elections are not the most glamorous in the calendar but they are, in some ways, the most relevant to our everyday lives.

Sign saying 'way in - polling station' printed on copier paper and stuck to the door of a polling station in the UK

(this post now updated with the results fron the 4 May local elections)

Turnout in local elections rarely exceeds half that seen for national elections and the big issues are always, of course, reserved for higher authorities but these local elections are about as close as ordinary electors get to the democratic process. There’s a decent chance you’ll know some of your local councillors and, once elected, they do have real power – especially in planning.

So here’s everything you need to know about the 4 May local elections in Hertsmere, including the results for Aldenham Parish Council and for the two Radlett wards in Hertsmere Borough Council.

Did you remember your ID?

This was the first election for which Britons were required to produce photo ID. Polling suggested that one in four voters didn’t know they needed ID before the elections and evidence is coming in that turnout was affected in a statistically significant way by the new requirements. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was in the cabinet at the time the voter ID law was passed, says the new rules were a form of ‘gerrymandering’ (wrong word but we know what he means). This will make it harder to secure continued support for this and the governmemt may have to at least modify the acceptable ID list, which is the focus for unhappiness about this measure.

Which elections?

Here in Radlett, we voted in two elections, for Hertsmere Borough Council and for Aldenham Parish Council (there are no Hertfordshire County Council elections until 2025).

Map of the Hertsmere Borough Council electoral area from the MapIt web site
The Hertsmere Borough Council area

Hertsmere Borough Council consists of 16 wards; in Elstree and Borehamwood, Bushey, Potters Bar, Shenley and Aldenham (which is made up of Radlett and the small settlements of Letchmore Heath and Aldenham). Each ward returns either two or three councillors, for a total of 39. Aldenham is divided into two wards. Most of Radlett’s area, including the bustling downtown area, is in Aldenham East (map) and Aldenham West is mostly rural, stretching out to take in Aldenham, Letchmore Heath and the aerodrome (map). The Borough Council meets at the council offices in Borehamwood. From Radlett we send a total of four councillors to the Borough Council, two from each ward.

Borough councillors are not paid for their work but can claim an allowance – and it can be quite substantial. In 2020-21 (the most recent published year), for instance, Morris Bright MBE, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council and friend to the stars, received an allowance of £44,523 for his service to the Borough. Deputy Leader Caroline Clapper received £20,509.23 (details on the Hertsmere web site). You may also know Ms Clapper as Radlett’s County Councillor – she’s a hard-working representative for the Watling ward that takes in the whole of Radlett and Elstree. For that role she received an additional alowance of £22,607.04 in financial year 2022-23 (details on the HCC web site).

All Borough councillors can claim a basic allowance of £6,045 per year and there are additional payments for cabinet responsibilities, travel and so on, so a number of Labour and Liberal councillors will now be seeing a substantial increase in their allowances. The rules are on the Hertsmere web site.

Mayor of Hertsmere Borough Council Chris Myers in his ceremonial chain of office
Mayor Chris Myers

As a result of the elections, Hertsmere has a new Mayor – Labour Borough councillor Chris Myers. He and his deputy are of the old-fahioned, chain-bearing, ceremonial variety, though, elected by their fellow councillors, not the thrusting new kind of directly-elected Mayor. Councillor Chris Myers was chosen by other councillors at a meeting last week.

Official portrait of Councillor John Graham, Mayor of Hertsmere Borough Council in Hertfordshire, in his cermonial chain of office
John Graham

Previous Mayor John Graham was a long-serving Hertsmere Borough councillor from the Aldenham East ward and sat as a representative of Hertsmere Borough Council on Aldenham Parish Council, where he is Vice Chair to new Chair Helen Jones.

Map of the Aldenham Parish Council electoral area from the MapIt web site
The Parish of Aldenham

Aldenham Parish Council is divided into two wards and they are the same as the Borough Council wards – Aldenham East and Aldenham West. The Parish Council meets in the offices above Radlett library. In the Parish we elect a total of 12 councillors, six for each ward. Eight of these councillors are elected here in the Parish and four are appointed as representatives of Hertsmere Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council.

The parties

Both of the councils in which we voted on 4 May are historically controlled by the Conservatives but Hertsmere has, for the first time in over 20 years, changed hands and is thus ‘no overall control’. The Conservatives are still the largest party but power will now be shared by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Hertsmere now has a Labour leader and a Labour Mayor and Deputy.

The green surge in the local elections, which saw the Green Party’s representation grow by more than any other party in the local elections, did not touch Hertsmere but there are now Green councillors in neighbouring districts. The Green Party is benefiting from its ‘clean hands’ – they’re not touched by the Tories’ catastrophic national performance nor by ambivalence about Starmer’s careful triangulation, so some voters consider them an attractive option.

Hertsmere Borough Council is presently divided like so:

PartySeats
Conservative16
Labour (and Cooperative)14
Liberal Democrat9
39
Source: Wikipedia

All four of the Borough councillors returned from the two Radlett wards are still Conservatives and, let’s face it, will be until the end of time.

After the 2019 elections the picture looked very different:

PartySeats
Conservative29
Labour7
Liberal Democrat3
39
Source: Wikipedia

At the Parish level it’s simpler – all twelve councillors are Conservatives. Other parties do stand (see the lists below) and politics in Hertsmere is active and disputatious but, let’s be real, Radlett is a prosperous Home Counties town and is likely to be Tory forever.

Who was elected?

Here are all the candidates elected in the Parish and Borough Council elections on 4 May, starting with Hertsmere Borough Council. Incumbent candidates, re-elected at this election, are shown in bold.

Official portrait photo of property developer and Chair of the Aldenham Parish Council planning committee Mark Cherry
Mark Cherry, developer

Mark Cherry, who was an Aldenham Parish Councillor and Chair of the Council’s planning committee, stood down. Mister Cherry recently withdrew a planning application for a widely-opposed development of eight homes in the centre of Radlett. Jackie Lefton, Aldenham East Councillor and one-time Chair of the Parish Council, also stood down.

Hertsmere Borough Council, Aldenham East ward, 4 May 2023 (re-elected in bold)

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Denton-Cardew, BenLib Dem311N
Goldman, Joshua Jack NathanLab179N
Howard, Stuart JohnLib Dem300N
Rosehill, Brett AshleyCon853Y
Selby, LucyCon967Y
Treves Brown, Julian PatrickLab167N
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Hertsmere Borough Council, Aldenham West ward, 4 May 2023 (re-elected in bold)

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Al-Saadoon, Saif MadidLib Dem214N
Clapper, Caroline SaraCon882Y
Dhadra, Ronan DashLab171N
Huff, Sandra AnnLab200N
Lambert, David StephenCon752Y
May, JonLib Dem186N
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Aldenham Parish Council, Aldenham East ward, 4 May 2023 (re-elected in bold)

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Ali, Sahil SinghCon853Y
Benjamin, Sandra RuthCon922Y
Graham, JohnCon955Y
Jones, HelenCon901Y
Rosehill, Romy MichelleCon860Y
Samuelson, EstelleCon973Y
Treves Brown, Julian PatrickLab396N
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Aldenham Parish Council, Aldenham West ward, 4 May 2023 (re-elected in bold)

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Butwick, AnthonyCon758Y
Diskin, ClareCon753Y
Huff, Sandra AnnLab363N
Khawaja, SaleemCon646Y
Lambert, David StephenCon789Y
Nygate, Daniel WilliamCon671Y
Woolf, Carl ElliottCon729Y
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Previous elections

Here are the results of the 2019 elections, for our Hertsmere Borough Council seats and for Aldenham Parish Council. The councillors with a ‘Yes’ in the ‘Elected?’ were elected and you can learn more about them by clicking on their names.

Hertsmere Borough Council, Aldenham East ward, 2 May 2019

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
AI-Saadoon, Saif MadidLib Dem204N
Dickson, SueInd251N
Graham, JohnCon1,058Y
Harris, David JohnathanLab160N
Huff, Sandra AnnLab143N
Selby, LucyCon1,097Y
Turnout 40.28%
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Hertsmere Borough Council, Aldenham West ward, 2 May 2019

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Clapper, Caroline SaraCon1,001Y
Kirk, Richard ArthurLab175N
Lambert, DavidCon845Y
Maizels, John HenryLab160N
Watson, PaulLib Dem197N
Turnout 33.2%
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Aldenham Parish Council, Aldenham East ward, 2 May 2019

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Al-Saadoon, Tariq SaifLab214N
Bass, Diana MaryLab208N
de Skuba, PrzemekCon865Y (resigned January 2021)
Dogan, ZeynepLab201N
Harris, David JohnathanLab244N
Huff, Sandra AnnLab224N
Jones, HelenCon1,093Y
Khawaja, SaleemCon971Y
Kilhams, CatherineCon1,096Y
Lefton, JacquelinaCon1,109Y
Wickham, DermotCon1,082Y
Wood, LeeInd378N
Turnout 39.8%
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Aldenham Parish Council, Aldenham West ward, 2 May 2019

CandidatePartyVotesElected?
Cherry, MarkCon816Y
Evans, BenCon864Y
Kirk, Richard ArthurLab214N
Lambert, David StephenCon839Y
Maizels, John HenryLab210N
Pownall-Harris, Melanie FrancescaLab223N
Walton, Garry RobertCon792Y
Samuelson, EstelleCon831Y
Walton, Garry RobertCon845Y
Turnout 33.6%
Source: Hertsmere Borough Council

Meanwhile, would you like a professional Mayor?

Hertsmere could have a directly elected Mayor. In fact, any local authority at the District level or above can decide to have a directly-elected Mayor and it could be up to us, the electors.

A black and white photograph of a distinguished gentleman in robes and chain of office sitting on a throne, taken in about 1900 in Ireland. From the National Library of Ireland on Flickr
An OG Mayor

The government’s process for switching to an elected Mayor (this only applies in England) involves either a vote by the elected councillors or a referendum which would be held alongside a local election in the Borough. To trigger a referendum 5% of the electorate of the Borough must sign a petition – in Hertsmere that’s currently calculated to be 3,921 people. Don’t hold your breath, though. Elected Mayors are not popular. So far, most referendums held in England have voted ‘no’ and there are only three Borough Councils in England with elected Mayors – Bedford, Copeland and Watford.

Elected Mayors are professional, full-time administrators and the job attracts a salary. Watford’s Mayor is paid £73,607. The logic of switching to this more ‘Presidential’ model is that a professional Mayor, working for the area’s interests, can provide some additional visibility and prestige and advance the big causes. Elected Metro Mayors at the top level – Andy Street, Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham etc. have brought some coherence to local government and raised the visibility of their cities and regions. It’s not at all certain that this would work at the town or district level, though.

This report from the House of Commons Library is an excellent overview, in case you’re thinking of gathering some signatures.

See also

Elections in Hertsmere – including general elections – are administered by the excellent elections team at Hertsmere Borough Council. They maintain the information web site and make sure that notices of elections, lists of candidates and results are posted online in a timely way. Most of the data in this post comes from their published documents.

Data. We’ve added all the numbers in this post to a public spreadsheet (Google Sheets). It also includes general election results, going back all the way to the first in Hertsmere, held when the constituency was created, in 1983. This data is all obtainable online, of course, but this is really the only place you’ll find it all in one document – feel free to download and use the data if you need it. There’s also a fantasically-useful open source spreadsheet of all the 2023 local election results.

Maps. You can find accurate maps of the Parish, Borough, County and Parliamentary constituencies on the MapIt web site, maintained by MySociety, the excellent not-for-profit that also runs the indispensible They Work For You.

History. Our post about Hertsmere elections covers the whole electoral history of the Parliamentary constituency.

How does Hertsmere vote?

Our constituency has only ever had three MPs: a Thatcher ally removed after he turned out to be quite possibly the greatest heel in Tory history (in a competitive field); a diligent but unremarkable backbencher, ejected to make room for a SPAD on the fast-track; and the SPAD himself

Chart showing election results in the Hertsmere constituency between 1983 and 2019. Full data at a link below the chart.
Voting in the Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency from 1983 to 2019 (full data)

This post was updated on 19 January 2024 and includes data from a 15 January YouGov opinion poll.

The chart shows 36 years of Hertsmere General Election voting, from the Thatcher high water mark of 1983 (the biggest landslide since Labour’s 1945 win) to 2019’s big result for Johnson, via that other high water mark – Blair’s even bigger 1997 landslide.

The Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency has only existed since 1983. Before it there was a constituency called South Hertfordshire that itself only lasted for three general elections. Cecil Parkinson was Hertsmere’s first MP. He had entered Parliament in the 1970 general election that brought the Conservatives under Edward Heath to power. Parkinson became a close ally of Margaret Thatcher and joined her cabinet in 1979. He moved to the new Hertsmere constituency for the 1983 election (the ‘Falklands election’), when he also ran the successful Conservative election campaign. He resigned later that year, after a particularly grim scandal and, although he had returned to the cabinet in the meantime, stepped down again on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation and left the Commons in 1992 (ennobled, of course), to be replaced in Hertsmere by James Clappison, who went on to be a popular and hard-working constituency representative – always a backbencher – for five Parliamentary terms.

Clappison was summarily dumped by his party – one of those brutal ejections that the Conservatives are fond of, for the 2015 election. History records that Hertsmere very nearly became home to one Boris Johnson. In the event, though, Johnson was installed in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and we got David Cameron adviser Oliver Dowden instead. Local boy Dowden is also a hard-working constituency MP, visible in the area and always ready to support local causes. He’s had an interesting few years, first promoted to a junior ministerial role by Theresa May. His period as Culture Secretary under Boris Johnson took in the pandemic and a pandemic bail-out for theatres and art galleries. Moved to the holding position of Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party he took up the Culture Wars with a vigour that some found surprising. In that period he famously endorsed privet hedges and took up arms against unisex toilets and woke road signs.

Boris Johnson and Oliver Dowden jumping
Johnson and Dowden jumping

For a second-tier politician, Dowden’s always been pretty close to the action (once a Number 10 staffer, always a Number 10 staffer). He was first to endorse Johnson to replace Theresa May but also first to resign as Johnson’s final crisis began. Joining #TeamRishi was another low-key masterstroke for our operator, although his return to the front bench was delayed by that weird 49-day Liz Truss thing, during which Dowden was very much on the outside (we learn that he was partying with at a hotel in Leicester Square the night before Kwasi Kwarteng’s dismissal. Schadenfreude, much?). Ultimately, of course, Sunak was choppered in by the membership and Dowden’s (quite short) period in the wilderness was over. There was some speculation at the time that he wouldn’t stand at the next general election, which can take place no later than 28 January 2025. At this writing (19 January 2024) he has not declared his candidacy but it seems likely he’ll stand.


So, back to the elections. What all the results in our chart have in common, of course, is the winner. Hertsmere has been a comfortably Conservative seat for its whole history. Even the Blair revolution, in which Labour took 418 Parliamentary seats, the largest number ever held by a UK party, couldn’t (quite) touch that and, since then, although Corbyn narrowed the gap a bit in that surprising 2017 result, the Tories are now further ahead in Hertsmere than they’ve ever been.

In some ways, the Liberals’ trajectory in the constituency since 1983 is the grimmest of all – essentially a steady fall from a quarter of the vote – and second place ahead of Labour – to less than half that and a poor third place. Among the also-rans, you can see the collapse of the far-right parties as their platforms have been absorbed by the ever-adaptable Tories.

This chart shows the Conservatives’ winning majority in Hertsmere, over the 36-year period. You can see just how close things got in 1997. It’s also interesting to note how long it’s taken the party to recover from that enormous electoral shock – essentially a whole political generation.

Chart showing the Conservative candidate's winning majority in parliamentary elections in the Hertsmere constituency between 1983 and 2019
Full data

And this chart shows turnout over the same period, a pretty steady picture that puts Hertsmere a little above the 2019 average for the UK – although roughly in line with other constituencies with a similar, older-than-average, age profile.

Chart showing turnout in parliamentary elections in the Hertsmere constituency between 1983 and 2019. Full data is in a spreadsheet linked below this graphic.
Full data

To keep the top chart simple, we’ve left out the minor parties – the levitating transcendentalists from the Natural Law Party (please watch their amazing 1994 European Parliamentary election broadcast); James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, whose programme looked pretty kooky at the time but now looks like a model of sanity; the Independent Communist candidate whose vote exceeded 2% back in 19831; Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party and the BNP, whose Daniel Seabrook ran once in 2010 before being rendered entirely irrelevant by UKIP.

On 15 January 2024, polling company YouGov published a big national opinion poll – commissioned by the Daily Telegraph and using the gold-standard MRP technique which involves a much bigger sample than ordinary polls and clever demographic weighting. The result induced visible terror in Tory MPs and a frenzy of recrimination in the corridors and meeting rooms. For Hertsmere the projected result is dramatic but leaves Dowden in his seat:

Chart showing election results in the Hertsmere constituency between 1983 and 2019 plus data from a January 2024 YouGov opinion poll. Full data available in a spreadsheet linked below this graphic.
Full data

In fact, if this actually happened, the Conservative margin in Hertsmere would still be slightly larger than it was in the 1997 Labour landslide. The Reform Party, aiming to stand everywhere, polls 10% in the YouGov estimate, which is interesting but, in Hertsmere, not material to the result.

The raw data, including the smaller-party numbers not shown above, is in this spreadsheet, with the graphs, in case you’re interested, you weirdos.


  1. It took us a minute to figure out that it’s actually quite unlikely that there were 1,000 Communists in Hertsmere in 1983 and much more likely that the fact that the candidate’s surname, like the winner’s, was Parkinson, contributed to his surprising vote share. ↩︎