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. ↩︎

Battle commences

A new-build housing estate in the countryside

Liz Truss’s first Prime Ministers’ Questions passed without Oliver Dowden’s presence but our MP’s definitely been pitch-rolling* for the big green belt fight

Hertsmere stays blue but only just

The Tory Party’s own Anti-Growth Coalition smells blood. Parliament is back after a long conference season break, extended by the Queen’s funeral. Labour is now an average of 30 points ahead of the Tories in national opinion polls. If there was a general election tomorrow Labour’s parliamentary majority would be over 300. Dowden would hang on to his seat but his majority in Hertsmere would be smaller even than the historic low of the 1997 Blair landslide. The weakness of the government brought about by the Chancellor’s catastrophic mini-budget hasn’t just empowered the opposition, though, it’s boosted critics inside the governing party too.

Tory backbenchers may mobilise against cuts in benefits that they can see will be disastrous, or they might decide that the NI increase that was going to fund social care must be reinstated. Let’s face it, though, what’s really got them going is the prospect of winning concessions on proposed planning reforms from the embattled front bench. The 2019 manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes per year – so far undelivered of course – looks like it’s about to be scrapped so the anti-growth Tories might record that as victory number one in the coming war.

It won’t be the first time Tories from the shires and the home counties have derailed planning reforms. Economic growth will always be secondary to protection of the green belt in these constituencies. Almost everyone – and especially the economically liberal end of the think tank spectrum – recognises that Britain’s bizarre and sclerotic planning regime is holding back vital infrastructure investment and improvements to the housing stock. For Tory MPs, though, this remains the ultimate third rail issue.

It seems that Tory backbenchers are also teaming up with Labour MPs in constituencies threatened with the prospect of fracking. If your response to the government’s announcement that fracking would restart was “it’ll never happen” give yourself a pat on the back.

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

Oliver Dowden is out of ministerial office and, for the time being, out of favour. He continues to use his time out in the cold to restore his bond with Hertsmere constituents in time for the general election. He’s defending the green belt on Twitter and insisting on local consent to planning decisions. He’s firing off written questions to ministers in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (the planning ministry). So far they’ve all been about planning and the green belt. We shared the first three in an earlier post. His most recent questions are:

To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whether he will take steps to protect the Green Belt in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Question from Oliver Dowden, 10 October 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, what the Government’s policy is on the calculation of new housing targets in local authorities which are predominately made up of Green Belt land.

Question from Oliver Dowden, 10 October 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, what steps the Government is taking to address local housing projections which are based on out-of-date numbers.

Question from Oliver Dowden, 10 October 2022

The minister assigned these questions, Parliamentary Under Secretary Lee Rowley, responds with a holding position:

Existing Government policy is to help make home ownership affordable for more people and to help more people rent their own home. To do that, we will need to deliver more homes. The standard method for assessing local housing need is used by councils to inform the preparation of their local plans and, as part of the local plan process, Councils are responsible for determining the best approach to development in their areas, including taking into consideration important matters such as Green Belt.

The previous Government undertook a review of the standard method formula in 2020 and, after carefully considering consultation responses, they retained the existing formula providing stability and certainty for planning and for local communities. As with all policies, we are monitoring the standard method, particularly as the impact of changes to the way we live and work and levelling up become clear.

Written answer from Lee Rowley, 10 October 2022

National planning frameworks, local plans, rules about affordable housing, a tapestry of historic green belt protections – this is a complicated business and dry as dust (we practically nodded off typing this) but there can’t be a better-informed group than these home counties MPs. They’re planning ninjas, with hundreds of years of opposing major projects and reform to the rules between them. We can only sympathise with Mr Rowley, whose inbox, we feel certain, is going to be pinging constantly as these questions pour in. A quick search of They Work For You suggests that many Tory MPs have kicked off the new session with detailed questions about planning. They’re going to be a tough crowd and the action returns to the floor of the house soon. Meanwhile the markets remain unimpressed, mortgage rates are now rising faster than during the financial crisis and the Winter looms.

* If you’ve been listening to the increasingly desperate defences of the Truss-Kwarteng mini-catastrophe from various leadership proxies you’ll have heard the phrase ‘rolling the pitch’ or ‘pitch-rolling’, as in “…the suspension of politics in the mourning period left no time to ‘roll the pitch’ and warn investors of his plan.” We think this awkward (but obviously very Tory) phrase was first applied to politics by David Cameron. Here’s an example from 2014.

Your MP voted against admitting 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees

Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere, is loyal. He’s never rebelled against the government, so we shouldn’t be surprised that, on 25 April, he voted against an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would have allowed 3,000 child refugees currently stuck on the Continent entry to the UK. Only five Conservatives voted for the amendment: Geoffrey Cox, Tania Mathis, Stephen Phillips, Will Quince and David Warburton. The amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs in the House of Lords, was rejected 294 to 276, giving a majority of 18.

The other election

Voting rights for women. Dutch women going to the polls for the first time. The Netherlands, Amsterdam, 1921.Voters of Radlett, eat your Weetabix. You have a lot of electing to do. When you go to vote tomorrow today you’ll be electing not only an MP but also a Hertsmere Borough Councillor and an Aldenham Parish Councillor.

Last year the council consulted with electors and switched from the old ‘thirds’ model, where votes for one-third of council seats were held each year for three consecutive years, to a simpler ‘whole council’ model. Now, when we vote, we’re electing councillors for all 39 seats in the Borough in one go. The changes are explained in this document (PDF).

The count for the parliamentary election will start right after the polls close tomorrow this evening and go on into the early hours of Friday morning. The count for the local elections will take place at the same venue from midday on Friday, 8 May. We should see parliamentary results by 4am and borough and parish council results from around 4pm.

The Hertsmere press team have their social media act together so follow them on Twitter or on Facebook for regular updates through the night. Results will be available on the Hertsmere web site soon after the count.

While you’re at it, follow @RadlettWire on Twitter.