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.

Voting in Radlett on 2 May

Calm down, it’s the boring one.

Party control of the authorities electing PCCs in May (Institute of Government)

On Thursday 2 May there are local elections in many parts of England. It honestly seems a bit unfair that just down the road in London they’ve got all the excitement of a Mayoral election. In fact, there are elections in about a third of English councils (107 out of 317), also in 14 unitary authorities, 28 metropolitan boroughs and 34 district councils (details from the Institute for Government). Not here, though. Sorry.

But we do get to vote for something, right?

Here in Radlett we get to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Absolutely the most boring election possible, right? Few people bother to vote in Police Commissioner elections. At the last PCC election in Hertfordshire, in 2021, the turnout was a fairly respectable 37%, a bit more than half the turnout at the 2019 general election in Hertsmere (70.6%), but that was because the election was on the same day as local authority elections. Turnout will be much lower this time. We can’t believe we’re even typing this. It’s so boring.

The whole idea of a Police and Crime Commissioner is a very recent one – the first ones were elected in 2012. The Conservative government (this is the same government whose legislators are currently sending dick pics to strangers and allegedly getting dogs drunk) said that they wanted to put local policing under democratic control but most people think they wanted to introduce explicitly political PCCs because it would give them an advantage. And they weren’t wrong. In 2021 (a year late because of the pandemic), 76.9% of Police Commissioners elected in England and Wales were Conservatives. The model, of course, is the American system, where many more local officials are elected – from dog catchers to District Attorneys to Chiefs of Police. What’s less clear is how useful they’ve been here in England and Wales. We think it would be safe to say that the jury’s still out.

What does a Police and Crime Commissioner actually do?

Graphic illustrates the function of a Police and Crime Commissioner
From the The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

Police and Crime Commissioners are responsible for all of policing in their constabulary areas (in some areas they’re also responsible for the fire service). Crucially they appoint the Chief Constable and hold them to account once in role. In this they’re a bit like the Chairs of other public bodies. The Chair of a school’s governing body, for instance, appoints the headteacher but doesn’t run the school. PCCs don’t make policing decisions. They have a budget and can fund smaller initiatives but they can’t set policy. They’ll usually have a fairly substantial team of civil servants working for them and there’ll be a communications function – explaining what they do to the electors. Sometimes they intervene to discipline the Chief Constable and sometimes this goes horribly wrong. Some police chiefs think PCCs can be arbitrary and domineering and they’re probably not wrong. There’s nothing in the rules to stop an elected Police Commissioner from firing the Chief Constable just to make it look like they’re doing something – especially if there’s an election coming.

In 2022 (we expect there’ll have been a bit of an increase since then), the salary of Hertfordshire’s PCC was £78,400 plus expenses (mainly for travel, by the look of it). This is approximately mid-table for PCCs – some are paid substantially more, some less. The PCC’s deputy Lewis Cocking is paid £33,460. Chief Executive Chris Brace makes £112,350 (plus a car allowance) and there are eight more staff paid more than £58,200. It’s not clear from the accounts how many others work in the Hertfordshire PCC’s office. Details from the Herts PCC web site.

We suspect we’d all be a bit more interested in the business of the Police and Crime Commissioners if there was any evidence that they had improved anything. The Local Government Association, reporting in 2020, says the evidence is uncertain. The PCCs themselves, understandably enough, think they’re doing a great job and, in their 2021 report (PDF) list many positive actions – for instance the Beacon Fraud Hub set up here in Hertfordshire in 2019 that helps fraud victims retrieve money from crims – over a million pounds by the time of the report. We’ve been searching for independent evidence of the usefulness of PCCs. So far no luck. If you know of any, please share it in a comment. Perhaps they just need a few more years.

What the PCCs do seem to have done is given the governance of policing a slightly higher profile. Police Authorities, the somewhat bureaucratic institutions they replaced, had some formal independence but also had a reputation for being ineffective talking shops and most people didn’t even know they existed. Even more boring. In 2016, only 8% of electors could name their PCC, though, and it seems likely that a clear majority of people still wouldn’t be able to. Can you?

Interestingly, Police and Crime Commissioners used to be elected by a kind of proportional representation called the supplementary vote (SV) system, where voters could choose a first and second choice vote. This has been scrapped and you’ll now just pick a single candidate, as you do in ordinary elections.

Who’s who?

David Lloyd, outgoing Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire
David Lloyd, outgoing Hertfordshire Police Commissioner

Hertfordshire’s current Police and Crime Commissioner, former financial adviser David Lloyd, is one of the longest serving in the country. He’s been in the role since the very first election in 2012. But he’s off to a research job at Birmingham University. The Tory candidate for the role on 2 May will be Jonathan Ash-Edwards, a former council leader. He’ll certainly win. There are also candidates from the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Here are your candidates, in alphabetical order. Try not to get too excited.

Your candidates

All the candidates have their own web sites, of course, but the most comprehensive source of information about their various platforms is the official government booklet.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards, Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire in 2024. He's a smiling, bald white man, leaning against a white wall, wearing square glasses, a nice blue suit and matching tie.
Leaning on a wall a speciality
Jonathan Ash-Edwards, Conservative

To be honest, we suspect you could probably have guessed what Jonathan is promising without looking. Let’s look at the headlines: more police, safer streets, lower tax, prevent crime, provide responsive policing, support victims, keep Herts safe and listen to you. Classic combination of vague and unachievable. Lower tax, for instance. If you have any idea how a Police and Crime Commissioner can influence tax rates you should explain in a comment. We particularly like ‘prevent crime’, though. Go Jonathan! Read the whole lot in the official booklet.

Matt Fisher, Green Party candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire in May 2024. He's a smiling, bald white man, wearing a nice blue suit and a very bright, flower-pattern tie which matches his pocket square
That’s not a real hankie is it?
Matt Fisher, Green Party

Matt doesn’t have a policy platform at all, as far as we can tell, but he does have the best tie/handkerchief combo by about a mile. Read his biography in the booklet.

Thomas Plater, Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire in May 2024. He's a smiling, bearded white man, wearing a dark suit and a pale blue shirt with no tie. His portrait is framed at a jaunty angle and lighting is moody
Only non-bald candidate
Tom Plater, Labour

Tom offers: “…a real plan to tackle crime in our neighbourhoods, by smashing drug crime, combating violence against Women & Girls and reducing anti-social behaviour. We will do this by taking real action. If elected I will put more bobbies on the beat, who know our local communities inside out, with their policing led by the intelligence they gather. I will work with domestic abuse charities to put their workers into 999 call centres to work alongside our brilliant call centre handlers. I will review and improve vetting practises across Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Again, without wishing to be too cynical, we’re impressed by Tom’s ambition to ‘smash drug crime’ from his nice office in Hertford. More in the booklet.

Sean Prendergast, Liberal Democrat candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Hertfordshire in May 2024. He's a smiling, bald white man, wearing a nice blue suit with no tie. He is in a field, trees in the background.
Apparently in a field
Sean Prendergast, Liberal Democrats

If anything, Sean‘s platform is even more ambitious than the others’. His priorities are to increase visible community and neighbourhood policing, stop violence against women and girls, solve burglary and vehicle crime and to tackle and prevent antisocial behaviour. We might scoff at the idea that Mister Prendergast will be able to ‘solve vehicle crime’ during his time in office but he’s the most credible challenger to the Conservative candidate. He’s a former Police Community Support Office and PCC candidates from his party have come closest to beating the Tories in Hertfordshire in previous elections. The switch from the supplementary vote (SV) system might reduce his chances of winning, though. Read the booklet for the detail.

We’ve been going on about the official booklet. It’s an A5-sized PDF published by the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, presumably as an aspect of the campaign to get people interested in PCCs. We can confirm that it’s not working. Anyway, in addition to the candidates’ biographies, it also has some general information about the role of Police and Crime Commissioner and a statement by the County’s returning officer. Electors of Radlett, contain yourselves.