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)

What did the council elections tell us about how the general election will go in Hertsmere?

Nothing. Sorry.

Here’s our guide to the whole history of elections in Hertsmere and part three of our preview of the 2024 (or 2025) general election.

Hertfordshire PCC winner Jonathan Ash-Edwards signing something at the count, which apparently took place in a helicopter (or a hot-air balloon?)

The nearest actual elections on Thursday were down the road in London (Khan re-elected with an increased vote share) and up the A1 in North Herts (Labour win). It felt a bit sad to be left out of such a consequential election. I don’t know what it was like in your house over the last few days but in ours we were glued to the news channels and the news feeds.

And we honestly can’t learn much from the results, widely accepted as having been a catastrophe for the Conservative government (and, if anything, actually a bit more catastrophic than the worst predictions), about the situation here in Hertsmere.

Professor John Curtice in a BBC studio talking to the camera about 2024 council election results. Caption reads: Conservatives losing seats - Conservative minister: 'it was always going to be difficult'
Professor Sir John Curtice, wide awake at 05:52

Psephologists think it is valid to project general election results from previous elections, so you’ll find forecasts based on these results in the media. Sir John Curtice, the Strathclyde academic who haunts the TV studios for the whole duration of every election and seems to need no sleep, came up with this projection for the BBC. It obviously gives Labour a big majority in vote share.

John Curtice's Projected National Share for the next general election based on 2 May 2024 local alections. Data at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/articles/c3g935ynj18o
Professor Curtice’s projected national share

But this gives us a pretty unhelpful idea of how things will go, not least because it doesn’t map to actual Parliamentary seats. Others have had a go at working that out. Sky News, for instance, has a projection that suggests Labour will win the election but without an overall majority.

Sky News UK general election projection from 6 May 2024 - data at: https://news.sky.com/story/sky-news-projection-labour-on-course-to-be-largest-party-but-short-of-overall-majority-13128242
Sky News UK general election projection from 6 May 2024

This has been seized upon by Tory spokespeople, including the Prime Minister. It obviously holds out the promise of another ‘SNP-Labour coalition‘ scare campaign. The idea of a Groundhog Day general election campaign fought on this basis is too depressing for words, of course. We may reconsider that plan to move to a monastery.

Here in Hertsmere things obviously look just like they did before the election, except for the important detail that we now have a new Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner. Jonathan Ash-Edwards won by a good majority, Sean Prendergast came second for the Liberals. Again, it’s hard to get much from this data, mainly because the turnout will have been much lower than it was last time – somewhere in the twenties, once it’s been calculated – because hardly anyone votes in PCC elections. We’ve added a sheet for the PCC elections to our big spreadsheet of polling data for Hertsmere – very much the only place in the world where you’ll find all of this data in one place. Tell your friends.

Results for 2024 PCC elections in Hertfordshire

The projection we depend on here at Radlett Wire is the one from Electoral Calculus. Their most recent data, updated a few days before the council elections, gives the Tories approximately the same essentially unassailable lead here in Hertsmere – although their chance of winning has fallen from 71% to 61% across about two months. Labour candidate Josh Tapper has his work cut out.

Electoral Calculus projection for general election result in Hertsmere constituency, updated on 27 April 2024, showing a 61% chance of victory for the Conservatives. Data at: https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/fcgi-bin/calcwork23.py?postcode=WD7+8HL
Electoral Calculus projection for general election in Hertsmere, 27 April 2024

Enough politics. Back to watching the rain through the window on this lovely bank holiday Monday.


  • There are two serious electoral models in the UK at the moment. We’re not talking about opinion polls or polls-of-polls (like Electoral Calculus) or guesses from wise columnists or wild social media assertions. We mean academic projects that use actual election results to calculate likely outcomes of future elections. There’s Professor John Curtice’s projected national share, which he does for the BBC and the one from Nuffield College, Oxford profs Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher. The political parties will also have their own elaborate projections, but they keep those to themselves.
  • Why aren’t all the council elections on the same day?
  • The BBC has all the council, Mayoral and PCC election results and you’ll find the full national results for the PCC elections on Wikipedia.