This seat is central Brighton, covering the resort area with its hotels and restaurants and pier, the Brighton Centre where party conferences are held, the ludicrous i360 tower along the coast, the main shopping centre along Western Road, and the grand street leading from the central clocktower up to Brighton’s palatial station. Down in the valley on the eastern edge of the seat alongside the A23 is the indianate folly of the Royal Pavilion, after which the constituency is quaintly named. But the majority of the constituency inland is much less exotic, and has considerable variety.
This seat is one of the best examples of major social and demographic change with a unique recent political history. Even in 1966 this was a safe Conservative constituency. Julian Amery had 70% of the vote on winning the 1969 by-election and had majorities of around 10,000 in the 1980s. But inexorably the majorities reduced thereafter. Labour were boosted a little by the addition of Hanover ward from Kemptown in 1997, and sure enough the seat fell then to Labour, becoming for the first time better for them than Kemptown. It looked safe in 2001, but the Greens made a big advance in 2005, and with the unpopularity of the Labour government fell narrowly to Caroline Lucas on a low share of the vote in 2010. Subsequently she has made it into a safe seat, and this is not entirely a personal vote as the Greens have considerable local strength in the constituency. They led Brighton & Hove council indeed between 2011 and 2015, holding most of the seats in this constituency, although their rule was troubled and they lost half their seats in 2015, before recovering some ground in 2019. They currently have 15 councillors in Pavilion to 3 for the Conservatives and 2 for Labour.
Originally the resort area with its hotels and small businesses was very Conservative as similar places elsewhere in the country, but the Regency ward which covers the coast and the boutique shops and restaurants of the Lanes, is now a safe Green ward locally, as is the St Peters & North Laine ward that covers the city centre. Over half the households in this area rent privately, and there are significant number of students, particularly in the terraces of small houses around the station. Inland is Preston Park, with Brighton’s second station on the fast railways into London with high levels of commuters in semi-detached houses. But this area has changed too. It may have the highest level of managerial workers in the city, but private renting is also high, and this area above all deserves the familiar accolade of “London by the sea”. Hanover ward is really part of Kemptown, and the core of the gay community for which Brighton is famous. There are many students here too in Elm Grove, close to the main campus of Brighton University. These two wards vote Green as well, although the contest with Labour is closer. The Conservative vote has eroded away, in these 4 central wards where 50% of the population have degrees.
The outer part of the constituency is rather different. To the north-east alongside the A27 road to Lewes sits the small council-owned terraces of Coldean, the only significant council housing in the seat, and on the city boundary the large campus of Sussex University at Stanmer where there is much student housing on site. This is directly opposite the equally large Falmer campus of Brighton university (in Kemptown constituency), and there can’t be many places in the country where two universities sit side by side, or indeed where a small city like Brighton has two big universities. Students form a full third of the electorate here, and with Hollingdean part of the Preston Park area, this ward is also a Green/Labour marginal. Patcham and Withdean to the north-west however remain more traditional suburbs with a strong Conservative vote. Patcham is safe for them, and Withdean ward which includes the northern part of Preston Park (and the station), is a Green/Conservative marginal. As the statistics below show the seat comes in the top 50 for both managerial occupations and educational qualifications, but in the top 20 for private renting - a demography similar to parts of London, although there are more students here, as both universities have expanded massively over the last 20 years. Alongside this, the constituency is one of the youngest in Britain, rather different from other south coast towns.
The MP since 2010 is Caroline Lucas, a former charity worker, who was a lead figure in the Green Party, and their representative in the European Parliament, and had no links with Brighton prior to her selection as candidate here. As the most prominent Green in the country she took over as candidate in the seat where the Greens had polled highest in 2005.
Census data: owner-occupied 55% (489/573 in England & Wales), private rented 33% (18th), social rented 12% (439th). :White 89%, Black 1%, South Asian 2%, Mixed 4%, Other 4% : Managerial & professional 49% (47th), Routine & Semi-routine 19% (528th) : Degree level 40%(43rd), No qualifications 22%(566th) : Students 18% (23rd), Over 65 10% (531st)