Post by Pete Whitehead on Apr 1, 2020 19:25:25 GMT
South West Hertfordshire
The South West Hertfordshire was first created in 1950, largely out of the old Watford constituency and at that time it formed a complete doughnut surrounding Watford, comprising the Watford Rural district and neighbouring Urban Districts like Bushey and Rickmansworth.
Watford Rural District itself was formed of three detached parts with Abbots Langley to the North of Watford, Aldenham parish (Radlett) to the East and Watford Rural Parish to the South. As such the seat comprised the whole of the current Three Rivers district together with Bushey and Aldenham in Hertsmere and Nash Mills now in Dacorum (then part of Abbots Langley). Aldenham departed to South Hertfordshire in 1974 and there followed significant boundary changes in 1983 which changed the orientation of the seat.
Bushey joined the rest of Hertsmere while Abbots Langley and Leavesden were added to Watford. In compensation, the seat moved North to take a number of wards from the Dacorum district and Hemel Hempstead constituency – the town of Berkhamsted and its suburb Northchurch, the small town of Kings Langley and the villages of Bovingdon and Chipperfield.
In 1997 the seat lost further Three Rivers wards and gained more from Dacorum. The suburban areas of Carpenders Park and Oxhey Hall to the South of Watford were donated to that constituency along with Langleybury to the North while Bedmond was moved into St Albans. IN their place the town of Tring and the villages of Aldbury and Wigginton were added from West Hertfordshire. West Hertfordshire indeed would be a far more apt name for this constituency now as it covers the entire Western edge of the county and covers almost the entire boundary with Buckinghamshire
The only change that occurred in 2010 was as a result of ward boundary changes which had brought in a small part of Hemel into the Bovingdon, Flaunden & Chipperfield ward. This area – Felden and the area around Box Lane is the wealthiest part of Hemel Hempstead itself. As such it fits in very well with the remainder of the constituency which contains some of the wealthiest and most desirable areas in the country.
Of the original SW Herts, the core remains the Rickmansworth ‘conurbation’ which includes the separate parishes of Croxley Green and Chorleywood and the ultra-wealthy Moor Park estate. There are some relatively grotty parts of Rickmansworth, in Mill End in the West of the town and beyond that in Maple Cross, but the Rickmansworth Town ward includes some wealthy neighbourhoods as well as the town centre and has remained solidly in Tory hands despite the Liberal dominance of Three Rivers which actually started there.
Chorleywood is even more desirable and a much more uniformly middle-class area. Though the Lib Dems are strong in Chorleywood village, there is a massive Tory lead in the swathe of large detached housing which links Chorleywood with Rickmansworth and is now part of the Chorleywood North and Sarratt ward. This ward also includes Loudwater, reputedly the area with the highest concentration of millionaires in the country.
The private estate of Moor Park and the suburb of Eastbury (functionally a part of Northwood) will have a decent proportion of millionaires too. All this area is close to the border with Greater London and at the outer end of ‘Metroland’ with Metropolitan line stations in Moor Par, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood and Croxley Green.
Croxley Green is itself an area of relatively modest housing and middle incomes and has for long been an area of great Lib Dem dominance in local elections as, in this part of the seat are Mill End and Maple Cross. Moor Park & Eastbury by contrast has remained a formidable Tory stronghold, their margins of victory not even dented by the fact that nearly half the population here is of Asian (mostly Indian) origin.
The border area between the Three Rivers and Dacorum parts of the seat is relatively sparsely populated with the attractive villages of Sarratt and Chipperfield and the slightly more workaday Bovingdon which includes a prison and some small industrial concerns but also it’s fair share of wealthy residents and pleasant neighbourhoods (as Sarratt and Chipperfield also have their share of council houses and mobile home parks).
Beyond these areas the bulk of the Dacorum part of the electorate are based in the pleasant and historic market town of Berkhamsted and the former mill town of Tring in the Chilterns. Tring and Berkhamsted lie on the West Coast line, connected via Watford Junction to London Euston and have a decent share of London commuters though the proportions will not be as high as in the South of the constituency. There are council estates in West Berkhamsted and Central Tring but on the whole, these are pleasant and middle-class towns if not as high-status as say Chorleywood.
Usually the Dacorum part of the constituency has been rather more Conservative dominated at the local level than the Three Rivers ward, though the Lib Dems have long had a strong foothold in Tring having held the county council seat since 2005 and tending to dominate the Tring Central ward in Dacorum borough elections.
In 2019 though they won all but one of the seats in the Tring area and all those in Berkhamsted as well as the semi-rural Northchurch and Aldbury & Wigginton wards. This means that the Lib Dems now have a majority of councillors within this constituency and counter-intuitively this is down to the Dacorum wards rather than those from Three Rivers.
All in all, it isn’t difficult to see why this constituency has a solid Conservative voting record over 70 years.
There is however one area which is an outlier in both a geographical sense now as well as a demographic and electoral one. The large LCC overspill estate of South Oxhey, South of Watford and now consigned to a far corner of the constituency, is one of the most deprived areas in the whole of Hertfordshire. It consists overwhelmingly of council-built housing and even after decades of right to buy nearly half the housing is still council owned. Some of this is quite grim including low-rise tenement flats and still some pre-fabs from the late 1940s. Needless to say, South Oxhey is the one Labour stronghold in this constituency and used to vote monolithically for that party. There was some loss of support during the late Blair/Brown years and both the Conservatives and Lib Dems became competitive in some of the wards. Additionally, this became an area of considerable BNP strength with that party winning at district level and, in 2009, winning the county council seat covering the whole estate.
Since ward boundary changes in 2014 parts of the estate have been included in wards with other areas where they are outvoted by more middle-class areas but the single unified South Oxhey ward has reverted to its former status as a Labour stronghold. UKIP did well here in 2015, winning 30% and had they stood in 2014 and run a half-competent campaign they might have won it then, but inevitably they have faded here too now.
Despite the considerable Lib Dem local strength, they have never seriously challenged here in a general election though they have got up to around the 30% mark in decent years for them like 1983, 1987, 2005 and 2010. Since the last of those elections they have not come better than third and were in fourth place behind UKIP in 2015 and fourth again in 2019 with just over 10%. Of course, in that election the incumbent David Gauke was defending his seat as an Independent and ran an energetic campaign which produced probably the best result for any of the many defectors who sought re-election then (given he had no ‘major’ party backing.)
He must have won over a large part of the potential Lib Dem vote as well as a certain number of ‘moderate’, Remain supporting Conservatives and evidently a substantial tactical Labour vote. Still the Conservatives enjoyed a five-figure majority as they have done in all the post-Blair elections and this will surely remain utterly safe for the new MP, Gagan Mohindra.
|1. Tring Central||6. Berkhamsted Castle||10. Chorleywood North & Sarratt||15. Dickinsons|
|2. Tring East||7. Berkhamsted East||11. Chorleywood South & Maple Cross||16. Durrants|
|3. Tring West & Rural||8. Berkhamsted West||12. Penn & Mill End||17. South Oxhey|
|4. Aldbury & Wigginton||9. Bovingdon, Flaunden & Chipperfield||13. Rickmansworth Town||18. Oxhey Hall & Hayling*|
|5. Northchurch||14. Moor Park & Eastbury||19. Carpenders Park*|
* Part with remainder being in Watford
2019 General Election
2017 General Election
2015 General Election
2016 EU referendum (Hanratty estimate)