In 2017 the highest Conservative numerical majority, 27,772, was recorded by Ranil Jayawardena in North East Hampshire. This did not in fact make it the ‘safest Tory seat’ in percentage terms at that election – Wikipedia is currently incorrect on that point – but by any measure it was one of the safest, for example being in the top ten for Conservative vote share at 65.5%. In 2019, though, it slipped quite a way down the list, and there are now 135 safer seats for the blue team. That is not to say NE Hampshire is anything other than a very secure Tory division, but both results do bear explanation. This constituency does not actually completely cover the north east corner of Hampshire. Most of that quadrant is included, but two more urban chunks are bitten out of it, and its shape somewhat resembles a question mark. Right in the corner the seat of Aldershot is to be found, tightly drawn round that military town and Farnborough, also in the borough of Rushmoor. The other incursion is Basingstoke. The largest population centre actually included in NE Hampshire is the town of Fleet, known to many only as providing the name for the first M3 service station as one heads from London towards Southampton. However there are also overgrown villages such as Yateley (population 21,000 in 2011 and rising), brought in from Aldershot in the 2010 boundary changes, Hook a little further down the same motorway, Headley, Odiham and Hartley Wintney. Each contributes roughly 5,000 electors. These have grown from smaller cores as they are attractive places to live in and commute from. There is also some more unspoilt and indeed truly ancient terrain. The Roman town of Silchester is included and one of the wards is named Calleva after its Latin name. This is part of the small section of Basingstoke district transferred in the 2010 review; the bulk of North East Hampshire is in the Hart district. That last fact provides the main clue to how this seat had the largest Tory majority in 2017. In the Indices of Deprivation 2015, Hart was ranked at 326 out of 326 local authorities in England. The NE Hampshire constituency is overwhelmingly owner occupied and affluent, and has almost no pockets of deprivation. It has more households with at least two cars than any other seat in the United Kingdom. It is in the top 25 for reporting ‘very good health’. It ranks 6th in the UK for those in higher managerial and administrative occupations. All of this suggests a rock-solid Tory stronghold as in 2017 and before. One other figure, though: NE Hampshire is 633rd in the list of seats on the criterion of ‘no academic qualifications’. This is a fair indicator that there will have been some Liberal Democrat appeal in the 2019 ‘Brexit election’, and it was indeed the Lib Dems who moved forwards from 12% in third place in 2017 to 25% and second in that year. They have proved competitive on Hart council too, gaining Fleet East and Yateley West convincingly from the Conservatives in May 2019. In fact Hart council has been under no overall control for most of its existence since the early 1970s, and the Conservatives last had a majority here in 2012 – though this is because of Independent and Residents group strength as well as a consistent Liberal Democrat presence. The Conservatives’ lack of municipal dominance had little in the way of a counterpart in general elections until 2019, but then for the first time the Liberal Democrats did manage to exploit to an extent the demographic characteristics outlined above - that translate to the fact that this seat voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, by an estimated 54% to 46%. The very absence of deprivation also denuded NE Hampshire of pockets of strong Leave voting, and in the unusual (and maybe one-off) circumstances of 2019, meant that this seat, highest majority of all in 2017 notwithstanding, is now less ‘safe’ than, say, Portsmouth North, Waveney and Great Yarmouth and Cleethorpes, and Cannock Chase, NW Leicestershire and North Warwickshire, all of which the Tories failed to win as recently as 2005. That observation actually tells us more about the decline of Labour in Brexit favouring places than any really significant weakening of the Conservatives; but it does also suggest that after a low period in 2015-17 due to their participation in the coalition, the Liberal Democrats are back to the clear second place and 20 – 30% share that they enjoyed here up to 2010 and also that is suggested by their local election strength. The parties will probably remain in the same order, and clearly spaced out, next time. Major boundary changes are unlikely as the seat is only slightly above the electoral quota for 650 seats.
Owner-occupied 76.9% 42 /650 Private rented 12.2% 443/650 Social rented 8.5% 621/650 White 95.5% 311/650 Black 0/4% 390/650 Asian 2.3% 343/650 Managerial & professional 47.8% Routine & Semi-routine 15.0% Degree level 38.9% 56/650 No qualifications 13.3% 633/650 Students 5.6% 570/650 Age 65+ 16.6 % 338/650
General election 2019: North East Hampshire
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Ranil Jayawardena 35,280 59.5 -6.0 Liberal Democrats Graham Cockarill 15,069 25.4 +13.3 Labour Barry Jones 5,760 9.7 -7.6 Green Culann Walsh 1,754 3.0 +0.4 Independent Tony Durrant 831 1.4 I Monster Raving Loony Howling Laud Hope 576 1.0