Post by Devil Wincarnate on May 24, 2020 13:16:59 GMT
Romsey itself has some impressive political connections. Broadlands is now the home of the Mountbattens- and before them, of Lord Palmerston. And nearby Stockbridge, also in this seat, was an infamous rotten borough.
"People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die."
At first sight this does not look like a seat with an interesting history of marginality and competitiveness. Since it appeared under this name in 2010 it has always been won by the Conservatives. The last three elections have seen victories for Caroline Nokes with comfortable five figure majorities, albeit nearer to 10,000 in 2019 than 20,000 as in 2015-17. However it should be remembered that the boundary changes in 2010 were relatively minor, and this is a close successor to the Romsey constituency which existed from 1997, which had also included a northern segment of Southampton – and that really was a battleground. When Romsey and Waterside was created in 1983 as an extra seat in the populous and growing county of Hampshire, carved out of parts of Eastleigh and New Forest, it was thought very likely to be a Conservative citadel, composed of attractive small towns in rich central-south Hampshire countryside together with the Waterside area round Totton and Fawley close enough to Southampton Water to be regarded as suburbia within the increasing economic orbit of that city. The loss of the Waterside section to a ‘New Forest East’ in 1997 was compensated by the addition of traditionally the most affluent and Tory ward of the City of Southampton in the form of Bassett, which is the ward by which one enters the city from the north along the A33 - by far the most impressive route into the city as it passes through a leafy and parkland corridor almost to the centre. Even in their dire year of 1997 the Conservatives held on in Romsey by over 8,500 from the Liberal Democrats. But then everything changed with a byelection. In February 2000, Michael Colvin, MP for this seat, however named, since its inception in 1983 (having switched then from Bristol NW), tragically died in a house fire. The resulting byelection was won by Sandra Gidley for the Liberal Democrats. She held on with reducing majorities for two general elections; in 2005 the margin was down to just 125 votes over Caroline Nokes. Gidley had some trouble in the expenses scandal, and Nokes reversed the order in 2010, winning by over 4,000 votes – although ironically the two parties then went into coalition government together. By 2015 the long term effect of the byelection had thoroughly worn off and the Tory margin was up to close to the 18,000 mark. Since 2010 the ‘Southampton North’ part of the seat name has been justified by the presence of a second ward from the city, Swaythling, situated to the east of Bassett. Unlike the latter, Swaythling is close to the average for Southampton on most social indices, though slightly above average for child poverty (29% of children living in low income families compared with 23% city-wide, for Bassett that figure is 15%). Labour has won Swaythling in the last three sets of May local elections (2016-19), though the Conservatives did narrowly come first here in 2015, on the same day as the general election. In Bassett on that day, the Tory polled almost exactly twice the votes of Labour (46% to 23%). Therefore the Southampton North overspill will so far have added to the Nokes majority in the parliamentary seat. The bulk of that majority, though, will have come from the non-Southampton part. Here we find the old market town of Romsey itself, where much of the Inspector Wexford TV footage has been filmed, plus a swathe of what is effectively very affluent outer Southampton suburbia such as North Baddesley, and Chilworth, Nursling and Rownhams (perhaps familiar as the name of the only service station on the M27), then stretching through douce Hampshire countryside within the Test Valley district around Kings Somborne and Michelmersh as far as Over Wallop and Stockbridge. In May 2019 the Liberal Democrats returned all nine councillors in the three Romsey wards including Sandra Gidley and Mark Cooper, another former parliamentary candidate here, plus winning North Baddesley. Test Valley had been re-warded but the Conservatives won in almost all the more rural areas. This is a rich section of archetypal southern England for political connections. Stockbridge is a delightful small town (or large village; its population is well under a thousand) with a splendid main street leading down to that fisherman’s favourite, the Test, and not much else; it was actually a parliamentary borough of its own up to the 1832 Great Reform Act. Just outside Romsey is Broadlands, the country home of both Lord Palmerston and Lord Mountbatten. Despite this rather mixed political pedigree, Romsey and Southampton North looks now like a safe Conservative seat, though the 2019 result suggests that the Liberal Democrats have strength unconnected with that byelection, now twenty years past, as they advanced 12% to a return to respectability at 33% of the total. This is a seat with a well higher than average student population (58th in the UK in 2011), with the two city wards both recording a spike in 16-24 year olds (in the case of Swaythling, 33% in this age range, nearly twice the city average) – Southampton University main campus is only just over the boundary in Portswood by the width of one road. Together with the Liberal Democrat local government dominance in some Test Valley wards such as those in Romsey, there was a fair basis for both a Liberal Democrat recovery and a Remain share of around 54% in 2016, though Caroline Nokes was one of the refuseniks who lost the whip over the Boris deal, in her case temporarily. It is still hard to see the seat changing hands again, though, barring the disruption of a further byelection. General election 2019: Romsey and Southampton North
2011 Census Owner-occupied 68.4 272/650 Private rented 15.9 237 Social rented 13.3 421 White 90.4 428 Black 0.9 284 Asian 6.4 181 Managerial & professional 36.8 Routine & Semi-routine 18.6 Degree level 34.1 101 No qualifications 16.6 573 Students 15.8 58 Age 65+ 18.0 235