UKIP target #7: Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

by Jackie_South on August 26, 2013

Bognor Regis & L'hampton iconIn our series on constituencies where UKIP won most votes in May’s county council elections, we have moved from Kent on to West Sussex to find our seventh seat.

So far in our series, all the constituencies are Conservative-held seaside seats with a history of strong Labour performances. Labour won four of them (Castle Point, Great Yarmouth, Sittingbourne & Sheppey and South Thanet) in 1997 and held all but Castle Point until 2010. In the other two, Labour was within 3,000 votes in one in 1997 (North Thanet) and within 1,000 in the other (Boston & Skegness).

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton is a little different. It is by the seaside, but the seat has been safely Conservative since its creation in 1997. Before that, the constituency was part of the larger Arundel constituency  where the Conservatives’ majority was never less than 30% of the vote. Labour did achieve second place in 1997, 2001 and 2005, but were overtaken by the Liberal Democrats in 2010. The chart below shows the results since 1997, when former schools minister Nick Gibb first won the seat.

Bognor Regis & L'hampton chart3

The Constituency

The constituency covers all or part of nine county council electoral divisions, all of which lie within the area comprising Arun district council. As the name suggests, the constituency is largely made up of the towns of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, their suburbs and a few villages, including Climping, Flansham, Ford, Shripney and Yapton.

Bognor Regis is a seaside town developed in the late eighteenth century. The ‘Regis’ was granted to the town by George V after its leaders pestered him for the title following his 1929 stay in Aldwick  – he apparently did not have a huge regard for the place as his dying words were reputedly ‘bugger Bognor’. It has a population of 22,000 by itself and this increases to 60,000 once its suburbs – Aldwick, Pagham, Nyetimber, North and South Bersted, Felpham and Middleton-on-Sea – are included. Bognor Regis is home to a large Butlins holiday camp on its eastern shoreline between its Esplanade and Felpham.

Further east and across the River Arun, Littlehampton forms the western end of the south Sussex conurbation that stretches from Brighton and takes in Hove, Shoreham and Worthing. Whilst also being a resort, Littlehampton is a little grittier and industrial than Bognor.

Of the nine electoral divisions, seven are wholly within the constituency, six of which are based on Bognor and its surrounding suburbs and villages. UKIP won four of these six, all in the suburbs and hinterland. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took a seat each in Bognor itself.

At Littlehampton, the Liberal Democrats won the electoral division that is wholly in the constituency (Littlehampton Town) and the one that is mostly within the constituency (Littlehampton East, which also takes in parts of Rustington which is in the Worthing West constituency). Finally, the Conservatives hold the Arundel & Wick division, whose ‘Wick’ section takes in the northern suburbs of Littlehampton and is within the constituency (the more rural Arundel section is within the ultra-safe Conservative Arundel and South Downs constituency).

Bognor Regis & L'hampton map

2013 county council election results

Bognor Regis & L'hampton chart1

(note: for the partial electoral divisions of Arundel & Wick and Littlehampton East, votes have been pro rata’d)

UKIP won the most county council seats in the constituency, and the most votes too. 36 percent of the votes went to them, a seven point lead over the second placed Conservatives, who were ten percent ahead of the Lib Dems. Labour languish in fourth place, a further seven percent behind the Liberal Democrats.

The map below shows the leading margin in each division, after which we look at the results for each party.

Bognor Regis & L'hampton lead map

Conservatives

Given that Nick Gibb totted up 51 percent of the vote in 2010, the plummet to 29 percent was a poor showing for the Conservatives. They won two divisions, Arundel & Wick and Bognor Regis West & Aldwick, taking 42% in the former (as described above, only 57% of the voters of Arundel & Wick are in this constituency) and 36% in the latter.

They also took a 41% share in Middleton, although they were narrowly beaten by UKIP there. They also came second in Felpham and Nyetimber, achieving percentages in the low thirties in both.

They did badly in the other four divisions, coming third in Littlehampton East (26%) and fourth in Bersted, Bognor Regis East and Littlehampton Town, achieving less than 20% in all three.

Bognor Regis & L'hampton Con map

Labour

Labour came fourth overall and did no better than third in any of the seats. However, they retain some strength in Littlehampton Town (which includes Ham ward which elects Labour councillors to Arun council) and Bersted and, to a lesser extent, in Arundel & Wick and Bognor Regis East. But they could only get 6% in Bognor Regis West & Aldwick and Felpham, and also came a poor fourth in Littlehampton East (8%).

Bognor Regis & L'hampton Lab map

Liberal Democrats

Although they chalked up fewer votes overall than the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats secured one more county council seat, taking Bognor Regis East and the two Littlehampton seats. Their strongest result was in Littlehampton East, where they received just shy of 40 percent of the vote.

But their performance was very variable, with single digit percentages in four divisions, falling to a pathetic 3% in Felpham and only 5% in Middleton.  They secured just 7 percent in both Arundel & Wick and Nyetimber.

Bognor Regis & L'hampton LD map

UKIP

As in the other seats we have looked at, UKIP’s performance here was the most consistent: first or second in every division with percentages varying between 27% and 49%, a range of 22% compared to the Lib Dems’ 36% (3% to 39%).

They won the four divisions in Bognor’s suburbs: Bersted, Felpham, Middleton and Nyetimber. They were close in two others (both won by the Liberal Democrats): Bognor Regis East (30 votes or 1.4% behind) and Littlehampton Town (82 votes or 3.8%).

Bognor Regis & L'hampton UKIP map

Conclusion

As in the other constituencies that we have looked at, turnout was much lower in May’s county council elections than in the general election. Turnout was similar to the picture in the Thanet seats: here it was 31% compared to 66% in the general election. So that suggests that a lot of dissatisfied Conservatives may have stayed at home this time: they achieved only just over quarter of their general election vote.

But UKIP have clearly taken votes from the other parties too. Whilst both Labour and the Lib Dems won about 40% of the votes they took in 2010, UKIP’s vote grew by 266%.

Bognor Regis & L'hampton chart2

The Conservatives won an outright majority (51%) in 2010, and so a UKIP victory would need a significant number of voters to defect across to them, as well as anti-Conservative tactical voting by both Liberal Democrat and Labour voting. Both seem a challenge: it is difficult to see that tactical voting being in large enough numbers and, as we have seen before from the past elections chart, the Conservative vote is pretty stable – varying from 44% to 51% from Labour’s 1997 landslide through to 2010.

Never say never, but a UKIP victory here seems a big ask.

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