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« Silence is golden | Main | Diane Abbott, friend or foe? »

Election battleground: my top 40 friends and foes

Thank goodness, the election campaign is almost over.

Over the past few weeks, in a desperate bid to keep myself interested and awake, I gave myself the task of highlighting 20 candidates I'd like to see returned to parliament, and 20 who won't be missed.

A handful, like the DUP's Ian Paisley and Labour's Diane Abbott are in safe seats but I thought I'd include them anyway.

Most of my 'target seats' are marginal or semi-marginal so the results could conceivably have some bearing on the type of parliament we can expect over the next five years.

Then again, we were told the 2010 Tory intake had a strong libertarian streak and look what happened. Their influence was minimal.

Picking my top 20 'friends' hasn't been easy. Confusingly, some candidates who voted against plain packaging in 2015 voted against a relaxation of the smoking ban in 2010 and in favour of a ban on smoking in private vehicles carrying children in 2014 and 2015.

Others supported an amendment to the smoking ban but voted to prohibit smoking in cars with children. They also supported plain packaging.

It suggests the longer MPs are in parliament the less independent and/or rebellious they become. Alternatively career advancement kicks in and they become unwilling to vote against their own government, hence my admiration for upwardly mobile politicians like Robert Halfon and Elizabeth Truss who stay true to their principles.

Anyway, here's my list of target seats and candidates. I created two categories, 'friend' and 'foe' (2010 majorities are in brackets: marginals are below 5%, semi-marginals are below 10%; n/a means they are standing in that seat for the first time):

Nigel Farage (Ukip, Thanet South, n/a)
Nigel Huddleston (Conservative, Mid Worcestereshire, n/a)
Jackie Doyle-Price (Conservative, Thurrock, 0.2%)
Mark Spencer (Conservative, Sherwood, 0.4%)
Paul Uppal (Conservative, Wolverhampton South West, 1.7%)
Karl McCartney (Conservative, Lincoln, 2.3%)
Richard Fuller (Conservative, Bedford, 3.0%)
Simon Kirby (Conservative, Brighton Kemptown, 3.1%)
Mary MacLeod (Conservative, Brentford & Isleworth, 3.6%)
Nick de Bois (Conservative, Enfield North, 3.8%)
David Nuttall (Conservative, Bury North, 5.0%)
Chris Skidmore (Conservative, Kingswood, 5.1%)
Stephen Mosley (Conservative, City of Chester, 5.5%)
Esther McVey (Conservative, Wirral West, 6.2%)
Robert Halfon (Conservative, Harlow, 11.2%)
Guto Bebb (Conservative, Aberconwy, 11.3%)
Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative, Basildon South & Thurrock East, 12.9%)
Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Bermondsey, 19.1%)
Douglas Carswell (Ukip, Clacton, 28.0%)
Ian Paisley Jr (DUP, North Antrim, 29.6%)

Matthew Offord (Conservative, Hendon, 0.2%)
Julie Hilling (Labour, Bolton West, 0.2%)
Lorely Burt (Lib Dem, Solihull, 0.3%)
Anna Soubry (Conservative, Broxtowe, 0.7%)
Chris Williamson (Labour, Derby North, 1.4%)
Ian Austin (Labour, Dudley North, 1.7%)
Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion, 2.4%)
Paul Burstow (Lib Dem, Sutton & Cheam, 3.3%)
Valerie Vaz (Labour, Walsall South, 4.3%)
James Morris (Conservative, Halesowen & Rowley Regis, 4.6%)
Richard Graham (Conservative, Gloucester, 4.8%)
Kris Hopkins (Conservative, Keighley, 6.2%)
Bob Blackman (Conservative, Harrow East, 7.1%)
Sarah Wollaston (Conservative, Totnes, 10.3%)
Jane Ellison (Conservative, Battersea, 12.2%)
Ann McKetchin (Labour, Glasgow North, 13.3%)
Julian Huppert (Lib Dem, cambridge 13.5%)
Luciana Berger (Labour, Liverpool Wavertree, 18.9%)
Stephen Williams (Lib Dem, Bristol West, 20.5%)
Diane Abbott (Labour, Hackney North & Stoke Newington, 31.1%)

As you can see a significant number of friends and foes are Conservatives. That's not because I have a pro or anti-Tory bias. It reflects, I think, the fact that the Conservative party is the one that is most divided when it comes to paternalistic nanny state style policies.

With very few exceptions we know that when it comes to tobacco, food and drink Labour, Lib Dem and SNP politicians support further regulations. Some are well-meaning if misguided; others harbour a simple hatred of big business, Big Tobacco in particular.

Within the Conservative party paternalists rub shoulders with free marketeers and the odd libertarian so it's more complex. I guess my list reflects my disappointment that so many Tories have bought in to lifestyle socialism after decades fighting economic socialism.

Bizarrely, politicians who supported privatisation and deregulation that were designed specifically to give people more choice now back comprehensive smoking bans, display bans and the theft of intellectual property (plain packaging) that infantilise the consumer and will ultimately reduce choice.

Public health is the new socialism and a remarkable number of Conservatives have signed up. That's why I still can't decide whether to vote. Speaking as a lifelong Conservative voter, there is not a single party whose manifesto broadly represents my laissez faire views.

Living in a safe Conservative seat in Cambridgeshire my vote won't change anything and Cameron's support for plain packaging was the straw that broke this camel's back.

If I lived in South Thanet I'd vote for Ukip's Nigel Farage but I can't support the party as a whole because it's still too flakey for me, with far too much emphasis on immigration.

Don't get me wrong. I'll be as relieved as anyone if Ed Miliband is kept out of Downing Street and the SNP are denied any form of power sharing, but if Cameron is returned to Number Ten there will be little to celebrate.

In terms of tobacco control and other product regulations the only difference between the Conservatives and Labour is the speed with which the parties regulate. The Tories take a little longer but the direction of travel is the same.

In short, any enjoyment I get from the 2015 election is largely dependent on the outcome of the 40 seats listed above. Watch this space!

PS. If you're wondering why I didn't include 'friends' such as Philip Davies, Jacob Rees Mogg, Sir Greg Knight, Nigel Evans and several more, it's because they're not defending marginal seats.

Ditto the likes of Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk). I thought about including her but she's a dead cert for re-election. I did draft an entry for her, though. It read:

Appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2014, Truss was one of only three ministers to vote against plain packaging of tobacco. Nor was this the first time she has 'rebelled' against her own government since her election to parliament in 2010.

In October 2010 Truss supported an amendment to the smoking ban. She also voted against a ban on smoking in private vehicles carrying children, saying, "I will not be supporting the proposal to ban smoking in cars. It would be extremely difficult to enforce and I think that ensuring your child is not exposed to smoke is the responsibility of parents."

If only there were more ministers like Liz Truss in government. Sadly I don't live in her constituency.

To find most of the incumbent candidates I'd like to see re-elected go to this page on the Forest website, Smokers are voters too, and click on the relevant links.

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Reader Comments (7)

I served 12 years in the Royal Navy from 1957 where I was issued with 300 subsidised cigarettes per month + free rum every day. I served to help keep Britain free, but now we are anything but, none of these MPs served there country, but are making it a dictorial society. what an insult to all those who gave their lives for freedom

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 11:11 | Unregistered Commentera bellwood


Off topic there any possibility of providing a fav button. It can be used to show appreciation when you don't provide a comment? There would be many visiting this site who might want to fav without commenting. I like 'a bellwood's' comment and would press this button. Just a thought...thanks!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 16:12 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Correct me if I'm wrong Simon but I don't think that you mentioned my MP, possibly because he voted against amending the smoking ban very early in his parliamentary career.

More recently he voted against both the ban on smoking in cars and against plain packaging so he may have done his research and acted accordingly.

I have been pretty forthright about my own voting dilemma and as I type, I have no idea what I will do tomorrow because I am not represented by any of the parties and have little time for what passes for politics in the UK. However, I do think that Nigel Mills is probably more of a friend than Simon Hughes. He is defending a tiny majority in Amber Valley.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 20:43 | Unregistered CommenterChris Oakley

Vapers should take note of Simon's points as they apply to us as well as smokers. Interesting way of presenting voting advice, and not wrong.

Very hard to find anything to disagree with in here. One or two of the MPs listed have differing opinions w.r.t. smoking and vaping, but in general if an MP thinks it's OK to dictate lifestyles to anyone then they are a bad bet. I'd go farther than Simon's description of public health as the new socialism: it seems to attract a whole lot of neo-communists who believe they own people, not just advise them.

Thanks, Simon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 22:01 | Unregistered CommenterChris Price

You're probably right about that, Chris. I had Nigel Mills on my initial list (I even had a banner made up festuting his name and constituency) but when I found he'd voted against an amendment to the smoking ban he got pushed down the list and I forgot to revisit him. Had I done so he would probably have gone in ahead of Simon Hughes although I was conscious of the number of Tories on the list. If I lived in his constituency I would probably vote for him. He's not perfect but better, I imagine, than the alternative.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 23:18 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Thank you, Simon, for helping to make this General Election's results a bit more interesting than the usual monotonous list of places one's never heard of and MPs one doesn't know a thing about trailing across the bottom of one's TV screen. I will certainly be keeping a copy of your list handy tomorrow night and making a note of how well (or how badly - hope not!), "we" are doing in terms of the results. It's unlikely that I'll be able to stay up and watch the whole lot (work beckons on Friday, sadly!), but I'll certainly be keeping an eye on as much of it as I can.

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 0:52 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

A mere 3/20 (15%) of candidates listed in the 'friends' category are women whilst they number 10/20 (50%) of the 'foes'.

Overall, females MPs comprise 147/650 (23%).

Draw whatever conclusion from that you wish. Personally, I won't be celebrating the increase in number of women MPs.

Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 15:50 | Unregistered CommenterBertieBassett

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