Clacton in recent general elections: What does the data show?

Clacton is the only parliamentary constituency that has ever been won at a general election by a party associated with Nigel Farage – though a seat in the House of Commons has so far eluded the man himself.

In 2014, the Conservative MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, announced he was defecting to the UK Independence Party (Ukip) and triggered a by-election, which he won with 60% of the vote, becoming Ukip’s first elected member of Parliament.

He held the seat for Ukip at the 2015 general election with a much lower share of 44% of the vote, with the Conservatives close behind on 37%.

Douglas Carswell
Douglas Carswell (Lauren Hurley/PA)

It was the only seat won by Ukip at that election, despite the party receiving nearly four million votes across the UK.

Mr Farage was the leader of Ukip at the time and stood as a candidate in 2015 in Thanet South, finishing in second place on 32% of the vote, behind the Tories on 38%.

It was the seventh and – until now – most recent attempt by Mr Farage to become an MP, all of which ended in failure.

In the years since 2015, Clacton has become a Conservative seat again, with Giles Watling winning it back from Ukip at the 2017 general election on 61% of the vote, before winning a bigger share of 72% in 2019.

Mr Carswell did not stand at the 2017 election – he had resigned from Ukip a few months beforehand and finished his term in Parliament as an independent.

By the time of the 2019 general election, Mr Farage had left Ukip and was leading the Brexit Party – subsequently renamed Reform UK.

His party chose not to stand candidates at the 2019 election in seats that had been won in 2017 by the Conservatives, including Clacton.

This means there is no data for how Reform might have fared in Clacton at the last general election, and therefore no data that could be used to measure how well the party would need to perform at this year’s General Election to win the constituency from the Tories – for example, what size of swing would be required and where the seat would rank on the party’s list of targets.

POLITICS Election
(PA Graphics)

Reform’s target list is therefore based on places where it did stand in 2019, with Labour-held seats dominating the top of the list, starting with Barnsley North, where the party needs a swing of 4.5 percentage points to win, followed by Hartlepool (6.0 points), Barnsley South (6.3 points) and Doncaster North (12.9 points).

Now Mr Farage has confirmed his intention to stand as a Reform candidate in Clacton, there is the opportunity for polling in that constituency to get an indication of the levels of support he may have.

Polls will give a sense of the mood among voters in the seat, but will only be a snapshot of current opinion, not a forecast or prediction of the result.

A poll carried out by Survation in January, which asked people in Clacton who they would vote for if Mr Farage were on the ballot, put the Reform leader on 37%, Mr Watling for the Conservatives on 27%, and Labour – no candidate’s name was specified – on 23%.