Politics of the Isle of Wight
As a geographical entity distinct from the mainland, the Isle of Wight has always fought to have this identity recognised. The Isle of Wight is currently a ceremonial and Non-metropolitan county and as it has no district councils (only the county council) it is effectively a unitary county. The island is also the highest populated Westminster constituency in the country.
- 1 Political history
- 2 Westminster representation
- 3 Local government
- 4 European Parliamentary Representation
- 5 Local political issues
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Historic boroughs of the Island
The island's most ancient borough was Newtown on the large natural harbour on the island's north-western coast. A French raid in 1377, that destroyed much of the town as well as other Island settlements, sealed its permanent decline. By the middle of the sixteenth century, it was a small settlement long eclipsed by the more easily defended town of Newport. Elizabeth I breathed some life into the town by awarding two parliamentary seats but this ultimately made it one of the most notorious of the Rotten Boroughs. By the time of the Great Reform Act that abolished the seats, it had just fourteen houses and twenty-three voters. The Act also disenfranchised the boroughs of Newport and Yarmouth and replaced the six lost seats with the first MP for the whole Isle of Wight.
Often thought of as part of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight was briefly included in that county when the first county councils were created in 1888. However, a "Home Rule" campaign led to a separate county council being established for the Isle of Wight in 1890, and it has remained separate ever since. Like inhabitants of many islands, Islanders are fiercely jealous of their real (or perceived) independence, and confusion over the Island's separate status is a perennial source of friction.
It was planned to merge the county back into Hampshire as a district in the 1974 local government reform, but a last minute change led to it retaining its county council. However, since there was no provision made in the Local Government Act 1972 for unitary authorities, the Island had to retain a two-tier structure, with a county council and two boroughs, Medina and South Wight.
The borough councils were merged with the county council on 1 April 1995, to form a single unitary authority, the Isle of Wight Council. The only significant present-day administrative link with Hampshire is the police service, which is joint between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
- See also Parliamentary representation from Isle of Wight for a list of the current and historical constituencies.
The Isle of Wight forms a single constituency of the House of Commons, with an electorate of 108,253 (as of 2004). This is by far the largest electorate in the country, and more than 50% above the England average of 70,026. The Boundary Commission has considered the possibility of splitting the island into two constituencies, but it was felt that the island would be better represented by a single MP.
The constituency is traditionally a battleground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Between 1974 and 1987, the seat was a Liberal seat, then becoming Conservative until 1997 when the Liberal Democrats won on a reduced Conservative vote. The seat reverted to the Conservatives in 2001.
2010 General Election
|General Election 2010: Isle of Wight|
|Liberal Democrat||Jill Wareham||22,283||31.7||+2.2|
|English Democrats||Ian Dunsire||1,233||1.8||+1.8|
|Middle England Party||Paul Martin||616||0.9||+0.9|
2005 General Election
|Liberal Democrats||Anthony Rowlands||19,739||29.53%||−5.8|
|UK Independence||Michael Tarrant||2,352||3.51%||0.2|
The election was expected to be a close race between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, but the high Conservative vote even surprised the successful candidate. The simultaneous local elections resulted in a Conservative landslide, and the high turnout and popular Conservative vote in the parliamentary election was likely to be a local sign of dissatisfaction with the incumbent, largely Liberal Democrat Council, as well as reflecting on the national issues. The Labour Party continued to buck the national trend and increased the Labour vote to the highest for over 30 years, whilst the UKIP, did not manage to make the breakthrough expected by some, and only slightly increased their vote share.
2001 General Election
In the 2001 General Election, the incumbent MP, Dr Peter Brand, a Liberal Democrat, was ousted by Andrew Turner of the Conservatives, one of the few constituencies to change hands. The Isle of Wight was also the last constituency in England to declare its results.
|Liberal Democrats||Peter Brand||22,397||35.28%||-6.87%|
|UK Independence||David Charles Lott||2,106||3.32%||+0.48%|
|Independent||David Laurence Holmes||1,423||2.24%|
|Green Party||Paul Kevin Scivier||1,279||2.01%||+1.28%|
|Isle of Wight Party||Philip Murray||1,164||1.83%|
|Socialist Labour||James Lightfoot Spensley||214||0.34%|
These results indicate a 6.6% swing from Liberal Democrat to Conservative relative to the 1997 election. However there was only a small increase in the number of Conservative votes, while the Liberal Democrat vote fell significantly. The Labour vote again increased which was against the national pattern.
Among the minor parties the UK Independence gained votes, although not able to equal the results achieved by the similarly eurosceptic Referendum party in 1997. This was possibly due to strategic voting by the generally right-wing supporters of the eurosceptic policies to ensure a Conservative victory. The Green Party also managed to almost triple its share of the vote. The 'Isle of Wight Party' was a minor party established for this election, which fought the election on local issues, primarily campaigning for a 'Fixed Link' between the island and the mainland.
In common with much of the country the turnout in 2001 was down on 1997, with the number voting comparable to the national average (59%).
Between 2005 and 2013 the Isle of Wight Council was a Conservative controlled council. Between 2001 and May 2005, the ruling group of the Isle of Wight Council was a coalition called 'Island First' composed of Liberal Democrats and independents.
2013 local council elections
Local council elections were held on the Isle of Wight on 2013-05-02.
|Party||2009 Cllrs||Gain/Loss||2013 Cllrs|
|UK Independence Party||0||+2||2|
2009 local council elections
The local council elections were held on 2009-06-04, the same date as the European parliamentary elections. Following a review by the boundary commission the number of councillors was reduced from 48 to 40, consisting of 38 single member constituencies and 1 double member constituency.
|Party||2005 Cllrs||2005 Cllrs, restated ||Gain/Loss||2009 Cllrs|
2005 local council elections
The local council elections were held on 2005-05-05, the same date as the general election of that year.
|Party||Seats won in 2001 elections||Seats won in 2005 elections||Gain/Loss|
2001 local council elections
The local council elections were held on 2001-06-07, the same date as the general election. Issues with the paper used in ballots meant that results were delayed until later in the day after the election.
|Party||Seats prior to 2001||Seats post 2001 elections||Gain/Loss|
Prior to 1995, these results are for Isle of Wight County Council.
|Election Year||Incumbent Party/Parties|
|1998||No Overall Control (Liberal Democrats largest grouping)|
|2001||No Overall Control; Island First (Lib Dem and Independents) controlling group.|
European Parliamentary Representation
2014 European Parliamentary Elections
|Party||Votes||Percentage Share||SE England Share||SE England MEPs|
|An Independence from Europe||841||2.37||1.93|
Turnout on the Isle of Wight was 35,600 out of an electorate of 111,879 (31.82%)
2009 European Parliamentary Elections
|Party||Votes||Percentage Share||SE England Share||SE England MEPs|
|British National Party||2,223||5.1||4.4|
|United Kingdom First||380||0.9||0.7|
|Socialist Labour Party||343||0.8||0.7|
|The Peace Party||201||0.5||0.4|
|The Roman Party||101||0.2||0.2|
Turnout on the Isle of Wight was 43,709 on an electorate of 109,796 (39.81%)
2004 European Parliamentary Elections
|Party||Votes||Percentage Share||SE England Share||SE England MEPs|
|British National Party||918||2.6%||2.9%|
|Independent - Rhodes||81||0.2%||0.3%|
Regionally, turnout was 36.5% on an electorate of 6,087,103.
Local political issues
For many years, there has been debate over whether or not a bridge or tunnel should connect the island with mainland Britain. This became more of an issue towards the end of the twentieth century, when it became more economically and technically feasible to build such a link, with the bridge to the Isle of Skye as a model. Continuing debate centres on whether a fixed link is desirable.
Around the start of the 21st century, the Isle of Wight Party campaigned from a positive position, although extensive public debate on the subject revealed a strong body of opinion against such a proposal. In 2002, the Isle of Wight Council debated the issue and made a policy statement against the proposal, whilst MP Andrew Turner remains opposed to the construction of a link.
Arguments in favour of a fixed link tend to concentrate upon the economic benefits that improved communications with the mainland may bring. There is some support among young people, which tends to be a form of rebellion against the inevitably parochial culture of the island. People of all ages often express dissatisfaction with the cost of cross-Solent travel, and although this is not quite the same issue as the link debate, the two are often combined by the assumption that a fixed link would be cheaper.
Arguments against a fixed link include the risk to the unique island culture and environment; the risk of losing local distinctiveness, services and facilities to the much larger and economically active south Hampshire conurbation; fear of increased levels of crime; and issues of immigration.
Although those in favour of a fixed link tend to envisage a tolled road link in the same vein as the bridge to Skye, plans have also been proposed for passenger-only rail and tram links under the Solent, linking Ryde with Portsmouth and Gosport. These kind of plans have tended to win more support with island residents.
Autonomy and political recognition
A number of discussions about the status of the island have taken place over many years, with standpoints from the extreme of wanting full sovereignty for the Isle of Wight, to what could be described as the opposite extreme of merging the county back into Hampshire. The pro-independence lobby had a formal voice in the early 1970s with the Vectis National Party. Their main claim was that the sale of the island to the crown in 1293 was unconstitutional (see History of the Isle of Wight). However, this movement now has little serious support.
Since the 1990s the debate has largely taken the form of a campaign to have the Isle of Wight recognized as a distinct region by organizations such as the EU, due to its relative poverty within southern England. One argument in favour of special treatment is that this poverty is not acknowledged by such organizations as it is distorted statistically by retired and wealthy (but less economically active) immigrants from the mainland.
Wind turbines has been an issue the island has remained divided over since proposals were first put forward, with many residents in the West Wight, where they are likely to be built claiming they would be unsightly and create a lot of noise. In protest against wind turbines the pressure group ThWART was formed (The Wight Against Rural Turbines) with the aim of working with the Council to adopt a realistic renewable energy policy with solutions other than wind turbines, claiming that any on the island would be inappropriately sited.
Initially plans were put forward for seven turbines to be built on land close to Wellow with many people around the area criticising the plan with the view that better alternatives could be found. Petitions were set up by local residents before the planning application was put forward to the Council, and the plans were later rejected. Following this several other applications have been submitted to the Council for turbines at various locations including small wind turbines at Ventnor Golf Club. Plans for small turbines at Cheverton Down have already been given the go ahead but plans for larger ones at 125 metres tall were rejected by Isle of Wight Council planners on 3 December 2009. It is still unclear whether developers will appeal against this decision.
General views from residents on the island have been mixed to proposals, and it is therefore unclear when and where wind turbines will eventually be constructed. The Isle of Wight Council stated that in a survey carried out at the beginning of 2009 on local residents attitudes towards wind turbines were two to one against, with 612 in favour and 1,328 against Cheverton Down proposals.
- "Boundary recommendations for the Isle of Wight". Boundary Commission for England. Retrieved 2009-12-02.[dead link]
- Statement of Persons Nominated, Isle of Wight Council
- "Isle of Wight Parliamentary eledction results 2005". Isle of Wight Council. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Isle of Wight constituency general election results". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- Those individuals who chose not to state a political affiliation, or be named as 'independents' on the ballot.
- "Isle of Wight Council election results". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
- The number of councillors received in 2005 multiplied by 0.833 to reflect the reduced number of councillors. No attempt has been made to account for altered boundaries and geographic distribution of support.
- "Isle of Wight Coouncil election 2005". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
- "Island says 'No Mayor'". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
- "Isle of Wight Council - Election results 7/6/01". Isle of Wight Council. Retrieved 2009-11-29.
- "2009 European Parliamentary Election results for the Isle of Wight". Isle of Wight Council. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- "European Parliament Election Results 2004". House of Commons. Retrieved 2009-12-02.[dead link]
- "Fight against monsters on the wellow horizon". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- "Windfarm plan appeal ditched". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- "New wind turbines double size". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- "Turbine plan rejected". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-12-06.[dead link]
- "Windfarms: Voting two to one against". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- Local Election Results From BBC.co.uk