Top 10 Towns of Disproportionate Political Significance

British places of great electoral moment

John Rentoul
Friday 03 December 2021 13:25
<p>A place that has supplied 20 of the 55 British prime ministers </p>

A place that has supplied 20 of the 55 British prime ministers

Damian Counsell suggested this list after Owen Paterson was appointed steward and bailiff of the manor of Northstead, as a way of resigning as an MP. Northstead, on the outskirts of modern Scarborough, no longer exists.

1. Basildon. “Thanks to being an early-declared result and a marginal (if a fairly peculiar one), was big on election nights from 1964 until at least 2001, with its biggest moment in 1992,” when it dashed Labour’s hopes, said Lewis Baston. Also nominated by Conor Downey, Stewart Slater, Dan Frank, Ian Harris, Exexpat19, Mat Vaillancourt, Aletheia, Drew Davie, Jonathan Bergdahl and Sunder Katwala.

2. Eton. Nominated by Andrew Adonis, David Wilcock, Samuel Willis, Arthur Spirling, Steven Findlay, Ken Lander, Philip Leighton and Mike Gapes. Its college has supplied 20 of the 55 British prime ministers.

3. Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle upon Tyne Central was the first constituency to declare in the 2017 and 2019 elections, displacing Sunderland, which had won the race in elections since 1992.

4. Old Sarum. “An abandoned town which was the original site of Salisbury. It returned two MPs to the House of Commons on the votes of its seven electors, who were non-resident tenants of the Pitt family. One of its MPs was Pitt the Elder. It was probably the most infamous rotten borough.” Conor Downey. Also nominated by Bugle Saussison, Henry Anderson, Niall Duffy, Jon Patience, Patrick Taylor and Left of Centrist Dad.

5. Dartford. The only UK constituency that has elected an MP of the winning party at all 16 general elections since 1964.

6. Sedgefield. If I can’t be a sectarian Blairite in one of my own top 10s, where can I? Thanks to Tom McTague, Sarah Earl and Thom Brooks.

7. Tamworth. Started the whole manifesto thing, and indeed the whole Conservative party thing, with Robert Peel’s 1834 Tamworth Manifesto. Thanks to David Sutherland, John McTernan, Tom Peck, Toad Unmasked, Ian Harris, David Herdson, Peter Hardy, Mike Hopkins, Ian Reeve and Daniel Howard.

8. West Lothian. It’s not a town, but it’s got towns in it and it gave its name to the West Lothian Question because the constituency of that name was represented by Tam Dalyell, who asked it. Thanks to Steven Fogel, James MacColl, Colin Dingwall and Steven Thomas.

9. Winchester. Next year, 10 people you have never heard of will choose someone else you have never heard of to be the new bishop of Winchester. That person will immediately get a seat in the House of Lords. No qualifications; no vetting; surely the smallest selection panel for any political appointment in the UK. (The same applies to Durham when that is vacant.) Thanks to Andrew Graystone.

10. Worcester, home of Worcester Woman, a fictional creature of political science who turned the middle England town Labour for the first time in 1997. (It reverted to the Conservatives in 2010.)

No room, then, for Barnard Castle (nominated by Charles Holland), Lancaster (as in chancellor of the duchy of), London (very good, Roger Domeneghetti, Martin McDonald, Mike Burgess, Benzoscifo and The Colour of Heartache) or Runnymede (Patrick Kidd and Dan Frank).

Next week: Headlines in the form of questions to which the answer is yes, or Anti-QTWTAINs.

Coming soon: Feasts left untouched for enemies to enjoy, inspired by the flight of Empress Matilda in the 12th-century Anarchy.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to

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