Electoral Registers for Hartley1884 (PDF file)
1885 (PDF file)
1901 (PDF file)
1903 (Text file)
1906 (Text file)
1911 (Text file)
1913 (Text file)
1915 (Text file)
We are used to the idea of each constituency being of equal size, but this is a comparatively new idea. Before 1832 each incorporated borough returned 2 MPs. Kent had 8 boroughs (Rochester, Maidstone, Canterbury, Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Queenborough, New Romney), the latter two were "rotten" boroughs - New Romney had only 8 electors! This left the rest of the county, including Hartley, to be represented by 2 MPs. Of course only a tiny fraction of people were entitled to vote. Only male freeholders with land worth 40 shillings per annum could vote. This meant Hartley had only 3 electors.
In 1832 the Great Reform Act remedied the worst abuses of the old system, it was passed in the teeth of opposition which included the Conservatives and the bishops. Overall Kent went from 18 to 16 MPs, but the vast county division was divided into East and West, so representation was slightly improved for Hartley. This Act introduced electoral registers for the first time.
The next boundary changes were in 1867, when the West Kent division was split into West Kent and Mid Kent because of population increases. In addition the Gravesend Borough Constituency was created. Hartley lay at the eastern extremity of the West Kent seat, something of a familiar theme in the years to come. We were still a long way from the modern system.
Voting was still public until 1872, and people had to travel to Sevenoaks to vote. And in the West Kent constituency only 11,120 men had the vote, out of 50,395 households. Most men over 21 had the vote after 1884, but women did not get the right to vote until 1918 (for those aged 28). Full equality of the sexes was finally achieved in 1928. Harold Wilson's Government reduced the voting age to 18 in 1967, but it didn't help them much in the ensuing election.
The equal constituency system as we know it was introduced in 1885 when Hartley became part of the new Dartford (North West Kent) constituency, and the boundaries were altered by reviews conducted in 1918 and 1948.
Dartford Election results 1885-1910 (elected candidate in bold)
In 1918 Hartley was in the vast Chislehurst Constituency.
Chislehurst election results 1918-45
In the 1945 election the two main candidates for Chislehurst were Major Nigel Fisher for the Conservatives and Sergeant G D Wallace for Labour. These were the days when candidates held many public meetings, but they both appear to have stuck to the areas where support was strongest. Hence it was Major Fisher who held meetings at Ash and Hartley Country Club on 2 July 1945, while his Labour rival was at Chislehurst, Wilmington, Blackfen and St Pauls Cray. On election day in common with much of the country, Labour were the victors with a majority of 6,279 - a huge swing to Labour on the 1935 result.
In 1948 the boundaries were changed again and Hartley became briefly part of Pat Hornsby-Smith's Orpington consitituency, before rejoining Dartford Constituency in 1954, where it has remained most of the time since, apart from a brief interlude in the 1970s, when we were part of distant Sevenoaks. For once it appears all parties were happy with the boundary change. Orpington Labour Party "wholeheartedly welcomed" the changes to Orpington. The SE Region Conservatives wanted the whole Dartford Rural District put in with Dartford Constituency as they said they look to Dartford not Orpington, and is currently divided between Chislehurst and Orpington seats. Dartford Borough Council agreed, but didn't like the name change to "County Constituency" (done when a seat has a rural component).
Source: National Archives File AF1/311
Recent election results for Dartford have been:
The 1966 election was the only one with a candidate who lived in Hartley. Peter Loftus of Church Road stood for the Liberals and polled 7,094 votes. Dartford after all is a classic Labour - Conservative marginal seat. However the Conservative prospective candidate for the next election, Gareth Johnson has recently moved to Hartley, so, depending on the fortunes of the parties at the time, the next election may see the first MP to live in Hartley.
The 2001 election produced a small swing to the Conservatives, but at the County Council elections for Hartley held on the same day there was a small swing to Labour against the county trend. So it may be that this was reflected in the Parliamentary vote too. Although it also points to the conservative candidate polling higher than labour in Hartley.
In 2003 the boundaries of the Parliamentary seats in Kent were reviewed again. The Boundary Commission had proposed putting Hartley into Sevenoaks constituency. A public enquiry was held in Ashford in November 2003. The case for Hartley to remain in Dartford constituency was forcefully put by Dartford Borough Council, the Friends of Hartley Countryside and local residents, who pointed out the distance of Hartley from Sevenoaks and the strong links to North Kent. While the contrary view was put by the chairman of the local Conservative branch, who said Hartley was in Sevenoaks Council area. The chairman of the enquiry agreed with the case for Dartford, which became the final recommendation to the Government. Thus from 2007, Hartley and Hodsoll Street ward will vote in Dartford Constituency. This had the effect of reducing Labour's notional majority in 2005 from 706 to 583 (UK Polling Report).
Dr Stoate successfully defended the seat in the 2005 general election, but the margin of victory fell to just 706 votes. However since the neighbouring seats of Erith and Gravesend fell to the Conservatives on the same day, it may be presumed that Dr Stoate commanded a personal vote, which bucks the national trend somewhat. Since Gravesham failed to vote for the winning party at the last election, Dartford now becomes the national bellweather seat, having always elected the winning party since 1964, so expect a lot of national coverage in the coming poll.
The 2010 general election produced a very large 11.6% swing from Labour to the Conservatives. The new MP Gareth Johnson is the first sitting MP to live in Hartley.