This area is buoyant economically, with demand for land for industrial estates outstripping supply. New jobs are also being created as a result of economic development grants given to 65 local companies.
The main town is Dorchester; it was here that Judge Jeffries held one of the bloodiest of assizes, sentencing 292 to death or transportation following the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, whilst in 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to seven years exile in Tasmania.
Today the trend is more towards incoming tourists than outward-bound "malefactors", and the area as a whole has much to interest the idle visitor. There is Thomas Hardy's old house at Max Gate, Sherborne Castle, Maiden Castle (the largest hill fort in Britain), and Lyme Regis, an increasingly popular seaside resort.
The Conservatives hung on to the seat in 1997, though their majority over the Liberal Democrats fell from 8,010 to 1,840. Labour's vote actually increased by more than the Lib Dems' did as the seat's electors declined to vote tactically against the Tories.