Labour’s famous capital punishment reformer Sidney Silverman held the seat from 1934 until his death in 1968. Since then, Pendle has become far more marginal and has alternated between Labour and the Conservatives with the 3 elections between 1974 and 1979 failing to produce a majority greater than 700. Junior Minister John Lee seemed to break the trend in 1983 with a majority above 6,000, but this advantage was steadily eroded by rekindled support for Labour, culminating in Gordon Prentice’s 1992 victory with a majority of 2,000.
Although composed of working-class towns and villages which grew up during the 19th century textile industry, Pendle is far from the gritty, northern Labour enclave one might expect and the seat offers some hope for all three parties.
In recent years, the town’s ethnic population has grown, with more than half of residents in the central Nelson Ward of Whitefield being non-white. In fact, Pendle’s Asian population makes up almost 10% of the electorate.