Marginal seats

Why Labour will struggle to become even the largest party in the next parliament

I made the point a few days ago that, for all the attention being rightly focused on Ukip, the Greens and the SNP, it’s nonetheless still the case that the Labour-Conservative battleground will determine the outcome of the election.

I thought I’d follow this up with an illustration of the size of the task facing Labour to – at the very least – become the largest party in the next parliament.

The party won 258 seats in 2010. Let’s assume for the sake of argument it holds all of these seats in 2015, with the exception of Bradford West, which it lost to George Galloway in the 2012 by-election. That gives us 257. But if we add in Corby, which Labour won from the Tories also at a by-election in 2012, that takes us back up to 258.

Now let’s decide on a figure for the total number of seats that would mean Labour is the largest party in the next parliament. As a bare minimum, I’m going to suggest 300. That’s six fewer seats than the Tories managed in 2010, but 300 feels like a useful and symbolic target.

To get to 300, Labour needs to win an additional 42 seats. Where might these come from?

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Local elections

Latest by-election results: Ukip’s forward march falters

Ukip had a number of chances in this week’s council by-elections to broaden the momentum it has enjoyed since winning the constituency of Clacton a fortnight ago. A few victories at the polls would have also offset some of the negative publicity the party has attracted over the past few days.

But no such victories were forthcoming.

Their best chance was probably in a contest for a seat on Shepway council. Less than two months ago Ukip beat the Tories in the Folkestone Harvey Central ward. But in Thursday’s by-election in the neighbouring ward of Folkestone Harvey West, the Conservatives held on:

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Parliamentary by-elections

Despite the polls, it’s not all over in Rochester & Strood

We’re still an awful long way off from the Rochester & Strood by-election. Even though Mark Reckless announced his defection from the Tories to Ukip in late September, the contest remains another month or so away (four weeks today, to be precise).

This ought to be long enough to change a few minds in the constituency. As such, I’m not reading too much into the opinion poll published last night that gave Reckless a 13-point lead.

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Election forecasts

The election outcome may still turn on how many seats Labour wins from the Tories

Anticipating what may happen at the general election often feels like trying to win a game of Risk with an ever-increasing number of players.

Once it was simply a matter of making educated guesses about the success of one opponent over another, or how well one person might fare against an alliance of two rivals.

But recently proceedings have taken on the air of a contest with multiple combatants and multiple agendas. There is no single battle front. The winner of a skirmish at one end of the country could be the loser at the other; an enemy’s advances in a certain region could profit that enemy’s enemy elsewhere.

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Opinion polls

The real story of the polls is that there’s no new story – and so it doesn’t get reported

Poll trends are more useful than poll snapshots. I’ve said that many times on this blog, but it’s worth repeating. It’s particularly worth repeating this month, where individual polls have been making headlines almost every day.

I’ve never said poll snapshots aren’t important. They patently are, because they shape political narratives and create stories and sometimes even lead to policy changes. But they aren’t as useful as poll trends. And this month, with individual polls showing support jumping all over the place, they are less useful than ever.

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West Midlands: conurbation of many votes but few surprises

In the next stage of my tour of the electoral map, I’m going to look at the main metropolitan areas in England. I’m starting with the West Midlands – not the entire region, but rather the county.

It covers the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, along with Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.

This is an area with a huge population: almost three million, according to the Office for National Statistics. A total of 28 constituencies lie within its border, two-thirds of which are currently held by Labour.

West Midlands constituencies Continue Reading

Opinion polls

200 days to go

We’ve reached another symbolic marker in the countdown to the election. There are now just 200 days to go.

The very latest opinion poll, published overnight by YouGov, puts Labour on 35%, the Tories on 32%, Ukip on 16% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%.

Were this reflected come the general election on 7 May, on a uniform swing Labour would form a government with a majority of around 30 seats.

This is roughly what the polls have been suggesting for the past few months. With just 200 days to go, is it time to start treating these polls not merely as snapshots but more like forecasts?

I’ve taken a look back at the last five elections to find out.

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