Election campaign

David Blunkett may be going, but there’ll still be one big beast left in Sheffield

First Jack Straw, then Peter Hain, now David Blunkett: the list of Labour big beasts stepping down at the 2015 general election has just got longer.

Blunkett has been an MP in Sheffield since 1987, first for the constituency of Sheffield Brightside and then, since 2010, Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough.

He is one of five MPs to represent the city: four Labour and one Liberal Democrat. Blunkett has the largest majority of the lot: 13,632. You can be sure prospective candidates will be licking their lips at the chance to inherit such a safe Labour constituency.

Clive Betts in Sheffield South East (maj: 10,505) and Meg Munn in Sheffield Heeley (5,807) will both be safe next year, especially as the party in second place is the Lib Dems.

Paul Blomfield in Sheffield Central has a majority of only 165. On paper it’s one of Labour’s most vulnerable seats, but as I discussed a few days ago, he’ll be fine. That’s because the party in second place is, again, the Liberal Democrats. Even if disaffected Labour supporters dally with the Greens, I think the collapse in the Lib Dem share will be large enough to offset any drop in Blomfield’s vote.

Both the Greens and Ukip gained a few councillors in Sheffield in last month’s local elections – but Labour also gained one, while the Lib Dems lost six. I just can’t see Labour losing this seat.

So who is the other Sheffield MP – the sole Liberal Democrat member of parliament in the city? The sole Lib Dem MP, in fact, in the whole of South Yorkshire?

It is, of course, Nick Clegg. Ignore all talk of this or that party plotting a “decapitation strategy” to topple Clegg. Dismiss all rumours of him losing next year. Clegg is perfectly safe. Party leaders don’t lose their seats at elections.

David Blunkett will be gone from Sheffield this time next year, but the city will still have one big beast to its name.

And even if Clegg decided to step down before May 2015, his constituency of Sheffield Hallam would almost certainly still be Lib Dem after polling day.

Yes, the Tories are in second place, but a long long way behind*. Sheffield Hallam has been Liberal Democrat since 1997. One day it might be Conservative again, but not for at least two general elections – and given the Tories no longer have a single councillor in the city, perhaps longer.

*The votes for the three main parties in 2010: Lib Dem 27,324; Conservative 12,040: Labour 8,228.

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Discussion

2 responses to ‘David Blunkett may be going, but there’ll still be one big beast left in Sheffield

  1. David Blunkett was very safe in Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, and historically Sheffield Central was safe for Labour too. The Lib Dems almost took the seat at their high point in 2010, but that will be almost impossible in 2015, and the other parties were miles behind last time.

    Sheffield Hallam was historically a safe Conservative seat, but now seems to be a reasonably safe Lib Dem seat. But why? Labour dominates the cities and the Conservatives the countryside, here as elsewhere. Why is this constituency different? It can’t just be the Clegg factor: Clegg inherited a reasonably safe seat from Richard Allan in 2005, which he won in 1997.

    • A couple of factors might be responsible. First: Labour supporters voting Lib Dem for tactical reasons in 1997 to get the Tory MP out, thereby allowing Allan to take the seat. Secondly, the Lib Dems have run Sheffield council between 1999-2002 and 2008-11, which I’m guessing will have helped give both Allan and Clegg a chunk of local support.

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