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.