East Midlands: a two-party tussle
The East Midlands is going to play a key role in the outcome of the election.
Over a third of its constituencies are marginals, of which almost half have majorities under 1,000. It is a region rich with battleground seats, a number of which could well change hands on polling day.
But only two parties are in contention here. The East Midlands is a region dominated solely by Conservatives and Labour. Other areas of the country share this distinction, but few of them have quite so many marginal seats within their borders – hence the importance of the East Midlands in helping shape the future of our next parliament.
Here are the key electoral statistics:
- Number of marginals: 14, or 35.9% of total
- Number of ultra-marginals: 6 or 15.4%
- Conservative targets: 5
- Labour targets: 7
- Lib Dem targets: 2
The Tories are defending seven marginals here, and every single one is a Labour target.
At least three ought to change hands: Sherwood, Broxtowe and Amber Valley. Labour will be itching to pick up more, however, especially the prize scalp of education secretary Nicky Morgan in Loughborough. A swing of 3.5% would see her lose her seat.
As you’d expect, the Tories’ five targets are all Labour seats. They would need a 0.7% swing to unseat Chris Williamson in Derby North, whose majority is just 613. I have to say this feels very unlikely, and I’m not persuaded – as yet – that the Tories will make any gains in this region. The polls seem to bear this out, though if they start to narrow a few Labour MPs might begin to feel uneasy.
Here’s why Labour can’t take the East Midlands entirely for granted:
Almost half of their seats in the region are marginals, three of them with majorities below 1,000. Gloria de Piero has a majority of just 192 in Ashfield, but her challengers are not the Tories but the Liberal Democrats, so despite Ukip reportedly eyeing the seat she should be perfectly fine.
The same goes for Toby Perkins in Chesterfield, the Lib Dems’ other notional target.
It is the seats of Derby North, Nottingham South and Gedling that the Tories will be targeting seriously and where Labour will need to fight hard. As I say above, as things currently stand I don’t expect Labour to lose any of them. Derby North was actually a three-way marginal in 2010, with the Lib Dems ending up in third place on 28% of the vote compared with Labour’s 33%. But this might work in Chris Williamson’s favour in 2015, especially if the Lib Dem vote collapses in his direction.
It will be a good night for Labour if they hold all their seats in the East Midlands and pick off at least five more from the Tories. That’s the number they need to gain to stand any chance of forming a majority government. They’d need four to take their tally to 20 and become the largest party in the region.
A final note: the East Midlands boasts a bumper assortment of veterans and big beasts, all of whom are in safe seats and all of whom I hope will be standing again. The House of Commons would be a poorer place without the likes of Ken Clarke (Rushcliffe), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Margaret Beckett (Derby South), Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood), Alan Duncan (Rutland & Melton) and Keith Vaz (Leicester East).
5 responses to ‘East Midlands: a two-party tussle’
High Peak is administratively part of East Midlands region but effectively part of the North West, bordering onto Greater Manchester on its western boundary. The constituency is a mix of old mill towns and rural villages. I think Labour will just edge this. Whilst the sitting MP Andrew Bingham is a fairly popular constituency MP, there have been big swings in this area from Tory to Labour over past few years for High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council elections. It is also a constituency where Lib Dems have polled fairly high (but never threatened to win) in the past. Also UKIP tend to poll fairly well, albeit not as high as elsewhere in country.
Thanks Steve. Interesting to hear this. My instinct is to say any collapse in the Lib Dem vote would favour Labour, especially as High Peak was a Labour seat from 1997-2010. It would need a 4.6% swing from Tory to Labour for the seat to change hands, however. It’ll certainly be a close result, whichever way it turns out.
I think you are defining a “marginal” as a seat with a majority of less than 5,000, but it seems a bit odd that the seven Conservative-held “marginals” exclude Bosworth (majority 5,032) but include High Peak (majority only 355 votes lower).
Is Bosworth really very much more “safe” than High Peak?
(Perhaps there are good reasons why that might be the case for these two particular seats, but in general the dividing line seems a little artificial…)
That’s because it is! Any dividing line for the purposes of this exercise is going to throw up these kinds of oddities. But I’m sticking to 5,000 as a cut-off to ensure consistency across all my regional overviews.
OK, well I guess you need an objective measure, but I don’t see that a majority of 5,001 makes you much “safer” than one of 4,999. And turnout must have an effect.
Rather than picking an arbitrary number, the Electoral Reform Society has tried to be a bit more scientific, looking at when seats last changed hands. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/safe-seats/ They predicted that 382 seats were “safe” in 2010 and got all but two right. Some have not changed hands since the 19th century – I think Shropshire North holds the record, returning Tory MPs since 1835!