Regions

The Home Counties: a true blue heartland

For the next stage of my tour of the electoral map, I’ve grouped together five counties that don’t fit neatly into the traditional regions of the UK, but which all sit in the same area of the country and cluster near the edge of Greater London.

They are Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. I’ve collectively referred to them as the Home Counties. I know this term often includes areas lying to the south and east of London as well, but I’ve saved those particular counties for my survey of, unsurprisingly, South-east England.

Here is how this part of the country is represented in parliament currently:

Home Counties constituencies

The Conservatives dominate this area. Labour’s four MPs are confined only to large towns and cities. Everywhere else is true blue. This is a Tory heartland, and hosts some of the party’s safest seats. In two of the counties, Buckinghamshire and Herefordshire, they hold every single constituency.

Here are the key electoral statistics:

Number of marginals: 7, or 18.4% of total

Number of ultra-marginals: 1 or 2.6%

Conservative targets: 1

Labour targets: 2

Liberal Democrat targets: 0

As you can tell, this not a part of the UK that is likely to see much drama on polling day. With the Liberal Democrats completely absent, all we will see here are Tory-Labour contests – and even those might culminate in just one seat changing hands.

Labour

The Labour party has only four seats across this region, all confined to urban areas:

Labour Home Counties

Luton South and Oxford East are ostensibly Conservative targets, the former in particular. I doubt Labour will lose either. Gavin Shuker in Luton South has a majority that ought to withstand challenges from both the Tories and Ukip. He is also a sharp and effective campaigner, holding the seat for Labour in 2010 despite the antics of his predecessor as MP, Margaret Moran, who stood down following the expenses scandal.

Conservatives

The volume of Tory constituencies in this part of the country is so vast that I’ve had to divide my list into two sections. First up, those seats with the smallest majorities:

Conservative Home Counties

Even though five of these seats are marginals, in three of them the party closest behind the Tories in 2010 was the Liberal Democrats. As such these three seats – including the most marginal of them all, Oxford West & Abingdon – are all safe.

The other two, Bedford and Stevenage, are Labour targets. Bedford ought to fall to Labour fairly easily; a swing of 1.5% would do it. Stevenage is more of a challenge, needing a swing of 4%. On current poll trends I think this is beyond Labour’s grasp.

Here are the rest of the Conservative constituencies. Witney, the safest of the lot, is the seat of David Cameron.

Conservative Home Counties continued

All of this means that, out of the 38 seats I’ve grouped together here as the Home Counties, only one – Bedford – is likely to see any change at the election.

I rather suspect this is a part of the UK most politicians are more likely to pass through (or fly over) during the campaign than grace with a visit.

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Discussion

7 responses to ‘The Home Counties: a true blue heartland

  1. I would nominate Watford as a potential Labour gain. If the Liberal Democrat vote shrinks significantly, and this is likely, Labour rather than the Conservatives stand to benefit and by a sufficient margin, I would argue, to wipe out the Tory majority.

    • Earlier this year Lord Ashcroft did an opinion poll of Watford that suggested Labour was in front. Given how the nationwide polls have narrowed recently, I wonder if this is still the case. But you’re right, it’s a seat that could end up in the Labour column if the Lib Dem vote collapses enough in that direction.

  2. I’d not be so sure that there will be no changes.

    St Albans is almost a 3-way marginal. Historically it was very Conservative, but there was a Labour MP from 1997 to 2005, when Peter Lilley fled to a safer seat in neighbouring Hitchen and Harpenden. The former Labour MP Kerry Pollard is standing again next year. The LibDems do well on the local council, and did very well in the 2010 general election, but I expect much of that support will swing back to Labour. Probably a Conservative hold, but Labour might run them close.

    Watford has flip-flopped between Labour and Conservative over the years, and is even more of a 3-way marginal. Again, the LibDems do well on the local council, and have come second in the last two general elections. The Labour vote collapsed in 2010, but the Conservatives took the seat. It could easily go back.

    Unfortunately Evan Harris is not trying to recover Oxford West & Abingdon. I expect you are right that the Conservatives will be re-elected.

    • Interesting to hear about the history of both Watford and St Albans, Andrew. I appreciate the extra information!

      At the moment I’m minded to think both will remain Conservative seats, but knowing more about their background I can see how the behaviour of former Lib Dem voters will be crucial in deciding the results. Hopefully this will become more obvious the nearer we get to polling day.

  3. Not if the Green Surge continues. If the Green Party were not under such a strict media blackout and relegated to the category “other,” people might realize that they offered a viable alternative. If they had just a fraction of the funding that other parties enjoy, they would not waste the opportunity to gain traction in the polls. They are not well funded as they cannot be bought!

    When you visit the “Vote for Policies” Website you get a clear picture of the true groundswell of support for Green Party ideas and policies. Party leader Natalie Bennett did a whole lot better than two subsequent potential leaders in the “Leaders Live” debates, scoring 86% approval for Green policies. Ed Miliband’s score dipped as low as 50% and Nigel Farage only scored in the mid 60s range. You can view all three of these debates on YouTube with more to follow.

    Don’t be so ready to blot out the “home counties” in naive baby blue. There has been too much unpleasant austerity medicine over the past few years and this heartland may be ready for real change. I for one, will be voting to make England a GREEN and pleasant land.

    What is really vital is that young people make sure they are registered to vote. This is particularly crucial now as so many have been silently dropped from the voting register due to the new system that so few seem to know about. Now all those eligible to vote must be registered individually rather than under their head of household. This could take college students by shock when they suddenly realize they have been disenfranchised without much warning. I applaud the efforts of the young team at Bite the Ballot, trying to get young people to engage in politics.

    I hope students will heed the warning and not feel too disillusioned by the same BS from the same old parties, preaching more business as usual. There is another way forward, without the bigoted UKIP rhetoric. The knee-jerk lurch to UKIP will probable lead to a far right alliance with the Tories as they desperately cling to power leaving the working poor to choke down more austerity. No one should tell you who to vote for; just get registered and visit the Vote for policies Website to aid you in making a well informed decision.

    Ignore the media manipulation, propaganda and radical scaremongering. It is time to focus on the the real issues that have generated huge petitions, bought so many protesters to the streets in droves and made others camp-out for months on end demanding real change for ordinary people You marched to stop wars, save the NHS and rage over the tuition fee betrayal, but never to scapegoat migrants.

    Please bear in mind that no vote is a wasted vote if enough people vote to support issues that they truly believe in. Go to Vote for Policies and see where your real allegiance lies.

    For the greater good,
    Let’s make England a GREEN and pleasant land…

    Kim.

    • Thanks, Kim. Apart from Brighton Pavilion, which I expect the Greens will hold, where are the best chance of the Greens winning seats? Norwich South, I suppose. And then? Are there any signs of an electoral earthquake?

      • Hi Andrew,

        The main issue is that people are totally unaware of how popular the policy choices laid out in the Green Party Manifesto are. For me the wake up call was my visit to the “Vote for Policies” Website and seeing how many people in my area would vote Green if choosing a candidate based on policies rather than on manipulative press hype. I am more inclined to direct people to their survey than try to persuade them to vote Green.

        The more people take the survey the greater the percentage in favor of the Green Party in almost all constituencies throughout the country. Does this mean that only politically engaged people skeptical of the business as usual politics bother to take the survey in the first place? Perhaps, but it is still a striking result. If just one independent, well reported, opinion poll were dedicated to showing the results of “Vote for Policies” we would have genuine democratic reporting at last.

        Oxford East, where I live, is considered a safe Labour seat, but of 2536 potential voters in Oxford East taking the survey 32.39% voted in favour of a Green party agenda with only 21.25% supporting Labor. In Whitney with only 924 respondents 24.08% back the Greens while David Camaron is at only 14.36% just barely above UKIP and behind both Labour and the Lib Dems. Bristol West is another area with a high number of responses 3902 people have taken the survey with 34.99% backing the Green Party policies.

        These are highly credible polling numbers, with a lot fewer results in the marginal range, so why are they not more widely available to the public? What does this mean to people who visit the Website and take the survey? It helps them recognize that if more people were aware of the groundswell of sentiment behind the Green agenda then they would know that voting their conscience was not a wasted vote. The popularity of Green policies is the best kept secret of the upcoming election; we need to break through the media blackout.

        Scapegoating migrants and all the hype from UKIP is being encouraged by the self-serving press to divert our attention from real issues that people really care about. All of the main parties are being led by the UKIP distraction tool and only one party has stayed consistently on track with the their well established principals. We just need to trumpet those principals loudly and get the public to realize that no they are not an isolated, extremist lefty for voting Green they are a discerning voter,

        For the Common Good – in England’s GREEN and Pleasant Land.

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