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