For the past five general elections, the constituency of Houghton & Sunderland South (or Sunderland South as it used to be called) has been the first to declare. It will almost certainly repeat the feat a sixth time, and so provide us with the first result of the 2015 general election – probably within an hour of the polls closing.
Sunderland South always been a safe Labour seat and will be again this year. But that doesn’t mean the result won’t be eagerly awaited and picked over at enormous length by politicians and pundits from the second it is announced.
Bridget Phillipson is the sitting Labour MP and will be contesting the seat again. Here’s how she did last time:
That result represented a swing from Labour to the Conservatives of 8.5%. When this calculation became known on the night of the 2010 election, Tory spirits rocketed, for this was exactly the sort of swing that would, if repeated nationwide, deliver a majority Conservative government.
We all know what happened next. That such a swing did not materialise across the UK is a lesson to which we should all pay heed this year. What takes place in Sunderland South will not be what takes place elsewhere in the country. It might not even be what takes place elsewhere in north-east England.
This time round Labour is facing opposition from the Greens, who didn’t field a candidate in 2010, along with the Tories, the Lib Dems and Ukip. I don’t except the Greens to come anywhere except last, meaning the order in which the parties finish should be Labour, Conservative, Ukip, Lib Dem, Green.
While the swing might not count for much, two things will:
– the size of the slump in the Lib Dem vote
– how far Ukip polls behind the Tories
Both of these factors ought to provide useful clues about what could happen elsewhere.