A small number of political journalists, such as Dan Hodges and John Rentoul, have started suggesting that the Tories won’t merely end up the largest party at the election, but will actually go further and win enough seats to have a majority in parliament.
When I asked Hodges about this on Twitter, he said he thought the Tories might win seven or eight seats from Labour, including a couple in London.
The website Elections Etc currently forecasts a 10% probability of a Tory majority. It’s an outcome that has yet to gain much support among a majority of pundits or pollsters, and at the moment I don’t think it will happen. Yet if it does come to pass, it won’t just be down to the SNP taking seats from Labour. It will be thanks in particular to Labour’s vulnerability in seats outside Scotland.
I’ve identified 10 constituencies where this might prove to be the case. Nine are vulnerable to the Tories; one to Ukip. I’d love to hear any other suggestions.
John Denham’s majority in 2010 was just 192, but he’s standing down this year, leaving the job of defending his wisp of a lead to Rowenna Davis. A swing of 0.2% would see the seat fall to the Conservatives. This has to rate as Labour’s most vulnerable seat in England. The party needs the 20.8% of the constituency who voted Lib Dem in 2010 to crumble in its direction, not just to ward off any Tory advance but also offset its own supporters drifting to the Greens.
Hampstead & Kilburn
A swing of less than 0.1% would see the Tories take this London seat from Labour. Glenda Jackson managed a majority of only 42 in 2010: a precarious inheritance for her hopeful successor Tulip Siddiq. There’s a hefty 31% of the electorate who voted Lib Dem in 2010 from which Labour will almost certainly attract support. However this is a seat in which the Conservatives have already been whipping up controversy over Labour’s plans for a supposed “mansion tax”. Might this turn into enough of a toxic issue for Labour to see this seat defy the likely trend across the rest of London and turn Tory?
Plymouth Moor View
Alison Seabeck has a majority of 1,588. The Conservatives would need a swing of 1.9% to defeat her. It’s a swing bigger than that needed to unseat Ed Balls in Morley & Outwood, but the south-west of England is likely to behave in a very different fashion to the north-west. It’s also another seat where an intervention by the Greens could help tip the balance in the Tories’ favour.
Clive Efford’s majority in this London seat is 1,663. The Tories need a 2% swing to win it, and I’m including it here as another example of the sort of constituency some say Labour could lose if there’s a backlash against any plan for a mansion tax. Eltham is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and Efford’s majority has fallen in every election since he won the seat in 1997.
The Tories would need a 0.9% swing to win this seat, where Ian Austin’s majority is just 649. Ukip are also targeting the seat, and their intervention will undoubtedly make what was a straight two-way fight into a more unpredictable three-way tussle.
Could there be a swing to the Conservatives in the north of England? Nothing is impossible, and were it to happen, Julie Hilling would be one of the casualties. She is defending a majority of 92, and a 0.1% swing would see her lose to the Tories.
Karen Buck surprised many by winning this seat for Labour in 2010. Her majority is 2,126 and a swing of 2.7% would see her lose to the Tories. Were fears about a mansion tax to gain real purchase among London voters, this constituency is one that that could slip from Labour’s hands.
Alan Whitehead’s majority has gone down sequentially at each election since 1997. In 2010 it was just 2,413. A swing of 2.7% would see him beaten by the Tories. While this is arithmetically one of Labour’s less vulnerable marginals, were the party’s vote to collapse in the south, fuelled by a rise in support for the Greens, Whitehead would be out.
The Tories were just 714 votes behind Labour’s Austin Mitchell in 2010 and a swing of 1.1% would see the seat change hands. Ukip are also trying to mount a challenge here. Mitchell is standing down as MP after 37 years, and whether his successor Melanie Onn can see off both the Tory and Ukip threat will be a key marker of how Labour is performing in its most marginal constituencies.
Heywood & Middleton
This is Ukip’s best chance of taking a seat from Labour. The party has been pouring money and resources into the constituency, in the belief it can pull off what it almost achieved in the by-election of October 2014. A swing of 1.1% is all Ukip needs to overturn Liz McInnes’ majority of 617.