Election campaign

The list of high-profile MPs at risk of defeat is growing

The number of MPs who may be facing a “Portillo moment” on election night just keeps getting longer.

Already on the list was education secretary Nicky Morgan, who would be defeated by Labour on a swing of 3.6%; employment minister Esther McVey, would would lose her seat to Labour on a swing of 3.1%; and chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander, who is at threat from the SNP.

They have now been joined by Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary and Labour’s election coordinator, who is also at risk from the SNP; and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who is facing a growing challenge from Labour.

The swings needed to remove Clegg and both the Alexanders are huge. In Clegg’s case, Labour will need to muster a 19.7% swing, while the SNP will require an 11% swing to defeat Danny Alexander and a mammoth 20.8% swing to beat Douglas Alexander.

Yet in each of these three cases, recent opinion polls have shown the incumbent losing.

Two polls have suggested Clegg is behind Labour in his seat of Sheffield Hallam, one by Lord Ashcroft and one by Survation. According to Ashcroft’s Scotland constituency polls, the SNP are currently eight points ahead in Douglas Alexander’s seat of Paisley & Renfrewshire South, and a staggering 29 points ahead in Danny Alexander’s seat of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.

Such a cull of senior MPs hasn’t been seen on an election night since 1997. And there could be more ministerial casualties. Equalities minister Jo Swinson is at risk from the SNP in Dunbartonshire East; defence minister Anna Soubry could very easily lose to Labour in Broxtowe; and energy minister Amber Rudd in Hastings & Rye is another Labour target.

The chance of every single one of these “Portillo moments” coming to pass feels remote. All the same, I wonder if the knowledge that an upset is possible might encourage more voters to try and turn it into a reality. This was the case with Michael Portillo himself in 1997, and could well be a similar incentive to electors in, say, Sheffield Hallam.


6 responses to ‘The list of high-profile MPs at risk of defeat is growing

  1. Sheffield Hallam is obviously the headline maker, but it’s also the single most important seat in the country from a strategic perspective. If Labour win it, then it cripples any negotiating power the Lib Dems have (as they are busy running their own leadership contest) – even if an interim leader does some deals then that leader will probably be more left-wing than Clegg was. Without Clegg, the Tories will lose Lib Dem support, leaving them with only a handful of DUP and UKIP MPs as allies, nowhere near enough for a majority. Winning Hallam guarantees Labour, at the very least, a chance to win a vote of no confidence against a Tory minority government.

    It must be odd for the Tory candidate. His mission brief must surely be to keep Nick Clegg safe at all costs, and on no account to steal any of his votes. Don’t be surprised to hear him say “I agree with Nick” quite a bit at the next Hustings.

    • It would be a fascinating scenario were both Clegg and Alexander defeated. One half of the coalition’s “quad” gone, and with it both the Lib Dems’ current leader and leader-in-waiting. I imagine Tim Farron will be standing by his telephone.

  2. Indeed it is possible all these big names will lose but personally I think Clegg will survive.

    Conversely another advantage especially for LDs but also in GE2015 for Con as they had many new MPs
    In 2010 is first incumbency. However I think Anna Soubry who is First incumbent will still lose to Nick Palmer.

  3. If three cabinet ministers (Clegg, Morgan and Danny A) were defeated that would be a ‘cull not seen since 1997’.

    However, if junior ministers are included, I don’t think the losses will surpass the number of members of the government who lost their seats in 2010 (29 at a level above PPS).

  4. Thank God that the public are listening to the fact that individuals should have their own principles and a change at a senior level of this current government leadership may encourage them to face facts.

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