This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Seven Seats to watch at the General Election

Forced resignations, retirement and defeat mean that at the next General Election we could see the biggest churn of MPs in Parliament since 1945. As many as half of all current MPs may not return and there are likely to be some interesting results on the night, so I've compiled what I think (and my colleagues at Mandate have helped) will be the 'Top 7' seats to watch at the next General Election:

1) Brentford and Isleworth

A genuine bellweather seat and the type of Tory/Labour straight fight that will decide the election, Brentford and Isleworth is a key target for the Tories. The current MP and Health Minister, Ann Keen - otherwise known as 'Mrs Expenses' by her less charitable friends - is in the fight of her life to defend her seat.

As things stand, it doesn't look good. Voter anger over plans to expand Heathrow, fallout from her and her husband's expenses claims and a strong local Tory campaign mean the Conservatives might win it back. She is one of four Health ministers who could lose their seats.

However, nothing is conclusive. There are still pockets of strong Labour support and demographic and boundary changes slightly favour Labour. One to watch.

2) Brighton Pavilion

A once solid Conservative seat which the Party lost in 1997, the Tories will need a 7% swing if they are to reclaim this seat at the next election. But it looks more likely to fall to the Green Party - giving them their first ever MP. The Greens have been winning council seat after council seat over the last couple of years (and are now equal with Labour) and an ICM poll in January showed the Green Party candidate and Leader Caroline Lucas on 35 per cent, with an 8 per cent lead over the Conservatives. A win for the Green Party would be a breakthrough.

It would also show just how far the demographics and voting habits of some of the 'Deep South, True Blue' seats that the Conservatives lost to Labour in 1997 have changed in the intervening years.

3) Bethnal Green and Bow

Labour lost this rock solid East End seat in 2005 when George Galloway capitalised on anti-war sentiment and sensationally beat the incumbent Labour MP, Oona King. However, fulfilling a campaign promise he made at the last election, Galloway announced that he will not contest the seat this time around. This leaves the Leader of the Respect Group on Tower Hamlets council, Abjol Miah, and Labour candidate Rushanara Ali to battle it out. Ali would be the first Muslim woman to be elected to Parliament if she wins. It promises to be a tough fight but Labour might just have the edge.

4) Burnley

With former Government Minister Kitty Usher standing down because of her expenses' claims, Burnley is the sort of seat the Liberal Democrats need to gain from Labour in order to do well. The Lib Dem candidate, Gordon Birtwistle, is the current leader of Burnley Council and has strong local roots and the Liberal Democrats have performed well in recent local elections. The BNP is also a factor. It could steal some of Labour's traditional voters away, allowing the Liberal Democrats to sneak in. A defeat for Labour in its heartland would send shockwaves around the Party.

5) South Basildon and East Thurrock

One of the best known bellweather seats, Basildon has voted for the winning Party in each election since its creation. It was the first marginal seat to declare in 1992 and the failure of Labour to win the seat that year foreshadowed the night's crushing defeat for the Party. Held by Cabinet Office Minister, Angela E Smith, it will only take a 1.7 per cent swing to the Conservatives for her to lose it. Tory and Labour Party strategists will be watching this one closely.

6) Buckingham

UKIP Leader, Nigel Farage announced in September that he would stand against House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. By convention the main parties do not normally put up candidates against the Speaker but Farage said Bercow represented "all that was wrong with British politics" and has thrown himself into the campaign. There is nothing the Tory high command would like to see more than Bercow defeated but the odds are unlikely - he is defending a majority of over 18, 000. Still, with Nigel Farage involved the contest promises to be dramatic and the campaign could throw up one or two surprises.

7) Morley and Outwood

The Conservative Party is hoping to deliver its very own Portillo moment of the night as it aggressively targets the constituency where current Schools Secretary Ed Balls is standing.

The new seat which is formed out of boundary changes has a notional majority of 9,000but the Tories hope their decapitation strategy will force Labour to spread its resources thinly and remove Ed Balls and one or two of the Cabinet's other big beasts in the process. Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy and John Denham are also being targeted but if Balls loses this it will be a sensational result for the Tories and plunge the Labour Party into post-election chaos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

labour will lose every one - except bethnall green and bow. burnley is a dead cert to be lost. losing balls seat going would give a lot of people in the Party enormous pleasure. the others are over already. and no one cares about Bercow's seat anyway - he will hold it.