Monday, 5 January 2015

General election predictions-where could Labour be in trouble?

Readers, it is a well-known fact that Labour is set to lose many of its Scottish seats at the next general election, although the exact number of losses to the SNP, as I have said earlier, varies from prediction to prediction.

There are indications, though, that because of the increasingly variable nature of British politics, and each constituency being able to tell its own story (meaning uniform swing predictions are useless), that Labour could potentially lose seats outside Scotland as well. UKIP is taking votes from Labour particularly in the north of England (e.g. in former industrial towns) and the Green Party is winning over more Labour supporters than in 2010 (although it is still the Liberal Democrats who among the three main parties are losing the most votes to the Green Party).

Here is my prediction for what could happen in some of Labour's most marginal seats:

1. Hampstead and Kilburn: Glenda Jackson is retiring, but like others I believe the substantial transfer of Liberal Democrat votes to Labour will help Labour's PPC, Tulip Siddiqui, to be returned this year for this seat. But with gentrification in the Hampstead area, a rising Green vote which will take votes from both Labour and the Lib Dems, and with this being Conservative target number 1, success is by no means certain. My prediction: Likely Labour hold.

2. Bolton West: Although the fact UKIP is doing well in the north of England will dampen Labour's advance (as it did in th6.e Heywood and Middleton by-election last year) it will also scupper Conservative chances of gaining this seat. Finally, as with most seats, many Liberal Democrat votes will be won over by Labour here. My prediction: Dead cert Labour hold.

3. Oldham East & Saddleworth: The Liberal Democrat vote will face heavier losses in the North than in the South, and I believe this seat's 2015 results will support that prediction. Even in the by-election of 2011, Lib Dem efforts to convince Conservative voters to vote tactically to keep Labour out were not enough, and they are in a much worse position now. My prediction: Dead cert Labour hold.

4. Sheffield Central: I have no doubt that the Lib Dems will fall backwards (psephologically) very much in this seat-and equally no doubt about a Green surge occurring here. Labour looks set to hold this seat for now, though-and not every Lib Dem voter/ex-Lib Dem voter in this seat is a student, intellectual, or lecturer who could be Green-inclined. My prediction; Dead cert Labour hold.

5. Ashfield: Reselected Lib Dem PPC Jason Zadrozny, is a good campaigner (objectively speaking) and used to head Ashfield council. There has even been speculation at one point that he has an outside chance of succeeding Nick Clegg as Lib Dem leader (I however honestly think there is no chance of this occurring). However, Gloria de Piero is not that bad a Labour MP, and even though ex-mining areas like Ashfield are prime targets for UKIP in terms of winning over ex-Labour votes, I believe Ashfield will stay with Labour in 2015. My prediction: Likely Labour hold.

6. Southampton Itchen: Now this could be interesting-sitting MP John Denham is standing down and the Conservatives have made some inroads locally. Whether this seat changes hands or not will probably depend on how well UKIP does, and where ex-Lib Dem voters turn to. My prediction: 50/50 Labour hold/Conservative gain.

7. Great Grimsby: This seat has been held by Labour since 1945, but it has never really been safe-in 1959, a by-election of 1977, 1983, and 2010, the Conservatives came pretty close to gaining this seat. Like many coastal towns in the UK, this is being targeted by UKIP, whose PPC was the same Victoria Ayling who only narrowly missed winning this seat last time (and UKIP did rather well anyway in 2010). Labour's PPC, Melanie Onn, has a hard fight on her hands given current polling. My prediction: Probable Labour hold, but keep an eye on this seat.

8. Walsall North: Although David Winnick is standing again, his majority is not that high and UKIP stands to perform well. By the standards of safe Labour seats, the Conservative vote has never been all that bad in Walsall North, so despite the fact Labour support is holding up well in Walsall, Mr Winnick should not be confident of securing re-election just yet. My prediction: Likely Labour hold.

9. Birmingham Edgbaston: Once a safe seat for the Conservatives (until 1997), Labour managed to hold on in 2010 against expectations. I have heard the Conservatives are targeting this seat once again (Labour's majority is only 3.1% over the Conservatives). This seat is relatively multicultural and middle-class, which will rule out UKIP making a significant impact in this seat, and Ed Miliband is not appealing that well to middle-class voters (who make up a substantial proportion of swing voters). My prediction: Probable Labour hold.

10. Plymouth Moor View: Even before their over-promotion by the media, UKIP was doing well in both Plymouth seats, especially this one. And in 2014 locally, they continued to hit the vote share of both Conservative and Labour alike. I would say a likely Labour hold given recent news there, but I must say there is an outside chance of Labour not holding this seat in 2015. My prediction: Likely Labour hold.

Given the increasingly unpredictable nature of British politics, there could be surprises elsewhere, and for all major political parties in 2015. There may be only four months to go, but a lot could change in these coming months.

Alan.

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