The 2010 General Election was an unusually nerve-wracking affair for supporters of all parties. The Labour Party suffered its worst election defeat since 1983; the Conservative Party won 97 more seats than 2005 but failed to gain a majority; and the Liberal Democrats increased their vote share to 23%, but endured a net loss of five seats. The result was Britain’s first Coalition government since World War Two.
The 2015 General Election may be even more unpredictable. Currently the Labour Party holds a narrow lead of about 4% in national opinion polls, but a higher lead in the crucial marginal seats. On the other hand, some analysts point out that there is usually a swing back to the government in the months approaching the General Election.
Politicians on both sides have declared that their party is approaching doom or victory. This week, Labour’s Diane Abbott was alleged to have said that some Labour MPs were predicting Ed Miliband’s defeat, whilst the Conservative Party’s Baroness Warsi declared that Cameron can’t win the next election. There really is no settled consensus about the likely winner, unlike the elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005, which were much more clear-cut.
The seats, which will determine the election are the marginal seats - i.e. those constituencies, which are most likely to change hands. When it comes to winning elections it matters less what people across the country think than what the constituents of these vital seats think.
Here are three marginal seats key to the next election:
Current MP: Nigel Mills (Conservative)
Majority: 536 (1.2%)
Labour candidate: Kevin Gillott
This Derbyshire seat includes the former coal mining towns of Alfreton, Ripley and Heanor and also parts of rural Derbyshire. The old mining areas usually vote Labour, whereas the rural areas have more Conservative voters. In May the local Labour Party won control of Amber Valley Borough Council, which ended 14 years of Tory control. Amber Valley was a Labour seat between 1997 and 2010, and looks set to return to Labour at the 2015 General Election. A survey of Amber Valley voters in Lord Ashcroft’s May 2014 survey of the marginal seats revealed that Labour were considerably ahead. The poll of more than 1,000 voters showed Labour with 44%, the Conservatives with 30% and UKIP with 16%.
Prediction: Labour gain
Current MP: Brandon Lewis (Conservative)
Majority: 4,276 (9.9%)
Labour candidate: Lara Norris
If Labour wins this on May 5th 2015 then the chances are that they are enjoying a successful General Election campaign, in which they may have just about secured a majority. The Conservatives won this seat in 2010 with a majority of 4,276 (or 9.9%). This Norfolk constituency consists of the seaside town and port of Great Yarmouth, as well as countryside and neighbouring villages. What makes this seat even more interesting is the rise of Ukip. At the 2014 local elections, Ukip won an impressive ten out of the 13 seats contested and Lord Ashcroft’s May 2014 polling shows just how tight the election will be, with the Conservatives on 32%, Labour on 34% and Ukip on 28%. However, a lot of people are predicting that the Ukip vote will fall in the run-up to the General Election and that most of these voters will flock back to the Conservatives. Even a small uptick in Conservative voters will be enough to keep this seat blue.
Prediction: Conservative hold
Current MP: Peter Aldous (Conservative)
Majority: 769 (1.5%)
Labour candidate: Bob Blizzard
This is another incredibly close swing seat, which the Conservatives only won by 769 votes at the last election. The 2015 election will be a rerun of the 2010 election, when then Labour MP Bob Blizzard lost to Peter Aldous. The Suffolk seat is generally considered to be a bellwether seat, which is usually won by the party that ultimately wins the election. The seat’s largest population centre is the coastal town of Lowestoft, which has recently become a base for the renewable energy sector and includes the headquarters for the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm. The Lord Ashcroft May 2014 polling showed the Conservatives on 30%, Labour on 41% and Ukip on 18%.
Prediction: Labour gain
These are just three of the constituencies that will play a part in determining the next election. Freshwater UK’s public affairs team can provide you or your organisation with analysis of more marginal seats on request.
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