A gesture of great political and organisational self-confidence

15th January, 2013 4:20 pm

The list of 106 target parliamentary constituencies for the next General Election that Labour released last week makes fascinating reading.

The immediate reaction I had is that defining the battleground as being as big as 106 seats is a gesture of great political and organisational self-confidence.

106 gains (plus presumably regaining the lost by-election seat of Bradford West from Respect) would take us to 364 seats, a majority of 78.

In contrast in 1997 there were only 70 Key Seats that were targeted and received support from HQ and neighbouring seats. We were starting from a slightly higher base of 274 seats in 1992, but all the same this meant we were rather pessimistically trying for 344 seats, a majority of 28 in a then slightly larger House of Commons – i.e. we were shooting for a majority 50 lower than we are now. The sense was that we would be lucky to get any sort of working majority and had to very tightly focus resources to guarantee that.

Of course in 1997 we overshot massively. We won all except 1 of the target Key Seats (the one we missed was Brecon & Radnor), all of a secondary tier of 30-40 “stand-alone” seats which were not targeted but hadn’t had local resources diverted away to the 70 Key Seats, and then dozens of seats which had been on no-one’s list at all and where the CLPs had spent the whole campaign helping the nearest marginal.

The self-confidence of picking 106 target seats may well reflect the fact that Tom Watson as Election Co-ordinator was also involved as Deputy Election Co-ordinator in the 1997 campaign and has learned the lesson that the targeting then worked but was a little too pessimistic.

In terms of regional spread, the lie is given to armchair pundits who declare that a specific region is the essential “must-win” battleground:

West Midlands 15
North West 14
Eastern 13
London 12
Yorkshire & the Humber 10
South East 9
South West 9
East Midlands 8
Wales 8
Scotland 5
North 3

There are Key Seats spread across every region so we are going to need a national message (One Nation?) not a sectional regional appeal.

It becomes immediately clear that whilst the Lib Dem collapse has yielded a vast number of votes that will help us take seats from the Tories, they have very few seats we can take. Of the 106 seats, 86 are Tory-held, just 16 Lib Dem, 1 SNP, 1 Green and 2 Plaid Cymru.

There are six seats that require a gain from third place: Argyll and Bute, Bristol North West, Cambridge, Colne Valley, Leeds North West and Watford. This is not impossible as we gained a number of seats from third place in 1997.

Technically the longest long-shot in the list is Leeds North West where a 13.2% swing from the Lib Dems is required. The current YouGov poll figures suggest a swing of 13.5% from LD to Labour making that just about possible.

The most stretching Tory target listed is North Swindon , requiring a 7.0% swing. That’s below the 10% swing the current polls suggest, so implies the Party has built in an estimation of some Tory bounce-back from their mid-term low (but continued Lib Dem toxicity?). To gain North Swindon we would a national vote share of something like 40% Labour, 33% Tory.

Whilst most of the 106 seats were lost in 2010 there are 13 that were lost in 2005. These are primarily seats with a high student or Guardianista vote that went Lib Dem because of the Iraq War but also include some Tory seats like Ilford North where there is a long-term demographic trend towards Labour.

In fact there are a remarkable number of London seats that are in play this time in the list of 106 – Croydon Central, Enfield North, Finchley & Golders Green, Harrow East, Hendon, Ilford North, that were not Key Seats in 1997, reflecting Labour’s strengthening strategic position in some of the outer London suburbs.

There is one seat (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) which was lost to Plaid Cymru as long ago as 2001, Bermondsey & Old Southwark which has been held by Simon Hughes since the 1983 by-election, and two Scottish seats we didn’t win in any of the last 4 elections: Argyll & Bute which we have never held, and Edinburgh West which we lost in 1931!

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • uglyfatbloke

    There’s no real chance of gaining Dundee East and it is the gnats who will benefit from the demise of the Scottish glib-dumbs who have thrown away their only card – federalism., The sole Scottish tory seat should fall pretty easily, however the days when the Scots could be relied on to vote differently for Westminster and for Holyrood are past. The gnats are likely to make a number of gains from Labour – and if they win the referendum the whole situation will be radically different since there will be 40 fewer Labour MPs from Scotland.

    • Dundee East is very winnable – last time thenats were afraid they would lose it, while we were more worried about loosing Dundee west than gaining east.

      So with proper resources, we have a good chance. Its not as if we havnt taken the seat from the SNP before!

  • AlanGiles

    ” a gesture of great political and organisational self-confidence”

    If people like Liam Byrne knocks on the doors of all those people who have lost their jobs in the retail sector, wittering on about “striving” and Blears repeats her story of the day she was out canvassing at midday, I am quite sure you will get PLENTY of gestures – of the two fingered variety So much for “guaranteed jobs”

    • DDave3

      God sake Alan, give it a rest.

      Make it your New Year’s resolution.

  • NT86

    Wow, a Luke Akehurst article that’s to the point and one I can agree with.

  • Was Hendon a key seat or a stand alone seat in 1997? didn’t think it was key in the run up to 97

Latest

  • Featured News LIVEBLOG: shadow cabinet resignations

    LIVEBLOG: shadow cabinet resignations

    Almost a dozen shadow cabinet members have resigned today after Hilary Benn was sacked last night. Corbyn’s decision to bin the Shadow Foreign Secretary came after it was reported Benn was talking to his colleagues about removing Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum result. We’ll be bringing you all the shadow cabinet news as it comes through. 21.35 Here is a copy of Bryant’s resignation letter. It is much harsher than Turner’s when it comes to apportioning blame for the referendum defeat, and uses much harder […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The plot to oust Corbyn is anti-democratic and offensive to Labour members

    The plot to oust Corbyn is anti-democratic and offensive to Labour members

    Here in Yorkshire, Labour voters and Labour members have been asking me what on earth some of our Labour MPs are up to. They are telling me that they just don’t understand why, with the Conservative Government up to its neck in trouble, the priority of some Labour MPs appears to be to make divisions in the Parliamentary Labour Party front-page news and engineer a coup against the democratically elected Labour Party Leader. They feel that some Labour MPs are […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured What’s going on with the anti-Corbyn plot?

    What’s going on with the anti-Corbyn plot?

    “You up? Call me, I have a big story for you.” That was the text I received just after one o’clock this morning. Within minutes, it was public that Hilary Benn had been sacked as Shadow Foreign Secretary. That began a chain of events that, since Heidi Alexander’s resignation just after 8am, have moved at some breakneck speed. At the time of writing, eight Shadow Cabinet minister have gone: Hilary Benn, Heidi Alexander, Ian Murray, Seema Malhotra, Kerry McCarthy, Lilian Greenwood, […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Labour is facing “political oblivion” with Corbyn as leader – Labour MPs circulate anti-Corbyn letter to colleagues

    Labour is facing “political oblivion” with Corbyn as leader – Labour MPs circulate anti-Corbyn letter to colleagues

    Margaret Hodge, former minister, and Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, have said that Labour is looking at “political oblivion” with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, in a letter that has been circulated around the Parliamentary Party. The two Labour MPs submitted a motion of no confidence against Corbyn after they said he didn’t give a clear enough message on the EU referendum. They have hit out at the leader again in a letter (below) and said that Corbyn is “standing in […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News John McDonnell: we have a responsibility to the country, not to party squabbles – Corbyn is going nowhere

    John McDonnell: we have a responsibility to the country, not to party squabbles – Corbyn is going nowhere

    Amid two shadow cabinet resignations, John McDonnell has said Labour have a responsibility to the country, not to party squabbles. He has added that Jeremy Corbyn is going nowhere. McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor and Corbyn ally, has been doing the rounds this morning, in an effort to pour water on attempts to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Late last night Jeremy Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn as Shadow Foreign Secretary after rumours that Benn was contacting fellow MPs […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit