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 Corbyn condemns abuse as 40 female MPs demand action over “disgusting” incidents

    Corbyn condemns abuse as 40 female MPs demand action over “disgusting” incidents

    Jeremy Corbyn will today confront claims of abuse in the Labour Party as he uses a series of events around Britain to appeal to left-wing voters to help him retain the leadership and deliver a “social movement”. Corbyn, who has faced claims that he has done too little to tackle personal abuse in the party, will repeat his condemnation of harassment and threats after more than 40 female Labour MPs wrote to him demanding he take action to tackle an “extremely worrying […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe The EU referendum showed that UKIP is now the biggest threat to Labour

    The EU referendum showed that UKIP is now the biggest threat to Labour

    For a long time now commentators and Labour figures have regularly remarked on the growing cultural and political distance between the Labour Party and the core Labour vote, particularly outside London. This fact was clearly demonstrated in the EU referendum, where Labour heartlands overwhelmingly rejected Labour’s stance on EU membership and all things associated with it.  This should serve as an immediate and urgent wake up call to the Labour Party. During the referendum campaign I served as General Secretary of […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Owen Smith: Half of the great offices of state must be filled by women

    Owen Smith: Half of the great offices of state must be filled by women

    Owen Smith will today pledge to hand two of the top four jobs in shadow Cabinet and then Government to women as he launches a campaign to tackle gender inequality. The leadership candidate says half of the so-called great offices of state – leader/prime minister, foreign secretary, chancellor and home secretary – will be filled by women as he aims to tap into Labour’s history of fighting sexual discrimination. Smith’s speech comes two days after Jeremy Corbyn used the formal launch […]

    Read more →
  • News Senior Labour figures air fresh concerns over abuse in the party

    Senior Labour figures air fresh concerns over abuse in the party

    A fresh row has broken out over the scale of abuse and intimidation in the Labour Party, as Owen Smith claimed Jeremy Corbyn must “take more responsibility” for the concerns that have led to the suspension of most constituency Labour Party (CLP) meetings across the country. Leadership challenger Smith has claimed that the level of “abuse, misogyny and anti-Semitism” in the party has risen since Corbyn’s victory last September. His intervention comes after Angela Eagle suspended surgeries in her constituency […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured If homophobia is allowed back into politics then it takes society back to the dark ages

    If homophobia is allowed back into politics then it takes society back to the dark ages

    This article has been written by 14 Labour Party members: Honor Cohen, Ilford North; Emma O’Dwyer, Hackney North; Carli Harper, Greenwich and Woolwich; Katie Curtis, Hornsey and Wood Green; Estelle Hart, Gower; Melantha Chittenden, Ashford; Vic Langer, Hornsey and Wood Green; Chantel Le Carpentier, Eastleigh; Katrina Gilman, Telford; Ruth Meadows, Telford; Natacha Kennedy, Eltham; Deirdre Costigan, Ealing North; Amy Lame, Holborn and St Pancras; Katie Hanson, Hackney South and Shoreditch. The Labour Party is the party of equality. It was past Labour governments that decriminalised homosexuality and introduced comprehensive legislative change on LGBT rights. […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit