A gesture of great political and organisational self-confidence

January 15, 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!

  • 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.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001102865655 John Ruddy

      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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.dustagheer Adam Dustagheer

    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

  • Comment Help Labour give people protection from predators in our property market

    Help Labour give people protection from predators in our property market

    Everyone has horror stories about buying, selling or renting a house. All too often the villain is the agent in the middle. Many estate and letting agents treat their clients fairly, others are exploiting the pressure caused by a shortage of housing to charge extortionate fees. Today Labour will seek to tackle these practices and the impact they have on the affordability of housing. You can help by asking Members of the House of Lords to back Amendment 44D to […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Darling warns devolving income tax to Scotland would be a mistake

    Darling warns devolving income tax to Scotland would be a mistake

    Alistair Darling, former Chancellor and the person who headed up the Better Together campaign, has said that powers over income tax should not be completely devolved to Scotland. Writing in the FT(£), Darling outlines two reasons why he thinks that devolving all powers over income tax revenue would be a mistake. Firstly, he says as he UK in responsible for defence, and financial and social protecting “If all income tax is devolved, people living in Scotland will pay no taxes […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband: Labour will close down job agencies that exploit workers

    Miliband: Labour will close down job agencies that exploit workers

    Ed Miliband will pledge to close down job agencies that exploit workers and break the law on the minimum wage. This will include closing the Swedish Derogation – a loophole in EU law that allows employers to pay agency workers less than permanent employees, even if they are doing the same job. Miliband will also reiterate that a next Labour government would stop agencies from recruiting workers only from abroad. As it stands, roughly 350,000 people receive less than the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Unpaid internships aren’t just bad for young people, they hurt us all

    Unpaid internships aren’t just bad for young people, they hurt us all

    It won’t take a trawl of internet job boards to find one of the most frustrating barriers to social mobility at the moment. Lists of unpaid ‘internships’ for as long as six months that give lists of responsibilities, essential skills needed and stipulations on the days and number of hours you will ‘ideally’ be working. If you’re lucky, you’ll get travel expenses within London, and maybe even lunch. Some employers call their roles ‘volunteer’ positions in an attempt to avoid […]

    Read more →
  • Featured The signals and the noise: the next election remains wide open

    The signals and the noise: the next election remains wide open

    David Cameron is arguably in a worse position than Jesus was on the eve of the crucifixion. Christ was denied three times by Peter. But Dave went to Rochester and Strood on five occasions and still he got the thumbs down. And that’s why the only story this weekend was the continued flatlining of the Tory opinion poll rating as the party struggles in vain to… But no. That wasn’t the story, was it? Instead there has been Labour angst, […]

    Read more →