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!

  • 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

  • Featured News Scotland The big beasts are gone – Scottish Labour needs a new generation, says Ian Murray

    The big beasts are gone – Scottish Labour needs a new generation, says Ian Murray

    Ian Murray will use his first major speech as Shadow Scotland Secretary this morning to call on a new generation to step forward and take the place of departed “big beasts” in the Scottish Labour Party. This May saw several high profile figures such as Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling retire, while the Labour’s heavy defeat in Scotland saw the loss of 40 seats, with the likes of Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran all beaten. Murray, Scottish Labour’s sole […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What leadership and deputy leadership candidates think about the EU referendum

    What leadership and deputy leadership candidates think about the EU referendum

    The Labour Party is a pro-European party and should campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum: that’s the overwhelming view of the candidates for the leadership and deputy leadership who responded to a survey by the Labour Movement for Europe launched earlier this summer. We have had an excellent response from the candidates, with full and positive replies from eight of the nine contenders for the two posts. These responses are detailed, thoughtful and clearly heartfelt. Not only do […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Blairites don’t know why they’ve lost control of the Labour party

    The Blairites don’t know why they’ve lost control of the Labour party

    If there’s a lesson from the Labour leadership contest, it is that most of its MPs have lost control of the party. Daily pleas from senior MPs to members to choose someone “electable” i.e. not Jeremy Corbyn) seem to be falling on deaf ears. A full scale insurgency is in effect. Blairites sound even more disorientated. Last week the Independent’s John Rentoul blamed Ed Miliband for Corbyn’s rise, claiming that while he was leader, “the party chose as candidates a […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Unison back Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader

    Unison back Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader

    Unison have announced that they will be backing Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership. The union has nearly 1.3million members. It has said that this is just a recommendation and that individual union members who sign up to vote as should vote for whichever candidate that think is best. They have said that Yvette Cooper is their second choice. Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall are also in the running to be Labour’s next leader. Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis explained […]

    Read more →
  • News 23 council leaders pen statement endorsing Caroline Flint

    23 council leaders pen statement endorsing Caroline Flint

    The leaders of 23 Labour councils have publicly endorsed Caroline Flint’s campaign for deputy leader today. In a statement, the local government leaders praise the Shadow Energy Secretary for her “radical ideas” and “track record of working in partnership with local government”. The signatories include leaders of some of the biggest councils in London, the North West, North East and Yorkshire. Flint finished second in the MPs’ nominations, and is a close third behind Stella Creasy in CLP nominations – […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit