Historic Conservative targets – Sedgefield and Bolsover
Should Sedgefield and Bolsover flip tomorrow night, it would represent a historic loss for the Labour Party. Sedgefield, once the home of Tony Blair from 1983 to 2007, could reject Labour for the first time in eighty four years. Coupled with the possibility of losing Bolsover (also to the Conservatives), this election could see a serious disintegration of support for the Labour Party in the north of England.
Dennis Skinner has served as Bolsover’s MP since 1970.
The Brexit Party are fielding candidates in both seats. The possibility of a divided right successfully executing such aggressive campaigns highlights the extent of the challenge facing Labour.
For the past twenty years, commentators and party strategists have commented on the general migration of working-class votes away from the Labour Party to both the SNP in Scotland and Conservatives in the north of England. It’s nothing new. But tomorrow night, the shift might be enough to swing some of the major seats in the region.
A sign for Labour? – Canterbury
Although an unexpected and late win for the Labour Party in 2017, Canterbury could hold for Rosie Duffield. In recent years, the city has evolved to become part of the London commuter belt and many political commentators have remarked upon the influx of younger, affluent and more liberal-minded residents to the area. Duffield however, is defending a 187 vote majority. Should she increase her margin, Canterbury could, like Bolsover and Sedgefield, mark a point of no return in the changing nature of Labour’s core vote.
In November, Liberal Democrat candidate Tim Walker stepped down in favour of Duffield and encouraged fellow Liberal Democrats to vote tactically. Although replaced with another candidate, Walker’s decision to stand aside may have been enough to encourage local activists to vote defensively tomorrow.
Key Liberal Democrat marginals – Sheffield Hallam and Cheltenham
As with every election, the success of the Liberal Democrats depends almost entirely on the high marginals. Sheffield Hallam and Cheltenham, two former Lib Dem strongholds could well return to the party. Recapturing the former would be particularly historic for the Lib Dems, as it was held by Nick Clegg from 2005 to 2017. In Cheltenham, the Conservative Alex Chalk succeeded in unseating Martin Horwood in 2015 and successfully fended off a strong Liberal Democrat challenge two years later.
The seat has bounced between the two parties since 1832.
Richmond Park, St Albans, South Cambridgeshire and Winchester are also likely to return Liberal Democrats to the House of Commons. Should all six seats change hands, about 40% of Liberal Democrats elected tomorrow night would serve their first term in the next parliament. Although over the course of the next parliament, this could represent an opportunity for the party, it could also pose as a short term challenge.
2019’s ‘Portillo moment’? – Esher and Walton
Possibly the most talked about swing seat of this election, Esher and Walton has returned Dominic Raab to the House of Commons since 2010. As Johnson’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, he is a leading target for the Liberal Democrats. Although he has never lost a constituency-wide poll, the lead has often fallen within the margin of error. For anyone in need of a ‘Portillo moment’, this is the seat to watch.
ANOTHER ‘Portillo moment’? – Chingford and Woodford Green
Iain Duncan Smith, former Leader of the Conservative Party, leave campaigner and champion of Universal Credit, has faced unusually stiff competition from Labour candidate Faiza Shaheen. IDS has represented Chingford and Woodford Green since 1992. At the last election, IDS held on with a 2,438 majority.
In early September, the Labour candidate was subject to a Guardian video report. Two months later, the Green Party candidate withdrew in support. Should Raab’s 23,298 vote majority hold firm, it might be wise to save the champagne for this north London seat.
The Conservatives in Wales
This year, the Conservatives could see a quiet victory in Wales. A YouGov/Cardiff University poll (6-9 December; Sample 1,020) gave the party 37% support, just three points behind Labour. A result of this size could award the Conservatives sixteen seats, four short of Labour’s total.
But there is cause for concern for some Conservatives. Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire since 2005, could lose to Labour’s Philippa Thompson. In 2017, Thompson’s vote increased by 14.5 points, cutting Crabb’s lead to just 314 votes.
But thanks to the Brexit Party’s decision not to put forward a candidate, I suspect the constituency will turn out as a Conservative hold.