On Friday, CCHQ announced to candidates that applications were open for selections in two seats (perhaps as a subtle hint that it would be wise to attend Sunday’s campaign day in Newark) – South Thanet and South Ribble.
Both are interesting cases where the incumbent female Tory MPs, Laura Sandys and Lorraine Fullbrook, are standing down in 2015 – both have since been picked out as examples of wider Tory delays in selecting candidates, too.
Coming after the European and local elections, it’s safe to say that both associations are likely to seek bullish, campaigning candidates. With Labour looking to cannibalise Lib Dem votes, and UKIP on the rise, each seat has a number of moving parts which could affect the result next year.
Here are brief summaries of the state of play in each constituency:
- South Thanet: At the last General Election, Sandys won the support of 22,043 voters, 48 per cent of the total turnout, securing a 7,617 vote or 16.6 per cent majority over Labour. The Lib Dems got 6,935 votes (15.1 per cent) and UKIP saved their deposit with 2,529 votes (5.5 per cent). South Thanet was one of the seats studied in Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling in marginal seats, specifically chosen because of the likelihood of a strong UKIP performance in 2015 – the reported voting intention was Conservative 32 per cent, Labour 31 per cent, UKIP 27 per cent, Lib Dem 7 per cent. It’s small wonder that this is one of the places regularly touted as a possible location for Nigel Farage to stand – anyone applying will face the possibility that they’ll be up against the man himself come 2015.
- South Ribble: In 2010, the Conservatives won 23,396 votes, 45.5 per cent of the vote – a 5,554 or 10.8 per cent majority over Labour. The Lib Dems were in a distant third on 7,271 vote (14.1 per cent), followed by UKIP in fourth place with 1,895 votes (3.7 per cent). As ever, it’s hard to predict how the emergence of UKIP and the collapse of the Lib Dems might affect the result in 2015 – South Ribble Borough Council’s results in the European election reported a strong UKIP showing, but the Borough only shares some of the same areas as the constituency, so there’s no direct read-across for next year.
Obviously, the sooner the two get candidates in place, the sooner campaigning can start in earnest. With hundreds of other seats still to start selection, hopefully we’ll see a lot more very soon.