In the weeks before the General Election, we provided a region-by-region battleground profile for England and Wales. In light of the result we now revisit these posts to see how things played out, and this week we survey the West Midlands, another almost static front between the major parties.
- The Conservatives picked up two seats, one apiece from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but overall these results are nothing to shout about. In particular they underline the party’s weakness in urban seats, particularly the lack of progress in Birmingham and the loss of Paul Uppal in Wolverhampton South West.
- Labour have nothing to write home about either, with results that exactly mirror those of the Conservatives: a gain from each of the Conservatives and Lib Dems. They ought to be concerned that the Tories were able to extend their majorities in so many of their new captures from the last election, even when running new candidates.
- This was never a strong area for the Liberal Democrats: they had only two seats here to begin with, one of which was a two-time ultramarginal, and only one obvious potential gain. The party is now wiped out across the West Midlands, and given their weakness here it isn’t obvious where their way back lies.
- Despite not picking up any MPs, UKIP can be pleased with their performance here. They have established themselves as the third party in most of the seats examined below, with particularly strong showings in the four we identified as possible targets. In two of those, Labour-held Walsall North and Dudley North, the People’s Army’s position is sufficiently strong that if they can maintain their position they may well return an MP for either in the 2020s.
- Neither of the two minor parties we examined will find much consolation here. Respect were simply humiliated in Birmingham Hall Green, and despite having been MP for the constituency until 2010 Dr Richard Taylor only managed to take fourth place for his National Health Action Party in Wyre Forest.
Targets by party:
(NB These are our own suggestions of potential attack seats for each party – including those officially designated as targets and others where the incumbent has a relatively small majority, or local factors are at play which may open the seat to change.)
>Birmingham Edgbaston: Gisela Stuart added 4.2 points to her share of the vote whilst the Tories put on less than one, and more than doubled her majority to 2,706 whilst the Liberal Democrats fell into fifth.
>Birmingham Erdington: Jack Dromey’s 2010 majority of 3,277 now stands at a more comfortable 5,129 as Labour increased their vote share whilst the Tories slipped back. UKIP picked up 15 points more than in 2010 and came third.
>Birmingham Northfield: Allegedly one of the 40:40, the Conservatives did manage to advance fractionally here, cutting Labour’s majority by almost 300 votes to 2,509.
>Birmingham Selly Oak: Much more than the other Birmingham seats listed, Selly Oak appears to have moved decisively out of contention following the Lib Dem collapse: the Labour majority increased from 3,482 to 8,447 whilst incumbent Steve McCabe put on 9.1 points in his vote share and the Tories shed 2.1.
>Coventry South: Another fractional fall in the Labour majority here, from 3,845 to 3,188, with both major parties slightly increasing their shares of the vote compared to 2010. The Lib Dems shed 14 points and lost their deposit.
>Dudley North: Ian Austin’s 2010 majority was just 649, so he will be very pleased with his new buffer of almost 4,200 votes. He only advanced his own position by about three points, but the Conservatives fell back by 6.2 whilst UKIP recorded a very strong third place.
>Newcastle-under-Lyme: A near miss in an already marginal seat: Paul Farrelly’s slender 2010 majority of 1,552 now stands at just 650, after the Tories took an extra 2.5 per cent of the vote. UKIP took third place as the Lib Dems lost another deposit.
>Solihull: Despite winning this seat in 2005 and nominally capturing it a second time in 2010, Lorely Burt’s majority never exceeded 300 votes and this was always going to be an heroic task for Nick Clegg’s party. She actually managed a strong second, taking almost 26 per cent of the vote, but new Tory MP Julian Knight has a majority of almost 13,000.
>Telford: Labour’s majority here after 2010 was just 981, and a 3.3 point Conservative advance combined with a slight slip in their position was enough to see Lucy Allan onto the green benches with an even narrower majority of just 730.
>Walsall North: Labour more than doubled their majority here, but it stands at fewer than 2,000 so this constituency remains competitive for the Conservatives, whose position slipped slightly in May as Labour advanced by a couple of points.
>Walsall South: This seat moved much more firmly in Labour”s direction, with a marginal 2010 majority of 1,755 becoming a solid one of over 6,000 this time out. The Tories again fell back, this time by 2.5 points, whilst Labour advanced by 7.5 as the Lib Dems placed fifth and last, losing another deposit.
>Wolverhampton North East: Another seat where the Conservatives fell back: they lost 4.4 per cent of the vote compared to 2010 while Labour put on 4,7, upping their majority from under 2,500 to almost 5,500.
>Birmingham Yardley: One of those seats that fell under Charles Kennedy’s spell in 2005, the voters broke off their affair with his party very firmly in May, handing Labour a majority of almost 6,600. The Liberal Democrats shed 14 points but held on to second place.
>Cannock Chase: Held since 2010 by the gaffe-prone Aidan Burley, Labour might have hoped his unfortunate media profile would handicap his successor. Yet new Tory MP Amanda Milling actually extended her party’s majority from just under 3,200 to almost 5,000, picking up an extra 4.1 per cent of the vote as Labour stalled.
>Dudley South: Another seat where the Tories were fielding a new candidate, and another enlarged majority: Mike Wood built on Chris Kelly’s legacy to secure a victory margin of 4,270, marginally broadening the gap with Labour.
>Halesowen and Rowley Regis: James Morris picked up an extra two per cent of the vote, whilst Labour slipped slightly, seeing him returned for a second term with a majority of over 3,000 (compared to 2,023 last time).
>North Warwickshire: In 2010 Dan Byles overturned a Labour majority of over 7,500 to win by just 54 votes, and when he decided not to stand again some in the party felt the seat would naturally fall back into enemy hands. Yet his successor, Craig Tracey, improved the Tory vote whilst Labour fell back by four percent, and enjoys a much more substantial majority of 2,973.
>Nuneaton: This seat has a strong claim to be to a new generation of Labour politicians what Basildon was to the last: the constituency which best encapsulated a much broader failure. Marcus Jones picked up an extra four per cent of the vote whilst Labour lost two, extending his majority from just over 2,000 to almost 4,900.
>Warwick and Leamington: Chris White captured this seat from Labour in 2010 by 3,513 votes, but a 5.4 point advance in the Conservative position along with a slight fall in Labour’s share saw him re-elected in May by the much more decisive margin of 6,606. The Lib Dems shed 13.3 points but just held on to their deposit, placing fourth.
>Wolverhampton South West: Paul Uppal’s 2010 majority of 691 was always vulnerable, and despite a small increase in the Tory share of the vote Labour gained an extra 4.2 per cent and took the seat, albeit by a similarly slender margin of 801.
>Worcester: Robin Walker has every reason to be pleased with this strong performance: his 5.8 per cent increase in vote share left a stalling Labour candidate in the dust, and he returns to the Commons with a substantially increased majority of 5,646 (compared to just under 3,000 in 2010).
>Hereford and South Herefordshire: As we said in our initial battleground profile, this was not an election in which the Liberal Democrats were going to make gains, but on paper they were only 2,481 behind Jesse Norman in 2010. His majority now stands at 16,890 whilst the Lib Dem tumbled into fourth place, losing 30.5 per cent of the vote compared to the last election.
>Cannock Chase: Nigel Farage’s party gained 14 points compared to 2010 and took 17.5 per cent of the vote and a respectable third place. However they remain too far beneath the main parties to be in contention yet.
>Dudley North: A very strong result for the People’s Army that puts them into contention here if they can maintain momentum: they took 24 per cent of the vote (15.5 points more than last time) and a strong third, fewer than 3,000 votes behind the Conservatives.
>Walsall North: A similar story to Dudley North: UKIP took third place with 22 per cent of the vote, up 17.2 points on last time, but remain more than 4,300 behind the second-placed Tories. They may be challengers here in the future if they can build on this performance.
>Wyre Forest: UKIP added 13.2 points to their share of the vote and secured a close third, fewer than 750 votes behind Labour and ahead of the former MP for the constituency, who was standing under the banner of the National Health Action Party. Mark Garnier, the Conservative incumbent, added more than 10,000 to his majority, which now stands at 12,871.
National Health Action:
>Wyre Forest: Dr Richard Taylor, co-founder of the NHAP and their candidate here, was MP for this seat from 2001 to 2010. Compared to his second-place performance last time he lost 17 per cent of the vote, taking 14.6 and placing fourth behind Labour and UKIP.
>Birmingham Hall Green: Despite having placed second here in 2010, Respect managed to attract only a deposit-losing 1.7 per cent, a full 23.5 fewer than in 2010.