- There are 75 Parliamentary constituencies in the North West. Currently Labour hold 51 of them, the Conservatives 22, and the Liberal Democrats two.
- Last time the Conservatives were disappointed here, picking off two Lib Dems and one Labour MP but losing three seats to Labour in exchange, as a combination of the UKIP surge and Lib Dem collapse denied them prize after prize. But assuming the great poll wobble stabilises this is a target-rich region, with Tory candidates facing plenty of seats with surmountable majorities.
- Talk of Labour gains may no longer seem quite so utterly outlandish as it did when we started this series, but with the average Conservative lead still hovering around double figures they still don’t have too many likely prospects here. There are three seats with Tory majorities of under 1,000, however, which we list below.
- As hope of a Remain-fuelled surge fade, the Lib Dems seem even less likely to make a breakthrough here than Labour. They’ll be fighting hard to defend Southport, where their incumbent is standing down, and keeping half an eye on Tim Farron’s seat where the local Tories are apparetly making a go of it. If they’d had a good campaign Burnley might have been a plausible attack seat, but they haven’t and it isn’t.
Welcome back to our series on the election battlegrounds! As in 2015, we’ll be taking a region-by-region look at the seats which could change hands and offering our suggested lists of target seats for each party.
These lists aren’t predictions of gains: rather, they’re just seats which we think could be competitive. They might be official party targets, have a small majority, or be subject to other factors which could leave them open to change.
Amongst the resources we’ll be using to steer us through these murky waters are Electoral Calculus, UK Polling Report, Number Cruncher Politics, and Election Polling, whilst all Leave vote share estimations are from Chris Hanretty’s very helpful constituency-by-constituency charts. We’re also keeping an eye on the work of many other pollsters, psephologists, and analysts, some of whom our assistant editor has collated onto a Twitter list.
Battleground Rating: 7/10
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.)
Barrow and Furness: This seat has been Labour since 1992, and since 2010 by John Woodcock, a high-profile critic of Jeremy Corbyn. Nonetheless at the last election the Conservatives cut his majority from over 5,000 to just under 800, and with the constituency estimated to have voted Leave by 57 per cent they must be confident of ousting him. Electoral Calculus gives them an almost two-in-three chance of a gain.
Blackpool South: Reliably Conservative until 1997, this is one of the seats where the party slipped back in 2015, with the LAbour incumbent bolstering his majority from 1,852 to a still-competitive 2,585. This time the Tory candidate will be trying to win over enough of UKIP’s 5,600 voters (in a seat estimated to have gone 68 per cent Leave) to put them over the line. Electoral Calculus tips a Conservative gain.
Bolton North East: A longer shot, the Labour incumbent has held this seat since 1997 and his majority stands at almost 4,400. But UKIP did very well here in 2015, racking up over 8,000 votes, so if about half of the People’s Army’s vote really has migrated to the Conservatives then this could be a competitive race in a seat which went almost 60 per cent Leave (est.). Electoral Calculus predict a narrow Labour hold, but a lot may come down to on-the-ground campaigning.
Bury South: Another seat held by Labour since the first of Tony Blair’s landslides, and another where the Lib Dem collapse and UKIP surge saw Labour extend their majority from a competitive 3,200 to almost 5,000. It would take the great majority of UKIP’s 6,000 voters from last time and more to get the Tories over the line, even in this pro-Leave seat, and Electoral Calculus predict a Labour hold – albeit with a 44 per cent chance of an upset.
Chorley: Lindsay Hoyle had probably hoped to be Speaker by the time the next election rolled around, in which case he would almost certainly not have faced a Tory opponent. As it is he’s in for a tough fight: his majority may be just over 4,500 but after 2010 it was a just 2,500, so it may be vulnerable if the Tories can win over enough of UKIP’s 7,000 voters and some Labour switchers. Electoral Calculus thinks it’ll be a Conservative gain, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
City of Chester: This one is slightly vexing: it was Labour from 1997 until 2010, when the Tories won it, only to lose it again in 2015. Stephen Mosley isn’t standing again, but his successor faces a Labour majority of just 93 votes so had better be confident. UKIP picked up more than 4,000 votes last time whilst the Lib Dem shed 13.5 points, but the seat leans Remain so the fortunes of those parties could both change again, likely to Labour’s disadvantage. Electoral Calculus predicts a relatively comfortable recapture for the Conservatives.
Hyndburn: Yet another seat where the Tories fell back last time, with the Labour majority growing from just under 3,100 to 4,400 as UKIP and the Lib Dems repeated their pattern of surge and collapse. The Tories could just about do this seat with half of UKIP’s 9,000 2015 voters – about the share estimated to have made the switch nationally – but would need either Labour switchers or a Lib Dem recovery (in a very Leave seat) to be confident. Electoral Calculus tips a very narrow Labour hold.
Lancaster and Fleetwood: Eric Ollerenshaw won this seat for the Tories by just 333 votes in 2010, and lost it again by just 1,265 two years ago. He’s back for another round and hoping to unseat Cat Smith, a key Corbynite MP. The seat is estimated to have voted Leave by about the same margin as the country overall, so UKIP’s 2015 showing isn’t huge, but nonetheless there may be support to be mined there. Electoral Calculus put Ollerenshaw’s odds of returning to Parliament at over 60 per cent.
Southport: A nice break from all the Labour facing seats, this was one of a handful of Lib Dem seats to survive the harrowing of two years ago. But John Pugh’s majority was only 1,322, and now he’s stepped down the Tories must be hopeful of recapturing a seat that’s been Liberal, with a short break from 1992-97, since 1987. Although Southport leans Remain UKIP put on almost 12 points to win almost 7,500 votes last time, but the Conservatives will need to try to find a way to mine that support without alienating Remainers. In light of the dire Lib Dem campaign Electoral Calculus are confident of a Tory gain.
Westmorland and Lonsdale: This is almost certainly not an actual target. Most likely the reportedly strong Conservative ground game here is to try to tie Tim Farron down in the constituency, with an outside chance of a shock result if he neglects it in service to the national Lib Dem campaign. But… Business Insider reports that the local Tories are “confident of pulling off a remarkable victory”, and Electoral Calculus only has them narrowly behind. The reasoning seems to be that with 47 per cent of voters in the constituency estimated to have backed Leave, and many more likely falling into the “Re-Leaver” category alienated by the Lib Dems’ demand to resist the result, it might be possible to cobble together a majority against ‘hard Remain’ in a seat the Tories held until 2005. Unlikely, but you never know.
Wirral South: Labour spiced up the usual gained-in-1997 formula here by winning it in a by-election. It was previously a safe Conservative seat, and in 2010 the party fell just 531 votes short of retaking it – but in 2015 Labour extended their lead by more than 4,000 votes. The seat voted Remain and UKIP picked up just 3,700 votes last time, so absent a Lib Dem revival at Labour’s expense this may be a long shot based on current numbers. Electoral Calculus tips a Labour hold, but with a four-in-ten chance of a Tory upset.
Wirral West: Yet another seat lost in 1997, prior to which the Tory majority was in five figures, Esther McVey won it back by just over 2,400 votes in 2010 before losing it by 417 two years ago after being very heavily targeted by Labour. This seat voted Remain and has a rather low UKIP vote, but the margin is so narrow that this must be a nailed-on certainty unless something goes very, very wrong for the party. Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative gain.
Worsley and Eccles South: Iain Lindley has fought the last two elections for the Conservatives here, and he’s back for another go. As per usual for this region the Tories slipped back a bit two years ago and the Labour majority now stands just shy of 6,000, making this a reach. But six in ten voters here backed Leave, there are almost 7,700 UKIP voters to woo, and Electoral Calculus predicts only the very narrowest of Labour holds. If the polls recover or the party runs a good ground game it could go right on the night.
Bolton West: This seat was quite important to this site during the Coalition, when we called our benchmark for broadening the party’s appeal “A Conservatism for Bolton West“. Then Chris Green won it by just 801 votes, which was gratifying. With a margin that thin Labour must be picking up seats like this if they’re making any sort of advance, although with a strong Leave vote and a large 2015 UKIP share to target Green is probably safe: Electoral Calculus foresees a comfortable hold.
Bury North: Another seat with a razor-thin majority, this time of just 378, but this one was picked up by a more comfortable 2,243 in 2010 before David Nuttall had his majority slashed last time. He’s a Brexiteer, which will do him no harm in a Leave-leaning seat where UKIP took 5,500 votes last time, and Electoral Calculus put Labour’s odds of finishing what they started two years ago at just one in three.
Weaver Vale: Graham Evans took this seat from Labour in 2010 by just 991 votes and held it last time by just 806, so in recent times this has been a very marginal seat indeed. He must surely be hoping that the Tories’ much-improved poll ratings have put a more comfortable majority in reach at last. Electoral Calculus predict a solid Tory hold, perhaps based on part on winning over a big chunk of UKIP’s 4,500 voters from the last election, and again give Labour just a one-in-three chance of cracking it.