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Overview:

  • There are 84 parliamentary constituencies in the South East. At dissolution the Conservatives held 79 (including the Speaker), Labour four, and the Greens one.
  • At this point it’s surely getting difficult for the Tories to squeeze much more out of this region after a very solid result in 2015. Absent a crushing landslide only two of Labour’s four seats seem likely to be in reach.
  • In 2005 Labour held 17 seats in the South East, and rebuilding their strength here will be essential if they’re to form another majority government (especially without their traditional Scottish strength). As is they could probably only hope to double their representation here on a good night this time around.
  • Sticking to an unexpected rule of three, the Liberal Democrats also only have two seats where they could possibly be in contention on current polling. They currently hold none, down from four in 2010.

Method:

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 CalculusUK Polling ReportNumber 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: 3/10

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.)

Conservatives:

Hove: Mike Weatherly won this for the Tories by 1,868 votes in 2010 but wasn’t able to hand it on to his successor, and Labour regained it by just 1,236 votes two years ago. It’s a strongly Remain seat but if UKIP’s 3,000 voters from last time break to the Conservatives as they seem to be doing nationally then this will be a competitive race. Electoral Calculus predict a Labour hold by the eye-watering margin of 51 per cent to 49 for the Tory challenger.

Southampton Test: Labour’s Alan Whitehead had a majority of under 2,500 in 2010, although he extended it to 3,800 in 2015. This seat is estimated to be marginally Remain, unlike pro-Leave Itchen, but nonetheless UKIP took over 5,500 votes here last time which could end up deciding the contest – although so too may the Greens 2,500 voters, as neither party is standing this time. Electoral Calculus only gives the Conservatives a four-in-ten chance.

Labour:

Brighton Kemptown: Simon Kirby took this seat for the Tories in 2010 by 1,300 votes before seeing his majority cut to an ultra-marginal 700 two years ago. The battle may hinge on where the minor parties’ votes go: if Jeremy Corbyn is putting the squeeze on smaller left-wing parties the Greens’ 3,200 voters could put Labour over the line, unless Kirby successfully balances them with enough of UKIP’s 4,500. As is Electoral Calculus tips a Tory hold, with a four-in-ten chance of a Labour upset.

Southampton Itchen: After John Denham held him off by just 192 votes in 2010, Royston Smith won this seat with a majority of 2,316 at the last election. It’s a strongly Leave seat, and as a Brexiteer Smith will be hoping to reinforce his majority with a healthy chunk of UKIP’s 6,000 2015 votes. The Greens and Lib Dems took just over 3,000 between them, so this seat will likely move farther away from Labour this time. Electoral Calculus predicts another Conservative hold.

Liberal Democrats:

Eastbourne: This seat is unusual in that the Tories actually managed to lose it to the Lib Dems in 2010, even whilst making gains across the country. Caroline Ansell took it back two years ago with a very slender majority of just 733, so on paper this should be a top target for Tim Farron’s troops. Unfortunately for them, however, this seat is estimated to have gone 58 per cent Leave, and as a Brexiteer Ansell should be able to woo enough of the 6,139 constituents who voted UKIP last time to see her home safe. Electoral Calculus gives her better than four-in-five odds of holding.

Lewes: Unlike neighbouring Eastbourne, this constituency had a much stronger Lib Dem pedigree, having been held by Norman Baker from 1997 until the 2015 election. Another possible point in the party’s favour is that Maria Caulfield, the first-term incumbent defending a majority of just over 1,000, backed Brexit despite the seat being estimated to have narrowly voted Remain. However once again the vote dynamics look to favour the Conservatives: UKIP took 5,500 votes last time, and there’s no evidence that the Lib Dems are squeezing either Labour or the Greens to compensate for the consolidation of the right-wing vote. Electoral Calculus predicts a comfortable Tory hold with 77 per cent probability.

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