- There are 59 Parliamentary constituencies in the West Midlands. Currently the Conservatives hold 34 and Labour 25.
- This was quite a disappointing region for the Conservatives, with a score draw against Labour and the net gain of only one seat. Their polling once again gives them a relatively wide field of competitive seats however, so this election could be a rare opportunity to break through into the more urban parts of the region.
- Labour didn’t have a great night either in 2015, their results mirroring the Conservatives’ in that they swapped a seat with the blue team and picked one up from the Liberal Democrats to come out ahead. However, the Tories managed to solidify their hold on existing seats last time so Labour have very few targets.
- This was one region where the Lib Dems were wiped out last time, and of the two seats they lost only Birmingham Yardley, home to Jess Phillips, is remotely competitive.
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: 6/10
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.)
Birmingham Edgbaston: Failure to take this was the first sign that things weren’t all going David Cameron’s way in 2015, but with Gisela Stuart standing down the Tories finally have a chance to pick up what used to be a solidly safe seat. Labour’s majority stands at just over 2,700, the seat is estimated to have voted 47 per cent Leave, and UKIP took over 4,000 votes in 2015. The Birmingham Mail suggests it voted Tory in the West Midlands mayoral election, and Electoral Calculus tips a Conservative gain with a six-in-ten chance.
Birmingham Erdington: This would be the longest shot of the three Birmingham constituencies listed here – it’s the one not listed by the Birmingham Mail to have backed Andy Street – but Jack Dromey, Harriet Harman’s husband, would be a scalp. His majority is just over 5,000, but the seat went Leave by 62 per cent (est.) and there are 6,000 UKIP votes to squeeze. Electoral Calculus predicts a gain with 56 per cent probability.
Birmingham Northfield: The only one of our Birmingham seats to have apparently been a target last time, and the only one of four potentially competitive ones where the Tories advanced in 2015. It also apparently voted for Andy Street in the mayoral election. Labour’s 2,500 majority is likely vulnerable to the UKIP collapse, as the People’s Army took over 7,000 votes last time in a seat which went 62 per cent Leave (est.). Electoral Calculus predicts another Conservative gain with a two-in-three chance.
Coventry North West: Labour since its creation in 1974, by 2015 their majority here had been whittled down to just 2,500. Another seat where UKIP’s vote breaking blue could tip the balance, as it’s estimated to have gone 58 per cent Leave and returned more than 7,000 UKIP votes last time. Electoral Calculus predict a Tory gain, 57 per cent probability.
Coventry South: This seat last returned a Tory MP in 1959, although most of it was part of Coventry South West which I’ve been reminded was Tory from 1979-97. The mayoral elections augur well, according to the Birmingham Mail, and the seat is estimated to have marginally voted to Leave, and returned over 5,700 UKIP votes in 2015. Electoral Calculus predict a Conservative gain with just under a six-in-ten chance.
Dudley North: Ian Austin’s majority is almost 4,200, but his voters apparently backed the Conservatives during the West Midlands mayoral election so the Conservatives must be confident here. They will also be pleased that UKIP is falling back, as in 2015 the People’s Army took over 9,000 votes and dragged the Tories back from being just 649 votes behind after 2010 – not surprising in a seat tipped to have gone more than 70 per cent Leave. Electoral Calculus think the Tories will gain it with a 54 per cent chance.
Newcastle-under-Lyme: Labour’s majority here is just 650, so if the Conservatives don’t take it it will set warning sirens off in CCHQ. The 2015 UKIP vote was over 7,200 in a seat where six in ten are thought to have backed Leave, so if national trends apply the Tories must be confident of pulling off comfortably. Electoral Calculus predicts that they will, with no less than 70 per cent probability.
Stoke-on-Trent Central: At both the last general election and the recent by-election UKIP and the Conservatives took almost the same number of votes, with the former narrowly in front. Now the Tories have a chance to consolidate the right-wing vote in this pro-Brexit constituency. Electoral Calculus’ model seems a little uncertain: the headline figure is a Labour hold, but they give the Tories a 51 per cent chance of winning.
Stoke-on-Trent North: Labour’s majority here stands at 4,800, but if the Conservatives can win half of UKIP’s 9,500 voters from 2015 then they’re immediately competitive. This seat is estimated to have gone Leave by more than 70 per cent, which will also put the wind in their sails. Electoral Calculus predicts they’ll take it, putting the odds at six in ten.
Stoke-on-Trent South: The most competitive of the three Stoke seats for the Tories, Labour’s majority here is just 2,500. If it follows the national picture and even half of UKIP’s 8,300 voters at the last election switch their allegiance to the Conservative candidate that should put them over the line. Electoral Calculus tip it to go blue for the first time since at least 1950, with the same odds as the northern seat.
Wolverhampton North East: A much longer shot than South West, this seat has only ever gone Tory for a single term in 1987 and Labour’s majority stands at almost 5,500. However it is estimated to have gone almost 70 per cent Leave, and the Tories were only 2,500 behind in 2010 before UKIP surged up to 6,500 votes and dragged them back. Electoral Calculus tip a narrow Labour hold, but this will be one to watch if it’s a landslide.
Wolverhampton South West: One of Labour’s rare gains in 2015, Paul Uppal lost this seat by just 801 votes after first winning it in 2010. He’s standing again and must be confident: this seat went 68 per cent Leave (est.), and UKIP took more than 4,300 votes last time which must have hurt him. Electoral Calculus thinks he’ll win, and gives him a 65 per cent chance of returning to Parliament.
Walsall North: An agonising result for the Tories in 2015, where UKIP’s advance saw them slip back and Labour increase their majority from 990 to over 1,900. Again though, national patterns suggest the Conservative candidate could win up to half of UKIP’s 8,000 voters from 2015, which would put this comfortably in the Tory column for the first time since a 1976 by-election. Electoral Calculus tip a Conservative gain with a two-in-three chance.
Walsall South: Labour’s majority here is an intimidating 6,000, but once again in 2010 it was a much more competitive 1,700. This is more of a stretch for the Tories as cannibalising a big chunk of UKIP’s 6,500 2015 voters won’t be enough to get them over the line, and this is also less pro-Brexit than its northern neighbour (although still estimated to have voted 62 per cent that way). Electoral Calculus thinks Valerie Vaz is the (very) narrow favourite to hold on for Labour.
Telford: If Labour are going to win anything, it must be this: Lucy Allan gained this seat in 2015 by just 730 votes. However, the seat voted Leave and if UKIP’s 7,300 2015 voters do what they’re doing nationally then this will be a comfortably Conservative retention – which is exactly what Electoral Calculus predict.
Birmingham Yardley: Jess Phillips may only have taken this seat from the party in 2010, but it bodes ill for them that her 6,600 majority is their best prospect in the entire region. It bodes even worse that six in ten voters in this seat are thought to have backed Leave. Electoral Calculus doesn’t give them a hope, but it’s probably better that they work to build up their position here than throw themselves against Julian Knight’s 13,000 Tory majority in Solihull.