- There are 58 Parliamentary constituencies in the East of England. Currently the Conservatives hold 51, Labour four, and the Liberal Democrats one, and UKIP are defending one.
- Over the last two general elections the Conservatives have come very close to maxing this region out: there are only five seats with MPs from another party. Barring a real surge it’s not clear that any Labour seats are competitive, but the Liberal Democrat and UKIP seats are within reach.
- Labour had an OK time here two years ago, picking up two seats off the Lib Dems. However they didn’t take back any of the seats they lost to the Tories in 2010, and to have any chance at power will need to start winning back some of the region’s large towns.
- Former leadership challenger Norman Lamb is the last Lib Dem standing in the East, and he’ll be fighting hard to hold onto his Brexitish constituency. The party may also be in with a shot in Cambridge, which they lost only narrowly last time.
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: 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.)
Clacton: The only seat UKIP ever held in a general election, Douglas Carswell has since announced that he’s standing down and endorsed the Conservatives, saying that his former party’s job is done now that a pro-Brexit government is in office. As a result Giles Watling must be confident of being returned to Parliament at the third time of asking, and Electoral Calculus thinks he will.
Luton South: This is one of those seats which looked competitive after 2010 (with a majority of just over 2,300) and decidedly less so after 2015 (majority 5.700). However it could be competitive if the Tory candidate can win over a big chunk of UKIP’s 5,000 voters from last time and Labour’s vote slipped. Unfortunately Electoral Calculus only gives the Conservatives a one-in-three shot, predicting that they’ll put on votes but Labour’s will hold up.
North Norfolk: One of those seats which managed to slip from the Conservatives’ grasp after the 1997 landslide, Norman Lamb has held this since 2001. One of the Lib Dems’ parliamentary talents, he challenged Tim Farron for the leadership after Nick Clegg stepped down. Unfortunately for him, Farron’s ‘hard Remain’ campaign may not have played well in a constituency estimated to be 58 per cent Leave, so the Tories might finally unseat him. Electoral Calculus tips the battle as two-to-one in the Conservatives’ favour, and predict a Con gain.
Bedford: Richard Fuller currently holds this seat by just under 1,100 votes, a slightly smaller majority than he enjoyed after first winning it in 2010. This seat is likely an essential staging post for any Labour recovery in the area. However, it is Leave-leaning and saw 4,434 UKIP votes in 2015, which may help to bolster the Tory defence. Electoral Calculus gives Labour a one-in-three shot.
Thurrock: Another very marginal seat, Jackie Doyle-Price won here by just 92 votes in 2010 and only extended her majority to 536 in 2015, which was a close-fought three-way fight between the Tories, Labour, and UKIP’s Tim Aker. On paper, the narrow majority should put this in play – however, the rout of the People’s Army in the polls could make this a much safer Conservative seat if anything like a third to half of Aker’s 15,700 voters break Doyle-Price’s way in a seat estimated at 70 per cent Leave. Electoral Calculus still gives Labour another one-in-three shot, though.
Cambridge: Formerly a solid Liberal Democrat seat with a majority of almost 6,800, this was one of their narrower losses during the great collapse of 2015. Julian Huppert is standing again, and in a very heavily Remain est (est. 75 per cent) this might be one area where his party’s election campaign actually cuts through. Unfortunately Electoral Calculus predicts they’ll fall back, with Labour and the Tories putting on votes instead, and puts Huppert’s chances at 23 per cent.