On the frontline

Last month saw the launch of Progress’ Campaign for a Labour Majority. Lewis Baston profiles the 40 seats which will determine the size of Ed Miliband’s majority

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While it will only take a small swing to make the possibility of a Labour coalition or minority government a reality, to win a working majority that will enable Ed Miliband to implement a Labour programme for government is a tougher challenge. Indeed, as Peter Kellner of YouGov laid out in the last issue of Progress, no defeated governing party has returned to government with an outright majority at the subsequent election for over 80 years. But if Labour wants to confound history, what is its road to such a majority? Using the party’s 106 target seat list, Progress has identified the 40 seats beyond the first 66 gains which will produce a Labour majority of one. As the profiles of those seats on the following pages demonstrates, the battle for an outright Labour majority will be fought across the country – in the north, Midlands and the south.

THE FRONTLINE 40

67 Norwich North
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                    4.6                                 40.6                     31.4                     18.3                         4.4                    Jessica Asato

The Norwich North by-election in 2009 took place at a particularly low point in the Labour government’s fortunes – an unnecessary vacancy in a vulnerable marginal seat (gained in 1997 having been Conservative since 1983) that the Tories duly won easily and held in 2010. The seat is mostly composed of suburbs in the Broadland district outside the core city of Norwich – Sprowston and Old Catton, Thorpe St Andrew and Hellesdon – with four wards of Norwich city with a large working-class council tenant population. While Labour is strong in the city, the party has struggled to put down roots in the Broadland section. A high swing can probably be expected in 2015, as by-election seats often revert towards their previous allegiance. Labour was three points ahead in the 2013 local elections.

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68 High Peak
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EM                         4.6                               40.9                      31.6                     21.8                       3.4                Caitlin Bisknell

High Peak is the north-western tip of Derbyshire; the main towns are Glossop and Buxton and it is a seat that generally looks to Manchester rather than Derby. Its landscape is wild and rugged. High Peak was Labour from 1997 until 2010, when sitting MP and rural issues campaigner Tom Levitt retired, although the only previous Labour victory in the seat was in 1966. Some of High Peak is working class, with quarrying and manufacturing industry, but the black and ethnic minority population is very small. Labour did well in the 2011 and 2013 elections here, leading by five points in 2013.

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69 Milton Keynes South
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SE                     4.7                               41.6                      32.2                    17.7                        3.7               Andrew Pakes

The southern half of Milton Keynes is the slightly  more Labour-inclined section of the city, and contains the older towns of Bletchley and Stony Stratford as well as post-1967 New Town neighbourhoods like Loughton Park and Walton Park. The dividing line with Milton Keynes North is, for much of its length, the A5 highway. The seat (as Milton Keynes South-west) was created in 1992 and since then has followed the national winner, therefore seeing two Conservative and three Labour wins. Milton Keynes South is more ethnically diverse and has a younger population than most other New Towns, perhaps reflecting the growth of a London commuting population.

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70 Rossendale and Darwen
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
NW                    4.8                               41.8                     32.2                      18.1                       3.4                           –

Rossendale and Darwen was a disappointing loss for Labour in 2010 – Janet Anderson had represented the constituency since she gained it from the Tories on a high swing in 1992 but she was defeated quite easily by Tory Jake Berry. The constituency is made up of former textile towns in the valleys of Rossendale, and – separated from the rest of the seat by a range of hills – the affluent town of Darwen which lies between Blackburn and Bolton. The area has become increasingly attractive for affluent Manchester-area commuters. Turnout tends to be high and local politics is a Labour-Conservative contest. Labour gained Rossendale council in 2012.

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71 Cleethorpes
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
YH                     4.8                                42.1                     32.2                     18.2                      7.1                            –

The Cleethorpes seat has rather odd boundaries, stretching round the neighbouring town of Grimsby in the thin band of territory that is in south Humberside rather than the county  of Lincolnshire. Before 1997 it had been a Conservative seat under various boundaries since 1924, including a period (1969-74) represented by Jeffrey Archer. It was one of a number of unprecedented Labour wins in seaside seats, and was held until 2010. The United Kingdom Independence party won two seats in previously Tory wards in the constituency in the 2012 elections and a 2013 by-election.

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72 North-east Somerset
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SW                     4.8                                 41.3                        31.7                       22.3                      3.4                           –

North-east Somerset may sound rural on first hearing, but for the most part it consists of suburban communities between Bristol and Bath, the largest of which is Keynsham, plus a rural area around Midsomer Norton and Radstock which has a coal-mining heritage and supports a significant Labour vote. The suburbs are the swing element in the constituency. This seat, as Wansdyke, was represented by Dan Norris for Labour from 1997 until 2010; Norris had a personal vote that enabled him to hold on in 2005. The seat is now represented by rightwing traditionalist Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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73 Great Yarmouth
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                     5.0                                    43.1                     33.2                     14.4                       4.8                   Lara Norris

Great Yarmouth, like many of the Frontline 40 seats, was a Labour gain in 1997 but a loss in 2010. It is one of many coastal towns which were part of the New Labour electoral coalition, although unlike some others it had been Labour before (if only in the 1945 and 1966 landslides). It is a mixture of seaside resort and working port, and parts of Great Yarmouth are among the most deprived places in Britain; the politics of jobs, skills and investment are relevant. Although Labour gained the council in 2012, UKIP polled the most votes here in 2013.

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74 Dudley South
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                      5.1                              43.1                     33.0                      15.7                      8.2                         –

Dudley South contains the southern part of Dudley town plus a number of Black Country towns such as Kingswinford, Brierley Hill and Wordsley. It, and its predecessors, have been somewhat peculiar marginal seats for decades (for instance, Brierley Hill was Labour in 1955 but Tory in 1966, and its successor Dudley West swang strongly Labour in 1974). The thumping Labour by-election win in Dudley West in 1994 heralded the 1997 triumph. But the tide ebbed, Labour lost a lot of ground in local elections and then finally Dudley South itself in 2010 (narrowly holding Dudley North). In the 2012 local elections this volatile seat produced a big swing to Labour, giving the party a 13-point lead, but the general election will be a tough test.

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75 Dover
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
      SE                         5.2                               44.0                    33.5                     15.8                     3.5                Clair Hawkins

The Dover constituency is based on the main cross-Channel ferry port but also includes the town of Deal and a rural hinterland – some of which is, most unusually for southern England, a Labour-voting former coalfield. Labour represented the seat in 1945-50, 1964-70 and 1997-2010 – basically all the elections at which the party has won an adequate majority in the House of Commons. It is a mainly white, working-class and lower middle-class seat. A local issue of some interest is the future of the port of Dover. The constituency was neck and neck between Labour and the Conservatives in the 2013 county council elections.

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76 Colne Valley
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
YH                    5.3                                37.0                    26.4                     28.2                       2.1                            –

Colne Valley in West Yorkshire was a disappointing result for Labour in 2010. While its loss to the Conservatives was expected, less anticipated was that Labour fell into third place. The seat is a mixture of the western suburbs of Huddersfield and some attractive Pennine towns along the Colne and Holme valleys and it has been politically interesting for decades: Liberal from 1966-70, then Labour, then Liberal from 1974-87, then Conservative until 1997, then Labour again. Labour has had trouble building strength in depth in the seat in local elections, but was ahead in the 2012 council elections as the Liberal Democrats faded.

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77 South Ribble
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
NW                     5.4                              45.5                      34.7                     14.1                        3.7                         –

South Ribble is in central Lancashire, containing some communities such as Penwortham that are basically southern suburbs of Preston, Leyland and the urban area around it, and a few more rural wards in west Lancashire. Since the seat was created in 1983 it has gone with the national winner. The Conservative sweep in the 2007 local elections was an indicator of the likely result in 2010. Labour recovered somewhat in the 2011 local elections but the Conservatives still control the council. Results in the 2013 Lancashire county council elections were disappointing, with the Tories still well ahead, but it remains a key marginal.

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78 Peterborough
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                      5.4                               40.4                      29.5                      19.6                     6.7                   Lisa Forbes

Peterborough is one of the second-generation New Towns of the 1960s, which was built around core towns that already existed – Peterborough’s long history is apparent from its fine cathedral. The town has a tradition of producing extremely narrow margins of victory, such as those of three votes in 1966 and 22 votes in February 1974. However, it has usually stayed slightly on the blue side of the aisle, being won by Labour only in 1929, 1945, October 1974, 1997 and 2001. Labour has had difficulty winning council elections in the city, and the Tories currently have a large majority against splintered opposition. The swing to the Conservatives in 2010 was very low, partly a result of the growing Muslim vote in the city and partly compensating for the larger-than-average swing in 2001 and 2005. In a constituency where every vote counts, Labour needs to work at re-establishing its organisation and winning wards consistently in local elections.

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79 Stafford
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                     5.4                             43.9                      33.0                     16.3                       4.5                 Kate Godfrey

David Cameron was defeated in his bid to become Stafford’s MP in 1997 – the first time since 1945 that the Conservatives had lost the seat. The victor on that occasion, David Kidney, served as Labour’s MP for the constituency until he lost in 2010. Stafford is a classic free-standing town constituency, with a small rural area around Penkridge included but dominated by the politically marginal town of Stafford. It is pretty close to being the median constituency in terms of its demographic and economic characteristics – a stereotypical slice of ‘middle England’. It would have been narrowly Tory in the 2013 county council elections.

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80 Stourbridge
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                     5.5                               42.7                     31.7                     16.4                      4.5                            –

Stourbridge is the south-western section of the borough of Dudley. It is a classic marginal seat on the edge of the west Midlands metropolitan area, being won by Labour after 1997 but gained by Tory candidate Margot James in 2010. It is a mixture of some very Conservative suburbs such as Norton and Pedmore, the Labour town of Cradley, and marginal wards in Amblecote and Stourbridge town itself where Labour gained the upper hand in 2012. It is basically a two-party contest, although UKIP can poll respectably. It is likely to continue to swing with the national tide.

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81 Harlow
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                            5.6                                44.9                      33.7                   13.7                       3.6                 Suzy Stride

The Conservatives have been much more successful in recovering votes since their 1997 defeat in the New Towns than they have nationally, and Harlow is an example of this. The Conservative MP Robert Halfon is an effective campaigner with a good sense of the local and national issues, such as fuel taxation, that strike a chord here, and it will take a tough campaign capable of inspiring ‘aspirational’ and ‘traditional’ Labour voters (the two are not, of course, opposites) to beat Halfon. Labour was narrowly ahead in the 2012 local elections when the party won back control of Harlow council, and in 2013. So far the constituency with Harlow in it (from 1955 to 1974 the seat was called Epping) has gone with the national winner in every election since 1955 with the sole exception of 1979.

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82 Aberconwy
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    PC 2010 %    Candidate
WA                     5.7                              35.8                      24 .5                   19.3                     17.8         Mary Wimbury

Aberconwy is the constituency covering Llandudno, Conwy and a stretch of the north Wales coast to their west. The constituency also extends inland along the Conwy Valley and includes Betws-y-Coed. It is therefore a mixture of genteel holiday and retirement coast with some quite rugged mountain territory. Labour won the seat in 1950, 1966 and the three Blair elections, but otherwise it has been Conservative – although the Liberal Democrats came very close to taking it in 1992. In the 2011 Welsh assembly election the Conservatives gained the seat from Plaid Cymru, indicating that this is a multi-party constituency with fluid allegiances.

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83 Ilford North
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
LN                     5.7                              45.7                        34.2                   12.7                         1.9                         –

Ilford North is a slice of suburban London, consisting of the north-east side of the borough of Redbridge. Although the Conservatives gained it in 2005, there was a low swing in 2010 and it is highly competitive. The low swing had much to do with rapid demographic change, which has seen some of the more comfortable suburbs in the seat becoming ethnically diverse. Labour won a seat in Clayhall, one of the most affluent wards on the east side of London, for the first time in 2010. However, there are also areas, notably council-built Hainault, where the Labour vote has been weakening – it elected one British National party councillor in 2006 and three Tories in 2010. Winning the seat requires a broad coalition of support.

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84 Preseli Pembrokeshire
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WA                     5.8                             42.8                      31.2                     14.5                      9.2                            –

Preseli Pembrokeshire is in west Wales, but it is one of the more Conservative sections of that country – Pembrokeshire has long been tagged ‘Little England Beyond Wales’ and its voting behaviour has been a bit reminiscent of England in its Conservative inclinations. Labour gained it in 1992 but it was not a surprise when the seat (on different boundaries) went Tory in 2005. It is also Conservative at Welsh assembly level. The main towns in this seat are Haverfordwest, Fishguard and Milford Haven.

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85 Brigg and Goole
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
YH                     5.9                              44.9                       33.1                    14.6                       4.0                          –

Brigg and Goole is a constituency created in 1997, and since then it has gone with the national tide. Brigg is a north Lincolnshire market town, which tends to the Tories. Goole is a working-class Yorkshire inland port and chemical works town that votes Labour. Some of the flat countryside skirting Scunthorpe is highly Conservative, making the seat as a whole a rather blue-tinted marginal. The Conservative vote seemed to be holding up well in May 2011 in the only local elections here before 2015.

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86 Crewe and Nantwich
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
NW                          5.9                                 45.8                      34.0                  15.0                      2.8                 Adrian Heald

The by-election in Crewe and Nantwich in 2008 was a disastrous defeat for Labour in a seat that had been held by the party since 1945 – albeit sometimes, as in 1983, thanks to the personal vote of former MP Gwyneth Dunwoody.
The legacy of the by-election affected the result in 2010, helping the Conservatives to a bigger win than they might have expected. In general, the effect of by-elections fades over time and Crewe is probably more winnable for Labour than the raw figures indicate. However, unlike in the by-election, the party will need to appeal not only to the traditional working-class vote in the railway town of Crewe, but also to the increasingly suburban remainder of the seat.

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87 Bristol North-west
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SW                     6.1                               38.0                    25.9                    31.5                        2.3                  Darren Jones

Bristol North-west is a classic swing seat, going with the winner of the national popular vote in every election since 1966 despite occasional boundary changes. Labour’s cause in 2010 was harmed by boundary changes, which brought in some heavily Tory suburbs from Bristol West (Westbury-upon-Trym and Stoke Bishop) and took out marginal Filton, and by the retirement of the incumbent MP since 1997, Doug Naysmith. Coming third was a severe disappointment. As well as the Tory suburbs the seat contains the working-class port of Avonmouth and some council-built estates such as Southmead where Labour has recently reversed Liberal Democrat gains. New Tory MP Charlotte Leslie is well regarded and will be tough opposition in 2015.

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88 Battersea
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
LN                      6.1                             47.3                       35.1                    14.7                       1.0                           –

Labour’s chances of holding Battersea in 2010 were remote, because the majority in 2005 had been trimmed to a shaky 163 votes, and in this part of south-west London demographic change has been very favourable to the Conservatives. Outgoing Labour MP Martin Linton did well to hold the drop in Labour’s vote share below the national average. Half of Battersea’s population is aged 25-44 and 57.4 per cent have high-level educational qualifications – both figures are the highest in the UK. The stereotype of Battersea being full of young professionals is true. An active campaigning local Labour party has kept the seat competitive, but it is tough ground.

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89 Finchley and Golders Green
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
LN                           6.2                                 46.0                     33.7                     17.0                     1.7                          –

The successor to the Finchley constituency, represented in parliament by Margaret Thatcher from 1959 until 1992, was one of many surprise Labour gains in the London suburbs in 1997, and it stuck with the party until 2010. With a minor assist from boundary changes, Conservative candidate Mike Freer won it fairly easily in 2010. It is the most Jewish constituency in Britain, with 21.1 per cent of the population regarding themselves as Jewish by religion. Barnet borough politics is disputatious and the 2014 borough elections will be hard fought. It is a difficult constituency but the right Labour candidate can triumph, as Andrew Dismore did in the London assembly election in 2012.

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90 Calder Valley
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
YH                    6.2                                39.4                    27.0                     25.2                       2.3                                 –

Calder Valley, like Colne Valley, is a marginal Pennine seat on the western edge of the county of West Yorkshire. The constituency has gone for the national winner in every election since February 1974. The main towns are Sowerby, Elland and the defiantly independent and quirky little towns of Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, all in the borough of Calderdale. The population of the seat is overwhelmingly white, in contrast to nearby towns such as Halifax and Huddersfield, but it is otherwise not far from the national average in most of its demographic statistics.

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91 Redcar
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
NE                    6.2                               13.8                     32.7                     45.2                       4.5                 Anna Turley

Redcar was one of the most extreme results of the 2010 election, with Vera Baird losing to Liberal Democrat candidate Ian Swales on a 22-point swing in a se at that had been Labour since its creation in 1983. The steel industry is a vital component of this constituency and the closure of the Corus works in 2009 came as a blow to local identity as well as the economy. As a traditional Labour seat represented by a coalition party, and one of the marginals in the strong Labour region of the north-east, Redcar is a very attractive target seat that Labour should gain. However, Swales is no pushover, the majority is a substantial 5,214, there are plenty of Liberal Democrats still on the local council and the steelworks reopened in 2012.

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92 Crawley
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SE                     6.2                                44.8                   32.3                    14.4                        2.4                                   –

Crawley is a New Town between London and Brighton. It was one of Labour’s first-time victories in 1997, but the writing was on the wall when the majority shrank to 37 votes in 2005 and popular incumbent Laura Moffatt retired before the 2010 election. The Conservatives gained the council – for the first time – in 2007 and still control it. Labour did, however, do notably well in the 2013 county council elections in the seat. Demographic change has worked in two directions – Crawley is the most ethnically diverse of the 1940s New Towns, with a 20 per cent BME population, and it has added a new heavily Tory suburb at Maidenbower by the M23. As with other New Towns, many of Crawley’s voters are volatile, sceptical and not much attached to any party.

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93 Hornsey and Wood Green
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
LN                              6.2                              16.7                     34.0                     46.5                     –                              –

This constituency is the western, more middle-class, half of the borough of Haringey, including Crouch End, Muswell Hill and part of Highgate as well as – and one cannot always take this for granted in constituency names – Hornsey and Wood Green. Labour gained it for the first time in 1992, from the Conservatives, but in 2001 and 2005 there was a strong swing to the Liberal Democrats that led to Labour losing the seat in 2005 and 2010 to Lynne Featherstone. It is an ethnically and socially diverse inner London residential area, tending to youth and liberal social attitudes. The 2014 elections will show how much damage the coalition has inflicted on the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes in their trendy north London heartland.

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94 Reading West
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SE                      6.3                               43.2                       30.5                  20.1                       3.2                Victoria Groulef

Reading West is a volatile constituency that seems to specialise in large swings: 7.4 per cent to Labour in 2001, 12 per cent to the Conservatives in 2010 when popular incumbent Martin Salter retired. It does not look like an extraordinary constituency on the ground – some urban areas within the borough of Reading, with high levels of social housing and council property such as Whitley, and affluent suburbs like Tilehurst, plus a west Berkshire section including Theale and Pangbourne. And in terms of economics and demography it is not an outlier in any way for a bit of urban England. Its electoral swings are testament to a considerable number of Conservative-Labour switchers. Labour won a hefty victory in the Reading borough wards in 2012, but are weaker in the west Berkshire wards.

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95 Rugby
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                     6.3                               44.0                      31.4                     19.9                       0.9                           –

Rugby was a much-altered constituency in 2010 – even though its predecessor, Rugby and Kenilworth, went Tory in 2005, this seat would have been Labour and the incumbent Tory MP chose to fight the safe Kenilworth and Southam seat rather than this marginal. In the event, the Conservatives had a surprisingly easy win in Rugby and even in 2012 they polled well in the council elections. This ‘middle England’ town had a previous reputation for going its own way – swinging Labour in 1970 for example – but Labour has a lot to do to make it a serious fight in 2015. It was still lagging at the time of the 2013 county council elections.

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96 Burton
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                   6.3                              44.5                       31.9                   15.8                      2.9                    Jon Wheale

Burton has only rarely been a Labour constituency, despite the densely packed terraces and ethnic minority population of the Victorian brewing town. The town does indeed tend to Labour, but turnout is often low and there is a strong Tory vote in the rural wards; the other town in the constituency, Uttoxeter, is marginal. Just outside Uttoxeter is the headquarters of JCB, a local employer and a major source of donations to the Conservatives. The Tories retained the local council in 2011. The county council elections in Burton in 2013 were too close to call.

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97 Cardiff Central
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WA                    6.3                                21.6                    28.8                     41.4                        3.4                              –

Cardiff Central is a middle-class constituency, fairly diverse in its population, and containing the city centre north of the main rail line, the university and a number of residential areas such as Cyncoed and Pentwyn. Its main peculiarities are the very high proportion of students (the third highest in England and Wales) and people renting their homes privately. All three main British parties have been competitive here – it was Conservative until 1992, Labour from 1992 until 2005, and Liberal Democrat since then – no surprise in such a student-dominated liberal electorate. Labour won the Welsh assembly constituency on a high swing in 2011, and took control of Cardiff city council in 2012, although the Liberal Democrat vote held up in Cardiff Central, with 11 councillors to Labour’s eight.

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99 South Basildon and East Thurrock
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                             6.5                                43.9                      31.0                   13.4                      5.9                          –

This seat is basically the Basildon seat that Angela E Smith represented for Labour from 1997 to 2010 but which before that was more associated with Labour disappointments in 1959, 1970, 1983 and, above all, in 1992, when the declaration of its result indicated Labour was not on course to win the election. Basildon has often been badly treated by the Boundary Commission and the town is divided between two seats, which is something of a help for the Conservatives. This one pairs some of the most Labour areas of Basildon with the marginally Tory east end of Thurrock around Stanford-le-Hope. Parties to the right of the Tories (the BNP in the mid-2000s, now UKIP) can poll quite well here and helped Labour eke out a narrow lead in the 2012 local elections.

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99 Tamworth
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                   6.6                              45.8                       32.7                    16.2                      4.9                        Carol Dean

The south-east Staffordshire town of Tamworth has formed the basis of a constituency since 1983. It was Conservative until a big Labour win in a 1996 by-election, then remained Labour until an unsurprising Tory victory in the 2010 election. It is not technically a New Town, but it is rather similar in its social characteristics and physical appearance. Like Basildon or Redditch, it has a lot of white, car-owning, owner-occupying lower middle and skilled working-class voters who may be trending towards the Tories but are willing to vote Labour when the party’s offer is right. The Conservatives held on well in the local council elections of 2011 and still control the council despite a better Labour showing in 2012.

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100 Redditch
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
WM                    6.6                                43.5                    30.3                      17.6                       3.4                    Rebecca Blake

Jacqui Smith was one of the more high-profile Labour MPs to be defeated in 2010, but in truth she had done well to hold on with a low swing in 2005 in this quiet Worcestershire New Town that had never elected a Labour MP in any general election prior to 1997 (though it did in Labour’s best by-election result under the Heath government in 1971). Council elections in Redditch, like general elections, are hard-fought Conservative-Labour contests and Labour gained a one-seat majority in 2012. In 2013 UKIP did extremely well, with Labour just ahead on a three-way vote split.

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101 Chatham and Aylesford
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SE                         6.9                             46.2                     32.3                      13.3                       3.0              Tristan Osborne

Chatham and Aylesford was one of a number of southern urban areas with a defence history where Labour did astonishingly well in 1997 and 2001 (see also Gosport, Portsmouth North, and Plymouth). It is a very high-swing seat, giving Labour’s Jonathan Shaw some strong victories in 1997-2005 but moving enthusiastically towards the Tories in 2010. Some of central Chatham is very working-class territory, but the hinterland around Aylesford by the M20 tends more to the Conservatives. The first-term Conservative incumbent, Tracey Crouch, will be difficult to displace in the 2015 election without a large national swing.

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102 North Swindon
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SW                       7.0                             44.6                      30.5                     17.2                      3.7               Mark Dempsey

The northern half of Swindon has, for the most part, been built fairly recently as privately developed family homes have spread across the landscape in places like Abbey Meads. The seat, and Swindon in general, has trended to the Conservatives over the decades – it was Labour in all general elections from 1935 to 1983 but since then has gone for the national winner. It has extreme ‘middle England’ demographics, being low in BME and student populations and high in car ownership and skilled working-class and lower middle-class occupations. The Honda factory is a major local employer. It is the seventh most mortgaged constituency in England and Wales (42.5 per cent). As shown in the local elections in 2012 when Labour won the most votes but the Tories hung on to control, Swindon is challenging but vital territory for Labour and winning it will probably need converts from the Tories.

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103 Cambridge
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
EE                    7.4                               25.6                     24.3                      39.1                        2.4              Daniel Zeichner

Cambridge, like many constituencies dominated by the liberal professions and academic institutions, was mostly Conservative until the chill blast of Thatcherism struck, but shifted Labour in 1992 and Liberal Democrat in 2005, when Labour lost a lot of liberal and student support because of Iraq and tuition fees. The swing from Liberal Democrat to Labour in the local elections in 2011 and 2012 has been huge, with even well-established Liberal Democrat councillors losing their seats, and the ring of working-class estates around the city has reasserted its Labour strength. Cambridge is a liberal, environmental constituency that may dislike the coalition but is to be convinced as to whether replacing parliamentary science advocate Julian Huppert with a Labour MP will suit its purposes.

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104 Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
LN                              9.6                             17.1                       29.2                     48.4                     –                             –

Bermondsey and Old Southwark is the stretch of south London across the Thames from the City and the inner East End. Simon Hughes has represented Bermondsey for 30 years, since the by-election in February 1983: the boundaries of the seat have changed relatively little although it has had three unnecessary changes of name. Hughes has managed the astonishing feat of keeping his Liberal Democrat electoral machine in a dominant position despite the transformation of the electorate from an ageing, mainly white and Catholic working-class council-estate constituency in 1983 to a very diverse seat in 2013 with a large African community and some expensive riverside developments that – a new phenomenon in Bermondsey – sustain a significant Tory vote. The 2014 local elections will be a test of whether the grip of the Hughes machine has been loosened by the experience of coalition, but, even if it is, Hughes will be a tough opponent in 2015.

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105 Bristol West
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
SW                   10.3                             18.4                     27.5                     48.0                        1.2            Thangam Debbonaire

Bristol West is the city centre and the genteel, intellectual west end of this large city. It was a Conservative seat for generations until Labour suddenly won from third place in 1997, but Labour’s dominance was brief as this seat, with its heavy presence of students and liberal professionals, turned against the Iraq war and tuition fees in 2005. Boundary changes in 2010 made it more winnable for Labour with the exchange of some Tory suburbs for an inner area at Easton, but Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams still won easily, and the result in the 2013 local elections in the constituency was extremely close. The Liberal Democrats have dominated council elections in the west end around Clifton and Redlands but lost ground in 2013.

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106 Leeds North-west
Region    Swing needed %    Con 2010 %    Lab 2010 %    LD 2010 %    UKIP 2010 %    Candidate
YH                      13.2                           26.6                        21.0                      47.5                       1.4                                 –

Leeds North-west is a wedge of the city stretching from the inner city at Headingley through suburbs such as Weetwood and Adel and out across open country to the little old Wharfedale town of Otley. As one might expect from this composition, it is a very mixed seat, being won by the Conservatives from its creation in 1950 until Labour gained it in 1997, only to be displaced by the Liberal Democrats in 2005. Like some other seats with a similar political history (such as Bristol West), Leeds North-west is influenced by a population of university and public sector professionals like teachers and doctors. In the 2012 local elections Labour won Headingley, but were still second behind the Liberal Democrats across the constituency as a whole.

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Lewis Baston is senior research fellow at Democratic Audit

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Key to regions:

EE – East of england
EM – East Midlands
LN – London
NE – North-west
NW – North-west
SE – South-east
SW – South-west
WA – Wales
WM – West Midlands
YH – Yorkshire and the Humber

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