East Midlands In Focus
At the EU referendum the East Midlands came a close second behind its West Midlands neighbour as the most pro-Leave region in the UK. Theresa May’s stance on Brexit should give the Conservatives optimism they can take several seats, making more progress than its solitary gain at the last election, as well as increasing their majorities in seats which are currently marginal.
The Conservatives are in a good position, particularly as several seats saw significant swings from Labour to Conservatives in marginal seats they narrowly lost in 2015. Of the 46 seats up for grabs, the Conservatives hold 32, whereas Labour will be hoping to defend the remainder which tend to centre around the city centres of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, and where a number of the MPs served in the Shadow Cabinet before Jeremy Corbyn became leader.
East Midlands in Numbers
Historically the region has always been a straight fight between the two main parties, leaving little room for the minor ones. However, Paul Nuttall’s decision to stand in Boston and Skegness will ensure UKIP receives attention, and will signal whether its bubble has well and truly burst. He will want to capitalise on UKIP’s 2015 result where they significantly reduced the Tory majority from 12,000 to 4,000.
The main question, however, is whether Labour can defend seats against the Tories. A combination of disenchanted former Labour voters and a squeeze on UKIP’s vote should see the Conservatives competitive in several Labour seats. YouGov’s recent regional polling suggests the Tories have extended their lead to over twelve points and the Conservative vote share of 54% is the third highest in the country.
UKIP’s vote is significant in certain constituencies. Labour’s Gloria De Piero’s faces a challenge in Ashfield where UKIP secured over ten thousand votes in 2015, despite finishing in third place behind the Conservatives. Likewise, in Derbyshire North East, UKIP came third with over 7,500 votes, giving the Conservatives hope it can overturn Natascha Engel’s 1,883 majority.
In a sign of confidence Theresa May has campaigned in Mansfield, which remained Labour throughout Thatcher’s heyday, indicating that this former coal mining area could go Tory. Again, the Tories will want to capitalise on nearly 12,000 UKIP voters switching to them. It would signal that Theresa May has breached a Labour heartland that would have been unthinkable just two years ago.
Despite the electoral challenge, Labour has traditionally put up a stern fight in many of these seats, meaning the Tories may struggle where the numbers would suggest Labour is vulnerable. Many are seasoned campaigners with a strong local presence who will hope that their profile will stem the Tory tide. Vernon Coaker, for instance, has held on to the marginal seat of Gedling since 1997, and will take comfort from the fact that Labour bucked the national trend in the recent local elections holding on to all of its seats.
If Labour loses its marginal seats it would be a blow to the moderate wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party as many of these MPs – such as Vernon Coaker and Lilian Greenwood – would be well placed to take prominent frontbench roles, albeit under a different leader.
Seats in focus
John Mann (Lab)
EU Referendum Result
UKIP’s decision not to stand a candidate in Bassetlaw makes this seat interesting. John Mann – one of the few Labour MPs who supported Brexit – has represented the seat since 2001. If the Tories succeed they will want to bank a significant chunk of UKIP’s vote, as well as appealing to Labour voters. But Mann’s local presence, combined with his position on Brexit, could prove a challenge as it is certainly possible that working class UKIP voters switch back to Labour due to antipathy towards the Conservatives.
EU Referendum Result
Derby North was the only Tory gain in 2015 making it the most marginal seat in England with a wafer thin majority of 41. The polls suggest the Conservative MP, Amanda Solloway could considerably increase her majority, especially on the basis of Derby’s convincing vote to leave the European Union. Meanwhile, in the two years since his defeat, former Labour MP Chris Williamson is fighting the seat again as a vocal cheerleader for the Labour leadership, calling the election a ‘test case’ for Corbyn’s politics.
What to watch for
|The Conservatives have targeted Leicester West held by Liz Kendall who has a healthy majority of 7,203. If Labour loses this seat it would suggest that Theresa May is exceeding expectations.||Broxtowe is represented by the vocal Conservative Remain supporter Anna Soubry. This has always been marginal but the Conservatives now enjoy a majority over 4,000. Can the Tories increase their majority?||Dennis Skinner’s Bolsover seat is rock solid Labour. Surprisingly the Tories have targeted the area, sending Cabinet Minister, Chris Grayling to the constituency. No one is predicting a Conservative win but looking at how the party performs could be a point of interest.|