Harry Hayfield asks: Could it be 1997 in reverse?
One of the striking things about Election 1997 was the pincher movement that Labour and the Liberal Democrats performed on the Conservatives as tactical voting happened on a scale never seen before (or as electors knew it “Vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative!”).
Today we saw a pincher movement by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in Westminster which made 55 Labour MP’s vote against the government on the issue of citizenship for Gurkhas and that got me thinking “What if a similar pincher movement happened against Labour at the next election?” and the simple answer would be “1997 in reverse!”
Labour’s majority of 48 on the new boundaries is made up of their 24 most marginal seats but unlike in 1997 when the Conservative’s 27 majority (based on it’s 14 most marginal seats all had Labour as the second placed party) the Conservatives aren’t in second place in all of those top 24. The Lib Dems are second in Rochdale (number 3), the SNP are second in Ochil (number 12) and Plaid Cymru are in second in Arfon (number 15).
If we take the average of the polls in April, it suggests a swing to the Conservatives of 8.7%, so let’s take these Lab defence seats and apply a swing to 8.7% to the Conservatives. Well that nets you a very spectactular 124 net gains (8 more than they need to win power). But hold on a 8.7% swing to Con means a Lab drop of 8.7%, so what happens in seats where the Conservatives are not in second and the Lab vote drops by 8.7%.
Well, the Lib Dems have a few smiles on their faces as they gain 10 seats from Labour, Plaid Cymru gain 2 and the SNP gain 1, which means when you add them all together a total of 137 losses and now when you list these defence seats in their new colours an interesting question arises.
Leicester South (number 75) stays Labour by only a matter of 0.08%, what is to say that with the margin of errors polls have, that wouldn’t go Lib Dem? The same can be said about Liverpool, Wavetree (number 79), Oldham East and Saddleworth (number 89) and Glasgow North (number 103).
Dundee West (number 126) has a Lab majority of 5.86%. Could tactical voting by Conservatives who realise they have no chance of winning to the SNP knock that one down (as could happen in Kilmarnock (number 174) and Linlithgow (number 216) Llanelli (number 183) could also see the same thing happening as well (especially as that’s what lead to Helen Mary Jones winning the Assembly seat in 1999)?
So are we on the verge of a pincher movement to the same (or indeed greater) degree than 1997? It’s beginning to look that way and the longer Brown stays in office as Prime Minister the more likely it’s looking.
Harry Hayfield is an occasional contributor of Guest Slots to PB