Are 7 Cabinet Ministers for the Chop?

Are 7 Cabinet Ministers for the Chop?

ICM / News of the World Poll Suggests Cabinet Clear-out

An ICM poll reported in the News of the World and being prominently reported on Sky News suggests that seven cabinet ministers would lose their seats in a general election.

The poll was carried out last Wednesday – before the local election results, reshuffle and ministerial resignations – in what the paper describes as “the 18 constituencies represented by main Cabinet Ministers”.  It’s not clear what this means: there are twenty cabinet ministers with seats in the Commons.  Gordon Brown’s constituency looks to have been polled separately but that still leaves a discrepancy.

The article suggests that the seven ministers with the narrowest majorities would all lose their seats: John Denham, Tessa Jowell, Jack Straw, Liam Byrne, Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy and Ben Bradshaw.  That would equal the debris left after the 1997 election, when seven cabinet ministers also lost their seats.

Both the list of ministers and the comment about a “swing of 12 per cent from Labour to the Tories ” are consistent but it’s not clear whether the poll was conducted on the existing or new boundaries.  I’d have some scepticism about the exclusion of Ed Balls, who even on existing boundaries would struggle to hold on against a swing of 12% (it would cut his majority from about 10,000 to about 1,000), and the boundary changes to his constituency are far from helpful to him.

It may be that the results haven’t been calculated seat-by-seat.  The “12% swing” comment and the consistency of the casualties (every minister with a majority of less than 24%; none above it) both point to that conclusion.  That’s a little disappointing, especially as two on the target list – Tessa Jowell and Liam Byrne – have Lib Dems as their main challengers.

Those not on the list shouldn’t be resting easy though.  In 1997, some swings were well in excess of the average (something much easier when there was a large vote for the defending government at the previous election) most memorably, the 17% against Michael Portillo.

In the shorter term, will the results of this poll – and they go well beyond voting intention – affect the way that the cabinet behaves?

David Herdson

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