Might CON first timers hang on like LAB did then
Labour returned to power in May 1997 and four years and one month later Tony Blair went to the country to renew his mandate. The outcome was never really in doubt and on the day, as the official record shows above, LAB won on a reduced vote share. Yet this hardly mattered in terms of seats
The actual drop in the lead over the Tories was 3.6% yet William Hague’s Conservatives were closer by just one MP
It was really remarkable that the margin had barely changed and seat by seat analysis showed what had happened. In the Labour seats being defended for the first time incumbent MPs saw a significantly better performance than their party as a whole.
This has become known as the first time incumbency bonus and is one that the Tories believe might benefit from on May 7th. If in the marginals their incumbents can do better than elsewhere then that could have a big impact and still leave them with most seats.
Labour recognised this as a challenge very early in this Parliament and in a select group of 12 key LAB-CON battlegrounds re-selected the beaten MP from 2010. One of them, of course is Nick Palmer in Broxtowe while another is my LAB candidate in Bedford.
The question is whether the “retreads”, as they’ve become known, will eat into any Tory incumbency bonus?
Much of the Ashcroft polling of the CON-LAB battlegrounds suggests that this group might be performing better but, of course, no candidate names were mentioned in the polling.
Given the tightness of the race this could matter enormously.
As I keep on observing the CON LAB marginals are the most important battles. For every one that LAB takes its seat total increases by one while the CON one decreases by the same amount. So in terms of the contest for a plurality on seats they count double.