And here we come to the beating heart of Her Majesty’s Most Marxist Opposition. The North East may be where Labour’s headquarters are but the North West, especially the Liverpool-Manchester conurbation, is where many of the party’s most ardent supporters reside. Even as Thatcher was racking-up huge victories in ’83 and ’87, these areas were moving away from the Tories. There are a lot of targets here for the Conservatives, but most require a collapse of the UKIP vote. Local election results auger well for them in Lancashire and Cumbria. We’ll have to see if that surge translates to Greater Manchester to find out just how many seats they’ll take. Apologies to those who wanted a Midlands list. That will be up next. As far as the current breakdown goes, Labour has 50/75, the Conservatives have 23/75, and the Liberal Democrats have 2/75.
As of 2015, here’s where the parties stood (Copeland has since gone Tory in a by-election):
#1 Barrow and Furness – 0.9% swing from Labour required, 57.3% Leave
These first few will almost certainly fall, so the order is a tad academic. However, this one goes first because it has everything. It was very close last time and voted Leave. It has a decent 11.7% UKIP vote from which to feed the Tory vote coffer. Also, the Tories did well here in local elections and they already won neighboring Copeland in a by-election (and it had a bigger margin for Labour in 2015).
#2 City of Chester – 0.1% swing from Labour required, 42.3% Leave
Since this constituency voted for Remain, I normally wouldn’t put it this far up on the list. However, given that Labour won it in 2015 by 93 votes on a fluke (the collapsing LibDems went more heavily to them) and that the Brexit number isn’t Inner London-style horrible, I’ll make an exception. Both sides are already at 43%. Even though UKIP only got 8.1%, some of that combined with a swing from Labour and/or a partial LibDem recovery should be more than enough to put Team Blue over the top.
#3 Wirral West – 0.5% swing from Labour required, 42.6% Leave
Again, the Brexit number would usually put this seat farther down, but it’s not horrible and it was really close last time. This was Labour’s only real scalp in 2015, as the MP they defeated was Esther McVey, the Coalition Work and Pensions minister. The Tories aren’t running her this time, but Tony Caldeira, fresh off losing horribly in the Liverpool regional mayoral contest. That’s ok, though; any Tory would have lost horribly, and looking at the numbers he probably got over 50% in this constituency. UKIP only got 6.6% here in 2015, but that shouldn’t be a huge issue.
#4 Blackpool South – 4% swing from Labour required, 67.8% Leave
Blackpool is sometimes called England’s Las Vegas, but it’s more like a less-crappy Atlantic City; a boardwalk resort town that’s seen better days, but still gets a fair amount of traffic. It’s not falling apart, but there are also some pretty bad slums, especially in the southern part of the city. That’s why Labour has held on here until now. I don’t see how they can get past the combo of those swing and Leave numbers, though. UKIP on 17.3% pretty much seals the deal.
#5 Lancaster and Fleetwood – 1.5% swing from Labour required, 52% Leave
The Leave number isn’t as high as I’d like, but it matches the national average and the UKIP number (9.7%) is decent. This is another seat that probably went to Labour because of an asymmetric LibDem collapse. Any recovery by them should pad the Tory margin.
#6 Hyndburn – 5.1% swing from Labour required, 65.8% Leave
There are several seats clustered near this swing number, but the leave and UKIP numbers really make this one stand out. I’ll be very surprised if the Tories don’t take this seat.
#7 Bolton North East – 5.1% swing from Labour required, 58.1% Leave
Now we’re moving into Greater Manchester. You’d think that the Leave numbers would be a bit higher here, but many of the Labour voters in these areas are true leftists (and a few are actual Communists). You’ll also start to see a pattern geographically; there’s a cluster of target seats that straddles the Lancashire-Greater Manchester border. This is one of several such clusters around Britain (we already saw one in the Tees Valley in Part 2). The Kippers got 18.8% in 2015, so there’s a decent amount of purple votes to grab. Bolton North East has been a favorite Tory target for a while now. I think that they’re finally going to get it back after over 20 years of trying.
#8 Chorley – 4.4% swing from Labour required, 56.7% Leave
Here’s another one for the cluster. The swing is smaller but the relatively low Leave number for this type of semi-rural industrial seat smells fishy (little known fact: Trotskyites smell like fish). This is an old coal and mill area. It’s the kind of seat that Labour should never be in doubt of losing unless they’re tanking. At 13.5%, UKIP can help, but there will probably need to be a drop in the Labour vote as well if the Tories want this one.
#9 Bury South – 5.2% swing from Labour required, 54.5% Leave
In another edition of ‘the leftists here are really leftists,’ I don’t like the Leave number given the seat’s profile. Still, though, UKIP’s 13.3% gives the Tories a chance to thread the needle.
#10 Southport – 1.5% swing from Liberal Democrats required, 46.3% Leave
Look well, and remember June 8th if the Tories take this seat. It is very rare these days for them to have a shot at any seat in Merseyside that’s not on the Wirral. It’s so far down the list because it voted Remain and the main opponent is the Liberal Democrats. Still, UKIP took an impressive (for a Remain seat) 16.8%, so this is more than doable for Team Blue.
#11 Workington – 6.1% swing from Labour required, 61% Leave
We’re back in Cumbria for this one. The collapse in the UKIP vote (19.6%) should net the Tories a decent number here, but the LibDems won’t be much help even if they surge. Conservatives may actually need to get some Labour votes here, but with a good Leave number that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
#12 Ellesmere Port and Neston – 6.7% swing from Labour required, 58.3% Leave
Winning here is going to require a decent number of Labour 2015 voters, as UKIP only got 12%. Still, this one was blue from 1983 to 1992, so there’s a history of the Conservatives winning here in landslides. It’s worth noting that part of this constituency is actually on the Wirral even though it’s in Cheshire.
#13 Oldham East and Saddleworth – 6.8% swing from Labour required, 57.9% Leave
Here’s another for the Manchester Cluster. A LibDem recovery is possible and would be of real help. However, a decent swing from Labour and a good chunk of UKIP’s 19.2% would do the job.
#14 Worsley and Eccles South – 7.1% swing from Labour required, 62.2% Leave
The LibDems dropped to fifth here (behind the Greens!) in 2015 and I’d have to think that they’d recover a bit. That would be super helpful, because even though UKIP had a healthy 18.3%, the Tories are only working from a 30% base. Labour should drop from 44%, but that alone won’t get Team Blue over the line. If you’ve ever had English pastries, this is where the Eccles Cake is from.
#15 Stalybridge and Hyde – 8.2% swing from Labour required, 58.5% Leave
Now we’re going pretty far back in the record books. This old mill town seat hasn’t been represented by anyone but Labour since WWII. This is another Greater Manchester seat where the LibDems dropped from third to fifth in 2015. Any recovery for them will likely involve taking hardcore Remainers disgusted by Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour column. Even if that doesn’t happen, UKIP got 18.8%, so the Tories get two bites at the apple with a decent swing from Labour to them.
#16 Wirral South – 5.5% swing from Labour required, 45.5% Leave
We’re now well beyond the point where poaching from UKIP gets the Tories over the line. They only managed 8.9% here in 2015. That’s of some use, but Team Blue is either going to need a bigger-than-expected swing from Labour (which may happen due to regional differences in swing) or, as in other seats like this, a Liberal Democrat recovery from their abysmal 2015 performance. Honestly, I’d be very surprised if the Tories won three seats in Merseyside. It’s basically Seattle without the tech money. General leftists and even actual, honest-to-Engles Communists abound here.
#17 West Lancashire – 8.4% swing from Labour required, 55% Leave
The story here is pretty similar to the one in Staybridge and Hyde, though it’s down a bit farther because of a weaker Kipper performance (12.2%) and a lower Leave number. On the local level, it’s split between three rural Tory seats and four urban Labour seats (after the local elections a few days ago). That suggests that margins and turnout differentials are really going to matter not just here, but in southern Lancashire in general.
#18 Warrington North – 9.8% swing from Labour required, 58.1% Leave
The Leave number is decent, but the swing is horrendous. Still, with a 17.1% UKIP vote, there’s a chance to thread the needle.If you check the full 2015 breakout for this seat, you’ll see that it’s very similar to most of the this list. They’re almost all Manchester-area seats with Tory votes in the low 30s and Labour votes in the mid-40s. The main thing that sets Warrington North apart is that it fits the profile, but is in Cheshire instead of Greater Manchester or Lancashire.
#19 Wythenshawe and Sale East – 12.2% swing from Labour required, 49.6% Leave
This one is a real reach, but it’s interesting because part of the constituency is actually in the southern reaches of the City of Manchester. The Labour 2015 vote is just over 50%, but that should drop a bit. The Conservatives would need to take the bulk of the UKIP vote (14.7%) and the LibDems would need to recover the to 2010 levels, but never say never.
#1 Cheadle – 6.1% swing from Conservatives required, 42.1% leave
This is probably the most vulnerable Tory seat in Northern England. That’s saying something, since they’re already just north of 43% and should take a healthy bit out of UKIP’s 16.3%. Still, if this becomes a straight-up Remain v. Leave tactical voting brawl., the Liberal Democrats could take it back after losing it last time.
#2 Hazel Grove – 7.6% swing from Conservatives required, 51.7% Leave
The story here is pretty similar to the one in Cheadle (in fact, they border each other). The only major difference is that this seat voted for Leave. Just like in Cheadle, Team Orange is running their former MP who lost their seat in 2015.
#3 Burnley – 4.1% swing from Labour required, 66.6% Leave
The Brexit totals are horrendous for the LibDems. Still, just as with the other two, they’re running their former MP for the seat. If the split ends up as a crazy three-way fight, they could sneak by and retake the seat.