The Midlands is the classic Labour/Tory battleground, or at least it used to be. These days it has a decidedly blue tinge to it. North West England is a grittier and more urban Pacific Northwest. North East England is, as JNCCA pointed out, basically Pittsburgh. By contrast, the Midlands is basically the Midwest, with Birmingham playing the role of a much, much whiter Chicago. Like the Midwest, it has taken a decidedly right-wing turn recently, or at least that seems to be the case. Like the Manchester Cluster, I’d describe West Midlands County especially as a target-rich environment for the Conservatives. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right into it. The current party totals stand at 66/105 Conservative, 39/105 Labour, and 0/105 Liberal Democrat.
Here’s where the parties stood after 2015:
#1 Newcastle-under-Lyme – 0.8% swing from Labour required, 61.6% Leave
What’s truly nuts about this seat (apart from the hyphenated name) is that even though it very nearly flipped in 2015, the Conservatives haven’t actually won it since 1900! Just think, when a Tory last won this constituency, some of the soldiers who fought in WWI had not yet been born. Between the small swing, the Leave total, and UKIP’s 16.9%, the streak is a lock to be broken this time.
#2 Derbyshire North East – 2% swing from Labour required, 62.1% Leave
As you might have noticed, I’m usually splitting hairs on the first few and just putting seats with lower Leave votes but small swings below small-swing seats that have higher Leave votes. That’s true here too, but UKIP’s decent 15.9% doesn’t hurt, either. This is the first East Midlands seat we get, and they’re won’t be too many. It’s worth noting that in the local elections, the Tories got three wards here and so did Labour. The LibDems got one, too.
#3 Walsall North – 2.6% swing from Labour required, 71.2% Leave
And now we come to the first of many seats we’ll cover in the Birmingham-Black Country-Coventry conurbation (also known as West Midlands County). This one is in the Black Country, which is so named because it was said to be so industrial that the smoke would make the sky black, even in the daytime, and red at night with the fires of heavy manufacturing. UKIP acquitted themselves very well here in 2015, getting 22%. That should net this one for Team Blue come hell or high water.
#4 Wolverhampton South West – 1% swing from Labour required, 54.4% Leave
This was one of Labour’s gains from the Tories last time, but it was close – 801 votes difference. The Leave number isn’t ideal, and the Kippers only got 10.7%, but it should be more than enough. Also, there should be no issue with losing personal votes for the Tory from 2015, because Paul Uppal is gunning to get his old seat back. This is important because Uppal is both a local boy who made good and a Sikh.
#5 Stoke-on-Trent South – 3.3% swing from Labour required, 71.1% Leave
We’re back in Staffordshire for another long historical streak likely to be broken. No Tory has won this seat ever, save in the 1931 uberlanslide. Even then, the constituency was the whole city, not just the southern third. However, the whole city has moved increasingly rightward over the past few elections. Why, you ask, might such a stolidly Labour small city have moved to the Tories so quickly and decisively while similar towns swung more slowly or not at all? The answer, at least partly, is demographics. Most similar cities, such as Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester, are 70-85% White (and some of that is Other European). Stoke, by contrast, is almost 95% White. It’s basically Britain’s Terre Haute. Its whiteness means that when it swings, it swings HARD. The Tories have actually improved among minority voters, at least before Brexit, but they still don’t swing as easily as whites do (especially in poor cities). As you might expect, the people of The Potteries, as the area is often called, would rather not have inflicted on them the plague of grooming gangs, local school takeover, and radical mosques that have afflicted so many other towns like theirs in the Midlands and the North. That’s probably why Stoke-on-trent South gave UKIP 21.2% in 2015 and is likely to go Conservative in June. If that doesn’t convince you, then how about this: UKIP isn’t even standing a candidate here next month.
#6 Birmingham Northfield – 3% swing from Labour required, 59.3% Leave
This is more of your traditional Labour/Tory marginal. Or, rather, it’s a seat that’s been on the radar a lot, but only got won by the Conservatives in the Thatcher victories. Hilariously, Labour actually captured it in a by-election in 1982 during the darkest-before-the-dawn pre-growth recession, then lost it next year when the Falklands War saved the Iron Lady’s bacon. They’ll probably take it now, especially with Team Purple on a decent 16.7% share and not running a candidate this time.
#7 Gedling – 3.1% swing from Labour required, 56.3% Leave
This is the only truly urban seat in the East Midlands that the Tories are more likely than not to take. The UKIP number is only 14.4%, so it’s not great. The Conservatives don’t need that much, though. Vernon Coaker’s 20-year tenure is likely to come to an end.
#8 Dudley North – 5.5% swing from Labour required, 69.8% Leave
Here’s another Black Country seat that seems almost destined to fall to the Conservatives. Normally this might be a little further down, but a strong Tory showing here in the West Midlands mayoral election and a whopping 24% UKIP vote makes things a lot easier.
#9 Mansfield – 5.6% swing from Labour required, 70.9% Leave
We’re back in the East Midlands for our second Nottinghamshire constituency. As far as I can tell, the Tories have never held this seat, at least since it has been a single-member district (1885). It didn’t even fall during the Stanley Baldwin 55% benchmark in 1931. I’m pretty sure that’s because the main local industry used to be coal mining. The other big story here is the UKIP vote. It’s a hefty 25.1%. One note of caution – the Tories drew a blank here in the local elections. Out of five wards covering this seat, they got none. Labour did lose two to Independents, though. That pretty much never happens on the national level, so we’ll have to see if the good locals have the stomach to actually elect a Tory. The numbers say yes, history says no.
#10 Coventry North West – 5% swing from Labour required, 58.4% Leave
This is a fascinating contest. On the one hand, this is definitely not the kind of seat that’s a typical Tory target. Not only is it in a Midlands industrial city, but it’s not even the bluest part of the city. However, the Leave number is decent, as is the UKIP number (15.7%). Even better, the Tories are running Resham Kotecha. Yes, that’s right, the Conservatives are running a South Asian woman against a white dude in a battleground seat. A majority of Coventry’s sizable South Asian community are Muslim, as you might expect. However, there are also unusually high numbers of Hindus and Sikhs. I’ll be paying close attention to this race next month.
#11 Coventry South – 3.7% swing from Labour required, 50.4% Leave
The western wards in this seat are Team Blue’s traditional base in Coventry. Back when the city had four seats instead of three, Coventry South West was usually in play. After the reduction, Coventry South picked up some southeastern Labour wards, including one that’s heavily Muslim (St. Michael’s). The combination of upscale Tories and Muslims is probably why this constituency only barely voted for Leave. Even so, UKIP provides an ok 13.1% to poach. This is still a good target.
#12 Birmingham Edgbaston – 3.3% swing from Labour required, 43.8% Leave
The only reason that this isn’t even farther down the list is that i suspect that outgoing Labour MP Gisela Stuart gets some personal votes. She’s very popular and was a major figure in the Leave campaign (even though her mostly upscale seat voted Remain). As yo would expect in a Remain seats, UKIP got a substandard 10.1% in 2015. However, that should still furnish a few extra points for the Conservatives. They’ve been chasing this one for a while. I think they might finally get it.
#13 Stoke-on-Trent North – 6.3% swing from Labour required, 72.1% Leave
And here we are back in The Potteries. The story is much the same as it is in the southern part of Stoke. UKIP will definitely collapse here because they’re not running a candidate this time around. That’s great, because they got 24.7% in 2015. Winning two out of three seats in Stoke would be unthinkable for the Tories without Brexit, but this isn’t a standard election.
#14 Walsall South – 7.2% swing from Labour required, 63.4% Leave
Unlike the other two seats in Walsall, this one is going to be in doubt. It’s the most urban of the three and the least white. Additionally, UKIP only got 15.6%. That’s not terrible, but it’s not enough on its own. There will need to be a decent swing from Labour. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen here, even in a Tory landslide. It’ll likely come down to the regional swing, as it looks like there are going to be big differences in swing across England.
#15 Birmingham Erdington – 7.4% swing from Labour, 58.5% Leave
Supposedly the new philosophy of Tory reform is known as ‘the Eddington modernization’ and is targeted at the lower-middle class. Taking this seat would therefore be a big symbolic victory for May and Co. They certainly have a shot at doing so. Team Purple got 17.4% in 2015, and They’re not standing a candidate this time.. This is another one that the Tories have chased for decades. Of note, in the new boundaries that haven’t yet been implemented, the seat moves significantly rightward by losing its most eastern ward and moving westward.
#16 Wolverhampton North East – 8.1% swing from Labour required, 67.5% Leave
Two-thirds of Wolverhampton are competitive this year. This isn’t nearly as much of a cinch to flip as South West, but it’s still a possibility. UKIP is somewhat above average at 19.2% and the Leave number is very healthy. I’m putting it down here, but I could see scenarios where it falls and a few above it don’t fall.
#17 Stoke-on-Trent Central – 8.4% swing from Labour required, 64.8% Leave
This is the only Stoke seat where UKIP has a candidate this year. That makes sense, seeing as they came second in both the 2015 election (22.7%) and the recent by-election (24.7%). However, both of those were before the collapse of the UKIP vote in the local elections. We don’t have numbers on that for Stoke (because the City Council wasn’t up for election), but it definitely happened just outside of the city. However, UKIP is likely concentrate all of their local resources here. Their vote may hold up more than expected. This seat is therefore a huge question mark.
#18 Ashfield – 9.3% swing from Labour required, 70.5% Leave
This seat, along with Mansfield and the next one we’ll talk about, is one of s string of old coal-mining seats in northern Nottinghamshire. This cluster is the main point of action for the East Midlands, which shows you how polarized the area is. As in Mansfield, Independents made big gains in the local elections at the expense of Labour, capturing a majority of the constituency’s wads. The Labour total is actually much lower than you’d expect at 41%. That’s probably because UKIP took 21.4%. Labour is definitely unpopular here, but are they unpopular enough for there to be a good swing from them to the Tories? Who knows.
#19 Bassetlaw – 9% swing from Labour required, 68.3% Leave
Here’s the third coal seat. Conservatives did actually gain two seats here in the local elections. UKIP only got 16%, though, so there are a lot of Labour Leave voters.
#20 West Bromwich West – 11.8% swing from Labour required, 68.7% Leave
UKIP actually came in second here with 25.2%. If most of that goes to the Tories, they could win, but they’d still need a swing from Labour. This seat is in the borough of Sandwell, and the local joke is that Sandwell is a one-party state. Out of the 72 councillors on the borough council, 70 are Labourites. It also went heavily for Labour in the West Midlands regional mayoral election. However, the numbers are there. i jus don’t know if the Tory brand is detoxified enough for there to be enough switchers.
#21 Leicester West – 10.4% swing from Labour required, 50.8% Leave
Now we’re getting into the real reach seats. UKIP’s 17.2% is solid, but the Leave number is shaky. Taking a seat in Leicester would be a big deal, as would be beating Liz Kendall. It has a Labour majority of under 8,000, though, so the Tories are trying for it.
#22 Nottingham South – 8% swing from Labour required, 45.6% Leave
The one thing that could really tip this to the Tories is a LibDem recovery. They got over 20% in 2010. The Leave number is enough for a recovery, but who knows if they’ll get enough. UKIP can help with 11.3%, but that’s not going to do it by itself. The Tories actually held this seat in the 80s and early 90s. The seat isn’t against electing Conservatives, it just only happens during landslides.
#23 Birmingham Selly Oak – 9.3% swing from Labour required, 45.7% Leave
This is another one where the Tories need a LibDem recovery. UKIP only got 12.7%. It can happen, but the numbers need to work out just right. Like Nottingham South and Birmingham Edgbaston, the Conservatives held this one during the Thatcher years.
#24 Derby South – 10.8% swing from Labour required, 61.4% Leave
We really are down to the ‘only if the Liberals recover’ seats. The UKIP number is decent 15.5%, but that won’t be enough by itself. What’s funny is that the other Derby sea, Derby North, is a classic Tory/Labour marginal. Holding both seats in the city would be a true sign of a landslide.
#1 Birmingham Yardley – 8% swing from Labour required, 60.9% Leave
The Liberal Democrats are kind of hard-up for targets in the Midlands. At least Birmingham Yardley is one that they used to hold. As with many of their top targets, their old MP for the area is running again. The Brexit number sucks for Team Orange, but they can hope that the Tories take enough from Labour to allow them to slip in with a high-30s or low-40s performance.
#2 Solihull – 11.8% swing from Conservatives required, 53.3% Leave
The Tories captured this in 2015. The Brexit vote is low enough that Farron and Co. could theoretically take it back, though I’m not holding my breath. They actually running a new candidate as well.
I still have to do Southern England, Wales, Scotland, and Yorkshire and Humberside. Please include in the comments which you would prefer to see next.