Southern England is the Conservative heartland. It’s a sea of blue with an occasional splotch of something else. If the Tories don’t completely dominate the region, they’re on hard times. The regional party totals are Conservatives 180/195, Labour 12/195, Liberal Democrats 1/195, Greens 1/195, UKIP 1/195. I’m counting the Speaker, Jon Bercow, as a Tory since that was his party.
Here’s where the parties stand after 2015:
#1 Clacton – 3.9% swing from UKIP required, 73% Leave
I can’t imagine a seat that’s more of a lock to be gained by the Tories. Douglas Cardwell, UKIP’s only MP, became an Independent, then resigned and rejoined the Conservatives. There’s no way UKIP can hold on without his personal popularity, Giles Watling is likely to get well over 50% and regain this seat for Team Blue.
#2 North Norfolk – 4.1% swing from Liberal democrats required, 58.4% Leave
This one would be a few places down, but UKIP decided to do the Tories a solid and not run a candidate this time. That’s how much they dislike Norman Lamb, the long-serving LibDem MP for this constituency. That leaves UKIP’s 16.9% completely up for grabs.
#3 Hove – 1.2% swing from Labour required, 32.9% Leave
The Brexit number is horrendous. That said, the swing needed is very small, and the Tories can grab most of UKIP’s 6.3% because they aren’t standing. I’m also expecting a LibDem recovery and possibly a few extra points from the Greens, who are strong in the Brighton area.
#4 Bristol East – 4.3% swing from Labour required, 48.7% Leave
This seat voted for Remain, but UKIP actually got a healthy 15.5%. They aren’t running anyone here next month, so the Tories should get the lion’s share of that. It’s not a lock, but it’s a very good target. The Greens and the LibDems are also locally strong, so the left should be decently split.
#5 Southampton Test – 4.4% swing from Labour required, 49.4% Leave
I would have put this (and the previous seat) down a tad farther, but UKIP is not standing here as well. That leaves most of their 12.8% to the Tories. Interestingly, this is the only seat in Hampshire that isn’t held by the Conservatives. That kind of margin is standard for them in small counties with less than 10 seats. It’s not that common in a county with a true conurbation and 18 constituencies.
#6 Bristol South – 7% swing from Labour required, 47.3% Leave
If there were ever something like a true four-way marginal, this would likely be it. Labour, the Tories, the Greens, and the LibDems usually make efforts here. That means the trying to predict the outcome is a shot in the dark, though I assume that the LibDems and Greens will seep each other down. UKIP is in fact running a candidate here, but a big chunk of their 16.5% should still go to the Tories.
#7 Slough – 7.6% swing from Labour required, 54.1% Leave
This is a stretch given the Tories’ recent polling in Southern England. However, there’s an unusually high (for this part of the country) Labour Leavers here. UKIP’s 13% is also unusually high for the region. Interestingly, Major’s crew actually managed to hold this in ’92.
#8 Norwich South, 7.9% swing from Labour required, 40.5% Leave
This is a big reach, but it would be awesome if Team Blue took it. it’s current MP is clive Lewis, quite possibly one of the most annoying major figures in the Labour Party (and that’s saying something). UKIP only provides 9.4%, but they’re not standing a candidate (they too hate Lewis). if the LibDems make a recovery to somewhere near 2010 levels or the Greens surge (they’re strong here, the Conservatives could pick this up with ~30% like they did with Gower in 2015.
#1 Cambridge – 0.6% swing from Labour required, 26.3% Leave
This is definitely the top target in the country for the Liberal Democrats. It’s rabidly Remain and they barely lost it to Labour in 2015. Whatever else happen to them next month, they should regain this seat. Former MP Julian Huppert is running to get his seat back, so that helps too. If Team Red is holding this on June 8th, it’s probably lights-out for the Liberals.
#2 Bath – 4.1% swing from conservatives required, 31.7% Leave
This is a pretty upscale area. It’s a favorite destination for wealthy people who want to be close to Bristol but don’t actually want to live in the city. It’s been a Tory/LibDem marginal for a few decades now. The Conservatives grabbed it in 2015 amid the Liberal collapse, but they had built up quite a majority prior to that. It’s probably their fourth or fifth best target in the country.
#3 Lewes – 1.1% swing from Conservatives required, 47.1% Leave
As you drive south out of London, you enter the Tory suburban heartland around the capital. Drive a bit farther and you’re in the still-blue countryside. However, if you keep driving to Brighton, the political landscape shifts dramatically as you reach the coast. It goes from rural Tory villages to bougey leftists in trendy apartments in the blink of an eye. Not only does Labour do decently here (we covered Hove earlier), but both the LibDems and the Greens are strong (hell, they have their only seat here!). All this splitting of the left allows the Tories to be competitive. The first of these seats that you’d reach, and the most conservative, is Lewes. It’s somewhat rural, so it’s a straight-up Tory/LibDem marginal. The Brighton area is one the few non-London places that has high numbers of Remain-at-all-costs voters. It’s very connected to the rest of Europe and has a ton of transplants from the mainland. These include Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie, the top-earning YouTuber. It’s basically the most popular destination for those using Britain as a tax haven. Anyway, Team Orange has a decent shot here because of a fired-up base and the Greens (5.5%) standing down to help them. UKIP (10.7%) retaliated by not running a candidate either. If that hadn’t happened this seat would be first on the list.
#4 Cheltenham – 6.1% swing from labour required, 42.9% Leave
If you think we’re bouncing around a lot geographically, that’s because we are. Outside of London, Southern England is very right-wing. looking for a competitive seat when the Tories are doing well is like rooting around your salad for those four sad, tiny shrimp that allowed the restaurant to charge four dollars more. Think of Cheltenham as a slightly less upscale Bath. It’s industries are mainly high-tech and white-collar. As in many of their other target seats, the LibDems held this until 2015. They’re running their old MP, Martin Norwood, and hoping that they’re historical record of strong local candidates holds this year. Also, UKIP isn’t running a candidate here.
#5 Eastbourne – 0.7% swing from Conservatives required, 57.5% Leave
As with many of these, the Liberals are running their former MP. If not for the Leave number, this would be higher up on the list. However, there are real issues with this target. One of the real problems for the Liberal Democrats is that in many seats where they have a good shot, UKIP is standing down in order to screw them over. Honestly, I’m actually gaining more and more respect for the Kippers as I write these lists. May they die a noble death and have a viking funeral before they meet Churchill, Thatcher, Reagan, and Coolidge in Conservative Valhalla. They can keep Scott Walker’s reserved seat warm for him.
#6 Thornbury and Yate – 1.5% swing from Conservatives required, 52.2% Leave
The Bristol area is strange. Not only does it have strong areas for the Conservatives, Labour, and the LibDems, but it’s also strong for the Greens. It’s sort of like Brighton, except that the Greens aren’t strong enough to really help the Tories much (yet). They’re really only contenders in one seat. Anyway, this seat is exurban Bristol with enough rural territory to provide a good populist base for the LibDems. They aren’s running their old MP though, so any lingering personal vote shouldn’t be an issue. UKIP is also not running a candidate here, so that could boost Luke Hall for the Conservatives. Team orange haw a long, hard road if they can’t even take this constituency back from Team Blue.
#7 St. Ives – 2.6% swing from Conservatives required, 54.8% Leave
Cornwall (Kernow in the local, near-dead language) has taken a bit of a rightward turn lately. Not only did it vote 56.5% Leave (even though as a Celtic minority area it got extra EU funding), but all six of its constituencies elected Tories in 2015 and the Conservatives are now the largest party on the local council. This is impressive given the area’s relative poverty and tourism-based economy. UKIP likes the local Tory MP, so they’re not running a candidate. However, Team Orange did catch one break in that their former MP is running again.
#8 Yeovil – 4.7% swing from Conservatives required, 59.9% Leave
It’s kind of embarrassing for the LibDems that this is so far down the list. It was originally taken by Liberal legend Paddy Ashdown, who picked it up from the Tories in 1983 despite Thatcher’s landslide victory. They’d held it ever since until 2015. It’s been thought of in the past as one of their few safe seats. The fact that they lost it really stung. Even worse, David Laws, a former rising star on the right of the party and the former MP, is not running this time. That’s probably because he was the Schools Minister in the Coalition, but it’s still not advantageous for Team Orange. To add insult to injury, UKIP is standing down here to lend extra votes to the Tories.
#9 Torbay – 3.4% swing from Conservatives required, 62.4% Leave
Historically, this is a big Tory/LibDem battleground. I don’t see the Tories losing it, but a surprisingly good performance for Farron and Co. could see it flip.
#10 Colchester – 5.7% swing from Conservatives required, 51.5% Leave
The Leave number isn’t that bad for Team Orange, but the swing is hefty. It’s a longshot, but not a hopeless one. Taking a seat in Essex would be impressive.
I’ve decided to do Scotland last. Please tell me in the comments whether you want Yorkshire and Humberside or Wales next.