UK Target Seats, Part 5: Southern England

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.

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  • jncca May 19, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Yorkshire please.

    24, CA-6. Part Obama, Part May, Part Christian Democrat.

    • Son_of_the_South May 20, 2017 at 5:48 am


      24, R, TN-09
      Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

  • Greyhound May 19, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    I’d also mention that the Greens have a decent shot at taking Bristol West, which would leave Labour with exactly 2 seats in this whole region should the Tories run the table here–Oxford and Exeter. Out of over 200 Seats, close to a third of the entire country. Imagine if the Democrats could only win 2 seats in the combination of Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and every state West of those, and you’ll get an idea of how well the Tories do in Southern England.

    R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

    • Greyhound May 19, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      Actually wait, is Luton considered part of the South or the East Midlands? Is Luton south a realistic target?

      R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

      • Son_of_the_South May 19, 2017 at 11:07 pm

        Luton is Southern England since it’s in Bedfordshire. Luton South is technically on Tory lists, but I’m skeptical. I might add that though it’s not on this Exeter is a reach seat for the Tories because UKIP is standing down there. It would require a decent swing too, but a LibDem resurgence among the hardcore Remain university type would also do it.

        24, R, TN-09
        Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

        • ukconservative May 20, 2017 at 5:03 am

          Luton South is interesting in that it actually voted Tory in 1992 as well as Slough. Like Slough the tory base was aspirational white working class voters who did well and switched to the Tories in the 1980’s boom. As they got wealthier, they sold up and moved out a little further to the more prosperous tory areas nearby, and minorities tended to move in. Luton South is heavily Muslim, and will almost certainly not shift. Slough is also very Asian, but lots of Sikhs and Hindus as well, who may be moving to the Tories a little more this time. Both are pretty tough though, as they are getting more non-white with every passing year. Exeter is very different, the labour base is the middle class lefty academic type here-there are plenty of nice places outside the city in rural Devon for the middle class tory voters to live, and labour voters here are not wealthy enough for Corbyn to be utter poison. All 3 will stay labour, but if one flips, I would bet on Slough.

          • Son_of_the_South May 20, 2017 at 5:36 am

            I would bet on Slough as well. Do you have a preference between Wales and Yorkshire?

            24, R, TN-09
            Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

            • ukconservative May 20, 2017 at 7:59 am

              Probably Yorkshire. Quite a few interesting longshots in the old coalfields areas that could fall in a real landslide.

              • Son_of_the_South May 20, 2017 at 8:10 am


                24, R, TN-09
                Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

  • Red Oaks May 20, 2017 at 10:41 am

    So Labour doesn’t have any targets for pickups at all here? I know nationally they are down to the Tories much more than in 2015 but the polling I’ve seen shows they have not declined much in the Southeast so I thought maybe they would be aiming for a few.

    MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

    • Upstater22 May 20, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      Even in the Labour landslide of 1997, they probably didnt hold more than a couple dozen seats in the areas covered by this diary. LibDems are traditionally the stronger center left party in much of the region. Brighton Kemptown is the most realistic target. Tories won by only 1.5 points in 2015 and it was around 56% Remain. The Greens (7.0%) stood down to help Labour, but then UKIP (9.8%) responded by doing the same.

      Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

    • Son_of_the_South May 20, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      Well, yeah, but remember, I’m only doing Tory and LibDem targets. Labour might make a freak pickup here or there, but there’s not much point in publishing a list for them. Do you want Yorkshire or Wales next?

      24, R, TN-09
      Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

      • Greyhound May 20, 2017 at 11:10 pm

        Actually, they’ve probably got decent shots at taking the remaining Red/Orange Marginals. I would not be surprised in the slightest if they held the Cambridge seat and picked up Clegg’s and Mulholland’s next month.

        R, 27, CA-18. Anti-Anti-Trump

      • Red Oaks May 21, 2017 at 8:01 am

        OK. I would vote for Wales.

        MI-03: Tired of Presidency; Focused more on downballot races; Chris Afendoulis for State Senate

  • Upstater22 May 20, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Excellent job encouraging the LibDems, but they have a tough road. In the local elections, they probably broke even in this area, but lost seats to conservatives as they were picking up some from Labour. Beyond taking Cambridge (almost a guarantee as far as I’m concerned), I don’t see LDs picking up any of these seats.

    You didn’t make it as explicit as you did for the other seats, but UKIP stood down in Hove. Also, Lewes needs a 1.1% swing from Conservatives, not Labour.

    Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

    • Son_of_the_South May 20, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks for the corrections. Do you want Wales or Yorkshire next?

      24, R, TN-09
      Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

      • Upstater22 May 21, 2017 at 8:41 am

        Yorkshire. Finish England first then go onto Scotland and Wales.

        Conservative, because facts are more important than feelings

        • Son_of_the_South May 21, 2017 at 12:19 pm

          Thanks. Yorkshire wins.

          24, R, TN-09
          Classical liberals are a minority. Fusionism is the answer.

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