Which marginals could Labour win?

Labour is dominant in the urban and post-industrial cities of Yorkshire and the north-east, while the remaining Conservative vote is concentrated in safe rural seats, particularly in Yorkshire.


This leaves relatively few marginal targets – the ones remaining are typically smaller manufacturing or trade towns with a rural hinterland. Lord Ashcroft’s polls put Labour ahead in two of the marginals they would expect to take on a national swing, and the parties are tied in the other two. One thing to watch out for will be Ukip strength in the coastal seats, such as Cleethorpes and Scarborough, which may tip the balance towards Labour in seats where they would otherwise struggle.

Three to watch:


2010 result: Con 38.5%; Lab 35.1%. Majority: 3.4%

Result on current polls: Lab 39.7%; Con 35.2%

Labour win probability: 42%


2010 result: Con 41.9%; Lab 35.7%. Maj: 6.2%

Result on current polls: Lab 40.3%; Con 38.6%

Labour win probability: 84%


2010 result: Con 42.1%; Lab 32.6%. Maj: 9.6%

Result on current polls: Con 38.8%; Lab 37.2%

Labour win probability: 32%


The north-west is relatively rich in marginal constituencies, with resort towns such as Morecambe, former textile areas such as Pendle and Weaver Vale, and mixed urban centres such as Chester and Bury all providing seats with an even balance of power between the parties. On current polling, Labour would gain nine seats in the region. Some of these polls, however, were conducted last summer when Labour’s position was much stronger. Crewe and Nantwich is worth watching – Labour famously lost this seat on an 18-point swing in a byelection in May 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. Recent Ashcroft polling suggests it might be able to win it back.

Three to watch:

Warrington South

2010 result: Con 35.8%; Lab 33.0%. Maj: 2.8%

Result on current polls: Lab 37.6%; Con 32.5%

Labour win probability: 62%

Wirral West

2010 result: Con 42.5%; Lab 36.3%. Maj: 6.2%

Result on current polls: Lab 40.9%; Con 39.2%

Labour win probability: 77%

Rossendale & Darwen

2010 result: Con 41.8%; Lab 32.2%. Maj: 9.6%

Result on current polls: Con 38.5%; Lab 36.8%

Labour win probability: 40%


Both the east and west Midlands have traditionally been rich in Labour and Conservative targets – they are socially and economically mixed regions with a fine balance between the two parties, and a historically weak Liberal Democrat presence. The seats in contention in the West Midlands are mainly large towns and suburbs on the fringes of the sprawling West Midlands conurbation. Ashcroft’s constituency polling suggests it is hard going for Labour in this region – while it would gain seven seats on a uniform swing, his polls have found it ahead in only five, some conducted when Labour’s position was stronger. Ukip is strong in many seats, but in this region it often hurts Labour as much as the Conservatives. On a really good night, Labour would hope to bring slightly bluer seats such as Stafford, Rugby and Stourbridge into contention, but at present these look beyond reach.

Three to watch:

Halesowen & Rowley Regis

2010 result: Con 41.2%; Lab 36.6%. Maj: 4.6%

Result on current polls: Lab 41.2%; Con 37.9%

Labour win probability: 42%


2010 result: Con 41.5%; Lab 36.9%. Maj: 4.6%

Result on current polls: Lab 41.5%; Con 38.2%

Labour win probability: 63%

Cannock Chase

2010 result: Con 40.1%; Lab 33.1%. Maj: 7.0%

Result on current polls: Lab 37.7%; Con 36.8%

Labour win probability: 51%


The East Midlands is an unusual region – no large cities, but several smaller ones, and many large towns scattered over a broad stretch of (often beautiful) countryside. Industry and mining has played a key role in some parts – Nottinghamshire, northern Leicestershire – while agriculture dominates in others such as Lincolnshire. The area is less prosperous than southern England, but less ethnically diverse and industrial than the north-east or north-west. The Labour seats here are often large towns with rural hinterlands – Lincoln, Northampton, Loughborough – or smaller manufacturing towns scattered over richer, rural areas: Amber Valley, Sherwood, Erewash. Constituency polling seems closely in line with national figures. If this remains the case, Labour should pick up six or seven seats.

Three to watch:

Amber Valley

2010 result: Con 38.6%; Lab 37.4%. Maj: 1.2%

Result on current polls: Lab 42.0%; Con 35.3%

Labour win probability: 71%

Northampton North

2010 result: Con 34.1%; Lab 29.3%. Maj: 4.8%

Result on current polls: Lab 33.9%; Con 30.8%

Labour win probability: 67%

High Peak

2010 result: Con 40.9%; Lab 31.6%. Maj: 9.3%

Result on current polls: Con 37.6%; Lab 36.2%

Labour win probability: 33%


The political map of the south of England is a sea of blue. This is the Conservative heartland – a swathe of wealthy shires running in a near-complete circle around London. There are many Tory seats here but few Labour targets – Labour is now too weak to challenge in many parts of the region and the Liberal Democrats are the main competitors in many seats. Yet this large terrain does offer up some opportunities – socially mixed university towns like Ipswich, Norwich and Brighton, coastal industrial seats like Waveney, Plymouth and Thurrock, and market towns like Gloucester and Stroud. Ukip and the Greens could play an important and unpredictable role in some of these seats – Ukip's strength on the east coast could help Labour by depressing Tory support in seats such as Waveney and Great Yarmouth, but in Thurrock a determined local Ukip campaign could cost Labour what should be an easy pickup. Labour victories in Brighton Kemptown and Norwich North may depend as much on competition with locally strong Green parties as with the Conservatives.

Three to watch:


2010 result: Con 39.1%; Lab 34.7%. Maj: 4.4%

Result on current polls: Lab 39.3%; Con 35.8%

Labour win probability: 65%

Swindon South

2010 result: Con 41.8%; Lab 34.3%. Maj: 7.5%

Result on current polls: Lab 38.9%; Con 38.5%

Labour win probability: 27%

Norwich North

2010 result: Con 40.6%; Lab 31.4%. Maj: 9.2%

Result on current polls: Con 37.3%; Lab 36.0%

Labour win probability: 48%


Labour dominates most of inner London, while the Conservatives have large majorities in the richest suburbs and most fashionable West End postcodes. The marginals in London tend to fall in the outer suburbs. Labour appears to be doing better in London than national polling would suggest. Half a dozen London seats would fall to Labour on current national polling, and Ashcroft’s polling has put the party ahead in all of these. Harrow East and Croydon Central will be key seats to watch - will the Conservatives’ hardline rhetoric on immigration harm their prospects in these ethnically diverse seats, with large migrant populations?

Three to watch:

Croydon Central

2010 result: Con 39.4%; Lab 33.6%. Maj: 5.8%

Result on current polls: Lab 38.2%; Con 36.1%

Labour win probability: 62%

Harrow East

2010 result: Con 44.7%; Lab 37.6%. Maj: 7.1%

Result on current polls: Lab 42.2%; Con 41.4%

Labour win probability: 47%

Ealing Central & Acton

2010 result: Con 38.0%; Lab 30.1%. Maj: 7.9%

Result on current polls: Lab 34.7%; Con 34.7%

Labour win probability: 61%

Robert Ford is senior lecturer in politics at the University of Manchester

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Robert Ford, for The Observer on Sunday 19th April 2015 00.04 Europe/London

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