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The 2015 battleground: the UK’s top 10 most marginal seats

25 April 2014

With the Tories trailing just behind Labour in the opinion polls, predictions are rife that the 2015 general election will be a bloody tough campaign. With a drop in the Lib Dem vote, the rise of Ukip and a potential swing towards Labour, it’s difficult to predict who will win. But like all general elections, a handful of marginal seats will decide who walks into No.10. Here are UK’s most marginal seats which will play a vital role next year.

1. Fermanagh & South Tyrone

Held by: Michelle Gildernew — Sinn Fein
Majority: 4

Easily the UK’s most marginal seat, Michelle Gildernew has held Fermanagh & South Tyrone since 2001. Although she managed to increase the Sinn Fein vote by seven per cent, Gildernew clung on with a 0.01 per cent majority in 2010. A challenge from the independent candidate Rodney Connor — who had the backing of the DUP and the Ulster Conservatives — almost took the seat. Connor tried to challenge the result in court, after claiming he witnessed six votes uncounted, but was unsuccessful. It’s unknown whether Connor will run again for the seat in 2015.

2. Hampstead and Kilburn

Held by: Glenda Jackson – Labour
Majority: 42
Electoral Calculus prediction: 72 per cent chance of LAB hold

One of the surprises of the 2010 election, Glenda Jackson managed to hold onto the seat she has held in one form or another since 1992. The Tories put a lot of effort into the seat but their candidate Chris Philp failed to win. Hampstead and Kilburn, a three-way marginal, looks set to be an interesting case study for the state of the political parties in 2015. Simon Marcus, who sat on the London riots panel, is running for the Tories while the Quilliam Foundation’s controversial Maajid Nawaz will be running for the Liberal Democrats. Labour councillor Tulip Siddiq will be stepping into Jackson’s shoes; she’s retiring from Parliament.

3. North Warwickshire

Held by: Dan Byles – Conservative
Majority: 54
Electoral Calculus prediction: 74 per cent chance of LAB gain

Previously held by Labour since 1992, Dan Byles took the seat in 2010 with an eight per cent swing to the Tories. Once held by Francis Maude, it would be surprise if Labour don’t retake this two-way marginal at the next election, if there is a swing to Labour (as the polls currently suggest).

4. Camborne and Redruth

Held by: George Eustice — Conservative
Majority: 66
Electoral Calculus prediction: 60 per cent chance of CON Hold

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A new seat in 2010, David Cameron’s former press secretary George Eustice managed to take the seat with a 12 per cent swing from its predecessor seat Falmouth and Camborne. With the Lib Dem vote likely to collapse somewhat in 2015, the Tories have a good chance of holding onto it. Labour only managed to bag 16 per cent in the last election.

5. Thurrock

Held by: Jackie Doyle-Price – Conservative
Majority: 92
Electoral Calculus prediction: 73 per cent chance of LAB gain

Previously a Labour seat since 1992, Jackie Doyle-Price took Thurrock at the last election with a seven per cent swing to the Tories. It’s a two-way marginal with Labour, so again assuming a swing towards Labour, they are likely to retake it in 2015. Labour’s candidate will be Polly Billington, a former BBC journalist and media advisor to Ed Miliband.

6. Bolton West

Held by: Julie Hilling – Labour
Majority: 92
Electoral Calculus prediction: 75 per cent chance of LAB hold

Once represented by Ruth Kelly, Bolton West came close to going Tory in 2010, with the Conservatives increasing their vote by six per cent but Labour managed to hang on. Based on the current polls, it’s unlikely the Tories will come near to challenging Labour next year.

7. Hendon

Held by: Matthew Offord – Conservative
Majority: 106
Electoral Calculus prediction: 74 per cent chance of LAB gain

Like many of the other two-way marginals, Matthew Offord managed to take the seat from Labour in 2010 with a four per cent swing. The seat was subject to a boundary review, which undoubtedly helped him win. Offord was one of the vocal critics of Maria Miller and her initial refusal to resign. Labour will probably have a good chance of retaking Hendon.

8. Sheffield Central

Held by: Paul Blomfield – Labour
Majority: 165
Electoral Calculus prediction: 94 per cent chance of LAB hold

A Labour-Lib Dem marginal, Paul Blomfield managed to see off a concerted effort from the Lib Dems to take the seat four years ago. There was a seven per cent swing away from Labour, but with the expected collapse of the Lib Dem’s vote, a reverse swing could happen in 2015.

9. Solihull

Held by: Lorely Burt – Liberal Democrat
Majority: 175
Electoral Calculus prediction: 70 per cent chance of CON gain

One of only two coalition marginals on this list, Lorely Burt (who is PPS to Danny Alexander) has held Solihull since 2005. Although boundary changes in 2010 notionally made this a Tory seat, the Lib Dems managed to hang in. Based on the current polls, it’s likely the Tories will take it in 2015; Labour only garnered nine per cent in 2010.

10. Oxford West and Abingdon

Held by: Nicola Blackwood
Majority: 176
Electoral Calculus prediction: 74 per cent chance of CON hold

With a seven-point swing from the Lib Dems to the Tories, Blackwood took this seat from the prominent press campaigner Evan Harris, who held it since 1997. Boundary changes removed several Oxford University colleges from the seat, and with them much of the Lib Dem vote. It’s likely that the Tories will hold onto Oxford West and Abingdon, given that Labour only made a 10 per cent showing in 2010.

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Show comments
  • Elephant

    For the Tories to have no chance of winning Bolton West shows how much they are viewed as a Southern party with only concerns about the South(To be fair to Osborne and Cameron I think they have tried to.court the North). The hatred is too deep now though I feel as it is in Scotland, This is a seat that Thatcher would have won with a monkey as a candidate.

  • Smithersjones2013

    With Labour trailing just behind the Tories in the opinion polls

    I believe the last time Labour were trailing just behind the Tories in the polls was 9th March 2012.

    Nurse get out the straightjacket and prep the padded cell. There’s likely another Tory on the way. The ability of supporters of failing governments to delude themselves never ceases to amaze…….

    • Denis_Cooper

      This is not the first time that the Tory press has tried to deceive people into thinking that it is now neck-and-neck. In any case, they always forget that because the LibDems blocked the boundary changes the Tories need to be something like 6% ahead of Labour to have a chance of getting a majority; in fact they were 7% ahead in share of the votes at the 2010 election and even that was not quite enough.

  • Realpolitik

    Thatcher once said:

    “Ten points behind is not nearly far enough behind to win a general election”.

    Opinion polls are meaningless.

    • Smithersjones2013

      She also said:

      “Standing In the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get run down by the traffic from both sides”

      Its little wonder that Cameron and Clegg are roadkill then…….

  • RavenRandom

    Are Labour behind now? Momentum is not good for them.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Labour should be very worried they should be ten ahead if they want to win.

      Rubbish! The electoral imbalance in our system means that it is the Tories that need to be ahead by 10 points at this stage to win a majority (they were 7 points ahead in 2010 and couldn’t manage it).

      Basically as long as Labour are within 5 points of the Tories they will likely become the next government and the chances of the Tories leading by more than 5 points is virtually zero…….

      • Realpolitik

        If the general public are willing to trust Ed balls and Ed miliband with their economy they will get their just deserts.

        • rubyduck

          Unfortunately, not just for the rest of us.

          • Realpolitik

            You’d think they’d learn after 13 years.

      • RavenRandom

        You miss the point. To be neck and neck now with 12 months to go is a poor position historically for an opposition party. This is a fact. I know the arithmetic favours Labour (what a great democracy we live in). I used the word momentum, the gap has closed. The momentum is with the Conservatives. Will it be enough? Who knows.
        The probability of a Tory lead by five points is virtually zero… That is impossible to know. I feel given history you over-estimate your understanding of probability.
        None of this is rubbish or particularly unlikely.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Advertisement for on-line Trolls “responsible for running a short-term social media campaign (#EUnify) to counter racist and xenophobic discourse in the UK in the run-up to the European elections.”
    Oh dear. LibLabCON haven’t got any members who are prepared to speak up for the EU so they’ve resorted to paying for Trolls.

    • sfin

      That is truly astonishing.

      • Cyril Sneer

        And utterly disgraceful.

    • Denis_Cooper

      And that website is funded by the House of Commons, that is to say the taxpayer, having originally been set up in 2000 using EU funds, also provided by the taxpayer.

    • arnoldo87

      Out of your corner quite soon then, Milady.
      Don’t suppose you’ve thought of that Blair lie, yet?

  • Alexsandr

    how can you write an article like this without discussing UKIP. They will be the great spoiler of these predictions.

    • Smithersjones2013

      If you make the general assumption that the Libdem vote will collapse and largely go to Labour and the Tory vote will shrink due to UKIP defections (although not in the same numbers as Libdems to Labour) then I think you’ll find that bares out most if not all of those predictions

      • Alexsandr

        um. big assumptions there.
        what about those who didnt vote in 2010?
        what about so called labour voters defecting to UKIP?
        and will all ex lib dems voters vote labour? or will they vote green or monster raving loony or whatever.
        and who will stay at home?

        and what about local factors?

  • Denis_Cooper

    “With Labour trailing just behind the Tories in the opinion polls”

    In your dreams, there have been no opinion polls showing “Labour trailing just behind the Tories” for a long time now.

    “The second of Populus’s two twice-weekly polls is out this morning and has topline figures of CON 35%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%. The Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck on 35% a piece. Tabs are here.

    The last time we saw a poll without a Labour lead was MORI’s October poll last year. That one didn’t herald a great crossover, it was just a blip. You probably shouldn’t get excited about this one yet either – it could be a further narrowing of the polls, or could just be normal variation within the margin of error. Populus tend to show some of the smaller Labour leads anyway, probably as a result of their weighting scheme (Populus weight by party ID, in a similar way to YouGov, but weight Labour to a lower level of identification).

    Meanwhile the daily YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14% (tabs here). As ever, look at the polls as a whole, don’t make the error of looking more at the ones that give more unusual or exciting results.”

    • RavenRandom

      In the actual election Lib Dem vote will be higher and UKIP lower. The current numbers represent a protest… as does a small part of the Labour number. The party in power is usually understated. The momentum is not with Labour.

      • Smithersjones2013

        There is no evidence that the Libdem vote will recover. Much of the lost 2010 vote defected/returned to Labour. There strategy is to protect what they hold and abandon everything else. Chances are their vote share will shrink disproportionately. What reason is there for their former voters to return to the bunch of losers that are the rump of the Libdems having reviously returned to the fold of the government in waiting?

        The Labour vote will stay above 33% and if it does then the Tories will have to poll in excess of 40% just to stay in power (given the natural imbalance in the electoral system). As the Tories polled 37% in 2010 that means they have to increase their share in general elections to its highest level in over 20 years.

        No government has ever gone within a year or so of full term and then increased their vote share at the subsequent general election (not even Thatcher managed that and she managed most electoral feats).

        • RavenRandom

          Really? So historically an unpopular party has never outperformed the polls? Because no one says one thing in anger to a pollster and then reverts when faced with the real decision?
          There are no absolutes. There are only possibilities. History tells us protest votes at Euro and Local elections often disappear at general elections. Therefore it also tells us the opposite… incumbent votes recover at general elections.
          Your opinions are not facts, just possibilities, coloured seemingly by dislike not reason “What reason is there for their former voters to return to the bunch of losers.”
          You might be right. It is possible but it is not a fact. You should learn the difference.

      • Denis_Cooper

        The statement:

        “With Labour trailing just behind the Tories in the opinion polls”

        refers to the present, not to a hypothetical future, and it is clearly untrue.

  • arnoldo87

    “With Labour trailing just behind the Tories in the opinion polls”
    Which opinion polls are these, then?

    • Alexsau91

      I suspect that they meant that the Tories are trailing just behind Labour. The most recent poll (as of 25/4) put Labour and the Tories level on 35%.

    • Machina22

      Indeed, there isn’t a single poll with the Tories in the lead. Either an honest mistake or another bout of wishful thinking from The Speccy.

  • Barakzai

    Can Electoral Calculus predict how many marginals will be decided by the opaque process of postal voting?

    • you_kid

      Not another one of these ‘those who actually care for the elderly make them vote Labour’ fallacies. They don’t. They do. They don’t. They do . . .

  • sfin

    For the first time since I acquired the right to vote, I feel complete and utter apathy over an article which once would have gripped my attention.

    If you are a tribal LibLabCon voter then it really doesn’t matter who you vote for nowadays – you will get a forty something prime minister with a first in PPE or law from Oxbridge, with a full head of hair and a neutral accent pursuing a social democratic agenda.

    That agenda will involve moving the UK further into what, that epitome of this breed of politician – Peter Mandelson – called “the post democratic age” – i.e. all areas of public policy removed from the inconvenience of accountability to the common voter and placed in the hands of an unelected elite.

    The EU is well under way with consolidating this process – my plea is for us to reverse it. It doesn’t matter what your views are on any area of public policy – make that view mean something by voting UKIP.

    • HookesLaw

      ‘Tribal’ liblabcon…. Hilarious. So says another cultist.
      Latest poll has it 35 – 35.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Latest poll has it 35 – 35.

        So both Cameron and Miliband are less popular than Blair in 2005.

        On a similar turnout to 2005 that would mean both are on target to poll less votes than the dreadful John Major in 1997. How low can they go?


    • telemachus

      Problem with all that is the moral dimension
      The Tories are by and large honest but wrong
      The LibDems are by and large honest but deluded
      The Labour Party are thoroughly honest
      UKIP are duplicitous and racist

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