Last week, I did a prediction of what will happen in fourteen UKIP target seats, ones identified by the party itself. I thought it might be fun to do the same for the Greens, particularly given that party had told the Guardian their own version of a “super-12” list. I will go though each of those twelve seats and see what I see.
I will start with the caveat that the Greens are many times more realistic about their chances in the 2015 general election than UKIP (I’ve yet to hear the Natalie Bennett speech about what happens when the Greens hold the balance of power in May). Still, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to see what the Greens can achieve in the general election – and how far they still have to travel:
GREEN HELD SEATS:
Current MP: Caroline Lucas, Green
A fascinating constituency that has developed into a three-way marginal between the Greens, Labour and the Tories. It could easily go to any of them this time round. There are those who swear, even in Labour’s ranks, that Lucas will hold this seat. And the polling looks reasonably good for her. But I just have a hunch on this one – I think Labour will re-take Pavillion. Prospective Labour PPC’s fought like dogs for the Brighton seats close-by, like Kemptown, thinking they were safer bets. Wrong – those seats will stay Tory and this is the one that will have a Labour MP come May 8th, 2015.
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN. BUT IT WILL BE CLOSE
GREEN TARGET SEATS:
Current MP: Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat
Forget about Pavillion’s complexity – this one is a four-way marginal, with the Lib Dems in on it. In theory. The reality is the Lib Dem vote has collapsed dramatically and Labour has inherited most of it. Yes, the Green share of the vote has gone up. But current Ashcroft polling has Labour with a double digit lead over the Greens. That’s not a gap that can be closed.
Prediction: LABOUR GAIN
Current MP: Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat
The Greens have thrown one of their best PPCs at this one in Darren Hall – but for nought. The Lib Dems will run an unbeatable ground campaign and see Labour’s vote squeezed by the Greens to their benefit. Expect the Greens to come in third, one place above their 2010 result.
Prediction: LIB DEM HOLD
Current MP: Andrew George, Liberal Democrat
In explaining why this is a Green target seat, Natalie Bennett said: “Cornwall is very interesting because there is basically no Labour Party there.” I see her angle, but the problem for her is that, at the moment, there’s no Green Party either. For 2015, this is a straight fight between the Lib Dems and the Tories. Given the fact that the Conservatives narrowed the gap on the Lib Dems considerably last time when compared to 2010 (George’s majority was 11,609 in 2005), you’d think this seat was headed to the Tories. But some context is in order: in 2010, the Conservatives ran a very effective campaign in the West Country around the idea that a vote for the Lib Dems was one that made a hung parliament more likely and a Tory majority less so – and that the Lib Dems would only ever go into coalition with Labour and never with the Conservatives. Expect that sort of thing to be less effective this time out.
Predition: LIB DEM HOLD
Current MP: Paul Blomfield, Labour
This was a Labour-Lib Dem marginal in 2010. Those days are done. This will be a Labour seat for the foreseeable future. The Greens will come a very distance second, a place they’ll find themselves in throughout the North, at least when UKIP don’t beat them to it.
Prediction: LABOUR HOLD, WITH A DRAMATICALLY INCREASED MAJORITY
Current MP: Louise Ellman, Labour
This is one of the safest Labour seats in the country. What are the Greens thinking of, targeting this puppy for 2015? Over the next few election cycles, there are several places where the Greens can make inroads – this is not amongst them.
Prediction: VERY COMFORTABLE LABOUR HOLD
Current MP: Andrew Smith, Labour
This is very well chosen by the Greens. A Labour-Lib Dem marginal in which the Greens, with a bit of ground work, could be reasonably expected to take up a lot of LD patch lost to students over tuition fees. They won’t win in 2015, but could set themselves up well for 2020.
Prediction: LABOUR HOLD, BUT WITH GREENS AN IMPRESSIVE SECOND
Current MP: Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat
A classic Tory-Lib Dem marginal, one of those places that used to be, pre-97 Tory meltdown, a perma-safe Tory seat. Logic might dictate that a peeling away to Labour and the Greens will gift this back to the Conservatives. Another train of thought says that people will work all of this out and vote tactically, figuring out that the only way to keep the Tories out is by voting Lib Dem.
Prediction: LIB DEM HOLD
Current MP: Rob Wilson, Conservative
A Tory safe seat that went Labour during the Blair years, this is staying Conservative for the foreseeable future – in fact, the Greens targeting it is a real gift to the Tories as it will split the Left vote, meaning even an greater Conservative majority.
Prediction: COMFORTABLE TORY HOLD
Current MP: Hugh Bailey, Labour
Safe Labour seat. No prayer.
Prediction: LABOUR HOLD
HOLBORN AND ST PANCRAS
Current MP: Frank Dobson, Labour (stepping down – Keir Starmer to stand for Labour)
This is one Labour’s safest seats in the south of England. If the Labour Party completely collapsed and were reduced to 40 seats, three of them in the south, this would be one of them. Why have the Greens chosen to run Natalie here? Overall, I think the Greens have picked their targets well, much better than UKIP. This is their one moment of total madness. The Greens have no hope whatsoever here in 2020, never mind 2015.
Prediction: COMFORTABLE LABOUR HOLD
Current MP: Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat
The Greens have picked this because they think the narked off student vote will come to them. Instead, they’ll simply split Labour’s vote enough to allow the Lib Dems to hold the seat.
Prediction: LIB DEM HOLD, WITH REDUCED MAJORITY
So on the surface, I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture for the Greens: no seats whatsoever, with even Pavillion going down. But I do think they’ve probably chosen the best seats they could (Holborn and St Pancras and Liverpool Riverside madness aside) and they do have a chance to put themselves in a position in 2020 to take half a dozen seats, maybe more. It’s all about patience and perseverance under First Past the Post.
Do you envisage that, due to Greens (and even more UKIP) being flagrantly disenfranchised, pressure for a fairer voting system will build after 2015? I think (and certainly hope!) that it will. But I’m sure you know more’n me, having been there.
Neil Harding says
Nobody seems to be talking about the voting system. But who knows what will be on the table in hung, very hung parliament. This could be the last chance for ages. In 2018 the new rules on boundaries and registration will completely lock out smaller parties. Millions will disappear off register. This will make high regustered rural seats shrink and low registered urban ones much bigger. It also destroys 20 years of campaigning at a stroke as seats radically alter. So for voting reform it is now or never. People certainly rejected sudoko voting AV and STV as too complicated in the referendum. We need open list. The Yes campaign were embarrasingly inept. No mail outs and didnt even try to explain how AV worked. What were they thinking?
Denis Mollison says
People did not reject STV in the referendum, they rejected what Clegg himself had called the “miserable compromise” of AV. STV is working well for the NI Assembly, and for NI and Scottish local elections. Realistically the next step is to get STV for local elections in England and Wales.
STV works fine in Australia, too. The idea that it’s too complicated is just rubbish.
A rather downbeat article, but thanks. I’m not sure that Brighton Pavilion will be lost but I do think it’s the only one with any real chance of a Green MP this election and then only if things go well for Caroline.
On the UK mainland, the only three parties receiving a fair share of seats, i.e., close to their share of the UK vote, will probably be Tory, Labour and SNP.
Seeing the problems that Green participation will cause for other small parties in a few seats, by splitting the vote, I think there should have been tacit agreements not to run in some constituencies. It would also have reduced the cost to the generous people who have offered to underwrite the lost Green deposits.
Neil Harding says
Difficult to predict some of these seats but I think you’re way off on Brighton and Hove.
Latest Ashcroft poll shows Lucas 10pts ahead in Pavilion. The Green council haved messed up with the binmen and some of the cycle lanes and road works have annoyed drivers but I think she will hold on despite this. Nancy Platts will take Kemptown and Peter Kyle should win Hove. The Tory Weatherall stood down cos he could see the writing on the wall. I also think the Greens have a huge chance in Norwich South and Bristol West .
Neil Harding says
As for safe Labour seats, with the right campaign these are perfect for Greens to get into a strong position in second. Although boundaries will look very different in 2020.
Neil Harding says
I would be astounded if the Lib Dems held on in Solihull.
“A huge chance in Norwich South”? I’ve seen several polls that say otherwise. The Greens have a good chance of beating the Lib Dems, but Labour will win the seat fairly comfortably.
I completely agree with you about Solihull though. The national swing will just be too big when Lorely Burt has such a small majority to begin with.
How sticky are Green Party votes? What chance them building from 2015 in 2020, rather than treading water or falling back?
How does an emphasis on votes rather than seats help them? Will the Green Elysium remain tantalisingly just out of reach over the horizon?
In other words aren’t their targets designed more around advancing their local council ambitions?
In some ways defending one seat makes things hard for them, they wont have really achieved anything in Parliament and now they are expected to build on it…0 MPs or a very tight defence is the most likely outcome, cant see them gaining under the current system. I thought they were strong in one of the Manchester student seats…but maybe no longer the case…
I am not really sure why no-one (apart from me) seems to have mentioned the systems used for the Welsh and Scottish assemblies. It is an excellent system, fairly proportional, whilst still keeping out very fringe parties, and maintaining the concept of a local MP. It also provides a way by which parties can have a pretty guaranteed seat (via the regional list) for people they really don’t want to lose, which is another plus (though some would argue otherwise, I think that’s just sour grapes – theoretically they can still be voted against).
It would be ideal for Westminster too.
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