Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tony the Tiger?

Yesterday saw two interesting things happen. Actually I lie; we saw one interesting thing and one fairly mundane thing. I'll start with the latter, the Chancellor's debates. To be honest I'm not overly surprised that the debate was so boring. The audience weren't allowed to heckle or applaud or anything, although they did occasionally applaud, mainly for Vince Cable. Although as George Osborne said, with respect, there isn't going to be a Liberal Democrat government. This is a shame really as he comes across particularly well and will no doubt be a vital asset to the Lib Dems overall appeal. After all it is currently crucial that the party's vying for government portray themselves as competent, with strong leadership and a strong team around it.

The Lib Dems have leadership and depth in their team of Clegg, Cable and Huhne and whilst government is still out of their grasp they look set to enjoy significant influence in the next Parliament. The Tories on the other hand have a strong leader in Cameron but he's currently a solo project. I mean okay Osborne came across reasonably (and surprisingly, given his reaction, or lack of, to Darlings budget) competent in the Chancellors debates, but he is still a long way off Darling and Cable. If you take Cameron, Osborne and Hague and compare them to Labours Brown, Darling and Milliband you'll be hard pressed to argue in the Tories favour when it comes to the team in general. However there is, of course, the question of leadership. Brown is frequently accused of lacking in this area whereas Cameron seems both comfortable and capable in his role. Unlike the Conservatives team, which is found wanting with Osborne and Hague (I'd suggest going back to the drawing board were they not so likely to be in power soon). Labour have most of the essential ingredients, they just lacks a sort of charisma, someone instantly likeable, a proven public speaker capable of winning the affections of many and the criticisms of few.

This brings me on to the much more interesting thing that happened the morning after the debates, Labour unveiling a potential WMD. Maybe even the missing piece of a complete Labour pre-election campaign jigsaw. Believe it or believe it not, it was the return of Tony Blair. Not to politics as such, but in support of Brown and the Labour party's election campaign. This was met by many varying responses. Glee it would seem from the party members in Sedgefield who it would appear weren't expecting him at all. Some anti-war protesters turned up to welcome him too, although as the Guardian reported, not many... And Cameron said that it was nice to see him doing a speech he wasn't getting paid for, which did amuse me a little.

Overall though it would seem that his debut on the campaign trail was quite a success, in spite of constant mentions of his sun tan and the fact he apparently said 'bedder' rather than 'better'. He never once mentioned Cameron by name, and only really commended Brown personally for his handling of the economy. Elsewhere he mainly praised Labour in general, pointing out the most positive improvements since they came to power in 1997 and slating the Tories, rather extensively, yet somehow not overly aggressively. He definitely hasn't lost his touch as a speaker, as ever his audience lapped it up, even the press seemed to. It was almost a welcome return.

It would seem that his overall part in Labours pre-election campaign is as yet unconfirmed. However if he has indeed been as positively received as I have been led to believe then Labour's campaign could have a much needed boost, Team Labour could have found their man. His addition leaves the 'bigging up' of the Labour party to Tony Blair, which is a smooth move as Darling has his hands a bit tied with the economy and the Budget, policies on which this election may well be lost and won. Brown can get on with the business of running the country, which should help him to look good as he needs to look like leader of the country more than ever. Blair, who is no longer a politician but who will obviously continue to get attention if he keeps on campaigning, can carry on pointing out the pro's of Labour and the Con's of the Tories and get away with it. Overall Labour could look like a serious and united party. Either way Blair can provide a useful additional target for abuse from the other party's, helping (although possibly hindering) Brown.

This still might not be enough to retain government though. Regardless of his charisma (and his tan and his accent and his thinning hair) he is still not without his enemies. Whilst it would appear that Blair is now good and is getting involved in the election campaign because it's something he believes in and is best for the country many will still have their doubts. For example some people are still a bit angry about Iraq war...I can't think why. Some will think that he's lied once and he'll lie again whilst others may assume that there is an underlying self interest, especially given his forays into the world of business since leaving government. And let's not forget the '13 years of Labour' that the Tories keep damning are mostly attributed to him. Also he's not really a bona-fide member of the Labour team, just temporarily out of retirement, on loan for the difficult spell, filling the gaping cracks in Labours all important exterior.

But nevertheless, his presence is bound to concern Cameron. You could hardly argue that Blair isn't savvy when it comes to politics. Any positive characteristics that Cameron has over Brown can mostly be found in Blair. I can't imagine that anyone else has a secret weapon anywhere near as (potentially) good as this up their shirt sleeves, least of all the Tories.

A Look @: East Sussex

East Sussex is a lot more interesting electorally than its western counterpart. But at the last Council elections not much changed at all. The Conservatives stayed in control of the council with 29 of the 49 with only one seat changing hands in the whole authority. Currently the Conservatives hold three of the five Parliamentary seats with the other main parties sharing the remaining two. The Tories will be eying a clean sweep but the conduct of their own MPs has meant they'll need to watch their backs at the same time.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Hastings & Rye

Michael Jabez Foster




CON Gain


Norman Baker




LD Hold


Nigel Waterson




LD Gain

Bexhill & Battle

Gregory Barker




CON Hold


Charles Hendry




CON Hold



Michael Jabez Foster, who is not to be confused with Worcester MP Michael John Foster, produced a shock in 1997 by coming from third to take Hastings & Rye with an 18.5% swing. He has managed to consolidate this Labour gain over subsequent elections but he is looking at risk this time around. The boundary commission have slashed his notional majority in half following the transfer of a Conservative ward, Brede Valley, into the constituency. However, Foster is a popular MP and only has a minor expenses issue relating to mortgage payments whilst Parliament was dissolved during the last election campaign. The Conservative candidate Amber Rudd will be quietly confident with Ashcroft's money and the new wards behind her. Labour will fight tooth and nail for this but I don't think they'll have enough to hold. When the tide turns this seat could well slip back into Labour's hands but for now, Tory Gain.

Norman Baker narrowly won Lewes in 1997, taking the seat off the Conservative incumbent. The Lib Dem MP has subsequently increased his majority and he looks good to hold the seat again in May. Baker is one of the most tenacious MPs, and his campaign for transparency of his colleagues travel expenses led the independent to ask if he was 'the most hated man in Westminster'. However, Baker was branded a 'hypocrite' following revelations that he'd been claiming rent on an office he owned. I imagine Baker has enough about him to defend this large majority especially as his claims were found to be in accordance with the rules. Former Lewes councillor Jason Sugarman may be able to exploit this issue to defeat an otherwise popular MP, but it will be a tough ask to secure the swing required; Lib Dem Hold.

Despite the small majority in Eastbourne the
Conservatives have held the seat for 98 of the last 100 years. The Liberal Democrats were the only other party to win here in a 1990 by-election following the assassination of the then MP Ian Gow by the IRA. Nigel Waterson won the seat back in the 1992 General Election but he has not registered the large majorities enjoyed by his predecessors. This seat has been a prime target for the Lib Dems for twenty years but the have not managed to unseat Waterson. This year could be different as the MP has been hitting the headlines nationally and locally for all the wrong reasons. In January 2008 it was reported that Waterson was arrested for allegedly assaulting his teenage children. More recently he's had a former Conservative MP back his Lib Dem opponent and the former Chairman of his constituency party claim Waterson doesn't like 'mixing with the ordinary voter'. According to the former Chairman, Waterson himself is not confident of his chances so it's difficult for us to be! Lib Dem PPC Stephen Lloyd has an open goal here and I'd imagine his party will be disappointed if they fail yet again to make the breakthrough. I think he'll manage it but as an Argyle fan I've seen plenty of open goals missed…! Lib Dem gain.

The fun doesn't stop in East Sussex! Bexhill and Battle has been a safe Tory seat since it's creation in 1983 but that doesn't make it boring. It was represented by Chris Wardle who after announcing his intention to stand down in 2001 had the whip withdrawn for backing UKIP's Nigel Farage to replace him. Gregory Barker held the seat for the Conservatives whilst Farage came in a poor fourth. Barker himself has not been your run of the mill MP. In 2006 the father of three left his wife for a male interior designer. Considering the sort of seat he's representing this might play out worse than his second home flipping. Either way, I'd imagine the Lib Dem candidate Mary Varrall will be able to reduce Barker's majority but probably not enough to unseat him. This seat has also attracted the attention of former Conservative donor Stuart Wheeler's new Trust Party which could make this interesting. Barker will probably hang on but it could be an seat to look out for; Tory Hold.

Finally, a relatively uninteresting seat. Wealden has been Conservative since its creation in 1983. Current MP Charles Hendry took over in 2001 and increased his majority at the last election. However, Hendry hasn't come out of the expenses scandal smelling of roses as it was revealed he claimed over £7,000 to pay for 'servants' in his second home. He's paid back almost £500 of this but it's certainly ammunition for the Liberal Democrat candidate Chris Bowers, a Lewes Councillor. He's another who I think has a big enough majority to survive but expect it to be considerably reduced; Tory Hold.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Three Strikes and Out?

Tonight we'll see the end of the BA strikes. A fact that could be overlooked since coverage of the strikes has dramatically decreased since they actually started happening. The main interest at the start of the strikes was how negatively they were going to affect the Labour party, with a fleeting interest in how it would affect BA and its customers. Fleeting, admittedly, might be too strong a word. But since it became apparent that it wasn't affecting the Labour party much at all everyone seems to have moved on.

Sympathy for the BA strikes was always going to be a hard sell to the average person. Given the economic circumstances some people don't have jobs, let alone have a reason to fly with BA. It has largely been seen to have affected the upper-middle class really.

Meanwhile it has been widely reported that the recession has been particularly damaging for the aviation industry and so it is unsurprising that companies like BA need to find a way to cut costs. Since the disputes emerged it was also reported that BA cabin crew get a much better deal than the cabin crew of most of their competitors. Whilst this is irrelevant to BA crew in that a pay cut is a pay cut (or pay 'freeze' in this case) it gives a poor impression of BA employees who are striking. What the media have essentially portrayed is trolley dollies being a bit annoyed that their long haul crews are being reduced by a single member, big deal, what do they do anyway besides handing out bad food and pointing to the exits, and that their already superior pay is being frozen.

This obviously isn't the case, or my opinion as such, but it is what people are seeing on the news. People are also seeing images of happy striking workers jumping off mini-buses in wolf suits like some kind of college field trip waving flags and banners provided by Unite. It'll be hard to win over the public with these images.

On top of this, Gordon Browns panicking, and indeed he was panicking, allegedly telling people that the election could well be lost if the strikes went ahead, appears to be in vain. As talks fell apart it became increasingly apparent that there were two people at the heart of the dispute, Willie Walsh and Tony Woodley, and in no time at all the strikes became almost entirely about them and who would win. This managed to over-shadow Labours inability to avoid strike action and Cameron's mudslinging over Unites involvement with the Labour party. It's even overshadowed the strikes themselves. Woodley has accused Walsh of trying to bring down the unions, which he denies but it's obviously true and Woodley has pretty much played into his hands and dug his own grave.

I could go into the dispute more but as I've already pointed out, nobody even cares anymore. The news has moved on. Labour have managed to avoid another potential disaster and are somehow still polling well. Cameron must be wondering how they have avoided another blow. But never fear because next up are the rail strikes. This will bother everyone. If they go ahead as planned they'll strike on the start of the new tax year, on Tom Harris from's birthday, oh, and the day that Brown is apparently due to announce the election. At least everyone will get to watch it announced on the television since they won't be going anywhere.

If it does go ahead then Labour will have a massive problem on their hands. The media perspective of these strikes is likely to be very different. To start, manual labourers losing their jobs, that won't sit quite so well. Chaos will ensue as hard-working citizens won't be able to travel, it'll be far worse than the snow disruption as there will be someone to blame and people are fond of blame. All in all it will be a bit of a disaster for Labour, unless the strikes run late or not at all.

Ask the Chancellors

With the recession as it is inevitably the economy has taken something of a first priority. As such Channel 4 showed a debate between the three candidates for Chancellor of the Exchequer last night: Alistair Darling, current Chancellor, George Osborne, Conservative Shadow Chancellor, and Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Spokesman on the Treasury (it can be viewed here if you missed it). If you are expecting huge arguments then you are in for a disappointment, the proceedings were very dry, and not at all bombastic. In some senses this was to be expected. The Chancellorship is a position that people like to feel is in the hands of someone very serious, and hardworking. The position attracts quiet, intelligent men who project stability and competence. It attracts Gordon Browns; it does not attract Tony Blairs. The public generally prefers for the Chancellor to be someone who projects the stereotype of an accountant, rather than the salesmanship that is generally desired of a Prime Ministerial candidate. There was also a large degree of consensus on display between the three men. Cable, Darling and Osborne all agreed that a combination of spending cuts and tax rises was necessary; the question was where, when and how. Here is a summation of the three men's performance.

Alistair Darling

Hot off the heels of Wednesday's budget Darling's goal was clear: to defend his time in office and to create a narrative about Osborne's capabilities. Darling was clearly attempted to contrast himself with Osborne, declaring that he was taking a cautious, rational approach whereas Osborne's approach was 'dangerous'. As Darling's policies are mostly already known (the budget is a well publicised event) this freed him up to make attacks on Osborne. We were told that Labour was following the international consensus, and that it was trying to be fair, targeting tax rises at the rich. While Osborne attacked Darling back I feel Darling was largely able to repel his attacks.

George Osborne

Osborne somewhat pre-empted the debate with a new announcement: if the Conservatives win the election they will not implement Labour's planned increase in National Insurance for those earning less than 45k a year. Darling was quick to refer to the plan as too radical and dangerous. Osborne prioritised pushing himself as the candidate of 'change', but Darling's attacks were frequent and some unfortunately stuck. One accusation that seemed to work badly for Osborne was when he was accused of 'flip-flopping', for instance declaring himself in favour of a tax on bank profits, and being reminded that he'd only recently changed his mind on it. However Osborne largely succeeded in projecting himself as competent nonetheless.

Vince Cable

Cable seemed to remain largely above the fray. Neither Darling nor Osborne really seemed to attack him in any way. Maybe this is because he's been seen by many as a sort of prophet of the financial crisis and they viewed it as possible it could backfire on them. Perhaps it was because as the Liberal Democrat they simply did not see Cable as worth attacking, or they desired to see him squeezed out of the narrative. It is also true that the kind of attacks made on Osborne by Darling are not so easy on Cable as Liberal Democrat economics policy has been much more stable, consistent and clear than Conservative policy, and has also been fully costed making accusations of negligence difficult. Cable's priorities appeared to be to push his policies (especially his much vaunted plan to raise the personal allowance to ten thousand pounds) and to remind voters of his much vaunted 'prophet' status. In this he was largely successful to my mind.

All in all the debate was an entertaining, if dry, affair and an interesting preamble to the much anticipated prime ministerial debates.

A Look @: Berkshire



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




Andrew Mackay




Con Hold


Theresa May




Con Hold


Richard Benyon




Con Hold

Reading East

Robert Wilson




Con Hold

Reading West

Martin Salter




Con Gain


Fiona MacTaggart




Lab Hold


Adam Afriyie




Con Hold


John Redwood




Con Hold

Andrew Mackay won't be contesting Bracknell in May. He was the first MP to lose his job thanks to the expenses scandal 'soap opera' instigated by the Telegraph last year. R&T say the boundary change is 19.5% and this appears to have shaved two thousand votes off the 2005 Conservative majority. An 11% swing is an unthinkable target for local Labour councillor John Piasecki. Even if the choice is there for Bracknell voters, they'll almost certainly choose Mackay's replacement, Tory PPC Dr Phillip Lee. No Change in Bracknell. Con Hold.

R&T say that Theresa May's position has been strengthened in Maidenhead. The 8.3% alteration has taken her seat size from 68,536 to just under the 74,000 mark, and her majority has increased some one and a half thousand thanks, most of the additional Tories originating from the thoroughly Conservative Windsor seat. Having been omitted form the 'naughty list' by the Telegraph's Gordon Rayner and Rosa Prince, she'll be gunning for one of the big jobs in the cabinet should the Tories secure a majority in May. Con Hold.

Not much of a boundary change for Richard 'the saint' Benyon according to R&T. Newbury will be his again in May. Too much defeatist language coming from the Lib Dem's David Rendel and Labour's Hannah Cooper. When a PPC's campaign is focused on informing constituents that there happens to be a choice come May, it soon becomes obvious that their party didn't drop them into that tight marginal they were gunning for. Con Hold.

Reading East was a Conservative safe seat in 1992, safe for everything but a Labour landslide. Unfortunately John Watts, Tory MP for the old Eaton & Slough seat, didn't get that memo. In the worst political manoeuvre of his career, Watts decided to contest Reading East to secure his future at Westminster. I needn't explain the outcome. As hilarious as Watts misfortune was, the point here is that Reading East has always been a Conservative seat, it was Blair's ability to lure centre-ground conservatives that flipped seats like Reading East in 1997. R&T say that there hasn't been much change here. With a 739 notional majority, this seat is a marginal on paper only. Won back by for the Tories by Robert Wilson in 2005, Reading East's flirt with New Labour is well and truly over. Even though Wilson was sued for libel by MP for Reading West Martin Salter, that was in 2005 and if a day is a long time in politics then 5 years should be enough water under the bridge. Besides, he's a 'saint'. Con Hold.

If Martin Salter were to defend
Reading West there would have been a good chance of securing an important Labour hold. Like Wilson, Salter has been dubbed one of the 'saints' of the Telegraph's expenses scandal. Instead, PPC's Naz Sarkar (Labour) and Alok Sharma (Tory) will be squaring up in what's sure to be a tight contest. Unfortunately Sarkar appears to be prone to a few gaffes in his time, not what Labour need in a marginal this important for the Tories. It's target seat 107 for the Conservatives, but Labour have to stick the best PPC's they can get their hands on in openly contested marginals like Reading West. The more 4.5-7% Tory swing seats that Labour hold, the less likely that Conservative majority looks. Not good enough from Labour here! Con Gain.

R&T put the Slough boundary change at just under 5%. Slightly reducing Fiona MacTaggart's majority here, but it's essentially still a safe seat. You may remember her from the dodgy statistics she gave on sex trafficking. She's gained a few thousand constituents from the neighbouring Conservative seat of Windsor, but not enough Tories to affect the final result. Lab Hold.

Windsor is a Tory safe seat. The official residence of the Queen is in Windsor. Roger Eykyn (Liberal) was the last non-conservative to represent Windsor in parliament. He was ousted in 1874. During some years the seat was unopposed by any other party. There, I've tried to make this seat interesting. Con Hold

John Redwood will hold onto Wokingham for many of the reasons as Adam Afriyie will hold on to Windsor (except for the Queen). Wokingham has only ever been represented by long serving Conservative members of parliament with significant majorities. Labour could return a 200 majority in May and still not take this seat. Con Hold.


Michael Turner

Monday, 29 March 2010

Socialist Labour Party look to provide a left alternative for voters

When Tony Blair rewrote Clause IV of Labour's constitution in the mid-nineties he alienated a significant minority of his party. Their reaction was to form a new party of the left to provide voters with a Socialist platform to get behind after their traditional home had clearly shifted to the political centre. The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) hasn't been particularly successful since their split from New Labour but as a minor party with no significant backing they've done well to survive 14 years. Former trade union leader Arthur Scargill will lead the party into their fourth General Election and I imagine just his name will remind some readers of a time when union strikes really were something for the general public to get het up about!

The SLP fielded candidates across the country, including Plymouth, in 2005 but only received 20,192 votes. They faired much better under the proportional representation system used in the European Union elections as their 173,115 votes represented 1.1% of the total cast in 2009. We asked their South West representative, Rob Hawkins, for his views on the current industrial action and his party's hopes for forthcoming General Election.

The SLP are not confirmed as standing yet but for Hawkins the goal is to gain a seat in Parliament.

"In the event of SLP standing in Plymouth elections we would hope to pull off the sort of surprise that Michael Foot sprang in the 1945 election when his win was totally unexpected. Locally, in a General Election, SLP would be out to win, maximise its vote and put a socialist alternative to the electorate."

I'd imagine an SLP victory in Plymouth this year would be even more impressive than that of the late former Labour Leader's 65 years ago but there is no denying the party offer a clear alternative from the main parties. Hawkins' said he was not bothered if his party's vote cost New Labour a seat to the Conservatives.

"All the main Capitalist parties including Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories are pursuing Thatcherite right wing agendas of privatisation. It matters not, therefore, to the working class that our vote should be greater than a Tory majority over Labour since their policies are much of a Capitalist muchness"

He also felt the strength of UKIP in a city like Plymouth would not affect the SLP's vote share despite both parties' commitment to withdrawn from the European Union.

"UKIP are pretty much a single issue party of the right, that issue being withdrawal from the EU. It just so happens that on this one particular issue there is a coincidence but on the multitude of political and economic issues, I doubt that there is anything else in common with the SLP"

Finally, Hawkins feels the current Government are not doing enough to support the workers involved in the current industrial disputes. Especially as he feels that the UNITE leaders have not exactly covered themselves in glory either.

"The SLP supports any workers in struggle. This must be contrasted with the Labour leadership, Tories and Lib Dems who have all come out on the side of the bosses in the dispute.

"Having said that, the leadership of Unite have consistently done their best to undermine the strike and sell their members down the river. What sort of leadership is it that negotiates wage reductions on behalf of its members?!"

Of course, the SLP are extremely unlikely to secure a seat in Parliament in May. But with the amount of bad news the current incumbents have managed to produce in the last five years they'll be one of a number of small parties looking to seduce disaffected voters away from the Big Three. If nothing else I think it's admirable that the SLP scrape enough money together to give voters a socialist option on the ballot despite the fact they have little chance of receiving their deposit back in most seats. Perhaps, as the calls for PR get increasingly louder, they'll become a more prominent name in British politics. But for the moment just standing candidates is an impressive achievement in itself.

A Look @: Brighton & Hove

Brighton & Hove is home to one of the most exciting seats in the country this year. The Green Party could make an historic gain in Brighton if they can come out on top in a three way marginal. Currently Labour hold all three Parliamentary seats in the unitary authority but the Conservatives replaced them as the largest party on the Council in the 2007 local elections. The Tories were agonisingly close to gaining full control winning 26 of the 54 seats and are currently running Brighton & Hove as a minority administration. But the Greens also doubled their councillors from 6 to 12 in 2007 so their tails will be up going into the General Election in May.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Brighton Pavilion

David Lepper





GRN Gain

Brighton Kemptown

Desmond Turner




CON Gain


Celia Barlow




CON Gain


I shouldn't need to tell anyone this is a constituency to watch on election night! Brighton Pavilion is where Caroline Lucas hopes to make history this year and become the first Green MP to be elected to Westminster. Current Labour MP David Lepper won his seat from the Conservatives in 1997 and has been re-elected with comfortable majorities ever since. He is stepping down this year giving Labour's opponents a perfect opportunity to gain an open seat. In 2005 Lepper lost over 12% of his vote to Keith Taylor, who is the leader of the Green Party's group on the Brighton & Hove council. Taylor lost to Lucas in a close vote to be the Green PPC in Pavilion this year but has pledged his support to Lucas' campaign. 9 of the Green's 12 councillors in Brighton were elected from wards in this constituency giving them an advantage on the ground over Labour and the Conservatives, who have 5 and 6 respectively. Only two things are certain here. It's going to be a tight race and it will be won by a woman. Labour have selected Nancy Platts and the Conservative candidate is Charlotte Vere. I'd say Vere is more likely to spoil the Green's party as there is definite potential for the left leaning parties to split their vote. But I reckon this will come down to who wants it more and as it's by far their top priority I think Caroline Lucas and the Green Party will be celebrating in May; Green Gain.

Brighton Kemptown doesn't look too good for Labour either. Desmond Turner was another to ride the Blair wave into Parliament but he's standing down after 13 years an MP. He hasn't left Labour PPC Simon Burgess, the former leader of Brighton & Hove Council, with much of a majority to defend although the boundary commission didn't help in that respect either. The Conservative candidate Simon Kirby is also a former leader of his party's group on the Council and he's a strong favourite to win this back for the Tories. Tory gain is the likely result here.

Finally, Hove is another seat Labour look set to lose in the South East. Defending a tiny majority Celia Barlow has a lot of work to do to hang on to the seat she held for Labour in 2005. Especially as she has received a lot of bad press for claiming £28,000 in expenses for her constituency home in Hove. Like the two Brighton seats, Labour won this from the Conservatives in 1997 but that looks set to change this year. Mike Weatherly is the Conservative candidate charged to win this back and he'll be hoping to make his third run for Parliament a success. He's odds on to take it and I think Barlow would be struggling without her expenses problems; Tory Gain.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

A Look @: West Sussex (Part II)

With no easy way to split West Sussex up into manageable posts this will focus on the 'central' and 'eastern' constituencies and you can find the rest here. The West Sussex council is currently controlled by the Conservatives although the Liberal Democrats were the winners in the 2009 elections. They gained five seats but at the expense of Labour. The Tories hold 48 of the 71 seats and 7 of the 8 parliamentary seats in West Sussex and they look set to turn the whole county blue in May.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




Laura Moffatt




CON Gain

Sussex Mid

Nicholas Soames




CON Hold


Francis Maude




CON Hold

Arundel & S Downs

Nick Herbert




CON Hold


Crawley is one of the most marginal constituencies in the country and Labour are virtually certain to lose this in May. This was probably the main reason why Laura Moffatt stood down only a fortnight ago. Labour will select a new candidate on 31st March so I'll update this when we know that is. Whoever it is they will almost certainly lose to the Conservatives PPC Henry Smith. He has led the West Sussex Council since 2003 and was responsible for reducing Moffatt's majority to virtually nothing in 2005. Tory Gain here.

Nicholas Soames has been in Parliament since 1983 but not all of them have been as MP for Mid Sussex. He represented Crawley up until 1997 and then followed some of his wards into this safer seat in boundary change. Soames is best known as being Winston Churchill's Grandson but has featured on the front bench for the Conservatives, usually in positions relating to Defence. He is another MP with mortgage problems but I suspect that as these have been paid they will have little effect on those involved. The size of his majority makes this seat the biggest Liberal Democrat target in the county but Serena Tierney has little realistic chance of unseating Soames. She did coordinate Richard Younger-Ross' successful gain in Teignbridge at the last election but Soames will be a lot harder to shift! Tory Hold.

Francis Maude was a Government Minister for a couple of years until he lost his seat in the 1992 election. He was then given the nice safe seat of Horsham in 1997 and has been a prominent member of the Conservatives shadow cabinet since. Maude was an initial target in the expenses scandal claiming for a flat only 70 yards from a house he owned. This might give the Lib Dem PPC, former Horsham Councillor Godfrey Newman, a chance but he still has a lot of votes to make up; Tory Hold.

Arundel & South Downs was Howard Flight's constituency until 2005. He was the MP secretly recorded saying if the Tories got into power spending cuts would be a lot bigger than Michael Howard was promising, causing huge embarrassment for his party. The then Deputy Chairman quit his post, had the whip withdrawn and was then forced to stand down as a candidate little over a month before the election. Quite a fall from grace! His replacement, Nick Herbert, won with ease in 2005 but he hasn't been an angel in his first term. Herbert claimed stamp duty on a house he bought less than a year after he was elected and also had to pay back just under £1,000 in overpaid mortgage claims. Despite this his majority should be enough to prevent West Sussex Councillor Derek Deedman taking this seat for the Liberal Democrats; Tory Hold.

A Look @: West Sussex (Part I)

With no easy way to split West Sussex up into manageable posts this will focus on the 'southern' and 'western' constituencies and you can find the rest here. The West Sussex council is currently controlled by the Conservatives although the Liberal Democrats were the winners in the 2009 elections. They gained five seats but at the expense of Labour. The Tories hold 48 of the 71 seats and 7 of the 8 parliamentary seats in West Sussex and they look set to turn the whole county blue in May. UKIP would have the potential to trouble the Conservatives in this area but their majorities are so large I doubt it's troubling them.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Bognor Regis & L'hampton

Nick Gibb




CON Hold


Andrew Tyrie




CON Hold

Worthing W

Peter Bottomley




CON Hold

Worthing E & Shoreham

Tim Loughton





CON Hold


The Bognor Regis & Littlehampton constituency was created in 1997 and has been represented by Nick Gibb ever since. Gibb wasn't troubled by the expenses scandal and is generally regarded as a good constituency MP. It's very unlikely he'll lose his seat in May; Tory Hold.

Chichester has elected Conservative MP's since World War II and this is unlikely to change now. Andrew Tyrie was first elected in 1997 and has a large majority to defend. Tyrie was dubbed 'Mr Clean' by the local media but he was still ordered to repay over £1,500 over mortgage interest claims. This won't be enough to unseat him; Tory Hold.

Worthing was split into two seats in 1997. Between the end of the war and Blair's landslide the town was only represented by two different MP's, both Conservatives. There's been consistency since then too as the pair of Tories that won the two new seats 13 years ago are still there and seeking re-election. The Worthing West's MP Peter Bottomley is one of the cheapest to keep, especially as he submits a joint claim with his wife in the House of Lords for their second home. It's hard to think of a reason why Bottomley won't win; Tory Hold.

East Worthing & Shoreham completes this latest glance at the Conservative heartlands. Tim Loughton doesn't have a lot to worry about; Tory Hold.

A Look @: Surrey

Surrey is a conservative county. Represented in parliament by eleven Tory members, six of the eleven are defending majorities of over ten thousand votes. The council is dominated by Tories, 56 of the 80 seats are Conservative. The Lib Dems sit 13, Res Assoc & Independents 10, Labour 1. A number of the Tories' Shadow cabinet sit for constituencies in Surrey. Therefore, I hope I may be forgiven for the brief nature in which I explain my predictions here. Clearly there are more interesting counties in the UK which I should be dedicating my time to. So here they are.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Epsom & Ewell

Chris Grayling




Con Hold

Esher & Walton

Ian Taylor




Con Hold


Anne Milton




Con Hold

Mole Valley

Paul Bereford




Con Hold


Crispin Blunt




Con Hold

R'mede & W'bridge

Philip Hammond




Con Hold


David Wilshire




Con Hold

Surrey East

Peter Ainsworth




Con Hold

Surrey Heath

Michael Gove




Con Hold

Surrey SW

Jeremy Hunt




Con Hold


Humfrey Malins




Con Hold

Epsom & Ewell will be held by Chris Grayling in May. He's the current Shadow Home Secretary. The small 2.5% boundary change estimated by R&T hasn't affected his 33.5% majority. Con Hold.

No boundary change for Esher & Walton, and Tory MP Ian Taylor will not be contesting the seat at the election because of rows over his expenses. So his replacement, Tory PPC Dominic Raab, is clear favourite to take the seat. Con Hold.

Anne Milton is Shadow Minister for Tourism. She won Guilford
back for the Tories in 2005 after Lib Dem Sue Doughty pinched it off them in 2001. Doughty is back, and she reckons that she may have support from more than the Lib Dem voters this year. However, I've looked fairly hard, and I can't see much evidence on the ground of Labour encouraging voters to go for Doughty in May. I'm not able to take this one too seriously at the moment. However, if the claim turns out to be true, I may change my prediction here. It would be interesting to hear from PPC Tim Shand, on Labour's strategy for Guilford. Otherwise, I'll have to assume that Doughty won't be able to muster enough support, despite the boundary commission's alterations 4.4% (according to R&T) alteration putting her within a 0.1% swing to victory. Unless turnout is abnormally high this year, Milton will increase her majority. Con Hold.

Sir Paul Beresford will still sit for Mole Valley after the election, despite his dodgy dentistry dealings. It would be difficult to throw away a twelve thousand-vote majority. No boundary change here. Con Hold.

Crispin Blunt will defend Reigate in May, even though he was told to stop claiming his Commons allowance by the authorities. Blunt sits in a safe seat. However, you may be interested to know that he still managed to swindle a load of public 'swag'; namely the £485,000 house. The BBC have labeled Blunt part of a group of MP's who have breached rules surrounding the declaration of overseas trips paid for by other countries taxpayers! I'm sure the people of Reigate and Qatar think he's worth it. I would love to be wrong but it's a Con Hold.

Runnymede & Weybridge is represented by Tory MP and millionaire, Philip Hammond. There were no boundary alterations here and he'll happily defend a 28.4% majority despite his second home claims. Con Hold.

David Wilshire is standing down at the next election because he feels that the exposing of MP's expenses will "undermine democracy". So it will be up to Kwasi Kwateng to defend Spelthorne for the Conservatives. Luckily Wiltshire built up around a ten thousand-vote majority, so Kwateng will have a huge advantage over Labour PPC Adam Tyler-Moore. Con Hold.

Peter Ainsworth was the 125th MP to declare that they we're standing down at the next election. Surrey East is a Conservative safe seat and Ainsworth wants to pursue 'Arts and Values' outside parliament. Oh, and he tried to claim £957 for a radiator cover. No boundary change and over a fifteen thousand-vote majority, so its up to Tory PPC Sam Gyimah to walk this home in May. Con Hold.

Surrey Heath sits the Shadow Secretary of State for Children & Schools, Michael Gove. He had a cameo role in the 'expenses soap-opera', but has almost an eleven thousand-vote majority and won't have any problems being re-elected in May. Con Hold.

The Shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, represents Surrey South West. He has a large majority and put in a polished performance on the BBC's HARDtalk early in March. He will build on his 2005 gains. Con Hold.

Humfrey Malins is leaving in May. His London accommodation was said to have cost the taxpayer £240 a night. No boundary change, so Tory PPC Jonathan Lord will replace him at the election. Yet another Con Hold.


Michael Turner