Friday, 11 June 2010

East of England – Post Mortem [Part III]

This is the final part of our re-look at the East. We're just going to shoot through the others now considering GE2010 is rather old news now (and we're losing the will to talk about it!). However, for the sake of completion we fell obliged to have a quick look a few odd regional results before we archive the whole thing and look forward to next years Scottish and Welsh elections.

Despite this region being completely dominated by the Conservatives, and so largely boring, it did throw up some of the shock results of the night. Here's a little selection; some we got right…some we got quite wrong!



Notional Majority

Swing Needed




Swing Achieved

Luton South

Margaret Moran




LD Gain

LAB Hold


Luton North

Kelvin Hopkins




LAB Hold

LAB Hold


Norwich North

Chloe Smith




CON Gain

CON Gain


Norwich South

Charles Clarke




LAB Hold

LD Gain



Claire Ward




LD Gain

CON Gain


Luton South was probably the most exciting contest in the election with the high profile candidacy of Ester Rantzan as an Independent creating an interesting dynamic, and making a prediction extremely difficult. I put this mistake, and most of them to be honest, down to our overestimating of the Liberal Democrats. If fact, my initial prediction was for Labour to hold this but during the election campaign I read too many articles and blogs to feel they actually had any hope of pulling this off. I thought that Rantzan's presence would be detrimental to the Conservatives and that the Liberal Democrats were too far away to make a challenge. The noise from Luton that the Labour candidate Gavin Shuker was struggling under the weight of the former MP Margaret Moran's misdemeanours, and so following the debates I switched this to a Lib Dem gain. This was under the assumption that the Clegg bounce would make this a three way fight in which two of the parties were severely disadvantaged. As it turned out the Clegg bounce didn't really happen anywhere, and Rantzen's showing turned out to be quite poor. With just 1800 votes she wasn't the difference between a hold and a gain even if every single one of her votes were 'Conservatives'. To everyone's surprise Shuker comfortably held the seat by almost 2500 votes and the other parties must be wondering if they'll ever get close to winning a seat in Luton.

Labour's strength in Luton is aptly highlighted by Kelvin Hopkins performance in Luton North. Although the odds were quite close in the run up to the election I was very confident Hopkins could defend his 6439 vote majority. He had an excellent expenses record and so he was able to distance himself from Moran in that respect. What I hadn't expected was for Hopkins to actually increase his vote! Yep, you read that right. The Labour backbencher managed to secure a 0.5% swing towards him from the Conservatives, completely against the national and regional swings. The local Labour party must be very proud of their efforts here and it certainly looks like a difficult task for the other parties to breakthrough in Luton, whatever the circumstances.

I'll take you from an excellent Labour performance to a couple of bad ones. In 2005 Labour held both seats in Norwich but that has all changed. In 2009 the Labour MP for Norwich North, Ian Gibson, stood down after becoming embroiled by the expenses scandal. The voters punished Labour in the subsequent by-election and the Conservative Chloe Smith was swept to Parliament on a 16.5% swing. That was almost double the swing required to gain the seat and although her vote share slipped back a little in the General Election Smith comfortably won her seat again. Although the circumstances surrounding the by-election were removed the Tories enjoyed the bonus of a squeaky clean incumbent MP, who'd spentthe past year campaigning for her re-election.

A much bigger shock was Labour's losing Norwich South, whose MP was the former minister turned rebellious backbencher Charles Clarke. Despite enjoying the rather unique advantages of both name recognition and an anti-Brown history Clarke was unseated by Simon Wright of the Liberal Democrats. I didn't think they'd have enough to take this considering the large Green support within the constituency. But it was Labour who suffered from the swing to the Greens and the Lib Dems secured a gain without actually increasing their vote. If we move to an AV system for the next election then this seat could potentially be a four way fight between Labour, the Lib Dems, the surging Greens and the Conservatives, who were only around 6% behind the winning candidate this year.

Finally, we got the three way marginal of Watford quite wrong. In fact, we got this, and most, three-way marginals wrong by backing the Lib Dems. But considering they were second here in 2005, and the bookies favourite, our prediction wasn't too risky. The actual swing in this seat went pretty much with the national swing as the Conservatives gained 5% at Labour's expense. The Liberal Democrats actually increased their vote share by 1% but this wasn't enough to prevent the Conservative Richard Harrington becoming the new MP. His predecessor Claire Ward was pushed to third but Labour's vote didn't crash too low. This is another seat that is sure to be exciting next time rough, whatever electoral system it's fought under!


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