The Brexit Election Battleground: The West Midlands

The Brexit Election Battleground: The West Midlands

The West Midlands region covers the metropolis centred on Birmingham and the Black Country, along with the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

It takes in 59 parliamentary seats – 34 held by the Tories and 25 by Labour, after they each took one of the remaining Lib Dem seats here at the 2015 election (who scored their worst result here of any region).

Labour’s strength here is very much centred on the seats in the city of Birmingham, the Black Country, the Potteries and Coventry, whereas the Tories dominate in the counties and market towns.

It is the most Brexit-friendly region in the entire country: at the referendum last year, Leave won 59.3% of the vote, with only a handful of seats – several in Birmingham and a couple of Warwickshire – deemed to have voted Remain.

At the last election UKIP won nearly 16% of the vote but are only contesting 32 of the 59 seats – giving the established parties a free run in a number of seats where Leave attracted six or seven out of ten voters at the referendum.

Well-known Brexiteers standing in the region
Bill Etheridge (UKIP, Dudley North)
Owen Paterson (Con, Shropshire North)
Sir Bill Cash (Con, Stone)
Michael Fabricant (Con, Lichfield)

MP seeking re-election who voted against triggering Article 50
Paul Farrelly (Lab, Newcastle-under-Lyme)

KEY SEATS TO WATCH

Birmingham Edgbaston (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 47.4%)
Con: Caroline Squire
Lab: Preet Gill
LD: Colin Green
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Alice Kiff
Good: Dick Rodgers

2015:
Lab: 18,518 (44.85%) – Maj: 2,706 (6.55%)
Con: 15,812 (38.29%)
UKIP: 4,154 (10.06%)
Green: 1,371 (3.32%)
LD: 1,184 (2.87%)
Christian: 163 (0.39%)
Ind: 91 (0.22%)

Birmingham Edgbaston has continuously been represented by a woman since 1953 – longer than any other seat – and the record looks set to remain in tact after this election whether it is won by Labour or the Conservatives. The Labour MP here for the last twenty years was of course Gisela Stuart, who chaired the Vote Leave campaign but opted not to seek re-election this time. She held the seat against the odds at the last couple of contests and in the absence of UKIP on the ballot paper, the Tory candidate, Caroline Squire – great-great-grand-daughter of Joseph Chamberlain – will be hopeful of securing the swing of a little over 3% to take the seat.

Birmingham Erdington (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 62.97%)
Con: Robert Alden
Lab: Jack Dromey (sitting MP)
LD: Ann Holtom
UKIP: No candidate
Green: James Lovatt

2015:
Lab: 15,824 (45.62%) – Maj: 5,129 (14.79%)
C: 10,695 (30.84%)
UKIP: 6,040 (17.41%)
LD: 965 (2.78%)
Green: 948 (2.73%)
TUSC: 212 (0.61%)

On paper, this is third on the list of Labour’s seats in Birmingham that the Tories are seeking to take. Held by Jack Dromey, more than six in ten voters backed Leave at the referendum here and Robert Alden, leader of the Tories on the city council, will be looking to tap into the more than 6,000 votes that UKIP won in 2015 in his effort to get elected to the Commons. Theresa May’s joint Chief of Staff, Nick Timothy, will pay particular attention to the result here: he hails from the seat and the political philosophy he has encouraged his boss to promote has been branded ‘Erdington Conservatism’.

Birmingham Northfield (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 61.8%)
Con: Meg Powell-Chandler
Lab: Richard Burden (sitting MP)
LD: Roger Harmer
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Eleanor Masters

2015:
Lab: 17,673 (41.62%) – Maj: 2,509 (5.91%)
Con: 15,164 (35.71%)
UKIP: 7,106 (16.74%)
LD: 1,349 (3.18%)
Green: 1,169 (2.75%)

Whereas Edgbaston was once the best Tory prospect in Birmingham, the Northfield seat is now, in numerical terms, the one that would fall to them first – on a swing of less than 3% from Labour. As with Edgbaston and Erdington, the lack of a UKIP candidate may well give succour to the Tory candidate, Meg Powell-Chandler.

Coventry North West (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 58.4%)
Con: Resham Kotecha
Lab: Geoffrey Robinson (sitting MP)
LD: Andrew Hilton
UKIP: Michael Gee
Green: Stephen Gray
Ind: Ciaran Norris

2015:
Lab: 18,557 (41.01%) – Maj: 4,509 (9.97%)
Con: 14,048 (31.05%)
UKIP: 7,101 (15.69%)
Green: 1,961 (4.33%)
LD: 1,810 (4.00%)
TUSC: 1,769 (3.91%)

Briefly a Treasury Minister during the Blair Government, Geoffrey Robinson has been returned to Parliament for this seat at every contest since the 1976 by-election at which he was first elected. However, while the seat has always been deemed relatively safe, his voteshare has gone down at every election since 1997 and if it were to dip further, he could be at risk of any uniting of the UKIP and Tory vote – although UKIP are standing again in this seat where Leave won more than 58% of the vote last year.

Coventry South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 50.4%)
Con: Michelle Lowe
Lab: Jim Cunningham (sitting MP)
LD: Greg Judge
UKIP: Ian Rogers
Green: Aimee Challenor
Ind: Sandra Findlay

2015:
Lab: 18,472 (42.27%) – Maj: 3,188 (7.30%)
Con: 15,284 (34.98%)
UKIP: 5,709 (13.06%)
LD: 1,779 (4.07%)
Green: 1,719 (3.93%)
TUSC: 650 (1.49%)
Mainstream: 86 (0.20%)

Like the neighbouring seat above, Coventry South has seen Labour’s voteshare dwindle from more than 50% at the height of the Blair’s New Labour to nearer 40% today. Accordingly, the Tory vote has been edging up at each contest, making it technically the best prospect for the Tories of the Coventry constituencies. They would win on a swing of less than 4%.

Dudley North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 71.4%)
Con: Les Jones
Lab: Ian Austin (sitting MP)
LD: Ben France
UKIP: Bill Etheridge MEP
Green: Andrew Nixon

2015:
Lab: 15,885 (41.81%) – Maj: 4,181 (11.00%)
Con: 11,704 (30.81%)
UKIP: 9,113 (23.99%)
Green: 517 (1.36%)
LD: 478 (1.26%)
Apni: 156 (0.41%)
TUSC: 139 (0.3 7 %)

Ian Austin, a former fixer for Gordon Brown, has been Labour’s MP here since 2005 and very nearly lost it to the Tories in 2010, when he held on by less than 650 votes. In 2015 he benefited from a UKIP surge which split the anti-Labour vote: local UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge (a one-time Tory who has little affection for his former party) came a strong third with 24%, behind Tory Les Jones on 31%. The same trio are fighting it out again at this election in a seat where more than seven in ten voted Leave.

Newcastle-under-Lyme (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 61.7%)
Con: Owen Meredith
Lab: Paul Farrelly (sitting MP)
LD: Nigel Jones
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 16,520 (38.42%) – Maj: 650 (1.51%)
Con: 15,870 (36.91%)
UKIP: 7,252 (16.87%)
LD: 1,826 (4.25%)
Green: 1,246 (2.90%)
Ind: 283 (0.66%)

This Staffordshire seat is the Tories’ top target in the entire region. For a seat which delivered a Leave vote of more than 60%, sitting Labour MP Paul Farrelly was arguably quite brave to vote against the triggering of Article 50; and it was perhaps then unsurprising, given his three-figure majority, that he voted against the Commons motion calling for this early general election. Tory candidate Owen Meredith will be hopeful of gaining a goodly chunk of the 7,000+ UKIP votes from 2015 to help him secure the seat, since the party has opted not to contest it this time. If elected, he would be the first Tory MP for the seat in its 132-year history.

Stoke-on-Trent Central (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 64.85%%)
Con: Daniel Jellyman
Lab: Gareth Snell (sitting MP)
LD: Peter Andras
UKIP: Mick Harold
Green: Adam Colclough
Ind: Barbara Fielding

2015:
Lab: 12,220 (39.31%) – Maj: 5,179 (16.66%)
UKIP: 7,041 (22.65%)
Con: 7,008 (22.55%)
Ind: 2,120 (6.82%)
LD: 1,296 (4.17%)
Green: 1,123 (3.61%)
CSA: 244 (0.78%)
Ubuntu: 32 (0.10%)

2017 (by-election held on 23rd February 2017 after the resignation of Tristram Hunt):
Lab: 7,853 (37.09%) – Maj: 2,620 (12.38%)
UKIP: 5,233 (24.72%)
Con: 5,154 (24.35%)
LD: 2,083 (9.84%)
Green: 294 (1.39%)
Ind: 137 (0.65%)
Loony: 127 (0.60%)
BNP: 124 (0.59%)
CPA: 109 (0.51%)
Ind: 56 (0.26%)

When moderate Labour MP Tristram Hunt quit at the beginning of the year to become Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the by-election created a huge opportunity for UKIP: Labour was deemed to be weak, UKIP had come a strong second in 2015 with 23% of the vote and the area delivered a Leave vote of 65% at the referendum. But UKIP leader Paul Nuttall parachuted himself into the seat and ran what was by all accounts a pretty disastrous campaign, although he did retain second place (just). The successful Labour candidate and now MP won the by-election with barely 37% of the vote – extraordinary for a seat that has only ever sent Labour MPs to Westminster. What will happen on a higher, general election turnout is hard to predict.

Stoke-on-Trent North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 72.1%)
Con: Ben Adams
Lab: Ruth Smeeth (sitting MP)
LD: Richard Whelan
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Douglas Rouxel

2015:
Lab: 15,429 (39.92%) – Maj: 4,836 (12.51%)
Con: 10,593 (27.40%)
UKIP: 9,542 (24.69%)
LD: 1,137 (2.94%)
Green: 1,091 (2.82%)
Ind: 508 (1.31%)
Ind: 354 (0.92%)

Extraordinarily for a seat where they came a strong third with nearly 10,000 votes, UKIP have opted not to contest this seat at this election. It also delivered – at 72% – the highest Leave vote of the three Stoke seats at the EU referendum. Like the neighbouring Stoke Central, it has never elected a non-Labour MP, but if the Tories could appeal to those former UKIP voters at this election, that could change.

Stoke-on-Trent South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 71.1%)
Con: Jack Brereton
Lab: Rob Flello (sitting MP)
LD: Ian Wilkes
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Jan Zablocki

2015:
Lab: 15,319 (39.17%) – Maj: 2,539 (6.49%)
Con: 12,780 (32.68%)
UKIP: 8,298 (21.22%)
LD: 1,309 (3.35%)
Green: 1,029 (2.63%)
TUSC: 372 (0.95%)

Just as in Stoke North above, UKIP have not put up in another strong Leave-supporting seat where they won more than 20% of the vote in 2015. This was already on paper the most winnable of the Stoke seats for the Conservatives and is surely made all the better a prospect by UKIP’s withdrawal. It’s the second parliamentary election of the year for Tory candidate Jack Brereton, who also contested the Stoke Central by-election.

Telford (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 66.2%)
Con: Lucy Allan (sitting MP)
Lab: Kuldip Sahota
LD: Susan King
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Luke Shirley

2015:
C: 16,094 (39.60%) – Maj: 730 (1.80%)
Lab: 15,364 (37.80%)
UKIP: 7,330 (18.03%)
Green: 930 (2.29%)
LD: 927 (2.28%)

This is, on paper, the Tories’ most vulnerable seat in the West Midlands – one that they gained from Labour at the last general election. However, UKIP have opted against fighting it this time, leaving a pool of 7,000 votes for Brexit-backing Tory Lucy Allan to try and claim as her own, suggesting that it would be an uphill struggle for Labour to be thinking of snatching it back.

Walsall North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 74.2%)
Con: Eddie Hughes
Lab: David Winnick (sitting MP)
LD: Isabelle Parasram
UKIP: Liz Hazell
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 14,392 (39.02%) – Maj: 1,937 (5.25%)
Con: 12,455 (33.77%)
UKIP: 8,122 (22.02%)
LD: 840 (2.28%)
TUSC: 545 (1.48%)
Green: 529 (1.43%)

David Winnick has held this seat for Labour since 1979, but his hold on it now looks very precarious. He has held it with less than 40% of the vote for two elections running and was a Remain supporter in the seat with the second highest Leave vote in the whole of the UK. Local Tory councillor Eddie Hughes has his sights on the seat and if a big enough chunk of UKIP’s vote switches to him, he will be taking his place on the green benches later in the month.

Walsall South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 61.6%)
Con: James Bird
Lab: Valerie Vaz (sitting MP)
LD: Anna Wellings Purvis
UKIP: Derek Bennett
Green: No candidate

2015:
Lab: 19,740 (47.18%) – Maj: 6,007 (14.36%)
Con: 13,733 (32.82%)
UKIP: 6,540 (15.63%)
Green: 1,149 (2.75%)
LD: 676 (1.62%)

A tougher ask for the Tories than neighbouring Walsall North: they would need a swing of just over 7% to take this seat, which was not quite as resolutely behind the Leave vote and where UKIP did not perform as strongly in 2015.

Wolverhampton North East (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 67.7%)
Con: Sarah Macken
Lab: Emma Reynolds (sitting MP)
LD: Ian Jenkins
UKIP: Graham Eardley
Green: Clive Wood

2015:
Lab: 15,669 (46.08%) – Maj: 5,495 (16.16%)
Con: 10,174 (29.92%)
UKIP: 6,524 (19.19%)
LD: 935 (2.75%)
Green: 701 (2.06%)

This patch of Wolverhampton has always returned Labour MPs with the sole exception of the 1987 general election when the Tories held it by a couple of hundred votes. Sitting MP Emma Reynolds’ europhile views are by no means shared by all of her constituents, more than two thirds of whom voted Leave at the referendum. UKIP are in a strong third place with 19% of the vote and Tory candidate Sarah Macken would need a swing of 8% in her favour from Labour to be victorious.

Wolverhampton South West (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 54.4%)
Con: Paul Uppal
Lab: Eleanor Smith
LD: Sarah Quarmby
UKIP: Rob Jones
Green: Andrea Cantrill
Ind: Jagmeet Singh

2015:
Lab: 17,374 (43.21%) – Maj: 801 (1.99%)
C: 16,573 (41.22%)
UKIP: 4,310 (10.72%)
Green: 1,058 (2.63%)
LD: 845 (2.10%)
Ind: 49 (0.12%)

This seat – once held by Enoch Powell – was gained by Labour in 1997 and they held it until Tory Paul Uppal snatched it from then MP Rob Marris by less than 1,000 votes in 2010. But at the 2015 election Marris avenged that defeat by winning it back with an equally small majority. Marris briefly served on Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench as a shadow Treasury minister but quit in the summer of 2016 and then announced he was stepping down as an MP before this general election. Uppal is now fighting the seat for the third election in a row and would take his party’s tenth target in the entire country with a swing of just 1% in his favour.

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia

Photocredit: Tony Hisgett