The Brexit Election Battleground: The North West

The Brexit Election Battleground: The North West

The North West contains 75 parliamentary seats in a region that stretches from the northernmost tip of Cumbria at the border with Scotland down to the south of Cheshire, taking in Lancashire and the urban population centres of Merseyside and Greater Manchester. It delivered a 53.7% Leave vote at the EU referendum. Labour is traditionally pretty strong here and at the last election they won 51 of the seats – indeed, the North West saw the biggest increase in the party’s share of the vote of any region.

However, it is also contains a big proportion of marginal seats: no fewer than 16 of the Tories’ top 70 target seats fall within the region and by the same token, 10 of the Tories’ most vulnerable 70 seats are to be found here.

UKIP won 13.6% of the vote across the region in 2015 and the nearest they came to winning a seat was in Heywood and Middleton, but even there they were still more than 5,000 adrift of Labour.

Well-known Brexiteers standing in the region
Graham Brady (Con, Altrincham and Sale West)
Frank Field (Lab, Birkenhead)
Esther McVey (Con, Tatton)
David Nuttall (Con, Bury North)
Graham Stringer (Lab, Blackley and Broughton)

MPs seeking re-election who voted against triggering Article 50
Luciana Berger (Lab, Liverpool Wavertree)
Ann Coffey (Lab, Stockport)
Maria Eagle (Lab, Garston and Halewood)
Louise Ellman (Lab, Liverpool Riverside)
Tim Farron (Lib Dem, Westmorland and Lonsdale)
Kate Green (Lab, Stretford and Urmston)
Alison McGovern (Lab, Wirral South)
Jeff Smith (Lab, Manchester Withington)


Barrow and Furness (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 57.3%)
Con: Simon Fell
Lab: John Woodcock (sitting MP)
LD: Loraine Birchall
UKIP: Alan Piper
Green: Rob O’Hara

Lab: 18,320 (42.33%) – Maj: 795 (1.84%)
Con: 17,525 (40.50%)
UKIP: 5,070 (11.72%)
LD: 1,169 (2.70%)
Green: 1,061 (2.45%)
Ind: 130 (0.30%)

Self-professed opponent of Jeremy Corbyn, John Woodcock, has a task on his hands to retain this seat, which contains the shipyard where Britain’s nuclear submarines are built. The Tories would win it on a swing of less than 1%. The fact that the Labour powers-that-be happily nodded through Woodcock’s candidacy here could well be interpreted as a tacit admission that they did not anticipate the seat having a Labour MP come 9th June.

Blackpool South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 67.8%)
Con: Peter Anthony
Lab: Gordon Marsden (sitting MP)
LD: Bill Greene
UKIP: Noel Matthews
Green: John Peter Warnock

Lab: 13,548 (41.77%) – Maj: 2,585 (7.97%)
Con: 10,963 (33.80%)
UKIP: 5,613 (17.30%)
Green: 841 (2.59%)
LD: 743 (2.29%)
Ind: 655 (2.02%)
Ind: 73 (0.23%)

For a seat that saw more than two thirds of voters backing Leave at last year’s referendum (the highest Leave vote in the North West), Remain-supporting Labour MP Gordon Marsden faces the fight of his life to retain it now. He held it last time with less than 42% of the vote and with UKIP having notched up more than 17%, Tory candidate Peter Anthony will now be eyeing up some of those votes to take him over the line.

Bolton North East (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 58.1%)
Con: James Daly
Lab: Sir David Crausby
LD: Warren Fox
UKIP: Harry Lamb
Green: Liz Spencer

Lab maj 4,377 (10.14%) – Turnout 43,161 (63.56%)
Lab: 18,541 (42.96%)
Con: 14,164 (32.82%)
UKIP: 8,117 (18.81%)
LD: 1,236 (2.86%)
Green: 1,103 (2.56%)

Sir David Crausby’s majority for Labour here has stubbornly remained around the 4,000 mark for the last three general elections. If national poll estimations are right that half of UKIP’s votes from 2015 are now going into the Tory column, that majority could disappear.

Bolton West (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 55.6%)
Con: Chris Green (sitting MP)
Lab: Julie Hilling
LD: Rebecca Forrest
UKIP: Martin Tighe
Green: No candidate

Con: 19,744 (40.63%) – Maj: 801 (1.65%)
Lab: 18,943 (38.98%)
UKIP: 7,428 (15.29%)
LD: 1,947 (4.01%)
Ind: 321 (0.66%)
TUSC: 209 (0.43%)

This seat sees a re-run of the last general election contest between ex-Labour MP Julie Hilling and Chris Green, the Brexit-backing Tory who nabbed the seat from her in 2015. His anti-EU credentials ought to go down well with the nearly 7,500 who backed UKIP in 2015, although Labour would need to be regaining this seat if they were to show any signs of holding back a Conservative advance.

Burnley (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 66.6%)
Con: Paul White
Lab: Julie Cooper (sitting MP)
LD: Gordon Birtwistle
UKIP: Tom Commis
Green: Laura Fisk

Lab: 14,951 (37.62%) – Maj: 3,244 (8.16%)
LD: 11,707 (29.45%)
UKIP: 6,864 (17.27%)
Con: 5,374 (13.52%)
Green: 850 (2.14%)

For a seat that saw two thirds of its electorate voting to Leave the EU at the referendum last year, it might seem somewhat incongruous that UKIP and the Conservatives came third and fourth respectively in this seat at the last general election. At that contest, Labour’s Julie Cooper beat incumbent Lib Dem, Gordon Birtwistle, who is fighting to gain his old seat back. While admittedly in favour of a “soft” Brexit, Birtwistle’s straight-talking attitude has seen him declare – in a distinctly non-Remoaner fashion – that it’s time to “get on with the negotiations to leave the EU”. Labour only won it with about 37.5% of the vote to his 29.5%, meaning that any slippage in the Labour vote would really open things up, although the seeming lack of a Lib Dem recovery in the national polls does not bode well for Birtwistle. To add to the interest here, the constituency contains the only council ward in the whole of the UK won by UKIP at last month’s local election (Padiham and Burnley West on Lancashire County Council), while the Conservative candidate reportedly took a holiday in Turkey during the election campaign.

Bury North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 53.7%)
Con: David Nuttall (sitting MP)
Lab: James Frith
LD: Richard Baum
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

Con: 18,970 (41.94%) – Maj: 378 (0.84%)
Lab: 18,592 (41.11%)
UKIP: 5,595 (12.37%)
Green: 1,141 (2.52%)
LD: 932 (2.06%)

David Nuttall’s hostility to the EU has been clear since the day he entered Parliament after gaining this seat on the outskirts of Greater Manchester from Labour in 2010. He went on to chair the Better Off Out group of MPs and it was, therefore, all the more perplexing that UKIP stood against him in 2015, winning more than 5,500 votes as Nuttall held on with a wafer-thin majority over Labour. This time UKIP have opted not to oppose him, which ought now to strengthen his hold on the seat.

Bury South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 54.5%)
Con: Robert Largan
Lab: Ivan Lewis (sitting MP)
LD: Andrew Page
UKIP: Ian Henderson
Green: No candidate
Ind: Peter Wright

Lab: 21,272 (45.05%) – Maj: 4,922 (10.42%)
C: 16,350 (34.63%)
UKIP: 6,299 (13.34%)
LD: 1,690 (3.58%)
Green: 1,434 (3.04%)
Eng Dem: 170 (0.36%)

Labour’s Ivan Lewis held this seat with a five-figure majority in 1997 and 2001, but it appears no longer to be the stronghold it once was. He now finds himself 51st on the Conservatives’ target list and would be beaten if he suffered a swing to them of 5.2%.

Cheadle (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 42.7%)
Con: Mary Robinson (sitting MP)
Lab: Martin Miller
LD: Mark Hunter
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

Con: 22,889 (43.11%) – Maj: 6,453 (12.15%)
LD: 16,436 (30.96%)
Lab: 8,673 (16.33%)
UKIP: 4,423 (8.33%)
Ind: 390 (0.73%)
Above: 208 (0.39%)
IE: 76 (0.14%)

Conservative Mary Robinson gained this seat from the Lib Dem Mark Hunter at the last election and this time sees a re-run of the contest, except that UKIP have not put up a candidate. Robinson will be after the lion’s share of their 4,400 votes, whereas Hunter will presumably hope that he can eat into the Labour voteshare. It is the Tory seat in the North West most vulnerable to any Lib Dem resurgence.

Chorley (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 56.8%)
Con: Caroline Moon
Lab: Lindsay Hoyle (sitting MP)
LD: Stephen Fenn
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Peter Lageard

Lab: 23,322 (45.10%) – Maj: 4,530 (8.76%)
Con: 18,792 (36.34%)
UKIP: 6,995 (13.53%)
LD: 1,354 (2.62%)
Green: 1,111 (2.15%)
Ind: 138 (0.27%)

Lindsay Hoyle has been a popular Deputy Speaker since 2010 and has been thought for some time to be the leading Labour candidate to replace John Bercow when he stands down from the Speaker’s Chair. However, his majority in his own seat is looking increasingly precarious right now, particularly in the absence now of a candidate for UKIP, who scooped up 13.5% of the vote in 2015. Hoyle’s ambitions and parliamentary career would be over on a swing of 4.5% to the Tories.

City of Chester (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 42.3%)
Con: Will Gallagher
Lab: Chris Matheson (sitting MP)
LD: Lizzie Jewkes
UKIP: No candidate
Green: No candidate

Lab: 22,118 (43.23%) – Maj: 93 (0.18%)
Con: 22,025 (43.05%)
UKIP: 4,148 (8.11%)
LD: 2,870 (5.61%)

Chester may have voted Remain, but at the last election more than 4,000 people here voted UKIP who will only have the choice of the three main parties on the ballot paper this time. With Chris Matheson defending that wafer-thin majority of 93, this seat is the Tories’ number one target in the entire country.

Copeland (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 59.2%)
Con: Trudy Harrison (sitting MP)
Lab: Gillian Troughton
LD: Rebecca Hanson
UKIP: Herbert Crossman
Green: No candidate

Lab: 16,750 (42.26%) – Maj: 2,564 (6.47%)
Con: 14,186 (35.80%)
UKIP: 6,148 (15.51%)
LD: 1,368 (3.45%)
Green: 1,179 (2.97%)

2017 by-election (held on 23rd February 2017 after Jamie Reed’s resignation):
C: 13,748 (44.25%) – Maj: 2,147 (6.91%)
Lab: 11,601 (37.34%)
LD: 2,252 (7.25%)
UKIP: 2,025 (6.52%)
Ind: 811 (2.61%)
Green: 515 (1.66%)
Ind: 116 (0.37%)

Scene of the historic by-election in February this year when Conservative Trudy Harrison attained a 6.7% swing from Labour to gain the seat which Blairite former MP Jamie Reed had vacated. The area had not had a Tory MP since the 1930s and Labour’s loss of a traditional stronghold with a Leave vote of almost 60%, where the UKIP vote dropped from 15.5% to 6.5%, could be an indication of further unlikely results at this election. Harrison will be hoping that the maiden speech she gave in the Commons days before Parliament was dissolved for the election will not have been her last.

Heywood and Middleton (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 62.4%)
Con: Chris Clarkson
Lab: Liz McInnes (sitting MP)
LD: Bill Winlow
UKIP: Lee Seville
Green: No candidate

Lab: 20,926 (43.11%) – Maj: 5,299 (10.92%)
UKIP: 15,627 (32.20%)
Con: 9,268 (19.09%)
LD: 1,607 (3.31%)
Green: 1,110 (2.29%)

UKIP came within 617 votes of snatching this former Labour banker at a 2014 by-election (and may well have won it if their focus had not been on the Clacton contest which took place on the same day). At the following year’s general election, UKIP retained second place, albeit more than 5,000 adrift of Labour. On paper, it is UKIP’s top target in the North West and fifth best prospect in the country for a gain, although it is hard not to conclude that their chances of taking it have now considerably receded.

Hyndburn (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 65.8%)
Con: Kevin Horkin
Lab: Graham Jones (sitting MP)
LD: Les Jones
UKIP: Janet Brown
Green: No candidate

Lab: 18,076 (42.15%) – Maj: 4,400 (10.26%)
C: 13,676 (31.89%)
UKIP: 9,154 (21.34%)
Green: 1,122 (2.62%)
LD: 859 (2.00%)

Another seat where virtually two thirds of voters backed Leave, Labour has a relatively precarious majority over the Tories and third-placed UKIP swept up more than 9,000 votes in 2015. Current Labour MP Graham Jones must feel potentially vulnerable.

Lancaster and Fleetwood (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 52.0%)
Con: Eric Ollerenshaw
Lab: Cat Smith (sitting MP)
LD: Robin Long
UKIP: No Candidate
Green: Rebecca Novell

Lab: 17,643 (42.27%) – Maj: 1,265 (3.03%)
C: 16,378 (39.24%)
UKIP: 4,060 (9.73%)
Green: 2,093 (5.01%)
LD: 1,390 (3.33%)
Northern: 174 (0.42%)

This is a seat where the referendum result reflected the national split, yet at the last election sitting Tory MP Eric Ollerenshaw (then defending a 333 majority) was beaten by Corbynista Cat Smith for Labour. Yet UKIP are not now contesting this key marginal, so their more than 4,000 votes from 2015 are up for grabs and Ollerenshaw will be hoping to nab enough to make a return to the green benches. Any slippage of votes from Labour back to the Lib Dems along with the continued involvement of a Green candidate are also liable to help his cause.

Oldham East and Saddleworth (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 59.9%)
Con: Kashif Ali
Lab: Debbie Abrahams (sitting MP)
LD: Jonathan Smith
UKIP: Ian Bond
Green: No candidate

Lab: 17,529 (39.41%) – Maj: 6,002 (13.49%)
Con: 11,527 (25.91%)
UKIP: 8,557 (19.24%)
LD: 5,718 (12.85%)
Green: 1,152 (2.59%)

In a seat where all parties have electoral strengths, it is hard to make any predictions as to where the votes will fall this time. The Lib Dems came within 103 votes of snatching the seat in 2010 and while no-one anticipates them getting that close this time (especially since they are out of kilter with the nearly 60% of voters who backed Leave at the referendum), whoever wins this contest could well do so with a voteshare in the low 30s in percentage terms.

Southport (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 46.3%)
Con: Damien Moore
Lab: Liz Savage
LD: Sue McGuire
UKIP: Terry Durrance
Green: No candidate

LD: 13,652 (30.96%) – Maj: 1,322 (3.00%)
Con: 12,330 (27.96%)
Lab: 8,468 (19.20%)
UKIP: 7,429 (16.85%)
Green: 1,230 (2.79%)
Southport: 992 (2.25%)

This seaside town on Merseyside has been a Lib Dem seat since 1987, aside from the 1992-97 Parliament when it was held by the Conservatives. But incumbent John Pugh is retiring – the only sitting Lib Dem MP to be doing so at this election – and it is the most vulnerable of the seats the party is defending. In what is a clear Lib Dem/Tory battle in a seat with a small Remain majority, Pugh’s successor as Lib Dem candidate, Sue McGuire, will be hoping that tactical voting by Labour voters and Greens (who do not have a candidate to back this time) will override any Tory effort to win over previous supporters of Labour and UKIP.

Rochdale (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 57.5%)
Con: Jane Howard
Lab: Tony Lloyd
LD: Andy Kelly
UKIP: Christopher Baksa
Green: No candidate
GM Homeless: Andy Littlewood
Ind: Simon Danczuk (sitting MP, elected as Lab)

Lab: 20,961 (46.14%) – Maj: 12,442 (27.39%)
UKIP: 8,519 (18.75%)
Con: 7,742 (17.04%)
LD: 4,667 (10.27%)
Rochdale: 1,535 (3.38%)
Green: 1,382 (3.04%)
NF: 433 (0.95%)
IZB: 191 (0.42%)

An intriguing contest given the candidacy of current MP and arch-critic of Jeremy Corbyn, Simon Danczuk, who had the Labour whip withdrawn and was stopped from standing again for the party. During his time in Parliament, straight-talking Danczuk exposed the paedophile past of Cyril Smith, who held Rochdale for the Liberals then Liberal Democrats for most of the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s. Labour’s new candidate, Tony Lloyd, was the Foreign Office minister in the first Blair Government who quit his Manchester Central seat in 2012 to became Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester. He then became interim mayor of Greater Manchester but lost out to Andy Burnham to be Labour candidate for the post in advance of the recent election. While his candidacy here will be seen as a consolation prize, some may view it as carpet-bagging and it will be fascinating to see how the votes pile up on election night.

Wirral South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 46.6%)
Con: Adam Sykes
Lab: Alison McGovern (sitting MP)
LD: Chris Carubia
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Mandi Roberts

Lab: 20,165 (48.20%) – Maj: 4,599 (10.99%)
Con: 15,566 (37.21%)
UKIP: 3,737 (8.93%)
LD: 1,474 (3.52%)
Green: 895 (2.14%)

Given that the constituency had a Remain majority at the referendum, Labour’s Alison McGovern evidently felt secure enough to vote against the triggering of Article 50 in the House of Commons. But a 5.5% swing from Labour to the Tories would be enough to end her parliamentary career.

Wirral West (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 44.7%)
Con: Tony Caldeira
Lab: Margaret Greenwood (sitting MP)
LD: Peter Reisdorf
UKIP: No candidate
Green: John Coyne

Lab: 18,898 (45.15%) – Maj: 417 (1.00%)
Con: 18,481 (44.15%)
UKIP: 2,772 (6.62%)
LD: 1,433 (3.42%)
ND: 274 (0.65%)

It was here that former minister Esther McVey was defeated in 2015. She is now set to make a parliamentary return in George Osborne’s former seat of Tatton, but it would be a blow for the Tories if the new Conservative candidate, Tony Caldeira – who just unsuccessfully contested the Mayoralty of the Liverpool City Region – was not to gain this seat back for his party. Despite it having a small Remain majority, the lack of a UKIP candidate and the intervention now of a Green candidate will surely aid his effort.

Workington (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 61.0%)
Con: Clark Vasey
Lab: Sue Hayman (sitting MP)
LD: Phill Roberts
UKIP: George Kemp
Green: No candidate
Ind: Roy Ivinson

Lab: 16,282 (42.33%) – Maj: 4,686 (12.18%)
Con: 11,596 (30.15%)
UKIP: 7,538 (19.60%)
LD: 1,708 (4.44%)
Green: 1,149 (2.99%)
ND: 190 (0.49%)

A Labour seat for 96 of the last 99 years, but the party’s grip on this patch of north west Cumbria has considerably diminished over the last couple of decades. And such has been the lack of experienced MPs willing to serve in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet that Sue Hayman, the Labour MP here since 2015, was made Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in February. If she were to suffer the same swing against her now that was seen in neighbouring Copeland at the recent by-election, she will be defeated.

Worsley and Eccles South (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 59.8%)
Con: Iain Lindley
Lab: Barbara Keeley (sitting MP)
LD: Kate Clarkson
UKIP: No candidate
Green: Tom Dylan

Lab: 18,600 (44.24%) – Maj: 5,946 (14.14%)
Con: 12,654 (30.09%)
UKIP: 7,688 (18.28%)
Green: 1,242 (2.95%)
LD: 1,100 (2.62%)
TUSC: 380 (0.90%)
Reality: 200 (0.48%)
Ind: 184 (0.44%)

The lack of a UKIP candidate in a seat where they attained more than 18% of the vote in 2015 and which delivered a Leave vote of nearly 60% makes this a fascinating contest. The chances of Tory challenger, local councillor Iain Lindley, unseating Barbara Keeley should not be underestimated.

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

Photocredit: R~P~M