The 2019 Election Battleground: East Midlands

The 2019 Election Battleground: East Midlands

Overview

Covers 46 seats across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire where traditionally political battles are fought between the Tories and Labour with the Lib Dems not really getting a look in. The region registered the second highest Leave vote at the referendum and only four seats of the 46 are judged to have voted Remain.

Leave voteshare at the referendum in 2016: 58.8%

2017 seat tally (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 31 (-1)
  • Labour: 15 (+1)
  • Lib Dems: 0 (-)

2017 voteshare (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 50.7% (+7.3)
  • Labour: 40.5% (+8.9)
  • Lib Dems: 4.3% (-1.3)
  • UKIP: 2.4% (-13.4)
  • Green: 1.5% (-1.5)

Seats to Watch

Ashfield (70.47% Leave)
The retirement of Labour MP Gloria De Piero creates an open race in one of the most fascinating battles anywhere in the country. It’s one of ten Labour seats where more than 70% of voters backed Brexit in 2016 and De Piero only held on in 2017 with a majority of 441, which new Labour candidate Natalie Fleet is tasked with defending. Former Labour member Lee Anderson is now the Conservative challenger, on paper needing a swing of less than 0.5% to gain the seat – technically the top Tory target in the region. But there is the added complication of the candidacy of Jason Zadrozny: in 2010, then as the Lib Dem candidate and recently deposed local council leader, he came within 192 votes of winning the seat; now Zadrozny is council leader again at the helm of his own Ashfield Independents party which won 30 of the 35 seats on Ashfield District Council in May – and in running he is describing himself as “the only Leave supporter who can beat Labour here”. Add to the mix the Brexit Party’s Martin Daubney MEP in a seat where UKIP won more than 21% of the vote at the 2015 general election (as well as the Lib Dems and Greens) and you can see what an intriguing contest is taking place here.

Bassetlaw (68.32% Leave)
This north Nottinghamshire seat, including the towns of Worksop and Retford, has not had a Conservative MP since the 1920s, but a swing in their favour of less than 5% would change that and see their candidate Brendan Clarke-Smith elected. The Labour MP since 2001, Brexit-backing John Mann, is not seeking re-election, having resigned from the Commons to take a peerage and sit in the House of Lords as a Crossbench peer and serve as the Government’s Antisemitism Tsar. Labour’s initially-selected candidate was dumped in curious circumstances and donning the red rosette now to defend Mann’s majority of less than 5,000 is Keir Morrison. In 2015 UKIP notched up nearly 8,000 votes here and where Brexit Party candidate Debbie Soloman’s votes come from at this election may well be critical in deciding the result in the heavily Leave-voting seat.

Bolsover (70.39% Leave)
Dennis Skinner, the veteran left-winger who is set to be Father of the House if he is re-elected, finds himself now on paper as the 61st most vulnerable Labour MP. First elected for this Derbyshire seat in 1974, the 87-year-old former miner’s majority was more than 27,000 in 1997 but it has been on a downward trajectory ever since and he held on in 2017 with a majority of a little over 5,000. Like more than seven in ten of his constituents, Skinner backed Leave at the referendum, although (unlike some of the Labour Leavers in Parliament) his tribal anti-Tory politics have only allowed him to drift into the government division lobby to back Brexit on a small number of occasions – a point I imagine his Conservative opponent Mark Fletcher is bound to make. UKIP won nearly 10,000 votes here in 2015 and certainly any Brexiteers dissatisfied with the Labour position here who are not inclined to back a Conservative have the option of the Brexit Party’s Kevin Harper. Worth keeping an eye on.

Broxtowe (52.51% Leave)
Since 2010 this seat on the outskirts of Nottingham has elected the Conservative Party’s candidate in the form of Anna Soubry. But Soubry’s increasing hostility to Brexit saw her quit the party in February 2019 and join The Independent Group, later rebranded as Change UK and then the Independent Group for Change (IGC), with her latterly serving as its leader. She is now fighting the seat under the IGC banner, with the Lib Dems having withdrawn to support her, while Darren Henry is the Conservative candidate tasked with defending what had been her 863 majority. That narrow margin of victory makes it on paper the top Labour target in the region, with Greg Marshall donning the red rosette, while the fact that it is a Tory seat meant the Brexit Party pulling their candidate, although an ex-UKIP candidate, Teck Khong, is putting up as an Independent.

Derby North (54.25% Leave)
Traditionally a tight Tory/Labour marginal, Jeremy Corbyn ally Chris Williamson was first elected as Labour MP for this seat in 2010 with a majority of barely 600, but lost in 2015 to Conservative Amanda Solloway by a mere 41 votes. He avenged his 2015 defeat in 2017 by winning it back with a majority of just over 2,000. But with Williamson having been suspended from Labour over his comments about the party’s handling of antisemitism, a new Labour candidate is standing in the form of Tony Tinley – and Williamson is now standing as an Independent. Solloway will be hopeful that his intervention will split the Labour vote and help deliver her a second spell in the Commons.

Gedling (56.30% Leave)
Vernon Coaker has held this seat covering suburbs to the east of Nottingham for Labour at successive elections since 1997 but never with a majority higher than 6,000. The Conservatives have often had it in their sights and donning a blue rosette to try and achieve the 4.5% swing required to overturn Coaker’s current 4,694 majority is Tom Randall.

High Peak (50.55% Leave)
Another classic Tory/Labour marginal which, at every election between 1979 and 2015 inclusive, returned an MP from the same party as the person who was Prime Minister. In 2017 Ruth George gained the seat for Labour, but at this contest Conservative candidate Robert Largan requires a swing of a shade over 2% to oust her.

Lincoln (57.43% Leave)
A rematch of the 2017 election is taking here where Brexit-backing former Conservative MP Karl McCartney – who was first elected here in 2010 – is seeking to regain the seat which Labour’s Karen Lee snatched from him with a majority of barely 1,500. He needs a swing of around 1.5% to win what is on paper the second Tory target in the region.

Mansfield (70.86% Leave)
In 2017 Ben Bradley became the first Conservative MP for heavily Leave-voting Mansfield since its creation as a parliamentary constituency in 1885. He will now be hoping to build on his 1,057 majority, although Labour candidate Sonya Ward will have other ideas and the candidacy of Sid Pepper, the ex-UKIP candidate from 2015 and 2017, as an Independent is an added complication.

Northampton North (60.27% Leave)
Sally Keeble, Labour MP for the seat between 1997 and 2010, failed in her bid to unseat her Conservative successor, Michael Ellis, in 2015 and again in 2017 when he held the seat with an 807 majority. She’s now back for another shot and would require a 1% swing to regain the seat.

Nottingham East (42.88% Leave)
It’s a Remain-inclined seat which has returned a Labour MP at every general election since 1992 and it’s odds on to do so again, in the form of new Labour candidate Nadia Whittome. But it will be intriguing to see the impact of the candidacy of the MP here since 2010, Chris Leslie, the one-time Shadow Chancellor who quit Labour for The Independent Group/Change UK in February 2019. He is standing here under the Independent Group for Change banner – although, unlike Anna Soubry in Broxtowe, the Lib Dems have not stood aside to give him a boost.

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

Photocredit: Andrew Hill