The 2019 Election Battleground: West Midlands

The 2019 Election Battleground: West Midlands


Covers the conurbation centred on Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country, along with the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. This is the region that voted most heavily for Brexit in 2016, with only six of the 59 constituencies judged to have voted Remain – four Birmingham seats and two in leafier Warwickshire. There is a clutch of key Tory/Labour marginals here, although Labour face the particular challenge that a number of the seats it could historically bank on taking – in the Potteries and the Black Country in particular – also delivered some of the most resounding votes for Brexit. Like the East Midlands, the Lib Dems are extremely weak here and are not obviously in serious contention in any seats – although anywhere that they disproportionately take votes away from Labour could impact on the results by aiding the Conservatives.

Leave voteshare at the referendum in 2016: 59.3%

2017 seat tally (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 35 (+1)
  • Labour: 24 (-1)
  • Lib Dems: 0 (-)

2017 voteshare (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 49.0% (+7.3)
  • Labour: 42.5% (+9.6)
  • Lib Dems: 4.4% (-1.1)
  • UKIP: 1.8% (-13.9)
  • Green: 1.7% (-1.6)

Seats to Watch

Birmingham Edgbaston (47.35% Leave)
From 1997 to 2017 this was the political home of Labour MP and Vote Leave Chair Gisela Stuart, who defied a national swing against Labour to hold on against the odds in 2015. Her successor as Labour MP, Preet Gill, then won the seat with more than 55% of the vote in 2017, giving her a majority of nearly 7,000. Conservative candidate and Stand Up for Brexit signatory Alex Yip would need a swing of 8% to gain the seat, which would bring to an end 66 years of continuous female representation of the constituency in Parliament.

Birmingham Hall Green (33.57% Leave)
Roger Godsiff has represented this seat or iterations of it for Labour since 1992 and banked a majority of nearly 34,000 in 2017 – up from less than 4,000 in 2010 when he had to fight off a strong challenge from Salma Yaqoob of the Respect Party. He backed leaving the EU at the 2016 referendum, although stopped backing Brexit in Parliament after his constituents voted Remain and in 2018 came out in favour of a second referendum. However, it was his support for those protesting against LGBT-inclusive education in primary schools that cooked his political goose as Labour high command refused to sanction his candidacy at this election. He fights on as an Independent, while Tahir Ali dons the red rosette.

Birmingham Northfield (61.79% Leave)
Now the top Tory target among Labour’s seats within the city of Birmingham, Richard Burden held it with a majority of less than 5,000 last time. Conservative candidate Gary Sambrook would need a swing of a little over 5% to take it.

Dudley North (71.43% Leave)
This Black Country seat is the top Conservative target in the entire West Midlands and the job of their candidate Marco Longhi has been made easier on several counts: Brexit Party candidate Rupert Lowe MEP withdrew shortly before nominations closed to back Longhi, citing a desire not to see the pro-Brexit vote split – in a seat where more than seven in ten voters backed Brexit and even in 2017 UKIP was still attaining more than 2,000 votes. In addition, the Conservatives have also gained the endorsement of outgoing Dudley North MP Ian Austin, the former Gordon Brown aide who quit Labour in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s extremism. Defending Austin’s 2017 majority of a mere 22 votes for Labour is the appropriately named Melanie Dudley.

Newcastle-Under-Lyme (61.65% Leave)
This Staffordshire seat has not returned a Conservative MP since the 1880s but that could well change at this election: retiring anti-Brexit Labour MP Paul Farrelly is bequeathing a majority of just 30 votes to new Labour candidate Carl Greatbatch to defend. Challenging for the Conservatives in this Leave-voting constituency is Aaron Bell who has signed the Stand Up for Brexit pledge.

Stoke-on-Trent Central (64.85% Leave)
Labour’s Gareth Snell held this seat with a majority of less than 4,000 votes in 2017 and, mindful of the emphatic Leave vote here at the 2016 referendum, was a signatory to a letter in October 2019 calling for the referendum result to be “honoured without delay”, urging the EU and UK government to reach a deal so that they could “move forward to positive negotiations in stage two”. He went on to vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill to enact Boris Johnson’s deal, but voted against the programme motion that sought to get it passed by the end of October. Jo Gideon is the Tory candidate needing a swing of 6% to gain the seat, although some Leavers may also be tempted by Tariq Mahmood of the Brexit Party in a seat where in 2015 UKIP came second with 25% of the vote.

Stoke-on-Trent North (72.12% Leave)
Slightly higher up the Tory target list than neighbouring Stoke Central and with an even heavier Leave vote at the 2016 referendum. Labour’s Ruth Smeeth – who signed the same letter and voted the same way on Johnson’s deal as Gareth Snell (see above) – held on with a majority of just over 2,000 in 2017. Conservative candidate Jonathan Gullis – a signatory of the Stand Up for Brexit pledge – needs a swing of less than 3% to win the seat, although again there is the potential for the pro-Brexit vote to split as Richard Watkin is on the ballot paper for the Brexit Party.

Stoke-on-Trent South (71.11% Leave)
Jack Brereton won this seat for the Conservatives in 2017, making him the first Tory to be elected for any of the three Stoke seats since they were created in 1950. He secured a majority of 663 and will be hoping to build on that at this election, although Labour’s Mark McDonald will have other ideas in his party’s top target in the region.

Telford (66.19% Leave)
Brexit-backing Conservative Lucy Allan won this Shropshire seat from Labour in 2015 with a majority of 730, and held it in 2017 by the very slightly smaller margin of 720. It was the seat in which the Tories opted to launch their manifesto and challenging for Labour is Katrina Gilman.

Warwick and Leamington (41.64% Leave)
A Tory/Labour marginal over the last two decades where the Tory MP first elected in 2010, Chris White, was defeated in 2017 by Labour’s Matt Western by barely 1,000 votes. New Conservative candidate Jack Rankin requires a swing of a little over 1% to gain it back.

West Bromwich East (68.18% Leave)
Political home since 2001 to Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who has enjoyed majorities varying between around 7,000 and 12,000 but opted not to stand again at this election in a seat where nearly seven in ten people voted for Brexit. Ibrahim Dogus is defending for Labour while, on paper, Conservative candidate Nicola Richards would need a swing of 10% to win it. Also appearing on the ballot paper here on this occasion is controversial firebrand left-winger George Galloway…

West Bromwich West (68.67% Leave)
The marginally less safe of the West Bromwich seats for Labour, Adrian Bailey held it with a majority of just under 4,500 in 2017 but has opted not to stand again. Donning the red rosette this time is James Cunningham (not to be confused with retiring Coventry MP Jim Cunningham) while needing a swing of 6% to win it for the Tories is Stand Up for Brexit signatory Shaun Bailey (not to be confused with the Tory London mayoral candidate with exactly the same name).

Wolverhampton North East (67.71% Leave)
Labour europhile Emma Reynolds is a slightly awkward fit in a seat where nearly seven in ten voted to Leave the EU, but she has held on at the last two contests with a majority around the 5,000 mark. Challenging for the Tories and needing a swing of a little over 6% to take the seat is Stand Up for Brexit signatory Jane Stevenson.

Wolverhampton South West (54.37% Leave)
Ever since the early 1990s, the seat once represented by Enoch Powell has either gone Labour or Conservative by a margin of no more than around 5,000 votes. In 2017 Labour’s Eleanor Smith held it by a majority of just over 2,000, meaning Conservative candidate Stuart Anderson – yet another support of the Stand Up for Brexit pledge – needs a swing of 2.5% to take it.

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia
Photocredit: David Jones