Buoyed no doubt by a third of the constituency being aged 18-34, Labour came within 331 votes of an upset here in 2017. While polls show significant national swing against them since, gaining it is not beyond them, especially if the rise in youth registration translates into votes. Victory would still require tactical squeezing of the 40% that backed Remain here though, because Royston Smith has added 5,000 votes since losing his first bid for parliament in 2010.
A 4% swing brought Labour within 231 votes of a stunning upset in this market town last time. Pudsey became a bellweather marginal after the seventies but is now more Remain (51%) than most constituencies, especially in Yorkshire. Nevertheless victory would surely require a much better national performance for Labour than currently projected.
Hastings and Rye
Amber Rudd was the MP here and her unsuccessful pursuit of a different seat, before standing down, may suggest she didn’t fancy the fight. Labour start a mere 346 behind after a 4.5% swing and their activists will have thrown plenty at this for two years. Another explanation could be that, in a 56% Leave seat, Rudd’s Remain positioning alienated her from the Tory base.
On paper, this is very winnable. Hard Brexiter Theresa Villiers has a majority of just 353 in a 59% Remain constituency. Those numbers don’t explain, however, why Labour flopped badly in Barnet at the 2018 council elections, in stark contrast to the London-wide swing. Labour’s anti-semitism crisis was the key and is even more so now. Several councillors and members have quit over the issue. It hasn’t only alienated the Jewish population but also friends and neighbours who have become aware.
This 70% Leave seat was UKIP’s top target in 2015 and they came within 2% of victory in a tight three-way race. Their candidate Tim Aker also scored 20% in 2017 despite the party being wiped out nationally. With no Akers or Brexit Party on the ticket this time, one must assume a bigger transfer to Tory incumbent Jackie Doyle-Price than Labour, who lost the last two elections by just 345 and 536 votes.
Former Tory leadership candidate Stephen Crabb came within 314 votes of a very surprising defeat last time, thanks to an impressive marshalling of anti-Tory voters by Labour. They will need to do so again and improve further in Welsh polls to compete in a fundamentally Tory seat – 55/45 Leave, 39% over 55, 69% homeowners. Crabb won it in their 2005 national defeat and they are dominant at Assembly level.