Labour’s 1992 Performance

In our last post we looked at what kind of position the Conservative party was in now compared to their last election win 21 years ago. Our follow up is to see what kind of position Labour were in at the same election. 

Below are the most marginal 20 Labour-held seats in 1992 and their result in 2010:

Constituency Name Lab Maj 1992 2010 Result
Rossendale and Darwen 120 Con Maj 4493
Birmingham Yardley 162 Lib Dem Maj 3002
Warrington South 191 Con Maj 1553
Ipswich 265 Con Maj 2079
Ilford South 402 Lab Maj 11297
Halifax 478 Lab Maj 1472
Southampton Itchen 551 Lab Maj 192
Cambridge 580 Lib Dem Maj 6792 (Lab 3rd)
Birmingham Northfield 630 Lab Maj 2782
Dewsbury 634 Con Maj 1526
Pembroke 755 Con Maj 3423
Lewisham East 1095 Lab Maj 6216
Thurrock 1172 Con Maj 92
Coventry South East 1311 Lab Maj 3845
Greenwich 1357 Lab Maj 10153
Stockport 1422 Lab Maj 6784
Hampstead and Highgate 1440 Lab Maj 42
Warwickshire North 1454 Con Maj 54
Cannock and Burntwood 1506 Con Maj 3195

*by election in 2011.

These results are surprising. The Conservatives won 30 fewer seats in 2010 than in 1992, yet here they are holding Labour held 1992 seats. Even further down the list, there are seats like Pendle which were Labour held in 1992, but had a healthy Conservative win in 2010.

So is Labour’s challenge greater than it appears? Perhaps not. They will be extremely confident in winning the majority of these 20 seats at the next election. Birmingham Yardley is the only Liberal Democrat constituency in the West Midlands where Labour are 2nd, and they would fully expect to take it if they are making gains on the night. Cambridge is tougher, but certainly possible if the student vote does turn on the Lib Dems. 

With regards to the Conservative held seats on this list, Labour would expect to take every one of them if there is a decent sized uniform swing to them on the night. However, 10 gains from this list of 20 would be a good start- but would only take Labour up to 268 seats- still 58 short of a majority. Where are the other Labour gains coming from?

Let’s have a look at the top 58 Labour targets for 2015:

1 North Warwickshire
2 Thurrock
3 Hendon
4 Cardiff North
5 Sherwood
6 Norwich South
7 Stockton South
8 Broxtowe
9 Lancaster & Fleetwood
10 Bradford East
11 Amber Valley
12 Waveney
13 Wolverhampton SW
14 Marcambe & Lunesdale
15 Carlisle
16 Stroud
17 Weaver Vale
18 Lincoln
19 Brighton Pavillion
20 Plymouth Sutton & Devonport
21 Dewsbury
22 Warrington South
23 Brent Central
24 Bedford
25 Brighton Kemptown
26 Pudsey
27 Brentford & Isleworth
28 Hove
29 Enfield North
30 Hastings & Rye
31 Manchester Withington
32 Burnley
33 Ipswich
34 Dundee East
35 East Dunbartonshire
36 Halesowen & Rowley Regis
37 Nuneaton
38 Gloucester
39 Northampton North
40 Bury North
41 Kingswood
42 Erewash
43 Blackpool North & Cleveleys
44 City of Chester
45 Arfon
46 Croydon Central
47 Worcester
48 Keighley
49 Wirral West
50 Cannock Chase
51 Loughborough
52 Harrow East
53 Warwick & Leamington
54 Birmingham Yardley
55 South Swindon
56 Ealing Central & Acton
57 Pendle
58 Stevenage

Labour’s most marginal seat from 1992, Rossendale and Darwen, does not even appear (it’s actually 70th on their list). Is this good news for the Conservatives? Have Labour gone backwards from 1992? 

This is not the case. All that has happened is that Labour’s potentially winnable seats has spread far further afield. Look for example at a seat like Broxtowe- 8th on Labour’s target list. In 1992, the Conservatives had a majority of 9,891- not even considered to be a marginal seat. Waveney, 12th on the Labour target list, had a majority for the Conservatives of 6,702 in 1992.

What can we conclude from this? The most obvious thing is that Labour are, since their 1997 landslide, ‘in play’ in far more seats than they were in 1992. Their wins in 1997 (and the huge majority of them again in 2001) has allowed Labour to build bases and entrench candidates that have been very hard to move, even at the height of their unpopularity in 2010. This is very worrying for the Conservatives, backing up the previous article showing the scale of their challenge at the next election. Labour will be able to very effectively target seats that they lost at the last election, due to already having made big impacts in them in the 1997 election. 

How can the Conservatives reverse this? Sadly for them, their only hopes of a landslide victory evaporated comprehensively in 2010, when they failed to even win an outright majority against a hugely unpopular prime minister. Their best hope is to try to embed themselves as best as they can in the 306 seats they won in 2010 and hope that they can build up a strong enough base to build from for the election after next. 

Hopefully, these two posts have shown how the Conservatives are in a far weaker position then they were last time they won a majority. It is still perfectly possible for the polls to turn around, and the Conservatives to be the largest party again- nobody could deny the impact of potential ‘events’. But from a mathematical standpoint, they are fighting an uphill battle- any reasonable swing to Labour at the next election (which seems hugely likely) is going to result in a very unhappy Conservative party.

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