In a year’s time, on May 7th 2015, voters in Brighton and hove will go to the polls to choose who represents them in Parliament and who runs the city council. Until 2007 Labour led the council, and until 2010 they had a thirteen year unbroken run of wins in all three parliamentary constituencies. So how well-placed are Labour to win back seats from the Tories and Greens?
Simon Kirby has a 3.1% majority – just 1,328 votes – in Brighton Kemptown. If Kirby and the Tories lose just 600 votes to UKIP, and Labour gain just 600 votes from the
7,700 people who voted Lib Dem and the 2,330 people who voted Green, then Nancy Platts becomes the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, which is number 25 on Labour’s list of target seats.
The Tories lost a thousand votes to UKIP in one Kemptown constituency ward last May. Nationally, 35% of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 now say they will vote Labour. Locally, polls show Labour’s vote is up 6% on 2011.
In Hove and Portslade, the Tories’ Mike Weatherley has a 3.7% majority – just 1,868 votes. Even in the unlikely event that the Tories hold their 2010 vote, losing none to UKIP, Labour need less than two in ten of the 8000 people who voted Lib Dem, and the 2,500 who voted Green, to vote Labour for Peter Kyle to become the MP. Hove is number 28 on Labour’s list of target seats. Again, 35% of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 now say they will vote Labour. Locally, Labour’s vote is up 6% on 2011.
In Brighton Pavilion the Green Party’s sole MP Caroline Lucas has the smallest majority in the city – just 1,250 votes, or 2.4%. The ComRes poll last year shows that the Green vote in the city has plummetted by a third, but even if this were not the case and she held on to every vote she won in 2010, Labour only needs around one in seven of the 7000 people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 to vote Labour for Purna Sen to win. Polls suggest more than three in ten will.
In reality, whilst some who won’t vote Green in the council elections will stick with Lucas, many will return to Labour. Last July’s huge swing from Green to Labour in the Hanover & Elm Grove by-election shows how far the Green vote has fallen, and how many voters are returning to Labour. Pavilion is Labour’s 19th top target seat.
On the same day there are elections for Brighton and Hove City Council, which currently has a minority Green administration. In 2011 Labour added 7% to it’s vote citywide, scoring just 1% less of the vote (under 2000 votes) than the Greens, and finished first or second in all but four of the city’s 21 wards, putting it in a prime position to make big gains. Ten Green councillors have majorities of 250 votes or less.
Again, last year’s BBC/ComRes poll suggests Labour are well ahead of both the Tories and the Greens, who are both losing support. There are 12,000 Lib Dem votes up for grabs; with national polling again suggesting more than a third have switched to Labour.
The two universities in the city are widely credited with having helped the Greens over the top in both 2010 and 2011; however new polling shows a massive Labour lead amongst student voters.
A swing of anything like the one seen in Hanover would see Labour taking around a dozen seats from the Greens alone, leaving them close to the 28 needed for an overall majority, something no party has achieved on the current seats and boundaries since they were established in 2003. Labour will also be targetting many Tory-held council seats across the city, looking to add to the five gains made in 2011. Having local elections on the same day as the General Election will almost certainly boost the Labour turnout compared to a “normal” set of council elections.
None of this should suggest Labour can be or should be complacent. we will campaign for every vote in every part of every ward and every constituency. Labour must show it has the policies, the leadership and the competence to win the support and trust of residents, and subsequent posts will set out how we will do that.