There are 650 seats up for grabs at the General Election. The vast majority of these seats will see the incumbent party remain in place. Even in Labour’s landslide 1997 victory, 70 per cent of constituencies remained unchanged. And so the attention naturally turns to seats that are in the balance.
To beat Ed Miliband, David Cameron must increase the Tory share of the vote from 2010. No government party has done this 1974. It is something neither Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher could achieve. Below are five seats that will be particularly important for the Conservative party come 7 May . The Party’s fortunes in these seats could well determine the its overall success.
Hampstead and Kilburn
England’s most marginal seat. The result will give us an excellent insight into the state of all three main parties. Retiring Labour MP and Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson won the tightest of majorities back in 2010, with a mere 42 votes separating her and the rival Tory candidate. The Lib Dems came in third only 841 votes behind Ms Jackson.
Up for the Conservatives this time around is Simon Marcus, who sat on the London riots panel, while Labour’s new candidate Tulip Siddiq became the first Bengali woman to serve on Camden Council as a councillor in 2010. The Quilliam Foundation’s controversial Maajid Nawaz (former member of the Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir, arrested in December 2001 in Egypt and imprisoned there until 2006) will be running for the Liberal Democrats.
Previously held by Labour since 1992, Dan Byles took the seat in 2010 when the Tories enjoyed an eight per cent swing in the constituency. If the polls before the general election suggest a lead for Labour, it is likely that this most marginal Tory seat in the country will go red again.
Nigel Farage was strangely quiet through the opening weeks of the New Year leading to rumours he was seriously unwell. In fact, he was campaigning hard, under the radar, in South Thanet.
The Conservative MP Laura Sandys won this seat in 2010 but she is now standing down. Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll suggests the seat will be tight while Survation see it a comfortable win for UKIP. Farage is now a national figure with a major profile he can use to benefit the constituency.
One important factor in South Thanet is that there are fewer young households than would be expected nationally and almost no student households. In times gone by this would have been good Tory territory. But defeat for the Tories here would show that many of these voters are turning to UKIP.
Sutton and Cheam
A traditionally Conservative seat that has been held by Paul Burstow and the Lib Dems since 1997. In light of the Liberal Democrat collapse in support in the current parliament, it would be easy to think that in 2015 the seat might finally tumble. But Lord Ashcroft’s most recent polling shows a swing of seven percent from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems, an extraordinary situation given the Lib Dems’ current predicament.
One of the most marginal seats in London, the Tories clung on in 2010 with a majority of just 100 votes. Hendon is a diverse seat with a lot of black and other ethnic minority voters – a group that the Conservative party has found hard to engage with in recent years. If Labour are to win the election this is the sort of seat they have to take.