Cicero Elections looks at UKIP’s 12 target seats for the next General Election and assesses the party’s chances.
UKIP’s top 12 target seats have allegedly been revealed. Supposedly, the total target list will contain 25 seats, but these 12 will receive the most resources and focus during the election campaign. The seats have reportedly been chosen after internal polling, and it is thought the party believes it can win 3-5 of them. Cicero Elections’ own research agrees with this statement, specifically in the seats of South Thanet and Thurrock.
Each of those seats provides a different reason for making the cut. Not only does South Thanet hold the correct demographic of voters, but UKIP will be able to benefit from Farage taking on a euro-sceptic Tory candidate who was pre-emptively parachuted in to head off the danger. Thurrock could have been chosen from May’s local election results alone after UKIP polled just under 40% across the constituency and polling since has showed little sign of that support dropping off.
In many of the seats, however, UKIP are chancing their hand. The Conservative seats such as Forest of Dean, Aylesbury, and Boston & Skegness all have majorities of over 10,000. The party’s strategy, therefore, will be depending on considerable drops in Conservative support.
Not to accuse UKIP of playing the man rather than the ball, but there are recurring themes amongst the MPs currently in the chosen seats: several are standing down and/or have received negative press coverage over the last couple of years.
Amongst the names is a former immigration minister sacked for hiring an illegal immigrant, an MP standing down because his £100,000+ salary is “intolerable”, and an MP who settled an indecent assault allegation out of court. This indicates that UKIP are looking to play on the theme that the current crop of MPs are out of touch and not good enough to represent the voters.
Cicero Elections is surprised not to see Dudley North, Walsall North and Amber Valley on the list. These are three marginal seats in which UKIP polled higher than 25% in the May local elections, and stand a better chance of success than, for example, targeting the Aylesbury seat of David Lidington MP, the Europe Minister whose majority alone is almost 24%.
Below Cicero Elections has looked at each of the 12 UKIP target seats and analysed the rationale behind each choice:
South Thanet – The flagship UKIP target seat. Nigel Farage will lead the UKIP charge by challenging the Conservatives in a constituency they only gained in 2010. With the Tory incumbent Laura Sandys MP standing down, the Conservatives have chosen Craig Mackinlay, who led UKIP in 1997, to defend the 7,000 majority.
Boston & Skegness – With the Tories holding a 12,000 majority, this seat will be a challenge to take, but incumbent Mark Simmonds has handed UKIP a PR gift by announcing that he was standing down because he found trying to live on his minister’s salary was “intolerable”, despite it being several times greater than the average UK income. Expect a UKIP campaign centred on ‘out of touch Tories’.
North Thanet – Another seat with a large Conservative majority (13,500), it’s possible that UKIP are hoping Farage-mania will creep across the border from South Thanet during the campaign. Sir Roger Gale, the eurosceptic incumbent has held the seat since 1983 and will feel that if he was able to see out the New Labour years, he should be able to withstand a UKIP assault.
Sittingborne and Sheppey – Current MP Gordon Henderson proved his campaigning ability with a 12.7% swing in 2010 to snatch this seat from Labour. Leaving school at 16, supporting the anti-EU ‘Better Off Out’, and proving himself to be a capable constituency MP raises questions about where UKIP see an opportunity to take this seat. Certainly a long shot.
Forest of Dean – Another scandal-hit incumbent, Tory Mark Harper resigned as Immigration Minister in February this year after it was revealed his cleaner was actually working illegally in the UK. Welcomed back into the fold in July with his appointment as Minister for Disabled People, the Tories can be expected to fight tooth and nail to support him.
Aylesbury – This seat may be seen as symbolic asUKIP openly gun for the Tories by targeting the seat of David Lidington, the Europe Minister. Lidington has comfortably held the seat for over twenty years so he won’t be too concerned by the threat, but the campaign against him will focus on his party’s performance on Europe rather than on his performance as a constituency MP.
Great Yarmouth – With the Tories holdinga relatively slim 5,000 majority over Labour, they will be more concerned about a split vote handing the seat to the opposition than UKIP gaining the constituency. However, with intelligence indicating that UKIP’s manifesto will be looking to appeal to Labour supporters as well, Farage’s party will be planning to surge through the middle, taking votes from both sides.
East Worthing and Shoreham – Another constituency that fits what appears to be the UKIP target seat template: a white middle-aged Tory incumbent who’s received negative press and with a low five figure majority. The Liberal Democrats were runner-up in this seat in 2010 so UKIP will feel that if they can split the Tory vote, they’ll stand a chance of stealing the seat.
Thurrock – If the May local elections held in Thurrock were to elect their MP, UKIP would have taken the seat with just under 40% of the vote. UKIP are playing another of their aces by putting forward Tim Aker MEP, the head of the party’s policy unit, to storm the constituency. With the Conservatives protecting a majority of only 92 votes, UKIP just need to repeat their performance from a year earlier to win the seat. [Thurrock has a full constituency profile as a part of our database on the Top 40 most marginal seats].
Great Grimsby – Yet another constituency where the incumbent shares traits with other MPs whose seats are on this list: standing down, male, white, and middle-aged. However, this seat stands out as the only Labour one on the list. However, UKIP’s polling will be telling them that the constituents are feeling ignored by Westminster, hurt by EU fishing policies and unable to relate to metropolitan politics. [Great Grimsby has a full constituency profile as a part of our database on the Top 40 most marginal seats].
UKIP’s candidate, Victoria Ayling, ran for the seat as a Conservative in 2010, gaining 6.7% but falling short by just 700 votes. She’s since switched to UKIP and will be hoping to bring over enough of the Tory support from the last election to pull her over the finish line second time around.
Eastleigh – The by-election triggered by Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne’s resignation in 2013 saw UKIP surge past the Tories into second place with 27.8% of the vote, falling just four points short of the victorious Lib Dems. When that by-election took place, national polling showed the Lib Dems on 11%, leading UKIP by two points; much has changed and UKIP have since overtaken the Clegg’s party to lead them by six points.
Portsmouth South – UKIP will be circling this constituency like a shark. The incumbent MP is disgraced former Lib Dem Mike Hancock. The Liberal Democrats didn’t cover themselves in glory with their handling of the indecent assault allegations set against Hancock and the Tories have struggled to establish themselves in the constituency. The UKIP candidate, Douglas Denny, has already been criticised for homophobic comments but the party will still be hoping to benefit from a strong protest vote. One expects a strong, potentially dirty fight over this seat, especially if Hancock stands as an independent.
Stat Watch –
Of the 12 seats: Nine are Conservative, two are Liberal Democrat, one is Labour
One quarter of the incumbent MPs whose seats are on the list are standing down in 2015. For context, one in ten MPs are currently standing down across parliament.
Average age of incumbent MPs whose seats are on the list: 56.8 years old, compared to the parliamentary average of 50.
Average incumbent majority to be overcome: 7,603.