Parliament affirmed yesterday Theresa May's call for a snap general election, by a majority of 522-13 to confirm the date as 8th June 2017, just 7 weeks from now. (As a result, the Manchester Gorton by-election has now been countermanded, or cancelled, the first by-election to be countermanded in 94 years. Predicted by-elections in Leigh and Liverpool Walton will also not take place either.)
Several MPs have already announced their retirement, including Birmingham Edgbaston's first (and so far only) Labour MP, Gisela Stuart, long-serving Southport Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Conservative MP for Tatton since 2001.
Current opinion polls show Labour trailing the Conservatives by as much as 20 percentage points, which would easily give the Conservatives a three-figure majority close to that achieved by Margaret Thatcher in 1983 (i.e. 144), even if the Liberal Democrats recapture some seats from the Conservatives (and even then, only a few are likely to fall to them). The more interesting battles are in seats Labour gained from the Conservatives in 2015, where the Greens have enough support to win, where the Liberal Democrats may make a comeback, and long-serving Labour seats that are looking vulnerable to the Conservatives for the first time in decades.
It is therefore best to first look at the ten seats Labour won from the Conservatives in 2015 and the eight seats the Conservatives won from Labour in 2015-can Labour hold any of their gains in spite of their current woes, and could one of the Conservative gains in 2015 buck the trend?
Labour gains from Conservative in 2015:
1. City of Chester. The City of Chester has been trending towards Labour for nearly 30 years now; before 1997 it had never elected a Labour MP at any time. The UKIP vote was also weak and the constituency voted Remain, which should give Labour the advantage. However, it may revitalise the Liberal Democrats to the point where they split the Labour vote and allow the Conservatives to recapture the seat; the Conservative vote is likely to remain stable in this seat at least given Chester's relative prosperity and Labour's knife-edge majority of 93 will almost certainly fall. Dead cert Conservative gain.
2. Lancaster & Fleetwood. The Greens will benefit more than the Liberal Democrats in this seat given their better organisation and stronger hold in Lancaster council, and the city of Lancaster is where Labour's vote should hold up. In the town of Fleetwood, however, Labour's vote is much more vulnerable and less sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn's stance. In light of this, and despite a weak UKIP vote, this constituency is likely to fall to the Conservatives, although Cat Smith has apparently been doing reasonably well. Likely Conservative gain.
3. Ealing Central & Acton. Of the ten constituencies here, this had the highest remain vote (67%) and the lowest UKIP vote in 2015 at 3.8%. Labour should theoretically be in a better position than most of the seats mentioned here, and possibly the Conservative vote here could actually fall. However, the high Remain vote also makes the Labour vote more vulnerable to even a minor comeback the Liberal Democrats given that most Labour MPs backed Brexit when the Article 50 trigger vote came around. Probable Conservative gain.
4. Brentford & Isleworth. Brentford & Isleworth is not too dissimilar from Ealing Central & Acton in demographic terms, and like Ealing Central & Acton it was a narrow Labour gain in 2015 from a Conservative incumbent. However, its Remain vote share (57%) was not as high as Ealing Central & Acton's was and the Conservative strongholds in Chiswick are more solid in spite of latent Green Party potential, although affluent Remainers may turn against the Conservatives slightly. Labour still remains vulnerable to some kind of Lib Dem revival as in Ealing Central & Acton. Likely Conservative gain.
5. Enfield North. Enfield North was quite a surprise Labour gain, given memories of Joan Ryan's involvement in the expenses scandal of 2009, but Enfield is trending away from the Conservatives as many Conservative voters are being pushed outside London by increasing house prices and living costs; the considerable Conservative majorities Tim Eggar achieved through his tenure will likely never be seen again here . Joan Ryan may see herself through once again, particularly if Nick de Bois declines to try to regain the seat. Probable Labour hold.
6. Ilford North. Ilford North was a safe Conservative seat in the past, but demographic changes in Redbridge, which saw Labour gain control of the council in 2014 for the very first time, are rapidly pushing this seat out of Conservative reach; Ilford North was the only Conservative seat Labour gained that Labour had not lost in 2010 (and a majority as high as 5,404 was overturned). Wes Streeting is also well-known (he was once NUS President) and as he is critical of Corbyn he can deflect social media attacks more easily than Labour candidates supportive of Corbyn. Reminiscent of Labour's situation in Battersea in 1992, it can be said. Likely Labour hold.
7. Wirral West. Like North London, Merseyside is losing Conservative support and votes in the long-term at a significant rate, as demonstrated before and after the now notorious Esther McVey won Wirral West in 2010, and particularly in 2015 in Wirral South, Sefton Central, and Southport. Labour will likely campaign hard to retain the seat and there are relatively few UKIP votes to grab in prosperous seats like this one. However, success for them is by no means certain and if Esther McVey does not stand here again, former Conservative voters may warm back to them. Probable Labour hold.
8. Wolverhampton South West. An important factor in this seat is that Labour MP Rob Marris has declared he will not stand in this snap election, eliminating any 'incumbency bonus'. Combined with its relatively average demographics and average Leave vote last year, and with many UKIP votes to squeeze, a Conservative recapture is almost assured. Dead cert Conservative gain.
9. Dewsbury. Of the ten seats Labour captured from the Conservatives in 2015, this had the highest Leave vote (based on ward estimates) in the EU membership referendum of 2016, and this will likely good news for the Conservatives, especially if Simon Reevell attempts to regain this seat. This seat also recorded the highest UKIP vote of the ten in 2015 (12.4% from a standing start) giving Labour almost no chance of holding the seat given that the Conservatives will likely work hard to squeeze that. Dead cert Conservative gain.
10. Hove. This seat is the most likely to buck the trend-the incumbent fits in well with Hove, the Conservative vote is unlikely to recover any time soon (and has been steadily getting worse locally), there is little Liberal Democrat organisation in Brighton & Hove to begin a revival, and the Remain vote was high. All in all, this is the most likely of Labour's gains to stay in the Labour column in 2015. Likely Labour hold.
Conservative gains from Labour in 2015:
1. Gower. This seat had the smallest majority of any seat at the 2015 general election-a 27 vote Conservative majority over Labour, achieved by former police officer Byron Davies, who was also born, raised and educated in Gower (this matters in suburban and rural seats). Byron has proved himself to have a particularly strong personal vote by Conservative standards even before he won Gower in 2015, and Wales is looking particularly bad for Labour psephologically. It may be a knife-edge majority but as North Warwickshire proved in 2015 (where a Conservative majority of 54 in 2010 increased to 2,973 in 2015 even when the incumbent MP retired) this will just make a tight contest tighter. Likely Conservative hold.
2. Derby North. Some of the blame for Labour's defeat can said to be attributed to its former incumbent, Chris Williamson, and apparently issues with organising postal votes: With relatively average demographics, including an overall Leave vote, the Conservatives should be able to hold this seat but this cannot be guaranteed, especially if the Liberal Democrats (who have reselected Lucy Care) can recover some of their lost votes. Likely Conservative hold.
3. Vale of Clwyd. When Chris Ruane lost this seat to local doctor James Davies in 2015, it clearly showed that Labour had not learned their lesson when it comes to appealing to small-town and rural voters-and if anything they will do worse among these types of voter under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, as like Michael Foot he is appealing mainly to metropolitan socialists above other types of voter. Flintshire and Denbighshire are also trending well towards the Conservatives. James also has a strong local background like Byron Davies which means he will have no problems holding this seat at present. Dead cert Conservative hold.
4. Morley & Outwood. Like Derby North, the previous Labour incumbent is partly to blame for their defeat, but non-London suburban seats like this one are favouring the Conservatives at present anyway. Andrea Jenkyns has not been a particularly good MP, but her background and recent coverage she achieved with the birth of her son will doubtless win many UKIP voters. On current polling she will likely achieve re-election, although that small majority will likely encourage Labour to make an effort. Likely Conservative hold.
5. Telford. When Lucy Allan gained Telford in 2015, she did not get off to a particularly good start, with allegations of bullying from former office staff, and this could count against her if it resurfaces for the 2017 general election. On the minus side for Labour, though, Telford is very typical of seats that are turning against Labour in the long-term and Theresa May will appeal well to voters in these seats with her current stance, and this former industrial town is doing well to maintain relative prosperity. Dead cert Conservative hold.
6. Bolton West. This is in many way's Greater Manchester's answer to Morley & Outwood, for it was a Conservative gain in 2015 and its demographics are not too dissimilar from Morley & Outwood's; it is also on the edge in metropolitan terms geographically. Chris Green, this seat's current MP, is not well known but this will make little difference to the outcome especially as it is in these seats where UKIP's inevitable unwind will benefit the Conservatives. Dead cert Conservative hold.
7. Plymouth Moor View. Labour have been neglecting many of their traditional voters in southern and eastern coastal seats, which was not only displayed in their loss of Plymouth Moor View in 2015 but also in increased Conservative majorities in seats such as Hastings & Rye and Waveney simultaneously. UKIP also polled particularly well in Plymouth Moor View and the incumbent's naval past (Johnny Mercer was once a Royal Navy captain) will appeal particularly well to those voters. and Labour have better chances in neighbouring Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, which is more favourable to them. Dead cert Conservative hold.
8. Southampton Itchen. This is similar to Plymouth Moor View on many levels-it has a prosperous and more progressive neighbour (Southampton Test), an incumbent who is well-respected and can appeal to soon to be ex-UKIP voters, a relatively high Leave vote, and traditional Labour voters turning against Labour. Royston Smith, a former Mayor of Southampton, obtained the largest majority of the Conservative MPs who gained a seat from Labour in 2015 and he will likely just sail through given issues within Southampton Labour itself. Dead cert Conservative hold.