Eastern large urban areas

Six conurbations in the East of England are large enough to warrant two Members of Parliament. Since it is a loose rule of thumb that towns vote Labour, whilst the country goes for Tories, it is worth looking at the recent electoral history of these eleven seats. The East returns fifty-eight members to the Commons, of which just a pair, at present, are Labour. For a majority Labour Government to be elected next May some of this sea of blue must turn red.

2010 2005 2001 1997 1992 1987 1983
Basildon and Billericay** Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
South Basildon and East Thurrock++ Con Lab Lab Lab Con Con Con
Thurrock Con Lab Lab Lab Lab Con Lab
Central Suffolk and North Suffolk## Con Con Con Con
Ipswich Con Lab Lab Lab Lab Con Lab
Luton North Lab Lab Lab Lab Con Con Con
Luton South Lab Lab Lab Lab Con Con Con
Norwich North Con Lab Lab Lab Con Con Con
Norwich South LD Lab Lab Lab Lab Lab Con
Rochford and Southend East Con Con Con Con Con Con Con
Southend West Con Con Con Con Con Con Con

** Billericay up to and including 2005
++ Basildon up to and including 2005
## Did not exist before 1997

Many of these seats have stretches of countryside, and do not truly deserve the appellation ‘urban’, but it serves well enough for this illustration. However, these are largely urban, and the six towns represented here (Basildon, Thurrock, Ipswich, Luton, Norwich and Southend-on-Sea) are significant in this region.

The most obvious conclusion is that that loose rule (urban equals Labour) does not apply in the East of England. Southend-on-Sea is the only town in this list not to have returned a Labour MP, and whilst Rochford and Southend East does include a couple of villages (or small towns), Southend West is a compact urban seat, albeit a largely wealthy one. Southend West also avoids the town centre wards, which surely would have changed its electoral history had they been included in the constituency.

No seat has been exclusive Labour territory. Norwich South has only been won once by the Tories since the start of the eighties and with Ipswich and Thurrock shares the distinction of returning Labour MP in five of the last seven General Elections.

South Basildon and East Thurrock continued the weathervane characteristic of its previous incarnation, although UKIP’s influence may change that. In fact, UKIP is rather the joker in the pack in many of these seats, and should they maintain their one in six vote share all the way to May we will see some very curious declarations.

The Labour challenge is to persuade, to identify its support, to engage, and to ensure they actually vote. If Ed Miliband is PM next May then expect some of these seats to return to Labour. Whilst we could win without increasing our representation in this region, unlike the Conservatives we do aspire to be a party of all of Great Britain, reaching into all parts. The south and east, therefore, whilst not critical for success, must be important in establishing credibility. The Conservative failure in the north should not be mirrored by a Labour failure away from its heartlands.


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