Election 2015: decapitations unlikely

Election 2015: decapitations unlikely

The next election may or may not bring a change of government. But there is very little chance of voters removing the Conservative front bench. The Liberal Democrats, however, may be looking for some new front line stars.

In 2010, when the Conservatives were at their most bullish, there was talk of a ‘decapitation strategy’, aimed at unseating famous Labour figures like Ed Balls. In the event, the national swing was smaller than Tories hoped, and Mr Balls crept home with a 1,100 majority.

The lack of a ‘Portillo moment’ was a disappointment more than made up for by a return to Government; in 1992’s otherwise disastrous election Labour had to console themselves by seeing Chris Patten losing his Bath constituency, and that to a Liberal Democrat.

This time around, Labour would do well to shelve any ideas of knocking out the big guns. Electoral Calculus estimates that 14 of the Cabinet have a 90% or better chance of retaining their seat, with Theresa May (Maidenhead) and Jeremy Hunt (Surrey South West) leading the way on 98%.

Two Conservatives attending Cabinet with mild electoral worries are Sajid Javid, whose chances of holding Bromsgrove are put at 64.9%, and David Jones in Clwyd West (58%). Nicky Morgan faces a real challenge in winning Loughborough, where her 3,700 majority is, according to the algorithm, due to convert to a Labour gain.

The senior Liberal Democrats, however, look much less comfortable. Of their MPs who attend cabinet, Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam) and David Laws (Yeovil), due to a fragmented local opposition, should remain safe with predicted majorities still over 10%.

Vince Cable in Twickenham should, according to the prediction, retain a reduced but appreciable majority, while his neighbour Ed Davey in Kingston and Surbiton is predicted to have a vanishingly small majority – in other words too close to call.

Danny Alexander’s seat in Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey is hugely under threat from the SNP, which Electoral Calculus suggests is the party most likely to win. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury may well be looking for other things to do after the election.

That the most important MPs are in safe constituencies is not altogether surprising: the most talented tend to get marked out for party strongholds, and once there, their prominence and (sometimes) popularity makes defending the territory easier. There may also be an element of the well-to-do Tories from the true blue Shires rising to the top of the party, meaning the selection pool for Cameron cabinets is self-perpetuating.

Whatever the reason, the Conservatives can deploy some of their top talent in other marginal seats knowing the home front is protected. Lib Dems do not have this luxury.

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