Thursday, May 06, 2010


I'm writing this late on Wednesday night for publication just after the polls close on Thursday. Throughout this campaign, I've been cautious about making forecasts about outcomes, because I was not going to even risk being responsible for a Manish Sood moment, where some inconsequential chatter gets blown out of all proportion by an exceptionally biased media, working to a particular agenda - however lowly my position in the party (and believe me, it is lowly).

This hasn't been an election where we are looking to make gains - the wagons have been circled around what we have and we've been fighting a rearguard action to defend the sustainable majorities. So, here are my predictions for the outcome in Birmingham and Solihull

Birmingham Edgbaston - Conservative GAIN
A must win for the Tories. There's been a whole pile of money and effort expended here, so they expect to win - if they don't, then they aren't going to form a majority government. Gisela is a survivor and I would not be surprised if she managed to hold on, but I'm not being hopeful.

Birmingham Hall Green - Liberal Democrat GAIN
A brutal, three-cornered fight here, with the sitting Labour MP, Roger Godsiff, fighting on redrawn boundaries. Last time out, the Labour vote in my home ward of Fox Hollies delivered him his majority, but we're not there this time. Salma Yacoob for RESPECT is reputed to be in with a chance, but I can't see that she'll get any serious vote share from the Hall Green/Moseley end of the constituency. Cllr Jerry Evans is running for the Liberal Democrats and Roger's success depends upon the anti-Labour vote dividing neatly between RESPECT and the Liberals. This could be close. If Evans doesn't win, I'd also predict that this one will end up in the courts. Post-election, this has continued potential as a very interesting seat to watch.

Birmingham Selly Oak - Labour HOLD
Nigel Dawkins is fighting this one for the Tories and has put out the usual range of nice, colour glossy leaflets - as is the way for the Conservatives these days. He's up against Steve McCabe who is a doughty campaigner. Tough one to call, but I think Steve will just about scrape through.

Birmingham Northfield - Labour HOLD
Young new Tory candidate backed by a full slate of Tory councillors, but I suspect that Richard Burden will hold on here. He's well-liked locally, so this should carry him into another term as MP.

Birmingham Erdington - Labour HOLD
In my view, the biggest majority in Birmingham was under threat until Sion Simon stood down and Jack Dromey was nominated in his place. With the extra punch of the union behind him, Jack should have been able to mobilise sufficient support and should retain the seat, but I'd expect a reduced majority.

Birmingham Ladywood - Labour HOLD
Ayoub Khan is fighting this one hard for the Liberal Democrats, but I can't see him overturning the Labour majority and we'll send a fine young Muslim woman MP to parliament to represent the people of Ladywood.

Birmingham Perry Barr - Labour HOLD
No change, Khalid should be returned as an MP.

Birmingham Hodge Hill - Labour HOLD
Liam has been an excellent local constituency MP as well as doing his ministerial work, so that should pay off as he holds back the yellow peril.

Sutton Coldfield - Conservative HOLD
Much as Rob Pocock tries, this one isn't going to shift in a hurry. Sutton is almost irredeemably Conservative. Still, at least it means we know where they all are.

Birmingham Yardley - Liberal Democrat HOLD
Painful, but I don't think we've got the message out well enough to counter the influence of a multi-millionaire MP and a dozen loyal councillors. Sorry. We have a good candidate in the shape of Lynette Kelly, but I can't see this one coming home.

Solihull - Liberal Democrat HOLD
Bit of a surprise this one - for months, I thought that this was a dead cert for a Tory win. Technically, it has been regraded as a Conservative seat as the boundary changes instil a notional majority, but rumours indicate that the Liberals think that they may have held it. Betting against an incumbent Liberal is always a dangerous prospect and I'm tipping Lorely Burt to hold it against the onslaught of a very well-funded Tory campaign - I've heard figures of over £70,000 spent on the campaign, with dozens of glossy, colour leaflets hitting doormats across the constituency on a weekly basis. Perhaps the influence of Lord Cashcroft has actually had a negative effect on the electorate.

Meriden - Conservative HOLD
Nannygate Spelman should hang on in here, weighing her majority, but there are a couple of flies in the ointment. Nikki Sinclaire, formerly of UKIP, is running here on an independent ticket and has gained a good deal of support over the issue of the travellers and their attempts to build their own campsite by the A45, which has been seized upon by her and the local independents. The Tories have missed a trick here and while it won't cost Spelman her seat, her majority may well take a hit.

For months, my private view is that this election would result in a joyless transition to a Conservative government with a small majority under 30. The campaign has made a hung parliament much more likely, although I'd still expect the Tories to be the largest party and to want to try to govern solo as a minority government. I can't see the Liberal Democrats joining in coalition with them unless some serious concessions are made on the prospect for voting reform, but neither can I see the Liberals propping up a Labour government that had failed to win a larger share of seats in the House. I suspect that the Tories will collect around 300 seats, just short of an overall majority and I would also suggest that this means we will be back here either in the autumn or early next year for another election, almost certainly with a new leader of the Labour party.

Of course, this is all up for grabs. I've never come across so many people who really aren't sure how they are going to cast their vote. This could go one of several ways - they may just be so indecisive that they end up not voting at all, they might go into the polling booth and choose the 'change' option - regardless of how vague that premise actually is - or they might decide to stick with the devil that they know rather than picking an unknown incarnation. Frankly, if anyone tells you that they know how this is going to pan out, they are lying to you. This will be a fascinating election - certainly the most interesting since 1992 and probably since the early 1970s.

As the ancient Chinese curse is reputed to go - may you live in interesting times.

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