Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Away from the coastal storm: inland eastern and south eastern England in 2015

Yesterday I looked at the coastal seats in the east and south east.  Now to look at the rest of these regions.

Away from the coast, the south east and the east are prosperous regions.  They are the second and fourth highest earning regions by GVA per head behind London (third highest is Scotland). Both regions have high employment, low crime and long life expectancy.  

Here are some basic facts about each region. Click on the pictures to enlarge them further:

Away from the coast, there are no very large towns.  Milton Keynes and Luton are the largest, each with about 250,000 people.  Both of these regions have London as their very large town, of course, and London dominates most of both of these regions economically and culturally.  Much of both of these regions is rural or semi-rural, so transport, fuel prices and agriculture are important subjects in these regions.  But these regions are populous.  Between them they have more than 14 million people, nearly a quarter of the population of the UK and nearly three times the population of Scotland.

Here are the remaining constituencies of interest in the east and south east England:

The Conservatives dominate here, holding all bar seven of these seats.  I have spared you the many Conservative seats which have not yet got markets - they all look utterly safe.

Once again, because these seats are primarily Conservative-held and all have some interest for the Conservatives (other than Oxford East, for which there is not yet a market), I have presented them as a Conservative battleground, ordered by odds on a Conservative victory.  As previously, the third column reflects the effect on the majority in Labour/Conservative marginals that would be had by allocating a quarter of the 2010 Lib Dem vote to Labour (the figure is derived by assuming that half will leave the Lib Dems and that these will break for Labour rather than the Conservatives in a 3:1 proportion).

The first thing to note is proportionately how few of these 97 seats are expected by bookies and punters to be of betting interest.  Only five of these seats have odds which suggest that they will change hands, with a sixth a toss-up.  Just two more have favourites with odds of 1/2 or longer.  The coastal seats had far more seats in play out of a much smaller number of seats.

The next thing to note is that UKIP are much less relevant in these seats, if the bookies are to be believed.  In the coastal seats, UKIP were rated 10/1 or less in seven out of 51 seats.  Inland, they are as short as 10/1 in only one seat, Basingstoke, and that looks like an utterly lousy bet.

But there are seats to bet on.  There's an underround in Bedford, where you can get 5/2 on the Conservatives and 4/7 on Labour.  Both of these look like value to me - I see this as a 2/1 plays 1/2 contest.  Note that the Lib Dems remain strong in Bedford, where they retained the Mayoralty in 2011, so they may well retain more of their vote next year than we will see elsewhere in seats where they placed third last time around.

Labour look too long in Northampton North at 8/11.  The Lib Dems polled well here last time and that vote is likely to break substantially in Labour's favour.  Labour should be at least as short as the 4/7 in Bedford and Ipswich.  I'm on this bet.

There are two seats where Labour are looking to win the seat from third: Cambridge where they are evens and Watford where they are 4/5 odds on favourite.  Parties rarely win seats from third and Labour therefore do not look good value in these seats.  By a process of elimination that means that the Lib Dems are good value in Cambridge at evens.  I'm also drawn to the 9/4 on the Conservatives in Watford.  This is a prosperous part of the country that is on the edge of the London economic phenomenon with a first time incumbent and where the Lib Dems remain strong.

For a longshot, you might consider the Greens in Norwich South at 25/1.  There's no particular reason to assume that deserting 2010 Lib Dems will break for Labour rather than the Greens in this seat and the seat has been trending away from Labour for a generation.  While the Greens seem to have faded a bit in Norwich in the last few years, this isn't a 25/1 shot.  When the Greens won Brighton Pavilion in 2010, they had a no better starting position from the 2005 election result.  Note that Norwich South is a student constituency.

6/1 on Labour in Reading East would be a respectable bet.  With a large 2010 Lib Dem vote to capitalise on, the challenge is less daunting than the nominal majority would suggest.  I haven't made this bet though because Labour has seemed to struggle to have its message heard in these prosperous areas of southern England outside London.  

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