Since the Green vote share started picking up there’s been a series of articles on the constituencies where they apparently threaten Labour. I’ve looked at the numbers to see how likely the Greens really are to stop Labour gaining seats.
Across three articles I’ve seen 19 seats where the demographics are supposed to be favourable for the Greens. Ashcroft has polled 11 of them and we can make a pretty good guess about most of the rest.
In four of these seats, the Greens are indeed likely to threaten Labour*. In the other 15, the Green vote doesn’t look like it’ll affect the winner:
First there’s Brighton Pavilion, which looks like a safe Green hold. In December they were 10pts up.
The Ashcroft polls point to Labour gains in:
- Cardiff Central (12pts up in September)
- Cardiff North (11pts up in July)
- Manchester Withington (34pts up in June)
- Norwich South (15pts up in June)
- Stroud (11pts up in August)
They suggest Labour currently has narrower leads in:
- Brighton Kemptown (4pts up in October; Ukip on 13%, Greens on 10%)
- Hove (6pts up in April; Ukip on 5%, Greens on 9%)
- Norwich North (1pt up in Feb; Ukip on 15%, Greens on 20% – I’d expect the Green vote to fall and largely go to Labour here, but it’s still close)
The Lib Dems look safe in Cambridge (9pts up in March).
Ashcroft hasn’t polled the others where the Greens are expected to do well. Of these, four look like safe Labour holds:
- Newcastle-upon-Tyne East (4.5k majority over Lib Dems)
- Sheffield Central (165 majority over Lib Dems – newly elected Labour MP in 2010, so may benefit from incumbency)
- Tooting (2.5k majority over Tories)
- York Central (6.5k majority over Tories)
The Tories will probably hold Wimbledon (11.4k majority) and the Lib Dems will probably hold Leeds North West (9.1k majority).
That leaves three constituencies, out of the 19 where the demographics are supposed to be favourable to them, where the Greens might do well and could threaten Labour gains:
- Bristol North West, where the Tories have a 3.2k lead over the Lib Dems and a 6k lead over Labour. This could well be a Labour gain, though that could be prevented if enough 2010 Lib Dems go to the Greens.
- Bristol West, the main Green target for a gain. The Lib Dems are defending a 11.4k lead over Labour (26.6k to 15.2k); the Tories are third on 10.2k. Without constituency polling it’s hard to know who will win.
- Colne Valley, where the February Ashcroft poll put the parties on: Con 33; Lab 32; LD 12; Ukip 11; Green 10. The latest wave of constituency polling has showed both Greens and Ukip losing disproportionate support in marginals across the country, as the bigger local parties focus the message that only they can win there. That doesn’t clarify things much in Colne Valley though, where Ukip and the Greens are so close.
So of these 19 seats, the Greens will probably win one of them, and may threaten a Labour win in the other three.
But these are just the seats where the Greens are expected to do well; they aren’t the only ones where the Greens could swing the result.
There are a far larger number of other marginal seats across the country, where Labour are in contention. For example, looking just at the 20 Labour-Tory battlegrounds that Ashcroft polled for April:
In about half, the Tories are on course to hold the seats with leads bigger than the Green vote, so I don’t think the Green vote will change much there.
However in others, the race is close enough for Green votes to make a difference. In Pudsey, the poll shows a Labour-Tory tie, with 6% planning on voting Green. The same applies in both Rossendale and Darwen and South Ribble (2% Green in both). In Cleethorps, the Tories are 2pts up (3% Green); in both Finchley and Golders Green and Milton Keynes South, Labour are 2pts up with the Greens on 4%.
And George Monbiot today listed 16 constituencies where he warned a Green vote could stop Labour beating the Tories or Lib Dems.
We’ve seen five of them already. Of the others, Ashcroft’s polls suggest Labour is comfortably ahead, by more than the Green vote, in two (City of Chester; Plymouth Sutton and Devonport). Labour also look to be far ahead in Hornsey and Wood Green, though Lib Dem polls that identify the candidates by name put it much closer, so the Green vote could still be important.
In three, Ashcroft’s polls point to a narrow Labour lead (Ealing Central and Acton; Southampton Itchen; Wirral West); and three are essentially tied (Halesowen and Rowley Regis; Sheffield Hallam; South Swindon). The remaining two (Watford; Worcester) look like safe Tory holds.**
Upshot is, this quick search has found around 19 seats (depending on where you draw the line) where Green votes might stop Labour winning – only four of which are those that have been pointed out as demographically strong seats for the Greens. The threat to Labour isn’t just in the liberal and students seats.
As comments to this article have pointed out, there are plenty more than the seats I’ve mentioned here – essentially every seat that’s very close, where Labour’s in with a shot and the Green vote isn’t insignificant. But to give a flavour, Labour gains look to at risk from the Greens in:
- Brighton Kemptown
- Bristol North West
- Bristol West
- Colne Valley
- Ealing Central and Acton
- Finchley and Golders Green
- Halesowen and Rowley Regis
- Hornsey and Wood Green
- Milton Keynes South
- Norwich North
- Rossendale and Darwen
- Sheffield Hallam
- South Ribble
- South Swindon
- Southampton Itchen
Wirral West (15 Apr: Peter Cranie has pointed out that the Greens have decided not to field a candidate here, along with in 4 other Labour targets)
Note: this article was updated on 16 April to emphasise (in response to comments) that most of the seats where the Greens threaten Labour are generally not those where the demographics favour the Greens, but rather, those that are marginal anyway – and that this isn’t an exhaustive list of those seats.
* This rests on the assumption that Green voters would generally prefer Labour in a choice between them and the Tories. It certainly isn’t the case for all of them. But, for example in the latest Colne Valley constituency poll 60% would prefer Labour in government (majority or coalition) vs 40% for the Lib Dems and 23% for the Tories. In the Norwich North poll, it was 73% Labour; 41% Lib Dems and 22% Tory. So in a Lab-Con marginal, roughly 40-50% of the Green vote could be considered net ‘lost’ Labour votes; while in a Lab-LD marginal, it would be about 20-30%.
** The Ukip vote in nearly all of these seats is larger than the Green vote (excluding those where the Greens are expected to do well). And in three of the marginals (Harrow East, Kingswood and Stockton South), the Ukip vote is greater than the Labour lead. So for most of them, you could more easily make the case that Ukip voters are stopping the Tories winning than that Green voters are stopping Labour winning.