The constituencies where Green votes threaten Labour

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  • Cleethorps
  • Colne Valley
  • Ealing Central and Acton
  • Finchley and Golders Green
  • Halesowen and Rowley Regis
  • Hornsey and Wood Green
  • Hove
  • Milton Keynes South
  • Norwich North
  • Pudsey
  • 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.

  1. Steve Peers says:

    This blog post makes it sound like you have gone through all the Ashcroft constituency polls for Labour/Tory or Lab/LD marginals where the Green vote is crucial. But you haven’t! I just went through A-C of his polls and got the following: (1) Brum Yardley, Lab 3% behind, Green 2%; 2) Blackpool Nth Lab 5% behind 2% Green; 3) Boston Lab 3% above UKIP, Green 3%; 4) Broxtowe Labour 9% lead, 4% Green; 5) Carmarthen West Labour 4% behind, 3% Green; 6) Crewe Lab 3% ahead, 1% Green; Croydon 4% Labour lead, 5% Green. And in Castle Point the Green vote is more than the Tory/UKIP difference. Could you please go through D-Z in his polls (I skipped the Scottish seats), update your analysis, and inform George Monbiot who is linking to this post?

    • Leo says:

      Hi Steve, thanks very much for the detailed and constructive comment. My list drew on the most recent 2 waves of Ashcroft (April) marginal polls, as I say. My rationale is, the squeeze on Greens and Ukip seems to be much stronger now than it was when the earlier constituency polls were done, so I’m less convinced that the findings in those are up-to-date. That said, I think you’re right – there are likely to be others that are close and where the Green vote could be important. I’ll update the post. Thanks, Leo

      • Steve Peers says:

        Thanks for your reply, Leo. Yes, there are signs that most of the 2-way marginals are tightening but we cannot be sure just how close all the other seats are which Ashcroft has not recently polled. The Green vote could therefore still be crucial in any of those seats. There’s also a margin of error, and as I said Ashcroft does not poll all seats. So I think unless the Labour lead or deficit is more than 10 points in a seat it’s not good advice to anyone interested in tactical voting against (or for!) Tories, UKIP or LibDems to vote Green. If someone objects to tactical voting on principle, fair enough.

  2. Steve Peers says:

    Here’s 12 more from D-M: 1) Dudley N Labour 3% lead over UKIP, 2% Green; 2) Dudley S Labour 4% behind, 4% Green; 3) Elmet Labour 4% behind, 3% Green; 4) Erewash 8% lead , 4% Green; 5) Gloucester Labour 4% lead, 3% Green; 6) Grimsby 1% lead over UKIP, 2% Green; 7) G Yarmouth, 3 way including UKIP; Labour 5% behind, 4% Green; 8) Labour 4% lead, 2% Green; 9) Ipswich 7% lead, 5% Green; 10) Keighley Labour 6% lead, 5% Green; 11) Labour 4% lead, 3% Green; 12) Morecambe Labour 6% lead, 5% Green;

  3. Steve Peers says:

    And a final 17 seats, making a total of 36 seats which you don’t list, where Labour could be affected by Green vote. Remember Ashcroft does not poll every marginal! 1) Bermondsey Labour 1% behind 5% Green: 2) Northampton N Labour 4% up 2% Green: 3) Nuneaton Labour 5% up 8% Green: 4) Pendle Labour 4% behind 4% Green: 5) Plymouth Moor View Labour 5% above UKIP, 2% Green: 6) Rother Valley Labour 6% up above UKIP 3% Green: 7) Sherwood Labour 9% up 4% Green: 8) S Basildon Labour 7% behind 3% Green – 3 way with UKIP: 9) Stevenage Labour 5% up 3% Green: 10) Stockton S Labour 5% up 1% Green: 11) S Thanet Labour 7% behind 3% Green – 3 way with UKIP; Labour behind 2% in later private poll: 12) Thurrock Labour 6% behind 2% Green – 3 way with UKIP: 13) Vale of Glamorgan Labour 6% behind 3% Green: 14) Warrington S Labour 8% up 3% Green: 15) Warwick Labour 5% up 7% Green: 16) Watford Labour 7% behind 3% Green: 17) Worcester Labour 6% up 7% Green. And in Wyre Forest Tories 5% up on UKIP, 5% Green. In total your advice could give 9 seats to UKIP instead of Labour, and overlooks 2 Tory;/UKIP 2-way marginals.

  4. Steve Peers says:

    I missed Cannock Chase – Labour 2% lead over UKIP, 5% over Tories, 2% Green vote.

  5. John Kelly says:

    No mention of Broxtowe in Notts where Nick Palmer (Lab) lost his seat to Ann Soubry (Con) in 2010 by a margin of 389 votes! The Greens polled 423 votes in that election! That could be a crucial margin in this election and should give pause for thought to those Greens who wish to keep out the Tory candidate.

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