Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Defenestration strategy

Almost time for "curry and Dimbleby night" chez Vole. Election nights are always something of an endurance sport but well worth staying up late to watch, especially on transition nights like this year when a few famous names are in the stocks ready for a pelting.

In 1997, seven members of the Cabinet lost their seats as the Conservatives suffered a meltdown. Michael Portillo (Defence), Malcolm Rifkind (Foreign), Ian Lang (Trade), Michael Forsyth (Scotland), William Waldegrave (Chief Secretary), Tony Newton (Leader of the House) and Roger Freeman (Duchy of Lancaster) were all sent packing, as well as notable former Cabinet ministers such as Norman Lamont and David Mellor. Not only out of office but out of a job as well.

I wonder how many members of the Labour Cabinet will be looking for new work come Friday morning. Some are in vulnerable seats, but it is hard to see more than a couple being chopped. With 100 Labour MPs deciding to stand down rather than face the electorate, opportunities for high-level scalps will be more limited than they were in 1997. The Hoons, Hewitts, Byers and Kellys of this world have left the stage early.

Here, though, is the Questing Vole's guide, with the help of the PA timetable of declaration times, of when you can expect to see "a Portillo moment" and when it is safe to go to bed.
  • 10pm Polls close
  • 11pm First announcement expected from Houghton and Sunderland South (Labour stronghold)
  • 12.45am Gisela Stuart was one of the early successes for Labour in 1997, but her Birmingham Edgbaston seat is vulnerable this time with a majority of 1,500.
  • 2am Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) is rated as only 50% likely to hold on to his seat, with the Conservatives the main challengers. Charles Clarke (Norwich South) has a majority of 3,653 and is expected to lose to the Lib Dems. Jack Straw (Blackburn) has been invisible this campaign. Has he been working hard to cling on to his 8,000-seat majority? It would take quite a swing and boundary changes have helped him. Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) would be a big loss for the Lib Dems. His majority is just over 1% but the polls are pushing his way.
  • 2.30am Jim Murphy (Renfrewshire East) has a majority of 6,500 but the Tories are expected to oust the Scotland Secretary in what has become a two-horse race. In Oxford East, Andrew Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, is expected to lose to the Lib Dems
  • 3am This is the one we all want to see: Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) has a notional majority of 8,669 in this new constituency, but momentum is swinging away from him. Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) has a majority of 10,000 but could go in a landslide. The Tories won't be gloating, though, if Oliver Letwin (Dorset West) loses his wafer-thin majority over the Lib Dems. This is also when we will find out how much of the vote Esther Rantzen has won in Luton South on an anti-sleaze ticket.
  • 3.30am Not a Cabinet post, but an interesting seat nonetheless. Brighton Pavilion has a Labour majority of under 6,000 but became a three-way marginal. Now the Greens think they can win it.
  • 4am John Denham (Southampton Itchen) has an interesting battle. If enough Lib Dems back the Tories, his 8,000-seat majority could be vulnerable on a bad night. Nick Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) has a majority of under 7,000 and is being pushed hard by the Lib Dems. Alastair Darling (Edinburgh South West) has a 60% chance of holding his seat but if things are going very badly...
  • Also at 4am In Poplar and Limehouse, George Galloway's decision to stand for the Respect party could cost Jim Fitzpatrick a seat that should be Labour heartlands. The Tories have a 7% lead over Labour in the polls there and Respect are taking 9%. Speaking of loony candidates, Nick Griffin will find out if he has won Barking for the BNP around now
  • Also also at 4am: Derby North is statistically interesting. It is the Tories Target Seat No 130 and is the one they need if they are to get an overall majority.
  • 5am The former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (Redditch) will have more time to spend with her husband's porn collection with her majority of under 3,000 in severe threat
  • 5.30am What could be a good night for the Lib Dems will be spoilt a little if Sarah Teather loses Brent Central. She is neck and neck with Dawn Butler (Lab) in this super-marginal. Will we all still be awake, though?

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