Seats to watch

Big Issue North has reported on 14 seats in the run-up
to the general election. How will they fare?

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As the exit poll predicts the Conservatives to be the largest party, but not necessarily with an overall majority, here are 14 key northern seats to watch.

Sheffield Hallam
Nick Clegg is defending a majority of only 2,353 and tuition fees remain toxic for him in this affluent seat, where 20 per cent of the electorate are students at the city’s two universities, and many more are ex-students still paying off student debt. Labour challenger is Jarad O’Mara.

Cooper’s 3,244 majority is at stake in Burnley

The seat changed hands in 2015 when the Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle was beaten by the leader of the Labour group on the local council, Julie Cooper. This time round Birtwistle and Cooper are again slogging it out, with Cooper’s 3,244 majority at stake.

Lancaster and Fleetwood
Corbyn ally Cat Smith, from the 2015 intake, insisted most people are voting for their local MP, not a national leader, as she defends only a 1,265 majority from previous MP, Conservative candidate Eric Ollerenshaw. Now she’ll be hoping for her leader’s halo effect.

Great Grimsby
Labour’s Melanie Onn held what used to be Austin Mitchell’s seat in 2015 against a Ukip challenge where they nearly pushed the Tories into third place. Where will that vote go now?

Thirsk and Malton
Big rural constituency that’s naturally Conservative, but MP Kevin Hollinrake supports fracking in the area. When the general election was announced there were discussions about fielding a single anti-fracking candidate, given that their combined votes in 2015 came within a whisker of the Conservatives’ total. But the idea was given short shrift by a couple of the parties.

Held by Labour’s John Woodcock since 2010, his 795 majority is vulnerable to a 2 per cent Conservative swing. The main issue locally is the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent since the submarines are built in Barrow. Questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s and Labour’s commitment have huge implications for the 6,500 people employed in the shipyard.

Labour’s Holly Lynch has a majority of just 428 (1 per cent) over the second place Conservatives, whose poll lead nationally would be more than enough to unseat her if reflected on 8 June. But with no Green and Respect candidates standing against Lynch this time she may garner enough votes to survive.

Harrogate & Knaresborough
A one-time Liberal Democrat stronghold, in 2010 it fell to Conservative Andrew Jones, who went on to push his majority above 16,000 at the last election. But the constituency voted 51 per cent to 49 per cent to remain in Europe and Helen Flynn of the Lib Dems is campaigning hard on her party’s commitment to a second referendum.

Simon Danczuk was MP from 2010 but his controversial personal life earned him the sack as Labour candidate. Danczuk is now standing as an Independent against the party’s replacement, Tony Lloyd, a former police and crime commissioner and interim mayor of Greater Manchester. At the last election Danczuk had a 12,442 majority.

Wirral West
In 2015 Margaret Greenwood had a majority of just 417 over the Conservative candidate, former TV presenter Esther McVey, who as employment minister was held responsible for the unpopular bedroom tax and cuts to disability benefits and is now Tory candidate in George Osborne’s former seat Tatton. With no Ukip candidate this time round it may be hard for Greenwood to retain hers.

Labour’s Steve Clapcote campaigning in Shipley

Sophie Walker (pictured, main image) of the Women’s Equality Party has come 200 miles from her home and family in London to make a very large point. She is trying to unseat Philip Davies, MP since 2005, who’s a sort of Conservative version of Labour’s maverick backbencher Dennis Skinner, the Beast of Bolsover. Walker, calls Davies the Sexist of Shipley.

The closest electoral battle in the north is in Chester, where Labour’s Chris Matheson is defending a majority of just 93. The city may look affluent but housing estates like Blacon and Lache have made Chester into a two-way marginal between Labour and Conservatives. He is pitched against Will Gallagher, a former special advisor to justice secretary Chris Grayling.

On paper it looked like Mary Creagh’s seat might fall to the Conservative candidate Antony Calvert, who came second in 2015. That’s because Ukip has decided not to contest Wakefield despite getting almost 8,000 votes last time. Creagh was a Remainer but her city wasn’t.

Photos: Roger Ratcliffe

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