Election 2015 England

General Election 2015: Cheshire's key constituencies

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Media captionBBC North West political editor Arif Ansari's guide to the general election

The stereotypical view of Cheshire is that it is full of leafy country lanes and luxury sports cars parked outside sprawling palatial mansions.

With this in mind, is it the perfect natural habitat for Conservatives?

If you look at a map of the county, it certainly appears to be true blue, with the main exception of the western fringes which border Merseyside.

When you look behind the numbers, though, Labour seems to have a good chance of painting more of Cheshire red.

The constituency of Weaver Vale is currently held, with a majority of 991, by Graham Evans for the Conservatives.

Whilst his party may feel at home in Tory-leaning areas like Frodsham and its rural hinterland, his biggest challenge comes from the part of his patch which includes Runcorn, where Labour have all but five of the 56 seats on the local council.

Image caption Runcorn is one of the more Labour-leaning areas in the Weaver Vale constituency which will be a Labour target

Most of Runcorn and neighbouring Widnes are served by the traditionally safe Labour seat of Halton.

That constituency, as well as Ellesmere Port and Neston and Warrington North include areas of considerable deprivation.

Warrington South, where the Conservatives' David Mowat is defending a majority of 1,553, is also a key target for Labour.

But in 2010 the Liberal Democrat vote meant the seat was a three-way marginal, and the continued popularity of the party in local council elections over the last four years adds another element of uncertainty.

If Labour don't take the likes of Warrington South and Weaver Vale, their chances of being the biggest party in Westminster after the general election on 7 May look very shaky.

The City of Chester, meanwhile, is the kind of seat Labour needs to secure in order to have any hope of gaining an outright majority.

Tory Stephen Mosley has a majority of 5.5% but the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft's polls in the city are looking good for Labour.

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Image caption Conservative MP Stephen Mosley took the Chester seat from Labour's Christine Russell in 2010

Lord Ashcroft predicted they would take the seat with a lead of 1% back in October, but a few weeks ago he had them leading with 11% - so high that local Conservatives wrote it off as a rogue poll.

The Green Party does not have a history of electoral representation in Cheshire, but across the west of the county it will be hoping to capitalise on the controversy surrounding a number of sites given licenses for hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

There will not be much of a media focus on the safe Tory seats of Macclesfield or Chancellor George Osborne's Tatton, where he enjoys a majority of more than 14,000.

Edward Timpson even looks relatively safe in Gwyneth Dunwoody's former Labour stronghold of Crewe and Nantwich.

But in Congleton and the mostly rural constituency of Eddisbury the focus may not be on the 2015 general election but that of 2020.

UKIP say they have high hopes of coming second in these seats, helped by a combination of disaffected Tories and traditional Labour voters voting tactically in the aim of upsetting the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems nearly tied with Labour in those safer Tory seats in 2010, and with the party widely expected to shed votes the difficult question now is which party will pick them up.

Labour will be leading its march eastwards with its national rallying cries about the supposed "privatisation" of the NHS and, as they put it, the cost of living crisis.

But it will be directing those appeals not just at those in more deprived parts of Chester, Runcorn and Warrington - but also at those across the county who regards themselves as being part of what they call the "squeezed middle".

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Image caption Will the creation of jobs, like the recent announcement of Royal London's expansion plans, boost the Tories' chances?

The Tories can point to the fact that a lot of jobs have been created in Cheshire under the coalition government, and bad news stories like the exit of AstraZeneca from its base near Macclesfield appears to have been turned into good news about the site's future.

But both parties have two very difficult issues to deal with in the county - the incursion of house builders into the countryside at a time when more houses need to be built, and the role Cheshire may or may not play in the Northern Powerhouse.

Sandwiched between Manchester and Merseyside - where does Cheshire fit in?

I'll be here throughout the campaign and you can follow my updates on Twitter and listen to my reports on BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Radio Manchester, and BBC Radio Stoke.

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Media captionArif Ansari's guide on how to register for your vote

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