UK Politics

The seats which could decide the next election

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With the May 2015 general election fast approaching, some MPs may take heart from the fact that in 12 of the last 17 elections, 90% or more seats stayed with the party defending them. Even in Labour's massive 1997 victory more than 70% of seats remained with the incumbent party.

But government majorities are made or broken in the relatively small number of marginal seats with small majorities that change hands at elections. We have selected 49 seats from the 100 most marginal seats from 2010 to give a flavour of the battlegrounds across Britain where the 2015 election will be decided.

Three key marginals

Ashfield

Labour majority: 192

Thurrock

Conservative majority: 92

Dorset Mid and Poole North

Lib Dem majority: 269

Selected seats by region

  • Conservative
  • Labour
  • Lib Dem
  • SNP
  • Green
  • Scotland

    • labour
    • labour
    • snp
    • lib-dem
  • North East

    • labour
    • conservative
  • North West

    • labour
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • lib-dem
    • lib-dem
  • East Midlands

    • labour
    • labour
    • conservative
    • conservative
  • Wales

    • labour
    • labour
    • conservative
    • conservative
  • Eastern

    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • lib-dem
  • London

    • labour
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • lib-dem
    • lib-dem
  • South East

    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • lab
    • lab
    • green
  • South West

    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • lib-dem
  • West Midlands

    • conservative
    • conservative
    • conservative
    • labour
  • Yorkshire & the Humber

    • conservative
    • conservative
    • labour
    • lib-dem
close
Government majorities are made or broken in the relatively small number of marginal seats that change hands at elections. We have selected 49 seats from the 100 most marginal seats in the 2010 general election to give a flavour of the battlegrounds across Britain where the 2015 election will be decided.

Click on constituency for more detail

  • Conservative
  • Labour
  • Lib Dem
  • SNP
  • Green
  • Thurrock Conservative 92
  • Hendon Conservative 106
  • Oxford West & Abingdon Conservative 176
  • Southampton Itchen Labour 192
  • Ashfield Labour 192
  • Cardiff North Conservative 194
  • Dorset Mid & Poole North Liberal Democrat 269
  • Norwich South Liberal Democrat 310
  • Edinburgh South Labour 316
  • Stockton South Conservative 332
  • Bradford East Liberal Democrat 365
  • Swansea West Labour 504
  • Newton Abbot Conservative 523
  • Wirral South Labour 531
  • Chesterfield Labour 549
  • Wolverhampton SW Conservative 691
  • Carlisle Conservative 853
  • Harrogate & Knaresborough Conservative 1,039
  • Lincoln Conservative 1,058
  • P'mouth Sutton & Dev'port Conservative 1,149
  • Montgomeryshire Conservative 1,184
  • Brighton Pavilion Green 1,252
  • Birmingham Edgbaston Labour 1,274
  • Brent Central Liberal Democrat 1,345
  • Bedford Conservative 1,353
  • Dewsbury Conservative 1,526
  • Sutton & Cheam Liberal Democrat 1,608
  • Wakefield Labour 1,613
  • Newport East Labour 1,650
  • Middlesbrough S and Cleveland E Labour 1,677
  • Enfield North Conservative 1,692
  • Edinburgh North & Leith Labour 1,724
  • Burnley Liberal Democrat 1,818
  • Dundee East SNP 1,821
  • Hove Conservative 1,868
  • Manchester Withington Liberal Democrat 1,894
  • Northampton North Conservative 1,936
  • Brentford & Isleworth Conservative 1,958
  • Hastings & Rye Conservative 1,993
  • Nuneaton Conservative 2,069
  • Ipswich Conservative 2,079
  • B'pool N & Cleveleys Conservative 2,150
  • Dunbartonshire East Liberal Democrat 2,184
  • Bury North Conservative 2,243
  • Southampton Test Labour 2,413
  • Gloucester Conservative 2,420
  • Tooting Labour 2,524
  • Wyre Forest Conservative 2,643
  • Winchester Conservative 3,048
  • Thurrock Conservative 92
  • Hendon Conservative 106
  • Oxford West & Abingdon Conservative 176
  • Cardiff North Conservative 194
  • Stockton South Conservative 332
  • Newton Abbot Conservative 523
  • Wolverhampton SW Conservative 691
  • Carlisle Conservative 853
  • Harrogate & Knaresborough Conservative 1,039
  • Lincoln Conservative 1,058
  • P'mouth Sutton & Dev'port Conservative 1,149
  • Montgomeryshire Conservative 1,184
  • Bedford Conservative 1,353
  • Dewsbury Conservative 1,526
  • Enfield North Conservative 1,692
  • Hove Conservative 1,868
  • Northampton North Conservative 1,936
  • Brentford & Isleworth Conservative 1,958
  • Hastings & Rye Conservative 1,993
  • Nuneaton Conservative 2,069
  • Ipswich Conservative 2,079
  • B'pool N & Cleveleys Conservative 2,150
  • Bury North Conservative 2,243
  • Gloucester Conservative 2,420
  • Wyre Forest Conservative 2,643
  • Winchester Conservative 3,048
  • Brighton Pavilion Green 1,252
  • Ashfield Labour 192
  • Southampton Itchen Labour 192
  • Edinburgh South Labour 316
  • Swansea West Labour 504
  • Wirral South Labour 531
  • Chesterfield Labour 549
  • Birmingham Edgbaston Labour 1,274
  • Wakefield Labour 1,613
  • Newport East Labour 1,650
  • Middlesbrough S and Cleveland E Labour 1,677
  • Edinburgh North & Leith Labour 1,724
  • Southampton Test Labour 2,413
  • Tooting Labour 2,524
  • Dorset Mid & Poole North Liberal Democrat 269
  • Norwich South Liberal Democrat 310
  • Bradford East Liberal Democrat 365
  • Brent Central Liberal Democrat 1,345
  • Sutton & Cheam Liberal Democrat 1,608
  • Burnley Liberal Democrat 1,818
  • Manchester Withington Liberal Democrat 1,894
  • Dunbartonshire East Liberal Democrat 2,184
  • Dundee East SNP 1,821
  • Ashfield Labour 192
  • Bedford Conservative 1,353
  • Birmingham Edgbaston Labour 1,274
  • B'pool N & Cleveleys Conservative 2,150
  • Bradford East Liberal Democrat 365
  • Brent Central Liberal Democrat 1,345
  • Brentford & Isleworth Conservative 1,958
  • Brighton Pavilion Green 1,252
  • Burnley Liberal Democrat 1,818
  • Bury North Conservative 2,243
  • Cardiff North Conservative 194
  • Carlisle Conservative 853
  • Chesterfield Labour 549
  • Dewsbury Conservative 1,526
  • Dorset Mid & Poole North Liberal Democrat 269
  • Dunbartonshire East Liberal Democrat 2,184
  • Dundee East SNP 1,821
  • Edinburgh North & Leith Labour 1,724
  • Edinburgh South Labour 316
  • Enfield North Conservative 1,692
  • Gloucester Conservative 2,420
  • Harrogate & Knaresborough Conservative 1,039
  • Hastings & Rye Conservative 1,993
  • Hendon Conservative 106
  • Hove Conservative 1,868
  • Ipswich Conservative 2,079
  • Lincoln Conservative 1,058
  • Manchester Withington Liberal Democrat 1,894
  • Middlesbrough S and Cleveland E Labour 1,677
  • Montgomeryshire Conservative 1,184
  • Newport East Labour 1,650
  • Newton Abbot Conservative 523
  • Northampton North Conservative 1,936
  • Norwich South Liberal Democrat 310
  • Nuneaton Conservative 2,069
  • Oxford West & Abingdon Conservative 176
  • P'mouth Sutton & Dev'port Conservative 1,149
  • Southampton Itchen Labour 192
  • Southampton Test Labour 2,413
  • Stockton South Conservative 332
  • Sutton & Cheam Liberal Democrat 1,608
  • Swansea West Labour 504
  • Thurrock Conservative 92
  • Tooting Labour 2,524
  • Wakefield Labour 1,613
  • Winchester Conservative 3,048
  • Wirral South Labour 531
  • Wolverhampton SW Conservative 691
  • Wyre Forest Conservative 2,643
close
  • Ashfield

    Labour majority 192

    Ashfield would normally be regarded as a safe bet for Labour, but in the last general election, the Liberal Democrats were just 192 votes short of taking the seat.

    There were three factors in play - its previous MP, the Blairite Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, had stood down to leave parliament. Labour selected former GMTV reporter Gloria De Piero, a candidate with no local links with the constituency. The Liberal Democrats' candidate was Jason Zadrozny, a high profile local councillor and a former leader of Ashfield Council. In the 2015 contest, Mr Zadrozny and Ms De Piero will again go head to head.

    This is DH Lawrence country and the former coal mining industry still casts a long shadow. There's no single big private employer, but the constituency's proximity to the M1 motorway has brought new distribution and logistics jobs to the area, and a number of medium-sized manufacturers. Autofil maintains the area's few links with a once vibrant textile industry.

    Youth unemployment is an issue and at one stage was running at twice the national average. At the end of 2013, general unemployment was higher than the East Midlands' average: just under 2,000 (3.1%) were on Job Seeker's Allowance.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £21,892

    +/- 14%

    Ethnicity

    • White 98%
    • Mixed 0.8%
    • Asian/British 0.8%
    • Black* 0.3%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Bedford

    Conservative majority 1,353

    A Conservative gain last time - but by just 1,353 votes - saw Richard Fuller defeat Labour's Patrick Hall, who had won in 1997 by a margin of 17%.

    Bedford has become an increasingly marginal seat in recent elections. Health services are a key local issue, with both Hall and Fuller involved in the campaign to restore childrens' services to Bedford Hospital.

    Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, and an industrialised market town that continues to grow. It lies 50 miles north of London and today the seat is in one of the most cosmopolitan areas outside of the capital. Almost 50 separate ethnic groups are represented in the Borough of Bedford that gives the seat its name.

    There are excellent transport links by rail and road, making it a major commuter area for London. This is reflected in the high numbers of those in managerial, professional and technical jobs. The University of Bedfordshire, formally De Montfort University, has a presence in Bedford.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,398

    +/- 10%

    Ethnicity

    • White 74.4%
    • Mixed 4%
    • Asian/British 15.4%
    • Black* 5.2%
    • Other 0.9%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Birmingham Edgbaston

    Labour majority 1,274

    A key target seat for the Conservatives in 2010 which they failed to win. It is uncertain whether the party will apply the same vigour to its campaigning next time round.

    The local press has suggested that Conservative Campaign Headquarters sees Labour MP Gisela Stuart as too difficult to unseat and is focusing instead on Birmingham Northfield. But with just 1,274 votes between Labour and the Tories, the constituency could still prove to be as much of an electoral bellwether in 2015 as it has ever been.

    The constituency has pockets of affluence and deprivation. The demographics are changing and while it has a lower proportion of ethnic minority people than in the city of Birmingham as a whole, its level of ethnic diversity is above the national average.

    Edgbaston's largest employers include the University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Its most well-known landmark is Edgbaston Cricket Ground - the home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    5.3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £26,448

    +/- 6.5%

    Ethnicity

    • White 68.7%
    • Mixed 5.2%
    • Asian/British 16.4%
    • Black* 7.7%
    • Other 2.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Blackpool North & Cleveleys

    Conservative majority 2,150

    Conservative Paul Maynard's majority of 2,150 will be under some threat from Labour, who were ousted in 2010 after a 6.9% swing. His main opponent will be Labour's Sam Rushworth, a university tutor and father of four who grew up in nearby Poulton.

    The seat looks likely to be a two horse race in this seat, which was formed after boundary changes in 2010. The Liberal Democrats have usually found it hard to make an impact here, and the party has only one representative on the local council.

    Blackpool is known for its glitz, glamour and the famous tower, but a few hundred yards away from the seaside are the harsh realities of social deprivation. The town's Public Health Annual Report in 2012 revealed that the area of Bloomfield has the lowest life expectancy figure for men in England - 13 years less than in parts of the South East.

    So what will the candidates have to say about all that? Trying to improve the lifestyles of those who are heavy smokers and drinkers is a tall order. If health is an issue here, there is plenty to talk about.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4.1%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,261

    +/- 11%

    Ethnicity

    • White 97.3%
    • Mixed 1%
    • Asian/British 1.4%
    • Black* 0.2%
    • Other 0.2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Bradford East

    Liberal Democrat majority 365

    Created by boundary changes in 2010 but based on previous voting history, it was expected to be a Labour walk over with veteran Labour MP Terry Rooney standing a candidate.

    Instead, the unpopularity of the Labour government turned it into a three-way marginal contest, and popular Liberal Democrat local councillor David Ward squeaked in with a majority of just 365 - the second smallest in Yorkshire.

    The Conservative vote put its candidate less than 3,000 behind in third place. Since then, David Ward has worked hard to distance himself from what he considers "Conservative-driven" policies of the coalition government on issues such as welfare spending and education.

    In a constituency with a high Muslim population he was also suspended by his party for three months in 2012 for what were considered to be anti-Jewish comments about Israel's Palestinian policy.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    7%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,825

    +/- 7.4%

    Ethnicity

    • White 53.1%
    • Mixed 3.1%
    • Asian/British 39.3%
    • Black* 2.5%
    • Other 2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Brent Central

    Liberal Democrat majority 1,345

    Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather's decision to step down from the seat which she won narrowly in 2010 means Brent Central will be keenly contested in 2015. Ms Teather, who won by a 3% margin amounting to 1,345 votes, will be replaced as Lib Dem candidate by Ibrahim Taguri, who was born in Brent and grew up in Willesden Green.

    Labour has chosen Dawn Butler, former MP for Brent South, who lost out to Teather in 2010, and placed it 23rd on their list of target seats.

    Brent Central was a new seat in 2010, formed from the abolished seats of Brent East and Brent South. The former was previously a Labour seat held by Ken Livingstone, until his resignation after becoming London Mayor in 2000.

    Brent East covers council estates in Stonebridge, to more affluent detached family homes in Mapesbury. It is also home to Neasden Temple, which serves the large Hindu community. Gun violence is identified as a problem, afflicting some parts of the Black community in particular.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    6.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,958

    +/- 7.3%

    Ethnicity

    • White 38.8%
    • Mixed 5.9%
    • Asian/British 23.8%
    • Black* 25.5%
    • Other 6%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Brentford & Isleworth

    Conservative majority 1,958

    Conservative Mary Macleod won this marginal Conservative seat in 2010, and currently serves as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Maria Miller the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

    The Conservatives took the seat from Labour in 2010 with a 3.6% majority of 1,958 votes. Labour won by margins of greater than 20% in 1997 and 2001, but by 2005 the party's majority had slipped to 10%.

    The issue of expanding nearby Heathrow airport is likely to be a major factor in the 2015 campaign here. Mary Macleod is opposed, and says the possible impact on people's lives has been underestimated. Labour candidate Ruth Cadbury has also said she will do all she can to fight the proposals.

    The constituency contains a diverse mix of communities. It has benefited from considerable investment, and a number of multinationals have established offices along the 'Golden Mile' of the M4. Heathrow Airport itself, just to the west of the seat, has helped attract this investment and is also a major local employer in its own right.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.2%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £33,812

    +/- 4.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 57.8%
    • Mixed 4.5%
    • Asian/British 28%
    • Black* 6.2%
    • Other 3.6%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Brighton Pavilion

    Green majority 1,252

    Brighton Pavilion is one of the most marginal seats in the South East, currently held by Westminster's only Green MP Caroline Lucas with a majority of 1,252.

    She took it in 2010 from the Labour MP David Lepper and the party is keen to win it back, making it their number one target seat in the region.

    Since 2011, Brighton and Hove city council has been led by the Greens running a minority administration. They pledged fairness and equal pay, but have faced battles with the opposition over increased parking charges and the lowering of speed limits. There have been questions over Jason Kitcat's leadership and a long-running bin strike, which mediators had to be brought in to resolve.

    Caroline Lucas supported the strikers, putting her at odds with the council's leader. Labour will be pushing hard in Brighton Pavilion and Ms Lucas will have to muster all the support she can if she is to keep the Green dream alive.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,556

    +/- 9.7%

    Ethnicity

    • White 89.1%
    • Mixed 4.1%
    • Asian/British 4.2%
    • Black* 1.5%
    • Other 1.2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Burnley

    Liberal Democrat majority 1,818

    Burnley had been held by Labour since 1935, but in 2010 it went Liberal Democrat with Gordon Birtwistle elected by a majority of 1,818.

    Former Labour council leader Peter Pike served as MP here from 1983-2005, but his successor Kitty Ussher failed to connect with locals, became embroiled in an expenses row, and did not run for re-election.

    Labour owed its support to the town's industrial heritage, and Burnley is still regarded as traditional Labour territory. Current Labour council leader Julie Cooper, who was beaten into second place in 2010, is standing again having being selected from a women-only short list.

    The town has areas of high deprivation and poor health, but won an award last year for its enterprise in the manufacturing industry. The council says it has been very badly hit by spending cuts, and that looks likely to be a key local issue in 2015.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.8%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £22,322

    +/- 8.6%

    Ethnicity

    • White 87.4%
    • Mixed 1.1%
    • Asian/British 11%
    • Black* 0.2%
    • Other 0.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Bury North

    Conservative majority 2,243

    The northern-most seat in Greater Manchester is one of only two Conservative seats in the county.

    In 2010 David Nuttall won the seat by 2,243 votes after the previous Labour MP David Chaytor was caught up in the expenses scandal and didn't stand. It was the only Conservative gain in Greater Manchester. Chaytor had held the seat since 1997 when he defeated the Conservative MP, Alistair Burt.

    David Nuttall is known to be independently-minded, and it will be interesting to see whether his socially conservative and anti-European views are enough to keep potential UKIP defectors onside, and his personal support stop others swapping to Labour.

    The constituency's flip-flopping between Conservative and Labour since its creation in 1983 is reflected in the town. The constituency is split between urban east Bury, which is the town's Labour heartland, to rural rolling moorland countryside, home to some of the wealthiest residents in Greater Manchester.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.2%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,309

    +/- 8.5%

    Ethnicity

    • White 88.1%
    • Mixed 1.7%
    • Asian/British 9%
    • Black* 0.8%
    • Other 0.5%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Cardiff North

    Conservative majority 194

    Held by Labour during the party's years in power, this seat went Conservative in 2010 with Jonathan Evans securing a slim majority of 194.

    The constituency was created in its existing form in 1983 from the old Cardiff North West constituency. Labour established themselves as credible challengers, eventually taking the seat in 1997, but saw its own margin eroded in successive elections.

    The seat includes the most attractive suburbs surrounding the Welsh capital, including Lisvane, Rhiwbina and Whitchurch. Arguably the most prosperous place in Wales, Cardiff North has very high levels of home ownership.

    Major employers include the Inland Revenue and the University Hospital of Wales. The seat contains the largest school in Wales, Whitchurch High School. The M4 runs across the upper reaches of the constituency, and the A470 slices through on its way north through Wales.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,279

    +/- 8.4%

    Ethnicity

    • White 90.9%
    • Mixed 2%
    • Asian/British 5.1%
    • Black* 0.8%
    • Other 1.2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Carlisle

    Conservative majority 853

    After being held by Labour since the 1960s, the Conservatives snatched Carlisle with a majority of just 853 in 2010. Some helpful boundary changes brought more rural voters into what is largely an urban constituency.

    The current MP, solicitor John Stevenson, now faces a tough fight with Labour to hold on. Recent council election results have seen Labour make advances, and it now controls the city council.

    The city's economy has also not been as badly hit by recession as other parts of the north, and unemployment is now lower than it was in 2008. Labour are likely to focus on cost of living issues.

    The Liberal Democrats are weak in urban areas, making this likely to be a two-horse race. UKIP have recently pushed hard to establish a presence in Cumbria and will certainly expect to poll far more than the 969 they got in 2010. But their influence may come in their impact on which of Labour and the Conservatives win.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,453

    +/- 14%

    Ethnicity

    • White 97.9%
    • Mixed 0.5%
    • Asian/British 1.3%
    • Black* 0.1%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Chesterfield

    Labour majority 549

    The Derbyshire town with the celebrated crooked church spire always takes newcomers by surprise. Politically, Chesterfield also has a habit of looking up in a different direction from the rest of the East Midlands.

    During much of the New Labour era, the market town was the region's only Liberal Democrat seat. Paul Holmes won in 2001 and held it until the last general election when a strong Labour challenge saw Toby Perkins elected with a slender 549 majority. The swing from the Lib Dems to Labour was 3.8%, and was one of Labour's few election triumphs. While Labour and the Libs Dem ended the race neck and neck, the Conservative vote in 2010 had doubled, taking much of the anti-Gordon Brown vote away from Paul Holmes.

    The town, once dominated by mining and heavy manufacturing, has undergone big changes. In recent years, its railway station, market hall and high street have all been rebuilt with EU funding.

    New housing developments, proximity to the M1 motorway and to the cities of Sheffield and Nottingham, also turned Chesterfield increasingly into a commuter-belt town.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,656

    +/- 7.2%

    Ethnicity

    • White 96.4%
    • Mixed 1.1%
    • Asian/British 1.6%
    • Black* 0.8%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Dewsbury

    Conservative majority 1,526

    This industrial West Yorkshire seat has historically been a Labour marginal.

    Ann Taylor won four elections from 1987, but two of them with majorities of under 700. In 2005 Shahid Malik retained the seat for Labour after it had been targeted by well-regarded Conservative Sayeeda Warsi. Both went on to become senior Muslim spokespersons for their parties after David Cameron elevated his losing candidate to the House of Lords.

    In 2010, aided by favourable boundary changes and an unpopular Labour government, barrister Simon Reevell took the seat for the Conservatives with a majority of 1,526 - the 56th smallest in the country.

    With its high British Asian population, the far-right BNP have also targeted the seat and had its highest vote in the country in 2005 with 13.1% of the vote. By 2010 the BNP was still a significant force - its 4th place with 3,265 votes was 6% of the electorate.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,865

    +/- 9.2%

    Ethnicity

    • White 78.4%
    • Mixed 1.5%
    • Asian/British 19.4%
    • Black* 0.4%
    • Other 0.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Dorset Mid & Poole North

    Liberal Democrat majority 269

    The Conservatives have always had hopes of taking this seat, but strong support for Liberal Democrats at local level means they have missed repeatedly by narrow margins. At the last election there were just 269 votes in it.

    However MP Annette Brooke is now standing down. The Lib Dems have chosen Vikki Slade, a local councillor from the same mould to replace her. She will be up against a young local barrister, Michael Tomlinson, for the Conservatives.

    Labour was squeezed hard here in 2010, nearly beaten by UKIP, who will hope to improve on their 4.5% share of the vote.

    Mid Dorset and Poole North is mostly a residential constituency, more affluent than the centre of Poole but with a lack of affordable housing. Tourism is a factor in the local economy, and problems with local transport infrastructure and development top the list of frustrations.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.2%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,195

    +/- 9%

    Ethnicity

    • White 98%
    • Mixed 0.8%
    • Asian/British 0.9%
    • Black* 0.1%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Dunbartonshire East

    Liberal Democrat majority 2,184

    Although all four major parties have a significant stake - and history - in this area, sitting Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson will arguably face the fiercest competition from Labour.

    Swinson, whose majority is 2,184, will set out to counter any residual disquiet about her party's coalition at Westminster with the Conservatives, arguing that the voters have gained.

    This seat, previously dominated by mining, industry and manufacturing, now largely comprises established communities and prosperous commuter suburbs to the north-west of Glasgow.

    It has a varied political history, and under different boundaries switched from the SNP to Labour in 1979, Labour to Conservative in 1983, and back to Labour in 1987. Labour held the seat until 2005, when Jo Swinson won with a 9% swing, at 25 becoming the youngest MP elected to the Commons that year.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £26,179

    +/- 14%

    Ethnicity

    • White 95%
    • Mixed 0.4%
    • Asian/British 3.9%
    • Black* 0.4%
    • Other 0.35%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Dundee East

    SNP majority 1,821

    Arguably the SNP will primarily battle it out with Labour for this seat in 2015, although it will be vigorously contested. The SNP's Stewart Hosie holds the seat by 1,821 votes (4.5%), an increase on his 383 majority won in 2005.

    The seat was held by the SNP's Gordon Wilson from 1974-87, but lost to Labour's John McAllion, who increased his majority to just under 10,000 by 1997. McAllion stood down in 2001 to concentrate on the Scottish Parliament and Iain Luke held the seat for Labour.

    Dundee is an ancient, proud city on Scotland's east coast whose economic fortunes have varied significantly over the centuries. Once the city of "jute, jam and journalism", much of the centre is currently undergoing regeneration.

    The seat incorporates the prosperous middle-class enclaves of Balgillo, Barnhill - and Broughty Ferry which once housed mega-wealthy jute barons. It also contains older tenement districts and some large council estates such as Douglas, Fintry and Whitfield.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,986

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 96.4%
    • Mixed 0.3%
    • Asian/British 2.45%
    • Black* 0.4%
    • Other 0.04%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Edinburgh North & Leith

    Labour majority 1,724

    The seat, which has seen a number of boundary changes over the years, has been Labour-held since 1979. However, sitting MP Mark Lazarowicz saw his majority tumble from 27% to 3.6% in 2010, with the Liberal Democrats coming second.

    The Lib Dems will be hoping to go one better in 2015, dismissing any residual disquiet about their UK coalition with the Conservatives. Of course, Labour and every other party will contest the seat vigorously.

    The Leith of "Trainspotting" has largely given way to up-and-coming redevelopment. Trendy cafes and restaurants line the quayside, and numerous warehouses have been converted into expensive flats - although there is still a large, working harbour.

    Edinburgh North also contains a wide diversity of areas. The redeveloped docklands and the city areas to the north of the elegant New Town have become smarter, but there are still areas of high unemployment and deprivation.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £29,644

    +/- 7.7%

    Ethnicity

    • White 91.3%
    • Mixed 1.1%
    • Asian/British 5.5%
    • Black* 1.3%
    • Other 0.65%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Edinburgh South

    Labour majority 316

    Labour's majority is an ultra-slim 316 votes, so the Liberal Democrats will consider this a target seat. As ever, it will be closely fought by all contenders.

    Conservative-held for decades, Edinburgh South was taken by Labour's Nigel Griffiths in 1987. Griffiths increased his majority to 11,452 in 1997, but this was halved in the next election with the Lib Dems in second. Griffiths stood down in 2010 and Ian Murray retained the seat for Labour, but by a very slender margin.

    The seat is mostly affluent and more than half of all workers are managers or professionals or in associated managerial or professional occupations. Many constituents work in finance or in civil service jobs associated with the Scottish Parliament and Government.

    The constituency also contains some of the city's best housing stock, including the highly desirable residential areas of Marchmont, Merchiston, Morningside and Newington. These areas contain one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the UK.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £32,033

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 91.2%
    • Mixed 0.9%
    • Asian/British 6.1%
    • Black* 0.79%
    • Other 0.21%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Enfield North

    Conservative majority 1,692

    This marginal northernmost seat in London swings between the Conservatives and Labour. Nick de Bois won it by a 3.8% majority of 1,692 votes in 2010, after three terms of Labour control.

    Labour votes tend to be concentrated in the east and the Conservative votes in the west. It's 29th on Labour's list of target seats for 2015. Since Nick de Bois was elected, the MP has lost his campaign to prevent the downgrading of A&E and maternity services at Chase Farm hospital.

    Parts of Enfield North were also caught up in the riots in 2011. Shop windows were smashed on the high street and a Sony distribution centre was set on fire.

    The Conservatives held the seat from 1979 to 1997, when Enfield North joined the two other Enfield parliamentary constituencies moving to Labour. Labour's Joan Ryan has held the seat since, although her majority fell to 1,920 in 2005, with a swing towards the Conservatives of 0.6%.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,496

    +/- 9.7%

    Ethnicity

    • White 67.5%
    • Mixed 5.6%
    • Asian/British 7.3%
    • Black* 15.5%
    • Other 4.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Gloucester

    Conservative majority 2,420

    Gloucester has in recent years been seen as a 'bellwether' constituency. Post-war, Gloucester was held by the Labour Party but it gradually swung towards the Conservatives, who won in 1970 and retained it until 1997. It was regained that year by Labour, but reverted back to the Conservatives in 2010, with a huge 8.9 % swing giving them a majority of 2,420.

    The city itself is a real mix with a historic past stretching back to Roman times, a majestic Norman cathedral, and narrow cobbled streets. Over the last decade, regeneration has seen the transformation of the Victorian Docks, with converted warehouses around Britain's most inland port.

    The public sector is a big employer, with the headquarters for both County and City Councils located here. Alongside that, the local economy maintains a mix of service sector and manufacturing activities. Gloucester has a long history in the aerospace business with Messier-Dowty and Smiths Aerospace having plants on the outskirts of the city.

    Birds Eye-Wall's meanwhile operates one of the world's largest ice cream factories in the city.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £26,430

    +/- 9.3%

    Ethnicity

    • White 88.6%
    • Mixed 3.1%
    • Asian/British 5%
    • Black* 3.1%
    • Other 0.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Harrogate & Knaresborough

    Conservative majority 1,039

    A true blue Tory seat in North Yorkshire with relatively little unemployment, high house prices and an ageing electorate, it had been held by the party for 87 years until 1997.

    At the general election of that year, the Conservative national leadership took the deeply unpopular decision to parachute in former chancellor Norman Lamont as candidate after his previous seat in southern England disappeared under boundary changes.

    The internal row with the local Association led to popular local head teacher Phil Willis taking the seat for the Liberal Democrats and he held it until his retirement at the 2010 general election.

    The loss of the Willis personal vote proved decisive and the Conservatives' Andrew Jones took the seat back with a slender majority of just 1,039 - the fourth smallest in the region and 36th in the country.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.1%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,295

    +/- 11%

    Ethnicity

    • White 95.7%
    • Mixed 1.2%
    • Asian/British 1.9%
    • Black* 0.9%
    • Other 0.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Hastings & Rye

    Conservative majority 1,993

    Hastings & Rye is a key target seat for Labour - it's number four on their list for the South East. The seat is currently held by the Conservative Amber Rudd with a majority of 1,993.

    Prior to the Labour landslide of 1997 this looked like a safe Conservative seat - it had been held by Kenneth Warren from 1970 until he retired in 1992. But Michael Foster surprised many when he took the seat for Labour in 1997, becoming the party's first MP in the constituency. He held on to it - albeit with reduced majorities - until 2010.

    The seat now looks like a two-way Conservative-Labour marginal. Amber Rudd has seen success in government and was appointed assistant whip in the government reshuffle in September 2013.

    Despite her promotions, she faces her own personal Battle of Hastings if she is to fend off the challenge from Labour candidate Sarah Owen. Born and brought up in the constituency she is a long-time Labour activist and political adviser to Lord Sugar.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4.2%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £21,911

    +/- 10%

    Ethnicity

    • White 94.4%
    • Mixed 2%
    • Asian/British 2.1%
    • Black* 1%
    • Other 0.5%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Hendon

    Conservative majority 106

    This ultra-marginal Conservative seat is likely to provide another closely-fought contest in 2015.

    Sitting MP Matthew Offord, who won by 106 votes, has been re-selected to stand. During his time as an MP the former BBC political analyst has notably spoken out against same-sex marriage. Labour has selected Andrew Dismore who was MP here until 2010, and placed the seat as third on their list of key targets for 2015.

    The Conservatives held this seat when it was known as Hendon North, for almost half a century after 1950, but Andrew Dismore took the newly-created constituency of Hendon in 1997. While Dismore increased his majority in 2001, it was cut to 2,699 in 2005.

    The constituency is diverse, with one of Barnet's largest Jewish communities and large Asian and black populations. Hendon is also home to Middlesex University, the RAF Museum, the British Library national newspaper collection, the Hendon Police Training College, and the National Public Health Laboratory Service which provide significant employment, along with the banking and financial services and retail sectors.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £29,976

    +/- 6.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 54.9%
    • Mixed 4.8%
    • Asian/British 23.6%
    • Black* 11.5%
    • Other 5.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Hove

    Conservative majority 1,868

    Hove has been held by the Conservative MP Mike Weatherley since 2010.

    It was a Conservative stronghold or marginal seat until the 1997 general election saw Labour come to power on a landslide, capturing several Tory-held seats on the East Sussex coast along the way. But by 2005 Labour's majority had dwindled to 420 and Weatherley, with the financial backing of Lord Ashcroft, managed to win by 1,868 votes in the next election.

    Since becoming MP, Weatherley has campaigned against squatting, calling for illegal property habitation to be criminalised. This hasn't made him popular among students, and he was attacked when he appeared at the University of Sussex to take part in a debate.

    Like his colleague Amber Rudd in Hastings, Weatherley has the dubious honour of being a member of the '40 Group' - made up of the 40 most marginal seats in 2010. His seat is number three on Labour's target list for the South East.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.7%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,719

    +/- 11%

    Ethnicity

    • White 89.2%
    • Mixed 3.7%
    • Asian/British 3.8%
    • Black* 1.4%
    • Other 1.9%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Ipswich

    Conservative majority 2,079

    In 2010 Ben Gummer took Ipswich from Labour with a swing of 8.1%, however that high-water mark delivered a majority of 2,079, which makes it a very vulnerable seat for them this time.

    The Conservatives believe Ben Gummer could be vulnerable to a UKIP surge. Party members are reported to have found widespread UKIP support. Some Tory supporters are said to feel let down by the government, particularly over gay marriage as well as cuts to child benefit for high earners whose partners stay at home.

    In recent local elections Labour was out front, while UKIP took nearly twice as many votes as the Lib Dems.

    Local issues were a factor in 2010, with concerns over the local hospital being downgraded. Although that particular ghost has been laid to rest, there are huge concerns about education standards, with the county coming bottom of national league tables.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.8%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,786

    +/- 9.7%

    Ethnicity

    • White 88.3%
    • Mixed 3.6%
    • Asian/British 4.8%
    • Black* 2.4%
    • Other 0.9%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Lincoln

    Conservative majority 1,058

    Most experts expect to see a closely-fought contest between the Conservatives and Labour in Lincoln in May 2015.

    Many commentators would regard this as a bellwether seat - the city has elected an MP from the main governing party at Westminster since October 1974.

    Lincoln holds the distinction of being the oldest constituency in the UK. Its parliamentary boundaries date back to 1265. The current MP Karl McCartney won the seat for the Conservatives in 2010 with a swing of 5.9%. Mr McCartney is defending a majority of 1,058. The constituency was previously represented by Labour's Gillian Merron, who was a minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

    Lincoln is one of Labour's key target seats in the East Midlands. The party regained control of the city council in 2011 and increased its majority in subsequent local elections.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,292

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 95.8%
    • Mixed 1.3%
    • Asian/British 1.8%
    • Black* 0.8%
    • Other 0.4%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Manchester Withington

    Liberal Democrat majority 1,894

    John Leech's victory in Manchester Withington for the Lib Dems in 2005 broke Labour's stranglehold of seats in the city. He defeated Keith Bradley by 667 votes, overturning an 11,000 majority on a wave of anti-Iraq war sentiment and some intensive local campaigning.

    Labour were furious at the loss of a seat they'd held for 18 years, and the animosity has continued since then, with Leech increasing his majority in 2010.

    The Withington constituency has the highest proportion of people with a degree or higher in the country and is home to many students, former students and lecturers from the city's universities.

    The coalition agreement which led to the increase in student tuition fees will have an impact on his support this time. The Lib Dems have also steadily lost council seats in the city, many of them in this parliamentary seat.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.7%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,789

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 76.6%
    • Mixed 4.7%
    • Asian/British 12.4%
    • Black* 3.4%
    • Other 2.9%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East

    Labour majority 1,677

    Under its former name of Langbaurgh, this seat ping-ponged between Labour and the Conservatives before it was given its new title following boundary changes in 1997.

    Labour seemed to establish a stranglehold since winning in 1997. Their majority fell marginally in 2001 and 2005, but in 2010, dipped from 8,000 to 1,677, making it a Conservative target for 2015.

    Boundary changes have helped the Conservatives, but the seat might have been affected by a "steel swing" against Labour across Teesside in 2010, with the party feeling the backlash from the closure of the Redcar steelworks.

    The Lib Dems are likely to be too busy trying to save their seat in Redcar to campaign much here. UKIP though scored one of its better results in the North East in 2010, winning 4% of the vote, so they will want to push on from that.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4.2%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £31,310

    +/- 11%

    Ethnicity

    • White 97.5%
    • Mixed 0.8%
    • Asian/British 1.2%
    • Black* 0.3%
    • Other 0.2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Montgomeryshire

    Conservative majority 1,184

    Some 27 years of Liberal representation in this mid Wales constituency came to an abrupt end in 2010 when the Conservative former Welsh assembly member Glyn Davies ousted Lembit Opik, who had held the seat since 1997.

    A swing of nearly 14% turned Mr Opik's 7,000 majority into a Conservative majority of just under 1,200.

    The constituency is a rural seat covering the north of Powys. The main town is Newtown, just south west of Montgomery.

    Newtown is known as the birthplace of Robert Owen, and his former home is a museum. The constituency's main income comes from the agricultural sector, light industry and a significant tourist trade. The population is older than average, a factor reinforced by a number of retirees moving into the area

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.8%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £19,858

    +/- 8.3%

    Ethnicity

    • White 98.9%
    • Mixed 0.5%
    • Asian/British 0.4%
    • Black* 0.1%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Newport East

    Labour majority 1,650

    Newport East was formed in 1983 from parts of the former Newport and Monmouth constituencies. It has always been held by Labour, but 2010 saw the party's majority reduced to 1,610 votes with the Lib Dems in second place.

    It was represented firstly by the long-serving Roy Hughes, and Alan Howarth, who was replaced by current MP Jessica Morden at the 2005 General Election.

    This South East Wales seat takes in the eastern parts of Newport and large parts of what was formerly Monmouthshire to the east. As part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations Newport was granted city status, and the city centre is currently undergoing a £90 million development due to be completed by 2015.

    Transport links are good here, with the M4 motorway and national rail connections. Its location as the gateway to Wales has encouraged companies to build large facilities, such as Wilkinson's distribution centre near Magor.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    4.8%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,840

    +/- 7.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 91.7%
    • Mixed 1.6%
    • Asian/British 5%
    • Black* 1.2%
    • Other 0.5%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Newton Abbot

    Conservative majority 523

    This seat is a classic south western Tory-Lib Dem contest - or at least was, pre-coalition. The centre of the constituency, which gives it its name, is the small market town of Newton Abbot, while the northern three-quarters consists of rural villages.

    The seat is essentially equivalent to the old constituency of Teignbridge. Conservative Patrick Nicholls held it from 1983 to 2001. He was toppled by persistent Liberal Democrat challenger Richard Younger-Ross, with a majority of more than 3,000.

    Younger-Ross doubled his majority to 6,215 in 2005, defeating the new Conservative candidate Stanley Johnson, father of Boris Johnson. But in 2010, after the boundary changes saw Teignbridge replaced by Newton Abbot, Younger-Ross lost to Conservative Anne Marie Morris by just 523 votes. She will again do battle with Younger-Ross in 2013.

    The area consists of rolling countryside, from the granite tors of Dartmoor to long stretches of sandy beach around the coastal towns of Dawlish and Teignmouth. The Conservatives have a large majority on Teignbridge District Council, having seized power from the Liberal Democrats in the local elections of 2011.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £22,500

    +/- 6.9%

    Ethnicity

    • White 98.2%
    • Mixed 0.7%
    • Asian/British 0.8%
    • Black* 0.1%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Northampton North

    Conservative majority 1,936

    Northampton North is a bellwether seat: a seat where whichever party wins locally, also wins nationally. Conservative Michael Ellis holds it at the moment, but by a slender majority of less than 2,000.

    Prior to 2010 it was Labour, and former MP Sally Keeble has been re-adopted as candidate for 2015. This may not, however, be a two-horse race. In 2010 the Lib Dems campaigned with the slogan "only us or Labour can win here" and then saw their then candidate, Andrew Simpson, come third.

    The level of support for UKIP could be a critical factor. Although the party has enjoyed a resurgence in the county, its showing at the county council elections was perhaps more low-key than the Conservatives feared. The Tories will be hoping for an underwhelming performance from UKIP, who will also be taking votes from Labour.

    Northampton is a fast-changing town that has managed to hold its head reasonably above the water through the recession. Cranes on the skyline signal new development, and there are major plans for new housing. A local feelgood factor will do no harm at a General Election, but voters may also be swayed by national issues.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,247

    +/- 9.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 85.2%
    • Mixed 3.3%
    • Asian/British 5.8%
    • Black* 5.2%
    • Other 0.6%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Norwich South

    Liberal Democrat majority 310

    Norwich South is the most marginal seat in East Anglia and one of the big upsets of the last election, when the Liberal Democrat Simon Wright defeated former Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

    The Lib Dems put a lot of effort into winning in 2010, focusing particularly on the constituency's large student population, where the party's opposition to increased tuition fees was very popular.

    When party changed its position on fees six months after the election, Simon Wright took a long time to decide whether or not to support the move. He eventually voted against the increase, but his delay and the Lib Dems' national stance is thought to have damaged him.

    The Greens have a strong presence on the city council and UKIP is strong in this part of the world, with a number of county councillors in surrounding seats. The city has developed strongly economically over the last few years with the nearby Norwich Research Park becoming a world leader in agricultural and health science.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,263

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 90%
    • Mixed 2.3%
    • Asian/British 5.1%
    • Black* 1.6%
    • Other 1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Nuneaton

    Conservative majority 2,069

    Conservative Marcus Jones won by just over 2,000 votes in 2010, after a tightly-fought contest with Labour's Jayne Innes.

    Since election, Jones - a former borough council leader - has seen his career progress. In October 2013 he was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

    The seat returned Labour candidates without interruption from 1935 to 1983. That year, it went to the Conservatives' Lewis Stevens, but was re-taken by Labour's Bill Olner in 1992. Mr Olner's majority was halved at the 2005 general election, and he stepped down before the 2010 election.

    The town of Nuneaton forms the constituency's centre, but surrounding villages of Ansley, New Arley, Old Arley, Hartshill and Furnace End are also included. The constituency has some light engineering works, and is also popular with warehousing and distribution companies because of its proximity to the M6.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.3%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £22,054

    +/- 10%

    Ethnicity

    • White 91.9%
    • Mixed 1.1%
    • Asian/British 6%
    • Black* 0.8%
    • Other 0.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Oxford West & Abingdon

    Conservative majority 176

    Until he was thrown out in 2010, Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris must have felt comfortable amongst the liberal-minded intelligentsia of Oxford West and Abingdon.

    Dr Harris's high profile on secular and scientific issues, including euthanasia and abortion rights, upset some interest groups and Nicola Blackwood took the seat for the Conservatives with a narrow majority of 176.

    She has made an impact with local campaigning and questioning on the Home Affairs Select Committee. She will face Physics and Maths teacher Layla Moran as the new Lib Dem candidate.

    The seat includes many comfortable North Oxford houses, stretching up to Kidlington as well as the villages of Sunningwell, Wootton, Cumnor, and Yarnton. Science research at Harwell has brought new high tech industries to the area, with government support for investment in space. Problems in the local NHS and the high cost of housing are likely to motivate voters, but the tactical position of Labour supporters will also make a difference.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £30,056

    +/- 7%

    Ethnicity

    • White 90%
    • Mixed 2.3%
    • Asian/British 5.5%
    • Black* 1.4%
    • Other 0.8%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Plymouth Sutton & Devonport

    Conservative majority 1,149

    As Plymouth Sutton, this seat was held by the late Conservative MP and diarist Alan Clark from 1974-92, but major boundary changes saw it become Labour in 1997. In 2010 it was won back by Conservative Oliver Colvile, but his majority is looking vulnerable at 1,149 votes.

    Economically and politically, Plymouth is a peculiarity in the otherwise largely rural South West. Most of the region has historically elected only Conservative or Liberal/Liberal Democrat MPs, with Labour hopelessly far behind.

    Plymouth, on the other hand, seesaws between Labour and the Conservatives, while the Liberal Democrats have disappeared from local government in the city altogether. Since 2010 the tide has flowed strongly in Labour's direction, and they now comfortably control the city council.

    This maritime seat includes the city's naval base dockyards. Although their role as an employer has shrunk dramatically, they continue to dominate the local economy. Replacing their dwindling presence remains a major political and economic challenge, and are a major reason for the city's relatively high levels of deprivation. The recent closure of the city's airport was another blow.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,059

    +/- 6.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 93.9%
    • Mixed 1.9%
    • Asian/British 2.5%
    • Black* 1.1%
    • Other 0.7%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Southampton Itchen

    Labour majority 192

    Labour has held this seat since 1992, but its majority was reduced to just 192 in 2010 and current MP and ex-cabinet minister John Denham will step down in 2015.

    Former London journalist Rowenna Davis has been chosen by Labour as its new candidate, and will face Conservative Royston Smith, the former council leader, who came second last time. UKIP picked up 4.3% of the vote in 2010, and will hope to build on its by-election campaign in neighbouring Eastleigh.

    City centre shops continued to prosper through the recession, with West Quay and Ocean Village seeing renewed development, but the eastern side of Southampton includes inner-city council estates where the loss of traditional jobs, pay freezes and zero hours contracts have hit living standards hard. The departure of the Ford Transit plant was another recent blow to the local economy.

    Since then the city has also seen services hit by a long-running strike after Royston Smith tried to reduce wages. Labour is now back in control of the council.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,645

    +/- 8.3%

    Ethnicity

    • White 90.8%
    • Mixed 2.3%
    • Asian/British 4.2%
    • Black* 1.7%
    • Other 0.9%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Southampton Test

    Labour majority 2,413

    Since 1966 the seat of Southampton Test has gone with the government - except during minority or coalition rule. This held in 2010 when Labour's Alan Whitehead, who won the seat from the Conservatives in 1997, retained it by a margin of 2,418 votes.

    The influence of shipping and the docks is less here than the rapidly-expanding Universities of Southampton and Southampton Solent, which bring ever-growing numbers of students to the city, and can present problems of anti-social behaviour. The revived arts quarter and new Titanic museum also draw visitors, as well as the city's famous parks.

    Variable standards at the city's schools have been a subject of local debate, with newly-created academies starting to improve results.

    An influx of Eastern European workers has hardened some attitudes to immigration. UKIP took nearly 4% of the vote here in 2010.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,952

    +/- 9.6%

    Ethnicity

    • White 83.1%
    • Mixed 2.5%
    • Asian/British 10.7%
    • Black* 2.5%
    • Other 1.2%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Stockton South

    Conservative majority 332

    This is one of only two Conservative seats in the North East. Rural Hexham may be safe, but this largely suburban seat remains incredibly vulnerable and a Tory majority of 332 makes it a top Labour target.

    The Tories had 10 years of success here after taking the seat from the SDP in 1987. But a huge swing to Labour in 1997 gave them a long road back. Victory in 2010 then was a significant achievement, even if the majority is precarious.

    The Lib Dems are weak in the area, while UKIP will look to increase its share from less than 3% in 2010. In such a tight contest, the performance of other parties could help decide the destiny of this crucial Conservative-Labour battle.

    The seat is unusual for the North East in having a significant number of middle class voters in Yarm, Eaglescliffe and the ever-expanding Ingleby Barwick.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.8%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £23,702

    +/- 15%

    Ethnicity

    • White 93.4%
    • Mixed 1.1%
    • Asian/British 4.7%
    • Black* 0.5%
    • Other 0.4%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Sutton & Cheam

    Liberal Democrat majority 1,608

    A marginal Liberal Democrat seat, they won the 2010 election with a majority of 1,608 and a 3.3% lead against the Conservatives, while Labour polled just 7% here.

    Local health services are likely to be a key issue in 2015. As a health minister, MP Paul Burstow publically spoke out against government plans to close the A&E and maternity wards at St Helier Hospital. The Conservative candidate, Paul Scully, is also running with a campaign to protect local frontline services.

    Shortly after David Cameron was elected, Sutton and Cheam was named as one of the new prime minister's four vanguard authorities chosen to promote the 'Big Society'.

    Traditionally a middle-class seat in south west London, Sutton's close proximity to central London, the M25 motorway, and Gatwick Airport has attracted a number of major employers. Among the biggest are Reed Business Publishing, Canon, the Crown Agents, Securicor, and Sainsbury's, several of which have their headquarters in the borough.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.7%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £28,446

    +/- 10%

    Ethnicity

    • White 78.6%
    • Mixed 3.5%
    • Asian/British 12.9%
    • Black* 3.5%
    • Other 1.5%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Swansea West

    Labour majority 504

    Labour held Swansea West in 2010, with Geraint Davies replacing sitting MP Alan Williams, but it's majority was reduced to 504.

    Geraint Davies was previously the member for Croydon Central, and leader of the local council there. He was chosen after Alan Williams decided to stand down, having held the seat since 1964.

    Swansea, Wales' second city, is a mixture of industry and business, but with the beautiful Gower coastline on its doorstep. The city is known as the gateway to west Wales, and occupies a strategic position in the area's historical, political and economic development.

    The Swansea West constituency includes the city's university, and a large proportion of students live there. It also contains prosperous suburbs such as Derwen Fawr and Sketty, along with 20th Century poet Dylan Thomas's former home in Cwmdonkin Drive.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.4%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,329

    +/- 8.6%

    Ethnicity

    • White 89.4%
    • Mixed 1.2%
    • Asian/British 5.8%
    • Black* 1.4%
    • Other 2.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Thurrock

    Conservative majority 92

    With a Conservative majority of just 92, Thurrock is number two on Labour's national target list. The seat was won with a swing of 6.6% from Labour in 2010 by Jackie Doyle-Price.

    She has successfully built her local profile as a constituency MP and serves as a member of the influential Public Accounts Committee. Ms Doyle-Price's main challenger is a senior Labour figure, Polly Billington, who is close to Ed Miliband.

    The campaign is likely to be coloured by the finely balanced nature of Thurrock politics. In the past decade Thurrock council has had separate Labour and Conservative administrations, as well as separate coalitions led by both parties. The constituency itself is traditionally a Labour seat, and has only voted Conservative twice since 1945.

    Although UKIP polled fifth - behind the BNP - in 2010 it made significant inroads. In 2013 it secured its first council seat and now holds nine seats on neighbouring Essex County Council, the same number as both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It is likely that it will eat into the Conservative vote, although the party may well also attract some traditional Labour voters.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.5%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,901

    +/- 9%

    Ethnicity

    • White 82.5%
    • Mixed 2.2%
    • Asian/British 4.6%
    • Black* 10%
    • Other 0.7%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Tooting

    Labour majority 2,524

    This marginal Labour seat has been held since 2005 by MP Sadiq Khan, who retained it in 2010 with a 5% majority of 2,524 votes.

    The Conservatives had hoped to win in 2010 after making gains in local elections and regaining nearby Putney and Battersea in successive general elections. The seat is 29th on their 2015 target list and local businessman Dan Watkins is their candidate.

    The Conservatives generally do better in the northern half of the constituency, which includes the the Bedford Hill, Earlsfield, Nightingale and Wandsworth Common areas. Labour prospers in the southern half, which includes Tooting itself, Graveney and Furzehill.

    Sadiq Khan has ministerial experience, working as a transport minister under the last Labour government. He's now the shadow minister for London, and he's even been suggested as a potential mayoral candidate. He hasn't confirmed this, but recently published a pamphlet of ideas in which he warned that London was in danger of becoming "a tale of two cities" because of widening social divisions.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.6%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £28,808

    +/- 7.5%

    Ethnicity

    • White 65.9%
    • Mixed 5.1%
    • Asian/British 15.3%
    • Black* 12%
    • Other 1.8%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Wakefield

    Labour majority 1,613

    Wakefield, the former county city of the old West Riding of Yorkshire, was once surrounded by pits and council estates and could rely on a guaranteed Labour majority from 1932. But as coal disappeared and newer blue and white collar workers moved in, the Labour vote shrank.

    In 2005 Mary Creagh, now shadow transport minister, stood for the first time and the majority was down to just over 5,000. In 2010 it was targeted by the Conservatives as a winnable seat, but Mary Creagh hung on by a margin of just 1,613 - the 65th smallest in Parliament.

    This constituency takes in most of the city of Wakefield and a number of smaller villages out to the south-west of the city in southern West Yorkshire.

    While the mines have gone, engineering still continues, but the economy is now far more diverse with distribution and retail trades, telecommunications companies and an industrial estate. There is some farming in the rural wards, but the biggest employers are now the local authority and the health service.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    3.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £25,803

    +/- 8.8%

    Ethnicity

    • White 91.7%
    • Mixed 1.2%
    • Asian/British 5.1%
    • Black* 1.4%
    • Other 0.6%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Winchester

    Conservative majority 3,048

    Winchester's socio-economic profile is that of a well-heeled and well-educated community that was staunchly Conservative for many years. The current younger Tory MP, Steve Brine, is less in that mould but more likely to appeal to the new families who have moved to the area from London.

    The seat was Conservative held from 1950 until 1997, when Mark Oaten won it for the Lib Dems. He served as MP until 2010, when scandal brought him down. It was then taken back by the Conservatives with a majority of 3,048.

    Turnout in Winchester was 75.8% - the 4th highest out of 650 UK seats. But the Conservative majority was still only 5.4%, which puts it in the top 100 most marginal seats and vulnerable to a swing of 2.7% to the Lib Dems.

    On the edge of the South Downs, Winchester is England's ancient capital and former seat of King Alfred. Many Hampshire County Council staff live nearby, and an increasing number of residents commute daily into London. Controversial house building projects and overcrowded train services remain key local issues.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £27,074

    +/- 7.4%

    Ethnicity

    • White 94.4%
    • Mixed 1.5%
    • Asian/British 3.2%
    • Black* 0.5%
    • Other 0.5%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Wirral South

    Labour majority 531

    Wirral South has been represented since 2010 by Labour's Alison McGovern, who was born and brought up in the local area. Her majority is just 531.

    The constituency was created in 1983 and won by Conservative Barry Porter, who held it for the next two elections until his death in 1996. The subsequent by-election saw Labour's Ben Chapman elected, but he stepped down in 2010 following controversy over expenses claims.

    The Conservatives have always viewed Wirral South as a natural seat for them and are pursuing it aggressively. Their candidate is John Bell, a retired secondary school teacher who was born above a betting shop into a working class family in Dingle, Liverpool.

    The constituency sits next to Wirral West, which is represented by Conservative Esther McVey - Merseyside's only Tory MP. Wirral South is a reasonably affluent middle-class suburban part of Merseyside, with some rural farming areas and no really big towns or cities.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    1.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £21,617

    +/- 6.1%

    Ethnicity

    • White 97.8%
    • Mixed 0.8%
    • Asian/British 1.1%
    • Black* 0.2%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Wolverhampton South West

    Conservative majority 691

    This seat has been a key marginal for the past four elections, but before the Blair era, it was held for more than half a century by just two long-serving Conservatives.

    One, Enoch Powell, made the infamous "rivers of blood" speech during his tenure and the other, Nicholas Budgen, played a key role in the Conservative party revolt over the Maastricht treaty with the EU.

    Wolverhampton began see-sawing in 1997 when Jenny Jones won it for Labour with a 10% swing. She stood down in 2005, but Rob Marris retained it with a majority of just under 3,000. Since 2010 it's been held by a Sikh, the Conservative Paul Uppal, by a majority of just 691.

    Given the seat's colourful political history, it will be fascinating to see how UKIP perform. This is the perfect place to test its claims to be drawing support from all the other major parties. This is the most prosperous of the city's three seats, stretching from the centre to its comfortable residential south-western outskirts. It includes the principal campus of the city's university and is home to a significant student population.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    5.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £24,244

    +/- 12%

    Ethnicity

    • White 64.5%
    • Mixed 4.5%
    • Asian/British 22.8%
    • Black* 6%
    • Other 2.3%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

  • Wyre Forest

    Conservative majority 2,643

    The Wyre Forest is one of the best examples of how "people power" can influence politics. The area had an unbroken succession of Conservative MPs until the Blair landslide of 1997, when David Lock took the seat for Labour. But in 2001, a popular campaign against the downgrading of Kidderminster Hospital saw Dr Richard Taylor elected as an independent MP, with a majority of more than 17,000.

    Dr Taylor was re-elected with a reduced majority in 2005, but lost to the Conservative Mark Garnier in 2010. Defending his 2,643-vote margin will be a tough challenge: not only is Labour rebuilding its support on the local council but Dr Taylor also plans to stand again, this time as a candidate for the newly-formed National Health Action Party.

    Throw in the "UKIP factor" to an already crowded battlefield and you can see why the Wyre Forest is shaping up to be among the least predictable of all the contests in May 2015.

    Unemployment

    Claimant count

    2.9%

    Income

    Median annual gross

    £18,897

    +/- 11%

    Ethnicity

    • White 97.2%
    • Mixed 1%
    • Asian/British 1.4%
    • Black* 0.2%
    • Other 0.1%

    * Black/African/Caribbean/Black British

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Methodology and data sources