The Backbench election guide: Manifestos, target seats and hopes

1 Jun 2017

Conservative Party

Leader: Theresa May

Polling average: 45


Target seats – The Conservatives are looking to take a large number of seats from Labour across the country. The most viable target seats are in northern England and London, such as Chester which was lost to Labour in 2015 by just 97 votes. London seats such as Ealing, Brentford, Ilford North and Hampstead would all turn Conservative blue with just a 1% swing. The SNP held seat of Berwichshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is also a target.  


Selling points – The Conservative campaign has centred on the popularity and reliability of Theresa May, appealing to the national interest by saying that the larger the majority the greater strength in Brexit negotiations Mrs May will have. The Conservatives are also trading on their intent to follow the so-called ‘will of the people’ over Brexit which seems to have won over a number of former UKIP supporters.


Hopes – Hopes are high within the party although ambitions may be slightly dimming as the campaign wears on. Initial ambitions looked at establishing a majority of over 100 seats but this target may be falling if recent polling is to be believed following the social care manifesto mix up.


Manifesto pledges

  • Real term increases in NHS funding culminating in £8bn extra by 2022/23.

  • Pension triple lock replaced with double lock after 2020.

  • Winter fuel payments means tested, up to £300 being lost by some wealthier pensioners.

  • Cost of care threshold raised to £100,000 but changed to include assets such as homes. Costs will be capped but level of cap will be consulted on.

  • Schools to receive extra £4bn by 2022 and end the ban on grammar schools.

  • Net migration will fall below 100,000 in the course of the parliament.

  • Personal tax allowance will increase to £12,500 by 2020.

  • Corporation tax cut to 17% by 2020 and introduce levies on firms employing migrant workers.

  • Free school lunches for infants scrapped, replaced by free breakfasts across primary ages.




Labour Party

Leader: Jeremy Corbyn

Polling average: 34


Target seats – Most of Labour’s target seats are currently in Conservative hands, there are a total of 12 seats that would require under a 1% swing from Conservative to Labour for them to change hands. This includes Gower in Wales that Labour lost by just 27 votes in 2015 and Gavin Barwell’s seat in Croydon Central which requires just a 0.16% swing. Depending on Labour’s fortunes the party could even take Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat after losing out by just 2,353 votes in 2015.  


Selling points – Labour is proposing a wealth of spending promises, pledging to end austerity and invest in public services. The Labour slogan, 'for the many not the few', sums up the main push for votes by pledging to stand on the side of the general public against big business and wealthier individuals. Labour also promises to see through Brexit, appearing to take a similar stance to the Conservatives in promising the end of free movement and outside of the single market.


Hopes – Most Labour figures have approached this campaign cautiously although the party has been gaining optimism and ambition as the campaign has progressed and polls have steadily improved. The party was predicted to lose seats at the outset of the campaign and fared poorly in local elections just three weeks ago, however, hopes have been raised as poll numbers have improved.


Manifesto pledges

  • Tuition fees would be scrapped beginning from this Autumn.

  • Nationalisation of rail and water companies as well as the Royal Mail.

  • 50p top rate of tax and a new 45p rate for those earning £80,000 and over.

  • Triple lock for pensioners maintained.

  • End of zero hour contracts and raise minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020.

  • 10,000 new police officers, 3,000 new firefighters and see an end to public sector pay cap.

  • Corporation tax would rise to 26% by the end of the parliament.

  • Four extra bank holidays each year.

  • Free school meals for all primary aged pupils.

  • More than £30bn of funding for the NHS over the course of the next parliament.




Liberal Democrats

Leader: Tim Farron

Polling average: 9


Target Seats – The majority of target seats for the Lib Dems are in the south east in areas where they had been strong before the 2015 collapse. Places like Twickenham and Kingston and Surbiton where former cabinet ministers Vince Cable and Ed Davey respectively held are big target seats. A 3% swing to the Lib Dems would see the party win 9 seats, largely from Conservatives but also 2 SNP seats and 1 Labour.  


Selling points – The party has positioned itself as the only party for Remainers. Tim Farron has set his party as the most pro-European party and the only vote that would ensure a second referendum on whatever deal emerges from the Brexit negotiations. Outside of Brexit, the Lib Dems are also the only party offering to reverse all of the George Osborne’s benefit cuts as well as proposing a penny-in-the-pound tax to fund the NHS.  


Hopes – The much written about Lib Dem 'fight back' had high hopes on the day the election was called as the party positioned itself as the only pro-Europe, Remain group. However, as other arguments outside of Brexit have emerged during the campaign, the fight back has struggled to gain momentum. There are still hopes that the party can increase its seats in parliament, but not as much as was hoped in early May.


Manifesto Pledges

  • A second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, ‘a vote on destination not just departure’.

  • Would push for full membership of the single market and customs union.

  • 1p in the pound tax ringfenced for NHS spending, raising £6bn each year in the next Parliament.

  • Public sector pay cap would end and a £7bn investment in education. Grammar school expansion would be scrapped and early years pupil premium funding tripled to £1000.

  • University maintenance grants would be re-introduced.

  • Cuts to universal credit and housing benefits for 18-21 year olds would be reversed.

  • Free childcare extended to all 2 year olds and an extra month of paid paternity for new fathers.

  • Reverse corporation tax cut of 20% to 17% and a £100bn package of infrastructure spending.

  • Take over the running of Southern and Govia Thamselink train routes.




UK Independence Party

Leader: Paul Nuttall

Polling average: 6


Target seats – UKIP’s biggest target seat is the Conservative held seat of Thurrock which saw the party finish in second by just 974 votes. A swing of around 3000 votes is required for UKIP to take the Conservative held seat in Thanet South or the Labour held seat in Hartlepool. The next most likely potential UKIP seats require a 5% or larger swing, which is reasonably unlikely considering UKIP has only ever held one seat in parliament.   


Selling points – UKIP’s biggest selling point is immigration, along with their tough stance on non-British citizens and migration figures. UKIP also claim to be the party that will hold Theresa May’s ‘feet to the fire’ over Brexit. Though, the Conservatives appear to have stolen Brexit voters from Paul Nuttall’s party.


Hopes – The party appears to be quite downbeat on their prospects at this election, having not taken the opportunity to stand as many candidates as in 2015. The results of council elections in early May were very disappointing for the party as they lost all but one seat that was up for election, seeing a huge movement of voters leaving UKIP for Theresa May’s Conservatives.


Manifesto pledges

  • UKIP would reduce net migration to zero within five years.

  • The burqa and other face coverings would be banned in public.

  • An extra £11bn every year for the NHS and £2bn for social care.

  • The threshold for paying income tax would rise to £13,500.

  • Tuition fees for science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine courses scrapped.

  • Triple lock on pensions maintained, bedroom tax scrapped.

  • An extra £1bn per year spending on defence.

  • 20,000 more police, 7,000 more prison officers and 4,000 more border control officers.

  • Reinstate blue passports from 2019.




Green Party

Leader: Caroline Lucas/Jonathan Bartley

Polling average: 4


Target seats – The only potential Green target seat, outside of keeping Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton, is the Labour-held seat of Bristol West. The Greens would require a swing of just under 5% to gain the seat where they finished second last time around in 2015. The Isle of Wight is another target area but this would require a bigger swing of over 10% which is unlikely despite good local election results in the area.   


Selling points – The Green Party as always are the leading party on climate change policies while the party is matching the Liberal Democrats in proposing a second referendum on the Brexit deal agreed with the EU.


Hopes –A fairly good performance at the local elections in May raised hopes and expectations. Although hopes of extra parliamentary seats may be too ambitious, an increased vote share is a realistic ambition. The party is very hopeful of Caroline Lucas keeping her seat while also campaigning for a progressive alliance to boost left-leaning politicians standing against Conservative or UKIP candidates.  


Manifesto pledges

  • Gradually introduce a four day working week.

  • A referendum on the Brexit deal agreed in 2019.

  • Freedom of movement protected and remaining in the single market.

  • University tuition fees would be scrapped.

  • Trident would not be replaced, saving around £110bn over the next 30 years.

  • Renationalisation of rail, water, energy, buses and Royal Mail.

  • Lower voting age to 16 and introduce proportional representation for Parliamentary and local elections.

  • Reinstate higher level of corporation tax for larger businesses and hire more HMRC staff.

  • Take steps towards introducing a universal basic income, increase minimum wage to £10 per hour and abolish zero hour contracts.




Scottish National Party

Leader: Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish Polling average: 45


Target seats – After an impressive set of results in 2015, the SNP only have a maximum of three seats left to secure in Scotland. These are the Conservative seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedale which was lost in 2015 by just 798 votes. The second target seat is the Lib Dem held Orkney and Shetland, and third is Edinburgh South, currently in the hands of Labour.


Selling points – Nicola Sturgeon’s party remains the only party that is proposing Scottish independence while also proposing that Scotland remains as part of the European Union. The argument being made in Scotland is that returning the SNP with a larger hold on Scotland only increases the strength of hand in both independence and European discussions with England.


Hopes – Although having been in government for almost a decade, the SNP does not seem to be slowing  in the polls, and has hopes of at least maintaining their current grip in the Scottish parliament, if not even increasing it as Labour falls further in Edinburgh. The biggest threat to SNP dominance could be the Scottish Conservatives, who are aiming to take SNP seats.


Manifesto pledges

  • Expand childcare to 1,140 free hours per child per year by 2020.

  • A free lunch for all 2, 3 and 4 year olds in nursery.

  • Maintain teacher numbers and pupil to teacher ratios.

  • Build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021.

  • Cap council tax rises to no more than 3% per year.


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