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The big focus in this election will be marginal constituencies, however there are also a few which might produce some interesting results with smaller parties and independents perhaps making inroads despite the first-past-the-post system. Here are some of the ones to watch:
Caroline Lucas, a current Member of the European Parliament for the South East and leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, seems to be on course to become the first Green MP. With only a 6.6 per cent swing needed for the Greens to take the seat from the Labour Party, and with the incumbent standing down, the local bookmakers have declared her the odds-on favourite. If she wins, she has suggested she may be the first of several Green MPs despite the first-past-the-post system.
After pushing the Conservatives to a close third in the 2005 general election, collecting over 11 per cent of the vote, the Green candidate Darren Johnson is the Green Party's best hope for winning a seat in London. The Greens already have a strong presence in London, with two Green Members of the London Assembly (including Darren Johnson) and a number of councillors. The Greens came second to the Labour candidates in both the London Assembly elections and the 2006 local elections. The Greens' impressive run of form in the most recent elections suggests that they have the potential to severely damage the Labour majority in Lewisham Deptford, already having several Green councillors there.
Despite a high profile constituency Labour MP - the former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke - the Greens have gained the most seats in the last three local elections here. Emerging as the main local opposition to Labour, and with only 6,000 votes separating the three main parties, the Green Party candidate Adrian Ramsey may be able to cause a major upset.
Poplar and Limehouse
In 2005, George Galloway and his newly-formed Respect Party defeated the incumbent Labour MP Oona King on an anti-Iraq war ticket. Galloway is contesting the newly-formed east London constituency of Poplar and Limehouse. Roughly a third of the population are Bengali Muslim and are openly being wooed by Respect. Jim Fitzpatrick, the government minister and incumbent MP for the dissolving constituency of Poplar and Canning Town, received media interest after “hijacking a Muslim wedding for political gain”, when attenders were separated by gender. George Galloway, with the backing of a large proportion of the Bengali community, may be able to defeat Labour in a traditional Labour stronghold.
Bethnal Green and Bow
With the Respect Party's George Galloway moving across east London, his old constituency is up for grabs. George Galloway’s successor as the Respect candidate, Abjol Miah (a Tower Hamlets councillor), is facing several challengers, with the Labour Party's Rushanara Ali, the Conservative Party's Zakir Khan, and the Liberal Democrats' Ajmal Masroor being the other major candidates. With such an open field, it would be seen as a victory for minor parties everywhere if Respect could defeat the 'Big Three'.
Birmingham Hall Green
The Respect Party are also genuine contenders for the West Midlands constituency Birmingham Hall Green. After winning 27.5 per cent of the vote in 2005 and severely denting the Labour majority, the Respect Party leader, Salma Yaqoob will be hoping to build on the three members of the Birmingham City Council and take the seat from Labour's Roger Godsiff.
The British National Party have gained more headlines than possibly any other minor party over the last year, particularly after their leaders' appearance on the BBC's Question Time. With success in the European Elections last year, with a member in the London Assembly, and 12 councillors on the Barking and Dagenham council, the BNP leader and candidate for Barking, Nick Griffin, will feel confident he can make significant inroads in the upcoming election. The BNP are also facing competition from a number of other smaller parties: Jayne Forbes of the Greens, George Hargreaves of the Christian Party, and Frank Maloney of the UK Independence Party. It has been suggested that the Christian Party may also split the vote and let the BNP in, running on a "Christian Nation" ticket in a similar way to the BNP.
Dagenham and Rainham
Barking's neighbouring constituency of Dagenham is also facing a major election challenge from the BNP. Their candidate, Michael Barnbrook, is standing on an 'anti-sleaze' ticket, and is squaring up to senior Labour Party MP Jon Cruddas. In the last election five years ago, the Labour share of the vote fell by seven per cent, while the BNP were the only party to increase their share of the vote, seeing it rise to 9.3 per cent.
The seat for Buckingham is represented by the current Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. He has formally given up his party political affiliation and the convention is that as Speaker, he is re-elected unopposed. While this has been followed by all three of the major parties, a number of smaller parties have chosen to flout convention. The most high-profile figure among these is Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party. Declaring that the Speaker represents “all that is wrong with British politics” after being “embroiled in the expenses scandal”, UKIP are facing an uphill challenge after polling just three per cent of the vote five years ago, with John Bercow polling 57.4 per cent. However, in the wake of the expenses scandal, could the voters be persuaded that ousting the Speaker in by electing Nigel Farage bring a change in British politics?
In the 2001 general election, retired doctor Richard Taylor shocked political pundits by defeating the Labour incumbent while standing as an Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern candidate. Aided by the abstention of the Liberal Democrats, he won a majority of 18,000, and was successfully re-elected in 2005 (where the Lib Dems again abstained), becoming the first Independent to gain a second term since the end of the Second World War. However, the Lib Dems are standing in Wyre Forest this time.
The most high-profile independent following the MPs' expenses is Esther Rantzen. Her initial interest in the area came after Labour incumbent Margaret Moran was widely condemned for her abuse of the second home allowance. With Margaret Moran standing down at this election, and with Esther Rantzen running on an openly independent ticket, the public may decide against one of the biggest parties.
Ochil and South Perthshire
The SNP require a 0.74 per cent swing to take this seat from Labour. The constituency was created in 2005. The final Scottish poll from YouGov in the Scotsman has Conservatives 17 per cent, Labour 37 per cent, Lib Dem 22 per cent, and the SNP 21 per cent. These showed very little change from the 2005 election – with the Conservatives up one, Labour down two, the Liberal Democrats down one and the SNP up three. If there was a uniform swing across Scotland on Thursday, it would result in the SNP gaining the constituency.
Ceredigion, Arfon and Ynys Môn
Plaid Cymru look as if they could take these three separate seats, requiring respectively a 0.31 per cent swing from the Liberal Democrats, 0.91 per cent swing from Labour and 0.75 per cent from Labour. ITV Wales' last YouGov poll had Conservative 27 per cent, Labour 35 pe cent, Lib Dem 23 per cent, Plaid Cymru 10 per cent. If repeated at the general election on a uniform swing, Plaid would gain Ynys Mon and Arfon.Tweet