The majority of Somerset’s new parliamentary constituencies are regarded as “non-priorities” for the Labour Party at the next general election, according to a leaked list.
Somerset’s political map will change significantly at the next general election, with the existing five seats (Bridgwater and West Somerset, Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane, Wells and Yeovil) being reorganised into seven new constituencies to take account of population changes.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – who have traditionally battled for dominance in the West Country – have begun to gradually announce their candidates for the new constituencies.
But the Labour Party – which is currently leading in national opinion polls to win the next election – has indicated that only one of the seven new seats will be seen as a priority when prime minister Rishi Sunak finally goes to the polls.
A list from the Labour Party’s governance and legal unit, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, includes all but one of the new Somerset seats as being “non-priority”.
This means they are not considered target seats which the party is likely to win, and therefore will not be receiving large quantities of central campaign funding when the election is called.
The six “non-priority seats” in Somerset for Labour are:
- Glastonbury and Somerton
- Taunton and Wellington
- Tiverton and Minehead
- Wells and Mendip Hills
The only seat being seen as a priority in Somerset is the new Frome and East Somerset constituency, which includes Frome, Midsomer Norton and Radstock.
The inclusion of Bridgwater as a “non-priority” may be surprising, given the Labour Party has traditionally performed well in the town in local elections – including winning four of the town’s eight seats on Somerset Council back in May 2022.
While the current Bridgwater and West Somerset constituency is a safe Tory seat, the new Bridgwater seat removes the rural west Somerset area and includes Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge, which may make a Labour victory more likely.
Labour has traditionally fared poorly elsewhere in Somerset, finishing fifth in the recent Somerton and Frome by-election and a distant third in Taunton Deane, Wells and Yeovil (whose new boundaries are almost identical to the current seat).
The list many other seats in the south west which may by targeted by the Lib Dems – such as Cheltenham, Melksham and Devizes, North Cornwall, North Devon, Tewkesbury and Torbay.
Other seats on the list lie within the ‘blue wall’ Conservative heartland in the south east, such as Chichester, Eastbourne, Esher and Walton and St. Albans – all of which may also be targeted by the Lib Dems, in light of their victory in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.
Neither the central Labour party or its Somerset branch have responded to requests for comment.
The next general election has to take place by January 28, 2025 at the latest. While no official announcement has been made, it is likely the election could take place on May 2, 2024 , to coincide with the Avon and Somerset police and crime commissioner elections and other local elections due in the area.