The West Midlands covers the counties of Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, as well as the former administrative county of West Midlands, which effectively covers the Birmingham metropolitan area and the city of Coventry.
The West Midlands are dominated by the Labour Party, with a smattering of Conservatives and a small number of Liberal Democrats. West Midlands seats split evenly between the two major parties in the last term of the Major government, but a swing to Labour in 1997 gave them a solid majority of seats.
Most of the West Midlands are contests between Labour and Conservative. The exceptions are areas around the centre and eastern suburbs of Birmingham, where there are five Labour-Lib Dem contests and one Lib Dem-Tory contest, and in the rural southwest of the seat, which are Tory-Lib Dem contests.
The redistribution saw three seats move into the Conservative column. The seat of Solihull was won by the Liberal Democrats in 2005, but on the new boundaries is notionally Conservative, and the same is the case with the Labour-held seat of Staffordshire Moorlands. One Labour seat in Birmingham was abolished and replaced by another Conservative seat in Warwickshire.
- 1987 – 37 CON, 23 LAB
- 1992 – 30 CON, 30 LAB
- 1997 – 43 LAB, 14 CON, 1 LD, 1 Other
- 2001 – 43 LAB, 13 CON, 2 LD, 1 Other
- 2005 – 39 LAB, 16 CON, 3 LD, 1 Other
The West Midlands have generally swung between the parties along with the national swing. The Conservatives won 37 out of 60 seats in 1987. The 1992 election saw an evenly-divided result amongst the 60 seats in the West Midlands, with no Liberal Democrats winning seats. Shortly after the election Betty Boothroyd, a Labour MP representing a seat in the greater Birmingham area, was elected Speaker and thus left the Labour Party.
The West Midlands lost one seat in the redistribution before the 1997 election, and at that election Labour gained 14 seats, while losing Boothroyd’s seat as she was re-elected as the independent Speaker. The Liberal Democrats won the seat of Hereford in the southwestern corner of the region.
Labour won back Boothroyd’s seat of West Bromwich West in a 2000 by-election. At the 2001 election, Labour lost the seat of Wyre Forest to independent candidate Richard Taylor, standing in protest at the downgrading of the local Kidderminster Hospital. The Liberal Democrats won a second seat off the Conservatives, Ludlow in southern Shropshire.
In 2005, Labour lost four more seats. They lost the seats of Shrewsbury & Atcham and The Wrekin in Shropshire and Rugby & Kenilworth in Warwickshire to the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats lost Ludlow back to the Conservatives but won two extra seats on the eastern fringe of Birmingham: Birmingham Yardley from Labour and Solihull from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems gained Solihull with a majority of less than 300 votes.
The key seats
- Stourbridge, Stafford, Redditch, Burton, Birmingham Edgbaston, Tamworth, Worcester – these Labour seats are all straight two-party contests against the Conservatives. The seats are 25th, 41st, 43rd, 47th, 52nd and 59th on the Conservative target list, and will be in their sights if they want to be the biggest party. Birmingham Edgbaston holds the remarkable record of having been held by women since 1953, which will continue in 2010 with both Labour and the Conservatives standing women.
- Dudley South, Nuneaton, Halesowen & Rowley Regis, Dudley North, Warwick & Leamington – these Labour seats are all Conservative targets, sitting 73rd, 85th, 87th, 103rd and 117th on their target list, which is the range the Conservatives will need to reach to form a majority.
- Telford, Warwickshire North, Coventry South – these three Labour seats could fall if the Conservatives are on track for a small but solid majority, sitting 141st, 147th and 150th on their target list.
- Birmingham Selly Oak, Newcastle under Lyme, Walsall North, Cannock Chase, Birmingham Northfield, Walsall South – all of these Labour seats lie at the bottom of the Conservative target list, and could be vulnerable if the Conservatives are on track for a large majority.
- Solihull, Hereford and South Herefordshire – these two Liberal Democrat seats are both high on the Conservative target list. Hereford is 24th on the Conservative target list, while Solihull is practically a dead heat.
- Ludlow, West Worcestershire – these two Conservative seats are 14th and 21st on the Lib Dem target list.
- Birmingham Hall Green – this Labour seat is both vulnerable to the Lib Dems and Tories.