A leaked document has shown that Rochester and Strood is no longer considered a target seat for the Conservatives. On the face of it, there is nothing too shocking about this. This is just one seat out of 650 seats and the Conservatives cannot be expected to win every seat. However, this is a seat with special significance. This seat was won by Mark Reckless in a by election in November after his defection from the Conservatives to UKIP, thus making it different to most other seats.
The by-election campaign fought earlier this year had a very personal nature. Tories angered at the Reckless defection sought to publicly attack and undermine him in a very negative campaign. David Cameron famously promised ‘to throw the kitchen sink at it’ and the Tories were confident of holding onto the seat in the by-election. However they failed and Reckless won pretty comfortably. After this loss, the Tories then claimed they would do all they could to win the seat in May and believed they could regain it in the General Election. It now appears the Tory Party may be having a re-think.
There are 101 constituencies on this leaked list of “non-target” seats. Normally these are either seats which are considered traditionally as a safe hold for the Conservatives or a safe hold for one of their opponents, places where the Tories will not be putting in a lot of time, effort or resources. Rochester and Strood was previously seen as a relatively safe Conservative seat before it went to UKIP, not a traditional no-win seat and therefore it is puzzling as to why it appears on the list.
The reaction from Tory HQ to this list coming into the public domain has been surprisingly calm. They claim the conclusions that are being drawn are wide of the mark. However if the commentators and pundits are right then it does pose some interesting questions. Rochester and Strood is the type of seat the Tories would need to win if they want to gain an outright majority. If they have given up on this seat, then does this signal that they have given up on a majority? Not for the first time the public pronouncement of a political party may be very different from what it is truly thinking in private, in this case suggesting ambitions are somewhat lower than they might like to admit.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – Twitter