Labour's bleak general election outlook

Political Editor Graham Dines looks at the parlous state facing Labour in the East of England. THE Norwich North by-election swing of 16.49% from Labour to the Conservatives would wipe out all Labour MPs in Suffolk, Essex and the other four counties of the East of England at the next general election, helping David Cameron to an overall majority of 218.

Graham Dines

Political Editor Graham Dines looks at the parlous state facing Labour in the East of England.

THE Norwich North by-election swing of 16.49% from Labour to the Conservatives would wipe out all Labour MPs in Suffolk, Essex and the other four counties of the East of England at the next general election, helping David Cameron to an overall majority of 218.

East of England minister Barbara Follett, Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell, Cabinet Office minister Angela Smith, junior Transport minister Chris Mole in Ipswich and both Labour seats in Luton would be swept away as the region became a sea of blue.

Although it's unlikely that this huge swing would be replicated at a general election - by-elections are notoriously difficult for governing parties - the warning is there for Labour. No seat is safe.

Bob Blizzard in Waveney, who was the Norwich North minder for Labour in the by-election, and the maverick Andrew MacKinlay in Thurrock would be out and Watford and Bedford constituencies would also fall. Even Charles Clarke in Norwich South would not survive such a result.

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The one worrying aspect for the Tories is that their vote total actually fell in the by-election. If it was doing stupendously well, it should have increased its vote. They will also be concerned at how well the UK Independence Party did - 4,068 votes and a poll share of 11.8%.

Labour holds two seats in Suffolk, two in Essex, two in Hertfordshire, three in Bedfordshire, and now one in Norfolk. Both Suffolk Labour MPs every reason to be worried - it will take a 6.37% shift to the Tories to unseat Mr Mole and Mr Blizzard would lose on a swing of 6%.

It will be tougher for the Tories' to crack the Lib Dem seats - Colchester, Norwich North and Cambridge. But in a landslide, anything is possible.