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Midlands Battlegrounds - the places to watch

Mrs May's eyes will be firmly on the Midlands in the weeks to come. Her ambition is to gain a big majority at Westminster. To achieve that she will need to capture seats that have long been held by Labour in our region. The Labour Party is hoping loyal voters stay that way on June 8th.

Our Political Correspondent Alison Mackenzie spells out the seats to watch in next month's election. Credit: PA

As is evident from campaign visits by the Prime Minister so far - not only are the Conservatives targeting marginal seats - those with majorities of less than 2,000 - they are also going for traditional heartland Labour seats with majorities of up to 9,000. It's partly because they believe they have a strong chance of gaining support from former Ukip voters. If the kippers turn Tory it could make a very painful night for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

The Liberal Democrats will hope for a resurgence linked to their offer to EU Remain voters. Ukip will be fielding some well known faces in key seats.

Here are the constituencies where incumbent Labour MPs are facing a tough challenge.

WEST MIDLANDS

  • NEWCASTLE UNDER LYME

Currently held by local man Paul Farrelly this is a seat that voted firmly to leave the EU by a margin of 61% to 39%. But Mr Farrelly is pro-Remain and voted against the bill for triggering article 50. Could that place his return for Labour in jeopardy? His majority is only 650. If the 17% Ukip voters switch allegiance to the Tories it could be a big win on the night for the challenger Owen Meredith.

  • WOLVERHAMPTON SOUTH WEST

This seat was a loss for the Conservatives Paul Uppal in 2015. Former incumbent MP Rob Marris won it back for Labour with a majority of 801. But Rob Marris has decided not to stand this time. So is it game on for a Conservative win which would see the return of Paul Uppal?

  • WALSALL

Two seats in Walsall. Traditionally Labour. The Veteran David Winnick is defending Walsall North where his majority is less than 2,000. But one in five voters in 2015 went for Ukip. Again if they switch allegiance to the Conservatives it could get messy. And in Walsall South is Valerie Vaz safe? She has a bigger majority of 6007, and again this a constituency that voted firmly to leave the EU - might that swing voters towards the Team May offer?

  • DUDLEY NORTH

Mrs May made one of her first campaign appearances in Dudley. The Tories already hold Dudley South with Mike Wood - they would love to take Dudley North . Labour's Ian Austin has held the seat since 2005. He was once described by David Cameron as one of Gordon Brown's "boot boys" . He fought off the Ukip challenge from local candidate Bill Etheridge last time, increasing his majority to 4181 . But again with the Ukip brand in decline might this be an easy victory for the Tories to snatch?

  • BIRMINGHAM

The two seats to watch here are Northfield and Edgbaston. Northfield has long been in the sights for the Conservatives The majority for Richard Burden is only 2509. And with the popular Labour figure Gisela Stuart now retiring at Edgbaston could it be a chance for the Conservatives Caroline Squire to take over ? She is a relative of Joseph Chamberlain.

  • SOLHULL

Always an interesting seat to watch. It was held by the Liberal Democrat Baroness Burt for ten years but the Conservatives won it back in 2015. Might the Lib Dems make a dent in the 12,902 majority?

  • COVENTRY

Again this has been firm Labour territory with three long held Labour seats. But two have majorities of less than five thousand. It's perhaps why Theresa May has been spotted in local newspapers focussing on the campaign fight. The new Conservative West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street talked about the new 'urban conservatism 'in his victory speech last week. Perhaps this is why.

  • STOKE

Talking of which the other big bastion of Labour support is for the three parliamentary seats in Stoke on Trent. Gareth Snell for Labour fought off the Ukip challenge from Paul Nuttall in the recent by election at Stoke Central - will he be safely returned ? His majority is 7,853. One in four voters went for Ukip. Where will they place their cross on June 8th?

Mrs May's eyes will be firmly on the Midlands in the weeks to come. Credit: PA

EAST MIDLANDS

Only two areas voted to Remain in the EU in the East Midlands - Rushcliffe and Leicester. Again the Brexit issue could affect voting patterns on June 8th.

  • DERBYSHIRE NORTH EAST

The most vulnerable Labour seat with a majority of just 1,883. Natascha Engel has held it since 2005. Mrs May paid an early campaign visit to Clay Cross - they would love a victory here as part of the Tory advance into former mining communities.

  • MANSFIELD

Mrs May campaigned here this week as part of a tour of North Nottinghamshire where the Conservatives believe they can hoover up the Ukip vote in an area that voted significantly to leave the EU. Sir Alan Meale is at risk with his majority of less than 6,000.

  • GEDLING

Down the road to Gedling - another former mining area and a key marginal seat that has been held in recent tight election contests by the popular Labour MP Vernon Coaker. He was part of the mass resignations from Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet. He like many will be hoping his strong record on local issues will be enough to see off the Tory challenge.

  • NOTTINGHAM SOUTH

Lilian Greenwood is another former front bencher who resigned over disaffection with Jeremy Corbyn. She has been campaigning on a Vote Local Vote Lilian ticket. Her majority is 6,936. It would at one time have been considered a safe seat.

  • LEICESTER WEST

With the Conservatives confident they have chances in seats with majorities around the 8,000 mark for Labour, is Liz Kendall safe at Leicester West? She has the advantage that the city voted narrowly to remain in the EU so much will depend on events in the weeks to come before June 8th. Her majority is currently 7,203.

Of course anything can happen in a General Election!

What happens in the Midlands on June 8th will influence who holds the balance of power at Westminster. Credit: PA