The future of the left since 1884

Return to a two horse race

“Politics has changed and politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before” no truer words were ever spoken by a Labour leader. British politics has changed and not just in the obvious way, take a look at...


“Politics has changed and politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before” no truer words were ever spoken by a Labour leader. British politics has changed and not just in the obvious way, take a look at the patchwork political map of Britain and you could be forgiven for confusing it with one from the 1970s.

Following the 2015 general election it seemed the two party system was on the ropes, Labour and the Conservatives won just 67 per cent of the combined vote share, while coming second in 434 parliamentary constituencies.

Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed dramatically, the two main political parties are now posting a staggering 83 per cent of the combined vote share and are coming second place in 565 out of a potential 632 constituencies across Britain, 650 if you include the 18 seats in Northern Ireland.

Labour are currently second place in 302 of the constituencies in mainland Britain while the Conservatives are runners up in 263. In a dramatic shift Ukip have gone from being second in 120 parliamentary constituencies to currently being second in no constituencies, even in once perceived areas of support such as Clacton and Hartlepool the party have slipped back dramatically, coming third in both seats.

The Liberal Democrats have seen a further concentration of their vote into several constituencies in their traditional areas of support in the South West, South London and Scotland. In 2015 they came second in 62 constituencies reflecting their wide scale collapse. In 2017 this number has fallen with the party now coming second in 22 constituencies.

A similar picture has occurred for the Greens who stepped down in several seats to provide a clearer path for Labour. In 2015 the Green party came second in four seats in 2017 they came second in one seat, the speaker’s seat of Buckingham where Labour didn’t stand a candidate.

The unionist parties north of the border in Scotland will be happy with their showing at a parliamentary level. With Labour coming second in much of central Scotland and the Conservatives doing well in the Highlands and West Coast, in fact Labour came eye wateringly close to retaking several former Scottish bastions.

The Labour party’s path back into government is now clearer than it has been for the best part of a decade, there are currently 64 seats where Labour came second and would need to take to be certain of an absolute parliamentary majority.

These seats could easily fall on an average swing across the country of 3.35 per cent or less something which looks tantalizingly possible when you break the average swing down into region or nation.

Link to Data

Under the table outlined above number one on Labour’s offensive target seat list would be Southampton, Itchen with a tiny majority over the Tories of 31 (0.07 per cent). Number 64 would be Carmarthen West in Wales with a majority of 3,110 (7.37 per cent).

Notable seats on Labour’s offensive marginal list include Chipping Barnet currently held by the Tories with a tiny majority of 353 (0.6 per cent)  which has never had a Labour MP since its creation in 1974 another is Chingford and Wood Green the seat of former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith where Labour needs a 5.2 swing to claim the seat.

On the reverse of this Labour would also have to hold 8 of it’s current crop of defensive marginals, to continue to deny the Conservatives a majority. Number one on the list would be Kensington with a majority of just 20 (0.05 per cent) number eight on this list would be the West Yorkshire marginal of Keighley with a Labour majority of 249 (0.48 per cent), the Tories would need an average swing of just 0.20 per cent across the country to win back their coveted overall majority.

Former safe Labour seats have moved up the defensive marginal list including Bishop Auckland a seat that has not elected a Conservative MP since the 1930’s, Labour currently hold the seat with a majority of 502 (1.16 per cent) another is Gloria De Pieros seat of Ashfield in the East Midlands where Labour have held the seat since 1977 which is currently number nine on Labour’s defensive marginal list with a majority of 441.

The electoral map for now has shifted decisively, this may just be a blip or it may be the emergence of a new trend, as YouGov noted during their post election analysis “class is no longer the dividing line in British politics” this goes someway to explain why once former bastions of support in working class heartlands are marginals while once sky blue Tory suburbs are looking increasingly vulnerable.

2017 Second place map 

Link to interactive map

2015 Second place map


Craig Dawson

Craig Dawson is an active trade unionist and a part time computer science MSc student at Newcastle University.


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