Election results

The new election battleground

Here’s where the next election will be won and lost. The newly-elected MPs in each of these seats might want to start thinking now about how they are going to win in 2020. The other parties ought not to wait too long to get their candidates in place.


Note that over half of these seats – Derby North, City of Chester, Ealing Central & Acton, Bury North, Wirral West, Brentford & Isleworth, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Fermanagh & South Tyrone, Thurrock, Ilford North and Cambridge – were key seats in this year’s election. The voters of these constituencies are going to get little rest from campaigning over the next five years.

Some of the seats in the following list will also be rather familiar:


Croydon Central, Bury North, Thurrock, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Brighton Kemptown… off we go again. But one of the many ways this year’s election has changed the battleground is to remove the presence of a third party. In 2020 Labour will have only one target seat that does not currently belong to the Tories. It will make that election, at least in England and Wales, a lot more of a binary contest.

For the Tories, the destruction of the Liberal Democrats is even now not yet complete. They will already be eyeing Southport, where a swing of 1.5% will be enough for the seat to change hands, and also Carshalton & Wallington (1.6%). A swing in Labour-held seats of 2.5% would also give the Tories around 15 more seats.

There will be almost no battleground seats in Scotland in 2020. Only Berwickshire Roxburgh & Selkirk, Dumfriesshire Clydesdale & Tweeddale and Dunbartonshire East are likely to be in play. The first would be won by the Tories on a swing of just 0.3%. The second would fall to the SNP on a swing of 0.8%. The third would need a swing of 2% to go back to the Lib Dems.

The size of the swing to the SNP this year was so enormous that there are likely to be just as many battleground seats in Northern Ireland as Scotland in 2020. Sinn Fein would need a swing of 0.6% to regain Fermanagh & South Tyrone from the Ulster Unionists. The DUP could take Belfast South from the SDLP on a swing of 1.2%. Finally, Upper Bann would fall to the Ulster Unionists on a swing of 2.4% from the DUP – something that even now seems rather unlikely.

I’m going to do a separate post looking at the chances for Ukip and the Greens.


18 responses to ‘The new election battleground

  1. I really hope you continue this blog in the future. As a first time voter you have made me intrigued by politics and made me more sceptical and critical about what the headlines sometimes say. Even if you’re analysis was wrong in the end, you were in good company and if anything it just means your own advice about not taking the polls to literally is even more important than ever. Looking forward to your musings and reports about the upcoming elections!

  2. One small inaccuracy: Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk is now an SNP/Conservative marginal, not an SNP/Lib Dem marginal.

    Here are (IMO) the most important problem each party will have to resolve over the next five years:

    How does David Cameron prevent an EU referendum from splitting his party down the middle? Will Conservative MPs be whipped to support independence? Does whipping even work, considering they will be campaigning for the issue rather than voting on it? And how can it keep control of 56 SNP MPs who feel that the British government has little legitimacy in Scotland?

    Where does Labour go from here? Will it struggle to move on from the Blairite vs socialist schism which still divides the party? How can it simultaneously appeal to an England that considers it too left-wing, and a Scotland that feels it is no different from the Tories? Do trade unions hold too much power over the party?

    What do the Liberal Democrats even stand for? How do they rebuild? Are they an irrelevance now that their role as an alternative to the LabCon has been taken by other parties? Is the party in danger of becoming The Tim Farron Show?

    Have the SNP won the battle but lost the war? Is there appetite in Scotland for another independence referendum? Can they adapt to controlling their own pursestrings following further devolution? Might they fall victim to the same lack of competition that befell Labour in Scotland?

    Might UKIP’s general unpopularity among the 87% percent who did not vote for them count against them in the EU referendum? Can it cope without the charismatic Nigel Farage? And how can it get electoral reform on the political agenda without coming across as self-serving?

  3. Once again Ian thank you for a most enthralling blog which I have read and enjoyed regularly since January.

    Thank you also for the list of battlegrounds above. However there is to be a Boundary Review this parliament; I do not know whether 650 seats will be reduced to 600 which Cameron’s original intention or whether 650 remain but with roughly equal electorates but there is certainly a boundary review. Now one thing that has occurred to me as it must have occurred to other psephologists is this:

    Conservatives having 331 seats including speaker and Labour having 232 seats results in less votes electing a Con MP now than Labour MP. In simple terms Conservatives who secured a tiny swing of around 0.3% nationally gained more seats net from Labour presumably due to good targeting.

    So as the Conservative voteshare is now more efficient than the Labour voteshare, I suspect they may not now receive the “boost” or uplift in notional seats the Boundary Review provided in the abandoned Review in 2013.

    Alas we have to wait probably till 2018 until MPs vote on new boundaries.

    • I’m not so sure the boundary review will make it through parliament, at least not in its 600-seat form. The government no longer has a majority in the House of Lords, and I suspect issues such as the EU and Scotland could delay or even postpone the review for another session.

      • Membership of the House of Lords is an interesting one. Here are the stats: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/composition-of-the-lords/

        I suspect many of the cross-benchers are of a (small c) conservative bent, and of course the government can create new life peers if it needs to. Boundary changes and 600 MPs was in the Conservative manifesto again (see page 49) so the Salisbury Convention should apply and the Lords should not stand in its way.

        It would be an irony if the Conservatives ended up leading initiatives to create a more federal UK, with voting reform, and reform of the second chamber.

  4. Thank you Alex. I agree your 5 points on the 5 parties.

    I think Cameron will play the same game as Harold Wilson in 1975 claiming he has secured renegotiation when he will not have done. I think Cameron wishes to keep UK in EU anyway but many Conservative MPs and supporters wish to leave. I can even see some Conservative MPs resigning safe seats like Douglas Carswell did and forcing by elections on transfer to UKIP. Remember this works in a safe seat like Clacton but not in a marginal seat like Rochester&Strood!

    • Oddly enough I feel that it would be more likely for Carswell to return to the Conservatives than it would be for more Eurosceptic Tories to defect. And if previous cases are anything to go by, any Conservative defectors would need both significant personal popularity and a fairly UKIP-friendly seat to survive the following general election. If we are to see more UKIP MPs this parliament I feel they are more likely to come from by-elections triggered by local scandals where they get in on a protest vote (see their second places in the Eastbourne and Rotherham by-elections), than from Conservative defections.

  5. It sounds like you think the Liberal Democrats have no future. I’d be interested to know why if that’s really what you think.

    Anyway, I’d like to join everyone in thanking you for an excellent blog. I only discovered its riches two days before the election and it would have helped my own analysis if I’d found it earlier!

    It’d be great if you continued or at least revived it for 2020.

    • Thanks for your comments, Dave.

      I think the Lib Dems do have a future. They’ve got eight MPs for a start – seven more than Ukip – and political parties in this country don’t die off over the course of one electoral cycle. I suspect they’ll claw back a few seats in 2020, as by then the country could well be polarised in a Conservative v everyone else contest once again.

      • So the Lib Dems may prioritise defending the little they have left in 2020, but what do you feel are realistic target seats for them? The problem for them is that in a lot of the seats where they only lost narrowly (and some of the seats where they lost by rather more!) the outgoing MPs are taking a large personal vote with them. Having been a student in Cambridge, notionally the Liberal Democrats’ #1 target seat for 2020, I know how well-respected Julian Huppert was (at least among the students – being a university alumnus and former research scientist probably helped in that respect). The only reason that he got as close to retaining his seat was his personal appeal in spite of his party (well that and tactical voting from Tory supporters to try and keep Labour out). How much harder will it be for the Lib Dems to win that seat back, especially when the Labour MP has had a chance to improve his local profile? That Huppert has had more of a career outside politics than many in Westminster does not help either, as in five years’ time he will have got on with his life and probably not want to run again.

  6. Good lists, Ian, thanks for doing them.

    Hard to predict what things will be like in 5 years – but I’d be willing to bet Nick Clegg won’t stand again and that might make Sheffield Hallam a safer seat for the LibDems, after they’ve had the time to detoxify their brand

  7. Thanks for this blog.
    I have enjoyed it and I would like to ask whether you would consider continuing, perhaps without posting daily if there is not much to write about since there is no election.

  8. I dont think Clegg will stand in 2020 but I think LDs have potential to pick up a couple of Con seats in byelections if they occur over the next 5 years and the best they can hope for in 2020 is to double seats to 16 but that is very optimistic for them.

    I dont think Cameron will stand as MP in 2020 either.

    Also I recall Bercow saying when elected speaker in 2009, that he wished to remain only for 2 full parliaments after that one meaning potential retirement as both speaker and as MP in 2020.

    • I believe Bristol West was the only seat where the Greens came second, compared to 120 second places for UKIP. UKIP could feasibly break through in 2020 and win a double-digit number of seats (particularly if the electoral fraud investigation results in Farage being re-instated as the MP for South Thanet after all!) but the Greens are most likely a generation away from being a serious force in Westminster.

  9. The Greens had two second place finishes. Bristol West where they picked up 26.8% of the vote and finished up 5,673 votes behind Labour and Liverpool Riverside where they were it has to be said a distant second 24,463 votes behind Labour. What had be scurrying through the constituency lists last Thursday was the exit poll which was forecasting the Greens to win two seats. The BBC had then down to take Norwich South where they came third.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s