Listed below are all the constituencies where Labour is in second place and the winning party’s majority is under 10 per cent. Winning all 78 of these seats (and holding every seat we hold now) would give Labour 340 seats, a working majority.
Labour becomes the largest party, with 295 seats, if it takes every seat as far down the list as Putney, requiring either a uniform increase in the Labour vote of 3.3 per cent if its main opponents stand still or a swing (change in Labour and its opponent’s vote added together and divided by two) of 1.65 per cent. In such a situation the SNP would have 28 seats, the Lib Dems 12, Plaid Cymru 3 and the DUP 10, so reaching an overall majority would require a coalition or “confidence and supply” arrangement involving the SNP and one of the other parties too.
To reach an overall majority (326 seats), Labour needs to gain 64 seats, taking it as far down the list as Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, requiring a uniform increase in the Labour vote of 7.4 per cent or a swing of 3.7 per cent.
Such a change in vote share was achieved by Jeremy Corbyn this year – up 9.7 per cent. However, it will presumably be more difficult to add yet further voters to Labour’s coalition as this requires us to win over people who have voted Conservative in the last three General Elections or SNP in the last two.
In 2017 we achieved a swing of 2.05 per cent as the Tory vote also went up. Achieving this again would get us to being largest party but not to an overall majority. The required swing for that of 3.7 per cent has only been achieved by Labour in the post-WW2 era: in 1997 (10 per cent) and 1945 (11.6 per cent).
|Constituency||Region/Nation||Winning party||Majority||% Majority over Lab|
|Southampton Itchen||South East||Con||31||0.1|
|Glasgow South West||Scotland||SNP||60||0.2|
|Airdrie & Shotts||Scotland||SNP||195||0.5|
|Pudsey||Yorkshire & Humberside||Con||331||0.6|
|Hastings & Rye||South East||Con||346||0.6|
|Motherwell & Wishaw||Scotland||SNP||318||0.8|
|Calder Valley||Yorkshire & Humberside||Con||609||1.0|
|Stoke-on-Trent South||West Midlands||Con||663||1.6|
|Dunfermline & West Fife||Scotland||SNP||844||1.7|
|Bolton West||North West||Con||936||1.8|
|Northampton North||East Midlands||Con||807||2.0|
|Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland||North East||Con||1020||2.1|
|Milton Keynes South||South East||Con||1725||2.7|
|Northampton South||East Midlands||Con||1159||2.8|
|Edinburgh North & Leith||Scotland||SNP||1625||2.9|
|Morecambe & Lunesdale||North West||Con||1399||3.1|
|Milton Keynes North||South East||Con||1975||3.1|
|Finchley & Golders Green||London||Con||1657||3.2|
|Camborne & Redruth||South West||Con||1577||3.3|
|Morley & Outwood||Yorkshire & Humberside||Con||2104||4.0|
|Vale of Glamorgan||Wales||Con||2190||4.1|
|South Swindon||South West||Con||2464||4.8|
|Blackpool North & Cleveleys||North West||Con||2023||4.9|
|Chingford & Woodford Green||London||Con||2438||5.2|
|Linlithgow & East Falkirk||Scotland||SNP||2919||5.2|
|Paisley & Renfrewshire North||Scotland||SNP||2613||5.6|
|Reading West||South East||Con||2876||5.6|
|North East Derbyshire||East Midlands||Con||2860||5.7|
|Paisley & Renfrewshire South||Scotland||SNP||2541||6.1|
|Rossendale & Darwen||North West||Con||3216||6.4|
|Glasgow North West||Scotland||SNP||2561||6.6|
|Truro & Falmouth||South West||Con||3792||6.7|
|Na h-Eileanan An Iar||Scotland||SNP||1007||6.8|
|Walsall North||West Midlands||Con||2601||6.8|
|Scarborough & Whitby||Yorkshire & Humberside||Con||3435||6.8|
|East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow||Scotland||SNP||3866||7.1|
|Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire||Wales||Con||3110||7.4|
|Cities of London & Westminster||London||Con||3148||8.1|
|Filton & Bradley Stoke||South West||Con||4190||8.3|
|Shipley||Yorkshire & Humberside||Con||4681||8.8|
|Carmarthen East & Dinefwr||Wales||PC||3908||9.5|
|East Worthing & Shoreham||South East||Con||5106||9.6|
|Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East||Scotland||SNP||4264||9.7|
Six of these constituencies were Labour until the last general election. A further 26, mainly in Scotland, were lost in 2015, whilst 28 were lost in 2010. Ten were lost in 2005 or before i.e. only previously won in landslide Labour victories; and eight have never been held by Labour (unless you count Arfon as the successor to Caernarfon, which was Labour from 1950 to October 1974).
These constituencies are not evenly distributed around the UK:
22 in Scotland
9 in the East Midlands
8 in the North West
7 in London
7 in the South East
7 in Wales
5 in Yorkshire & Humberside
4 in the Eastern region
4 in the South West
4 in the West Midlands
1 in the North East
Such is the changing political geography of the country that a lot of traditional bell-weather seats in the West Midlands, or the Thames Gateway in Kent and Essex are not within range, whereas some seats that have never been marginal before such as East Worthing and Shoreham (which is increasingly taking on the demographics of neighbouring Brighton and Hove), Southport (where the Lib Dems have collapsed from 1st to 3rd), and Chingford & Woodford Green (almost all London seats are undergoing huge demographic change) are now targets.
32 of the marginal seats Labour notionally held (on the new boundaries) in 2005 but lost in 2010 are now beyond this list of targets as they have moved away from us while other areas have moved towards us (despite the national vote share now being 5 per cent better). These are heavily concentrated in particular regions that were historically marginal but seem resistant to the Corbyn Labour Party: 11 in the West Midlands, six in the South East of which four are in Kent. It’s not coincidental that these are very pro-Leave areas with lots of skilled working class (C2) voters.
Looking at each region in turn:
The high number of Scottish seats is a cause for optimism as almost all of them were safe Labour bastions in the Central Belt before the 2015 SNP surge and it might be hoped they will revert to type (the exception is Na h-Eileanan An Iar, the Western Isles, a completely idiosyncratic seat where candidates’ personal votes are key as the electorate is so small, which was lost to the SNP in 2005). Many now have tiny SNP majorities. However, a note of caution needs to be sounded as Labour’s vote share only went up by 2.8% in Scotland this year, so thus far it seems less enthused by Jeremy Corbyn than England and Wales do.
The high number of targets – nine seats – in the East Midlands is a cause for concern as this was one of Labour’s most difficult regions this year, with a swing to Labour of only 0.8 per cent and two seats (Mansfield and North East Derbyshire) actually lost to the Tories (though there were also three gains). These two seats are among the nine that need to be gained. They and Sherwood are former mining seats with a strong Leave vote in the EU referendum. Sherwood and Mansfield are in the old Nottinghamshire coalfield where animosities between NUM and UDM supporters dating back to the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike are still a local political factor. Most of the rest are the kind of middle sized English towns that are often swing seats as they combine diverse social and economic wards in one constituency.
The eight seats in the North West include two classic Pennine marginals with high levels of low-cost owner-occupation making them susceptible to concerns about interest rates (Pendle and Rossendale & Darwen); three seaside resorts (Blackpool North & Cleveleys, Morecambe & Lunesdale, Southport) which is a type of seat that has been trending to Labour for decades due to economic decline; and the by-election loss of Copeland, which is economically dependent on the nuclear power industry. Bolton West was one of the surprise Tory gains in 2015.
The seven seats in London include four with among the largest Jewish electorates in the UK (Chipping Barnet, Finchley & Golders Green, Harrow East, Hendon), where Labour’s stance on Israel and it being seen to tackle antisemitism allegations will be a factor. Two of the remaining three (Chingford & Woodford Green and Cities of London & Westminster) have never been Labour before, while Putney has only been won in 1964, 1966, 1997 and 2001. Having said this, demographic trends are working in Labour’s favour across London.
The seven in the South East include three New Town seats (Crawley, Milton Keynes North, Milton Keynes South) which are classic marginals; the Home Secretary’s seat of Hastings & Rye (another seaside resort trending to Labour demographically); Southampton Itchen which Labour won as recently as 2010; Reading West which is in the economically strong M4 corridor; and the previously solidly Tory but now Brighton-esque East Worthing & Shoreham.
The seven Welsh seats include five Tory seats that had been Labour for at least part of the Blair years but are always competitive, and two long-term Plaid Cymru seats. Urban Wales is largely already Labour, so these target seats have demography that wouldn’t make them very winnable in England but they could be picked up given the cultural affinity of Wales to Labour. Quite a few of the Welsh seats fall into the seaside resorts category.
The five Yorkshire seats is a small number for a region that historically has had a reasonable number of marginal seats. Ed Balls’ former Morley & Outwood seat was a surprise loss in 2015. Pudsey and Shipley are in the suburbs of respectively Leeds and Bradford. Calder Valley is a tricky Pennine marginal with high levels of owner-occupation. Scarborough & Whitby falls into the seaside resorts category and was only ever won in the two Blair landslides.
There are only four targets in the Eastern region: Thurrock which is heavily anti-European and has the largest UKIP vote in the UK, but is rapidly changing demographically due to its proximity to London; the new town of Stevenage; Watford which is recovering from a period when it was a three-way marginal with a very strong Lib Dem presence; and Norwich North where the balance of the seat is suburban territory from outside the city boundary.
The four in the South West include two neighbouring Cornish seats (Camborne & Redruth and Truro & Falmouth) which have inherited parts of the abolished old Labour marginal of Falmouth & Camborne, where the Lib Dem vote is collapsing and Momentum is strongly organised. Filton & Bradley Stoke is suburbia, much of it built in the 1990s, just to the north of Bristol, a city which swung very heavily to Labour this year. Defence and aerospace are big factors as major employers are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the Defence Equipment & Support agency. South Swindon is, like Filton & Bradley Stoke, in the M4 hi-tech corridor with automotive the main employer due to the large Honda factory.
There are a low number of targets in the West Midlands – four – given it has historically been a bell-weather region. This reflects a weak performance in 2017 (swing of only 1.15 per cent and net loss of one seat) due to the heavy Leave support in the region and low incidence of the kind of voters attracted to Jeremy Corbyn in London and university towns. Two of the four were lost this year (Stoke-on-Trent South and Walsall South), Telford was a surprise loss in 2015 and only Worcester is a classic marginal (indeed it had a category of swing voter, “Worcester Woman”, named after it in 1997).
Finally there is the single North East seat lost this year, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, where the steel industry is the main issue.
So, lots of campaigning work to be done to secure a Labour Government given the difficulty of some of this terrain!