Information overload. If you see me staggering around the streets of south London, muttering at the pigeons, take pity. I’ve frazzled my mind by comparing every one of last week’s 650 constituency results with those from 2010. Then putting them in a spreadsheet. Then creating the chart above. It shows the percentage points accrued by the Conservatives and Labour not just nationally (where the former’s vote share rose from 36.1 to 36.9 per cent, and the latter’s from 29.0 to 30.4), but also in the seats they held, gained and lost. The pigeons understand.
The tight grip of incumbency. Considering that they were yoked to a governing party, the Conservative candidates who held onto Conservative seats didn’t do half bad. They added 2.7 percentage points to their vote share on average, ranging from a decline of 11.4 points in Richmond (Yorks) to an increase of 12.0 points in Newark.
From Lib to Lab. But Labour candidates holding onto Labour seats had that beat. They added 4.5 percentage points to their vote share on average. This was mainly due to the nature of the Lib Dem collapse. In seats such as Birmingham Hodge Hill the Liberals’ vote share went from 28 per cent to 6 per cent, and the Labour incumbent’s vote rose by almost as much. This is also the story in many of the seats that Labour managed to gain.
Good losers. Despite their paleness, the two columns for the lost seats stand out. Labour shed an average of 17.7 percentage points in every seat they lost, largely thanks to the irresistible rise of the SNP in Scotland. Whereas the Conservatives actually added an average of 2.2 percentage points. In fact, in only two of the Tories’ lost seats – Enfield North and Ilford North – did they lose vote share too.
What it means for 2020. I warned in yesterday’s To The Point that we shouldn’t get carried away: the Conservatives only won over a quarter of all possible voters. But today’s numbers speak to a happier truth. The Tories’ losses last Thursday were close ones, and many of those seats can be won back. Labour’s losses, by contrast, were big. They should stay lost for a very long time.