- There are 54 Parliamentary constituencies in Yorkshire and the Humber. Currently Labour hold 33, the Conservatives 19, and the Liberal Democrats two.
- Whilst this region furnished 2015’s ‘Portillo moment’ when Andrea Jenkyns ousted Ed Balls, it was otherwise a disappointing one for the Tories as strong UKIP showings sucked the wind from their sails. The loss of Dewsbury left them with a score-draw against Labour, and they went backwards in a number of marginals. They’ll be aiming to put that right this time, and perhaps pick up a seat from the Liberal Democrats too – but the ground they lost in 2015 may have put a number of their old targets, such as Caroline Flint’s Don Valley, out of reach.
- For Labour, it’s the inverse: apart from losing their Shadow Chancellor this was a pretty good patch in a pretty bad election. However they went backwards in most of their Tory-facing marginals, and will likely be fighting a purely defensive election here. A possible exception might be the very marginal Morley & Outwood, Jenkyn’s seat.
- Until the Richmond by-election this was the only region in the kingdom to return more than one Lib Dem MP, both of whom will probably be OK this time. But where once this region held a clutch of close-fought targets for the party, this time they have only a single long shot in Bradford.
- It’s not really plausible to track UKIP targets in this election, given where they are both organisationally and in the polls. But this region may hinge on what happens to the party’s 2015 vote, which was very strong in some critical marginals and seems to have hurt the local Conservative campaign badly in 2015.
As in 2015, we’ll be taking a region-by-region look at the seats which could change hands and offering our suggested lists of target seats for each party.
These lists aren’t predictions of gains: rather, they’re just seats which we think could be competitive. They might be official party targets, have a small majority, or be subject to other factors which could leave them open to change.
Amongst the resources we’ll be using to steer us through these murky waters are Electoral Calculus, UK Polling Report, Number Cruncher Politics, and Election Polling, whilst all Leave vote share estimations are from Chris Hanretty’s very helpful constituency-by-constituency charts. We’re also keeping an eye on the work of many other pollsters, psephologists, and analysts, some of whom our assistant editor has collated onto a Twitter list.
Battleground Rating: 8/10
Targets by party:
(NB These are our own suggestions of potential attack seats for each party – including those officially designated as targets and others where the incumbent has a relatively small majority, or local factors are at play which may open the seat to change.)
Batley & Spen: Held by Jo Cox until her assassination during the EU referendum, Labour incumbent Tracy Brabin enjoyed a majority of 16,537 over the second-placed English Democrats in a by-election none of the major parties contested. This time Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative gain in a seat Hanretty estimates to have gone 60 per cent Leave and where UKIP got over 9,000 votes in 2015.
Bradford South: This was last won by the Tories in 1918, although they fell only 110 votes short at their previous high water mark in 1983. Electoral Calculus narrowly tips a Labour hold, but having voted Leave by 64 per cent (est.) the margin is narrow enough that a good campaign could furnish a surprise result, even with relatively few UKIP votes to squeeze.
Dewsbury: Despite 2015 being an unexpectedly good night for the Conservatives it was not one for Simon Reevell, the party’s first-term MP for this constituency whom Labour unseated that evening. This time the Tory candidate is Beth Prescott, who faces a Labour majority of under 1,500 and a 2015 UKIP vote of over 6,600 in a town estimated to have voted Leave by 67 per cent. Electoral Calculus gives her a 65 per cent chance of carrying the day, and if Labour hold on here it will auger very badly for the Conservatives.
Don Valley: This was competitive after 2010 but it’d take a real landslide to unseat Caroline Flint here: her majority stands at 8,885, up from just under 3,600 in 2010. However, 2015 also saw UKIP take almost 10,000 votes in a seat estimated to have voted Leave by 68 per cent, so you can see the potential for an upset if UKIP (and perhaps some Labour Leavers) switch to the Tories in sufficient numbers. Electoral Calculus puts their chances at 40 per cent and tips a Labour hold.
Great Grimsby: Probably the clearest example of how UKIP’s strong showing in this region hobbled the Tories, in 2015 Labour extended their majority over the second-placed Tories from an ultra-marginal 714 to a comfortable 4,540 after Victoria Ayling, the 2010 Tory candidate, ran for UKIP and took just over 8,400 votes to the Conservatives’ 8,874. This seat has been Labour since 1945 but it will be a bad night for the Tories if they’re not competive here, with such a big UKIP vote to squeeze and an estimated 71 per cent Leave vote. Electoral Calculus predict a Conservative gain.
Halifax: A painful near-miss in 2015, when second-time candidate Philip Allott cut Labour’s majority from 1,472 to just 428, this is another of the Tories’ “must-gains”. UKIP took over 5,600 votes last time, and in a town where almost six in ten voters opted to leave the EU the Conservatives must be hopeful of benefiting from the People’s Army’s involuntary demobilisation. Electoral Calculus predicts a very comfortable Conservative gain.
Huddersfield: On paper this is 90th on the Conservative target list and Labour’s 2015 majority was over 7,300, so it looks like a long shot. But in 2010 (before UKIP took third place and almost 6,000 votes) that majority was much more competitive at under 4,500, and the seat is estimated to have gone 52 per cent Leave. This is one of those seats which probably won’t fall but just might – Electoral Calculus tip a Labour hold but with a 45 per cent chance of a Conservative upset.
Leeds North East: One of those seats where the Tories fell back in 2015, it would take a swing of just over 7.5 per cent to beat Labour here, which would normally suggest it wasn’t in play. However Theresa May has already paid one visit to leads, and in 2010 – before UKIP took over 3,700 votes in 2015 – the Labour majority was a much more competitive 4,545. Despite a relatively low estimated Leave vote, Electoral Calculus predict only a narrow Labour hold and a strong campaign could make the difference.
Penistone & Stocksbridge: 2010 saw this seat stick to the regional trend of Conservative under-performance and Angela Smith, the Labour incumbent, extend her lead from a competitive 3,049 to what would normally be a relatively safe 6,723. Nonetheless Electoral Calculus marginally tips a Conservative gain, perhaps on the basis of a strong 2015 UKIP vote (10,738) in a heavily Leave seat (61 per cent est.). This seat may well prove a good indicator of how much the UKIP vote has unwound since the referendum, and to what extent that boosts Tory fortunes.
Rother Valley: Yet again, a very strong UKIP showing tripped the Tories here two years ago: they actually managed to take second place whilst Labour’s majority topped 7,000. But this seat voted Leave by a two-to-one margin (est.) and if the Conservatives can pick up even half of UKIP’s 2015 vote then they’re within about 3,000 votes of Labour straight away. Electoral Calculus predicts a Labour hold but with a 40 per cent chance of an upset Tory win in a seat Labour have held since 1918.
Scunthorpe: Yet another seat where the Tories slipped, but with the Labour majority just over 3,000 votes this is still very much a competitive seat. Almost seven voters in ten backed Leave here (est.) and in 2015 there were more than 6,300 UKIP voters for the Tories to target. Electoral Calculus tips a Conservative gain with almost 60 per cent probability.
Wakefield: Mary Creagh, an almost-ran in the 2015 Labour leadership contest, added a thousand votes to her majority in 2015 but it still stands at only 2,613. UKIP took almost 8,000 votes here in 2015 and the town is estimated to have voted 63 per cent Leave, so if Brexit voters are breaking to the Tories as heavily as the data suggests they must be confident of picking this up (for the first time since 1931). Electoral Calculus puts the odds of a Tory win at six in ten.
York Central: On paper, this looks like a long shot: Labour’s majority is a shade over 6,700 and the seat’s estimated Leave share is less than 40 per cent. Nonetheless Electoral Calculus suggests a Tory gain is more likely than not, and if a substantial chunk of UKIP’s 2015 vote (of just under 4,800) is now backing the Conservatives it’s possible to see how this might be a competitive race, especially if Theresa May has a very good election.
Morley & Outwood: This was the big scalp of election night two years ago, when Andrea Jenkyns beat Ed Balls, the then-Shadow Chancellor, by just 422 votes. She went on to serve as Yorkshire coordinator for Vote Leave, which will do her no harm in a constituency estimated to have gone for Brexit by 60 per cent. It may also help to woo some of the almost 8,000 voters who backed UKIP in 2015. Electoral Calculus predict a seven-in-ten chance of a Tory hold and a substantially increased majority.
Bradford East: This seat is only the 38th-most marginal seat on the Lib Dem battleground, but since the second in this region is Harrogate & Knaresborough (62nd, Tory majority 16,371) this will likely be the local party’s top target. Unfortunately said local party caused the Lib Dems a great deal of trouble when they controversially reselected David Ward, the former MP with a track record of anti-Semitic remarks, to be their candidate, forcing Tim Farron to sack him (after a great deal of unhelpful dithering). Electoral Calculus only gives them a one-in-five shot, perhaps not least because this seat went 55 per cent Leave (est.).