In 2015 and 2017, we ran a region-by-region overview of the key seats which could decide the general election. We have revived it for 2019, and these battleground profiles run regularly throughout the campaign.
- There are 55 parliamentary constituencies in this region. In 2017 the Conservatives won 47, Labour had seven, and the Liberal Democrats one.
- Given their dominance in the region there aren’t many Conservative targets, and what there are were all recently Tory – once-competitive seats like Exeter are now a long way out of reach.
- Maybe we’re missing something, but we can’t really see any plausible Labour gains in the South West without another collapse of the Conservative national campaign. The Brexit Party’s withdrawal from Plymouth Moor View probably took their only prospect out of reach.
- The Liberal Democrats once counted this region as their stronghold, but efforts to win back territory lost in 2015 will be hindered by the re-alignment of politics around Brexit in this Leave-y region and the sheer size of the swings they need – not a problem confined to the South West.
- With Lady Sylvia Hermon stepping down in North Down, this could be the next region to return an Independent MP to the Commons. Claire Wright seems poised to take East Devon if the Tories have a bad election – but will this be that election?
As in 2015 and 2017, we’ll be taking a region-by-region look at the seats which could change hands. 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.
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.)
Bristol North West: This was represented by Charlotte Leslie from 2010 until 2017. Labour’s majority is fairly healthy at 4,761, but if the Tories can carry their current lead through to polling day it ought not to be insurmountable. This seat is rather Remain-y – almost 60 per cent, on the Hanretty figures – but absent a pact a Liberal Democrat revival might just eat Labour’s vote. Not one of the ‘Labour Leave’ seats at the centre of the Tory strategy, but a viable prospect and one Electoral Calculus tips to fall.
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport: Much more evenly split on Brexit than neighbouring Moor View, which Johnny Mercer ought to retain comfortably, and although it was Tory-held from 2010 to 2017 the Party never managed more than a slender majority. Labour took it back in 2017 and the incumbent is sitting on a healthy majority of over 6,000. The Conservatives might pick this up if they are racking up 20-point leads in marginals, but the Brexit Party could hurt them if its a close race.
Stroud: One of those ‘lost Cameroon seats’: Neil Carmichael first took this in 2010 and then secured what looked like a healthy majority in 2015, only to see Labour slip past him at the last election by fewer than 700 votes. This seat leaned Remain but not by all that much, but whereas a Lib Dem revival might therefore have hurt Labour they have stepped aside in favour of the Greens as part of the ‘Unite to Remain’ pact. Electoral Calculus predicts a Labour hold, seemingly on the basis that they don’t expect the Greens to do at all well and thus Labour may be able to hold on to the voters they need.
Totnes: What is an MP’s personal vote worth? Dr Sarah Wollaston is going to find out, defending this seat as the incumbent after defecting to the Lib Dems. The auguries aren’t great: her new party only came close to winning here during the Conservatives’ nadir in the mid-2000s, and she has bequeathed her Tory successor a majority of almost 13,500 in a seat which voted Leave. It would be a big surprise of Boris Johnson’s campaign failed to take this back at a canter.
Cheltenham: Alex Chalk’s majority here is just over 2,500 – down from over 6,500 when he first won it in 2015 – and it is being touted as one of the Lib Dems’ top targets in the South West. The Brexit Party standing down might help him, but his Lib Dem challenger has started presenting this as an ‘endorsement by Nigel Farage’, which will sting in this quite Remain-y seat if it can be made to stick. There is a ‘Unite to Remain’ pact here, but it isn’t clear how much help it will be when the Green vote was down in triple figures last time.
North Devon: This has a long Lib Dem pedigree, having been held by the party for more than two decades from 1992 to 2015. Peter Heaton-Jones bequeaths his Tory successor a not-insurmountable majority of 4,332, and on a good night one can see Jo Swinson’s forces pulling this off. However in a quite Brexit-y seat (57 per cent) they face an uphill climb, and the Conservatives will be boosted by the absence of either a Brexit Party candidate or a ‘Unite to Remain’ pact.
St Ives: Cornwall used to be something like a Liberal Democrat heartland – they held all six seats in the county until 2010 – but is one of those areas where the realignment of politics around Brexit will be hurting this ardently pro-EU party. Nonetheless Derek Thomas is defending a Conservative majority of just 312 (down from just under 2,500 in 2015), and the Lib Dems are fielding veteran candidate Andrew George, who must know the seat like the back of his hand having fought it at every election since 1992 and represented it from 1997 to 2010. Electoral Calculus tips a Tory hold, probably on the back of the Brexit Party standing down.
East Devon: Seats where a genuinely independent candidate stands a chance of winning outside a pact are unusual. But local councillor Claire Wright has placed second here in both the last two elections and in 2017 racked up more than 21,000 votes. Moreover this time Hugo Swire is standing down, which could hurt the Conservatives if he commanded a significant personal vote. Of course the Tory majority is still over 8,000, there’s no strong Remain lean which might form the basis for a backlash, and despite being endorsed by ‘Unite to Remain’ Wright has not actually secured a pact. But national trends might not be the thing to watch – one straw in the wind is that the Tories lost control of the council to Independents in the Spring.