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 54 parliamentary constituencies in this region. Before the election 17 were represented by Conservative MPs, 35 by Labour MPs, 1 by a Liberal Democrat MP, and 1 by an Independent MP.
- If the Tories have got a path to a majority that runs through ‘Labour Leave’ seats, there is a large clutch of them here. They ought to pick up at least five, and on a really good night could get into double digits. If they fall short, the problem is unlikely to be confined to this region.
- Labour are sufficiently dominant, and a lot of the Conservative-held seats sufficiently safe, that their band of plausible targets is relatively narrow. Even with their current poor polling there are a few seats where the Tories’ paper majority is so thin that they could buck a bad national trend.
- The Liberal Democrats will likely make a return to this region, having been wiped out in 2017 (Angela Smith held her seat at dissolution as a defector). We count two solid targets which they really ought to take.
- Picking targets for the Brexit Party is challenging because it seems so unlikely that they’ll win any seats. But if we take them at their own word, then somewhere like Rother Valley really ought to be good territory for them. Let’s see.
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.)
Colne Valley: Jason McCartney held this seat for the Tories from 2010 until 2017, and secured majorities in the mid-four digits on both occasions before losing it to Labour by just 915 votes last time. He’s standing again and given where the polls are right now he ought to be very confident of taking it back. Notably the Liberal Democrats actually pushed Labour into third in 2010, so if they have any luck clawing back some of their pre-Coalition vote that could be enough to put Labour out.
Dewsbury: A very unusual seat in that it is an ‘Ed Miliband gain’, one of the small clutch of seats Labour picked up in 2015 whilst David Cameron was winning his overall majority. Prior to that it was Conservative for only a single term, but Labour’s majority is only 3,321 so there is no reason to write the Party off here. As so often it could depend on which of the minor parties does more damage to its Leave/Remain counterpart. Electoral Calculus has Labour narrowly ahead.
Don Valley: Since its creation in 1918 this seat has returned a non-Labour MP only one time – and that was a National Democratic candidate allied to Lloyd George. Another where the Tories seemed to be within striking distance in 2010, when they cut Labour’s majority to less than 3,600, only for it to slip away again. This is a very Leave-y seat (over 68 per cent), but Caroline Flint is one of the highest-profile ‘pro-Deal’ Labour MPs and there is a big 2015 UKIP vote which the Brexit Party could revive. Nonetheless, probably a bad night for Boris Johnson if he misses this.
Great Grimsby: A recently-released constituency poll showed Melanie Onn 13 points underwater here. This isn’t so surprising given its history: the Tories almost took it in 2010, and likely only missed out in 2015 because their candidate stood for UKIP and split the vote. Onn’s majority now stands at just over 2,500 and barring a major turnaround it looks as if the Conservatives are on track to return an MP for this seat for the first time since 1924 – even in the face of a strong Brexit Party performance.
Keighley: The Conservatives lost this in 2017 by just 249 votes, having won it in both 2010 and 2015. Labour put on 8.4 points last time to pull that off, and with the national polls where they are it would take an extraordinary local effort to prevent their vote unwinding more than the Tory one. This seat looks like a pretty straight two-party fight, with no recent history of strength for either the Brexit Party or the Lib Dems and no strong lean in the EU referendum. Despite the above, Electoral Calculus has Labour head in a close race.
Scunthorpe: Despite being Labour since 1997, the Tories have been competitive here since 2010 – it’s another seat where they have slipped backwards a bit in 2015 and 2017, but here they are still less than 3,500 votes behind the incumbent. Another constituency with a 2016 Leave share north of 68 per cent, no campaign aimed at ‘Labour Leave’ constituencies could realistically survive falling short in places like Scunthorpe very often. A Labour hold augers disappointment for CCHQ.
Penistone & Stocksbridge: This has a rather unusual electoral history: the Conservatives cut Labour’s majority to just over 3,000 in 2010, only to fall back markedly in 2015, and then surge again in 2017. Angela Smith has departed to fight another seat for the Lib Dems and bequeaths her successor a Labour majority of just 1,322. UKIP did very well here in 2015, taking over 10,000 votes, so if the Tories continue to successfully squeeze the Brexit Party vote they ought to be favourites here.
Rother Valley: Didn’t really look competitive until 2017, but Labour’s majority here is now just 3,882 and the incumbent, Kevin Barron, is standing down. Another one of those seats the Tories really need to win if they’re to build a path to an overall majority through Labour Leave areas. Squeezing the Brexit Party will be essential: not only did this seat go strongly for Leave in 2016 but in the 2015 election UKIP took second place, securing over 13,000 votes. Electoral Calculus tip a Conservative gain.
Wakefield: Yet another seat where the Tories have run Labour close at the last few elections but never so close as in 2010. Nonetheless, Mary Creagh’s 2017 majority of 2,176 ought not to be insurmountable, and in what is a quite Leave-y seat the Tories should be the favourites. One ill omen is that the Party stood still at the local elections earlier this year – although the impact that local authority control will have on general election voting is up for debate.
Calder Valley: Apart from 1997, the Tories were competitive in this seat even in the Blair years before capturing it in 2010. But their majority has fallen at every election since then and now stands at just 609. However, Labour put on a heroic 9.7 points to get that close in 2017, and barring a very strong local campaign it seems probable that that might end up being their high-tide mark here for the time being.
Morley & Outwood: Home of 2015’s very own ‘Portillo Moment’, Andrea Jenkyns has held this seat by slender margins since ousting Ed Balls. She did manage to grow her lead in 2017 but it still sits at just 2,104, so on a good night for Labour she would surely be vulnerable. However their odds of ousting this outspoken Brexiteer in this pro-Brexit seat, and in the absence of a Brexit Party candidate, are probably long.
Pudsey: Prior to 1997 this had been a Tory seat since the 1950s, but since winning it back in 2010 Stuart Andrew has usually had to contend with relatively small majorities. In 2017 it fell from 4,500 to just 331, and in a Remain-leaning seat this ought to be one of Labour’s top targets in the region. Electoral Calculus predict a Conservative hold, but the margin here is sufficiently tiny that a focused local campaign could potentially produce an upset.
Leeds North West: This seat has a strong Liberal Democrat pedigree. The party first took it during their 2005 high-tide; racked up a majority of over 9,000 in 2010, and then then actually held it during the 2015 collapse, only losing it two years later. Long-serving incumbent Greg Mulholland is not standing again, and the personal vote tends to feature more in Lib Dem wins than others. However Electoral Calculus still tips them to win in this extremely Remain seat.
Sheffield Hallam: Another 2005 gain, and the parliamentary berth of Nick Clegg until Labour ousted him in 2017. His successor, Jared O’Mara, has surely been one of the most spectacularly awful MPs in recent memory, and his poor successor inherits a majority of just 2,125 in an very pro-Remain seat. If some combination of Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit and O’Mara’s legacy don’t hand this seat back to the Lib Dems then nothing will.
Rother Valley: For all that the party insists it will gain seats at this election, it is very hard to see where those might be. Yet if we have to look anywhere, constituencies like this best fit the Brexit Party’s own statements. Very strong Leave share in 2016? Check. No history of returning a Conservative MP? Check. Strong past UKIP performance? Check. If we’d not had a referendum in 2016 this could well be a UKIP seat by now, but in present circumstances it’s hard to imagine the Brexit Party breaking through.