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 75 parliamentary constituencies here. At the last election the Conservatives captured 20, Labour 54, and the last by a Liberal Democrat.
- It’s an odd mix of possible targets for the Tories, basically a large cloud of possibilities rather than a clear band of probabilities. Most of these are divided between seats the Party held between 2010 and 2015/17, which tend to be evenly split on Brexit, and seats the Party hasn’t won in years, if ever, which are more Leave-y.
- Labour are already dominant in the region but on a good night there is definitely scope for them to lengthen their lead.by reversing more of the Tories’ post-2010 advances. Unlike the Conservatives though there are fewer seats where they would be breaking new ground – indeed both of those we identify, Altrincham and Sale West and Southport, are long shots.
- In 2015 this became the Liberal Democrats’ stronghold region, in that it returned two of them. Their national situation is much improved today but their battlefield in this region is relatively narrow, confined to a handful of seats in southern Greater Manchester and a long shot in Merseyside.
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.)
Barrow and Furness: Slightly odd seat, in that the Conservatives made little headway in 2010 before suddenly becoming very competitive in 2015, finally missing out in 2017 by fewer than 1,000 votes. John Woodcock, the incumbent, is now standing down having previously quit the Labour Party, so if the Tories are to make any gains in the region they must have high hopes of winning here. Electoral Calculus puts their chances at just under two-in-three.
Blackpool South: One of those seats where both main parties advanced in lock-step at the last election, with Labour maintaining their majority at around 2,500 despite a UKIP collapse. This looks set to be a close-fought race, and in a decidedly Leave-y seat the fact that the Brexit Party have already selected a candidate may auger ill for the Conservatives. On the other hand it was solidly Tory until 1997, and Electoral Calculus currently has them odds-on to win.
Bolton North East: The Tories have been semi-competitive here since 2005, but without any major breakthrough – 2017 was the first time Labour’s majority dropped below 4,000. It leans Brexit and UKIP had a strong showing here in 2015, racking up over 8,000 votes. Electoral Calculus currently gives Labour a one-per-cent lead in the odds, which given the state of the polls means it would likely auger a very good night for the Conservatives in the region if they win here.
Burnley: A very long shot indeed. Burnley last returned a Conservative MP in January 1910, and he was out again by December of that year. Labour’s majority here is over 6,300, inflated by the Liberal Democrat collapse. It gets a nod for a couple of reasons. First, in 2017 the Tories put in a very impressive performance and leapt from fourth place to second for the first time since 2001. Second, Electoral Calculus has this race as razor-close. Labour being increasingly identified with Remain could also hurt them in this two-thirds Leave seat, and a Lib Dem revival could eat their vote from the other side.
Bury North: Formerly the roost of one Alistair Burt, this seat went Labour in 1997, Conservative in 2010, and Labour again in 2017, when they put in a really impressive showing and increased their vote share by 12.5 per cent. Their current majority of 4,375 is comfortable but not safe, and on a good night the Tories might be able to overcome it or at least hold their vote better if a Lib Dem revival eats into Labour’s. Electoral Calculus has it neck-and-neck.
Bury South: This ought to be safer for Labour than its northern neighbour, as the Conservatives haven’t won here since 1992. What makes it interesting is that the incumbent, Ivan Lewis, has resigned from Labour and is fighting the seat as an Independent candidate. It’s hard to predict what this will do to the notional Labour majority, which is just under 6,000, but it seems to have moved the seat into just-about-plausible territory for the Tories, and Electoral Calculus gives them a very slender edge.
Crewe and Nantwich: Having held out against the high-water mark of Thatcherism, the Conservatives took this seat at the 2008 by-election and held it until 2017, when Edward Timpson was ousted by just 48 votes. With the margin that close the Party really must win this back if it is to have any hope of making significant gains, especially in a seat which apparently broke six-in-ten for Leave. Timpson is not standing this time, but Electoral Calculus still gives the Tories strong odds of a win.
Heywood and Middleton: This could have been the seat that put Nigel Farage in Parliament: UKIP fell just over 600 votes short of a major by-election upset here in 2014, and went on to place a very respectable second in 2015 with over 15,000 votes. This collapsed two years later and the Tories put on almost 19 points. Labour’s current majority is a comfortable 7,617, but Electoral Calculus has it as a close race and the Conservatives have re-selected Christopher Clarkson, their candidate from two years ago who knows the patch. An outside chance, probably.
Hyndburn: The Conservatives have actually been going in the wrong direction here, with Labour turning a 3,000 majority in 2010 to one of over 5,800 in 2017. The question is whether Labour can maintain that elevated share in a decidedly Leave-y (65 per cent) constituency whilst becoming increasingly Remain-y at national level – and if not, whether the Tories can advance enough to get over the line. Electoral Calculus has Labour as favourites, but not by much.
Lancaster and Fleetwood: Eric Ollerenshaw squeaked home here by just 333 votes in 2010, before losing the seat to Labour’s Cat Smith in 2015. Two years later she dramatically increased her majority from 1,265 to 6,661, and this seat therefore looks pretty secure. The question is whether that majority is solid or merely an artefact of 2017’s atrocious Tory campaign. Electoral Calculus, usually bullish about Conservative prospects, tips Labour to win but suggests a close race. Like Cameron-era Tory seats we’ve looked at previously, this seat isn’t especially Brexit-y.
Warrington South: This is another of those seats which was Conservative from 2010 until 2017 and, like many of those, it doesn’t have a strong Brexit position – in fact it was apparently split almost down the middle at the referendum. Also as in many other seats, the Tories lost here last time despite increasing their own vote share, in this instance to a very solid 44 per cent. Labour seem likely to lose ground, especially if the Lib Dems start getting back towards their 2010 levels of support, so all the Conservatives need to do is hold their ground to have a decent shot. Electoral Calculus has them as strong favourites.
Weaver Vale: Another seat with the same pattern: a surprise Conservative gain in 2010, which they held in 2015, and which split pretty much 50-50 in 2016. The Party only ever managed three-figure majorities, whilst Labour’s currently sits at almost 4,000, which suggests it isn’t naturally Tory, but it is by no means out of reach on a good night and Electoral Calculus currently as the Party ahead.
Westmorland and Lonsdale: Honestly the moment for taking this may have passed: the Conservatives cut Tim Farron’s majority to just 777 in 2017 – whilst he was leader! – but in the context of a wider Lib Dem revival in a (slightly) Remain-y seat it may be asking a lot for the Tories to oust him now. But it was a safe Conservative seat until 2005 and it is not unheard of for any party to make general advances whilst losing individual battles, Electoral Calculus gives the Tories a 30 per cent chance.
Wirral West: Here is another seat which seems to hinge on whether or not Labour’s 2017 vote was an aberration or part of a trend. In 2010 and 2015 this was marginal, with Esther McVey winning it by 2,436 and then losing it – after a high-profile campaign to target her seat – by just 417 votes five years later. Yet in 2017 the Labour majority rose to 5,365 whilst the Conservative vote stood still. The fact this seat is quite Remain-y won’t help the Tories either. Electoral Calculus has them narrowly ahead, but a win here would very likely still mean/require a good night elsewhere.
Workington: Behold! The home of ‘Workington Man’, this election’s go-to composite voter. It’s rather Leave-y (about 60 per cent) and hasn’t returned a Conservative MP since its formation in 1918 save for one by-election in 1976. Can the Tories win here? Apparently: Labour’s majority is under 4,000; a Survation poll for the Daily Mail has the Party in front; and Electoral Calculus has the Conservatives as favourites too. The think pieces are already coming in. Given the profile, if Boris Johnson doesn’t carry this seat it risks becoming a sort of anti-Nuneaton or anti-Basildon.
Altrincham and Sale West: This has been one of the Conservatives’ few safe seats in Greater Manchester, but despite holding the seat since 1997 Sir Graham Brady’s majority of just under 6,500 is not impregnable. This is a very Remain-y seat, with fewer than four-in-ten residents backing Leave, and Labour may hope that Sir Graham’s staunchly pro-Brexit views will help them peel away his voters. Their bid may be complicated, however, if the Liberal Democrats put in a strong showing.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys: This seat has been Conservative since 2010, but Paul Maynard’s majority hovers at just a hair over 2,000 and Labour have always been competitive. Electoral Calculus predict that he will expand that quite comfortably, perhaps in part because this this is a seat which broke two-thirds for Leave which may undermine Labour in a campaign polarised around Brexit. One possible spoiler: if the Brexit Party get back to UKIP’s 2015 vote share, Labour might squeak it.
Bolton West: Labour from 1997 until 2015, incumbent Chris Green has taken this seat by three-figure majorities at both of the last general elections – fulfilling our editor’s call for a “Conservatism for Bolton West” in the process. Yet this belies a stronger Tory tendency than those margins suggest, as the Party has actually been competitive here since 2005 and almost snatched it in 2010. Another where the Brexit Party could spoil if they revive the UKIP vote, but Electoral Calculus predict a comfortable hold.
Carlisle: Prior to John Stevenson’s capturing this seat in 2010, it had been in Labour’s hands since 1964. They therefore have deep roots to draw on and, unless the Tories are benefiting from some deep-rooted demographic shift, should be hopeful of retaking it on a good night. Yet it is quite Leave-y, and Stevenson managed to increase his majority in 2010 despite the purple wave, and Electoral Calculus puts the odds of a Labour win here at just under 30 per cent.
Copeland: The 2017 by-election here was the great false dawn of Mayisme, with various statistics being trotted out about how it was the first X or Y in decades, if not centuries. More prosaically it had been drifting towards the Tories at the 2010 and 2015 general elections, and Trudy Harrison’s 2017 majority of just under 1,700 means this seat is likely a must-take if Labour are to make serious advances in the North West. The Brexit Party could help them, too, but Electoral Calculus has the odds at less than one in three.
Morecambe and Lunesdale: Very much a ‘New Labour’ seat, the Party held it from 1997 to 2010 but prior to that it had been Conservative since 1950. Yet 2017 saw more than 3,000 knocked off the Tory majority and David Morris enters the election defending one of just 1,399. On the other hand, this seat is quite Leave-y and there are relatively few minor-party votes to pick up, so Labour would need to either find direct switchers or hope Conservative voters stay at home. Electoral Calculus odds? Not great.
Pendle: Labour from 1992 until 2010, Andrew Stephenson currently holds this for the Tories by fewer than 1,300 votes – down from almost 5,500 in 2015. Interestingly, UKIP did not contest the last general election here at all, despite a respectable 5,400 votes in 2015. This seat is very Brexit-y, and if Labour come to be identified with Remain then they will likely need a strong Brexit Party showing to split Stephenson’s vote if they’re to get in here. Yet Electoral Calculus gives them a relatively good four-in-ten chance of winning.
Rossendale and Darwen: Jake Berry’s majority of 3,216 is the smallest he’s achieved since winning the seat in 2010, and may just be an artefact of 2017’s abysmal campaign. Even then, it was more than 50 per cent of the vote. This is a moderately Leave-y seat (58 per cent, at Hanretty’s estimate), and these factors combined suggest that Labour might have an uphill struggle even if the Brexit Party were to eat into Berry’s vote. Electoral Calculus currently pegs it as a long shot, but polls can change.
Southport: This is an long shot: Southport has never returned a Labour MP, and the Liberal Democrats were sufficiently well-embedded here that they survived the great collapse of 2015. But when John Pugh retired in 2017 the Tories snatched the seat and Labour found themselves in second place. It may come down to the minor parties: will the Brexit Party eat into the Tory vote, and can Labour maintain themselves as the leading anti-Conservative choice amidst a nationwide Lib Dem revival? Electoral Calculus gives them a one-in-five shot.
Altrincham and Sale West: This is not an obvious target on paper: at the last election the Lib Dems were a distant third with just over 4,000 votes. Yet the Party appears to be taking it seriously, and has redeployed ex-Labour ex-Change UK MP Angela Smith to contest it. This is a very Remain-y seat, with fewer than four-in-ten residents backing Leave, and apparently MRP modelling suggests the Lib Dems may be in with a shout.
Cheadle: This was held by the Party from 2001 until 2015, and at one point local Tories despaired of recapturing it. Then came the great Lib Dem implosion, and today Mary Robinson has a majority of 4,500. But that isn’t insurmountable, especially in what is quite a Remain-y constituency, and Electoral Calculus has Jo Swinson’s candidate narrowly ahead of Robinson in a very close race.
Hazel Grove: Neighbouring constituency to Cheadle, and likewise won back for the Tories in 2015 by Will Wragg after falling to the Lib Dems in 1997. Unlike its neighbour this seat voted Leave, albeit by a slender margin, and that might explain both why Wragg’s 2017 majority held up somewhat better than Robinson’s – it now sits at over 5,500 – and why Electoral Calculus strongly tip him to retain the seat next month.
Southport: This seat is unusual in that it didn’t fall to the Conservatives in 2015, instead only doing so at the 2017 general election when John Pugh, who had represented it since 2001, stepped down. The Lib Dems are currently in third place but are close enough to incumbent Damien Moore that it isn’t implausible that they could leapfrog Labour on a good night. This seat is fairly evenly split on Brexit, but a strong UKIP performance in 2015 may have cost the Tories the seat so the Brexit Party could bring this seat into play. However, Electoral Calculus predict a Tory hold.
Heywood and Middleton: How long is four and a half years in politics? We ask only because, as mentioned above, this seat once came closer than most to returning a UKIP MP, and that vote was sufficiently resilient to give the party a strong showing at the subsequent general election. If the Brexit Party are targeting Labour-held seats which lean strongly Leave, this fits that profile too. Not much evidence they’ll gain it (or anything else), but if they wanted a target in the North West this looks like a candidate.