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At a much speculated date – no later than 24 January 2025 – voters across the UK will head to the polls at the next general election to determine the composition of the 59th House of Commons.
With current polling putting Labour ahead of the Conservatives by an average of nearly 20 points, discussion is focused on how permanent a realignment 2019 was to the British electoral map, as well as predictions on which regions and constituencies will be significant in deciding the next election.
With Labour requiring a gain of 123 seats to win a majority of just one – a national swing bigger than 1945 or 1997 – the below analyses the 100 constituencies (using existing boundaries) where Labour came closest to winning in 2019 and which could be considered swing seats.
Of the 100 seats analysed, there is a considerable amount of spread across the UK. The largest proportion, 17, are in the North West, followed by 13 in Scotland. There are 11 seats in both the East Midlands and Wales. This is followed by 10 seats in Yorkshire and The Humber, nine in the West Midlands, seven in London and six in the North East. The places with the lowest number of marginal seats in this grouping are the East of England and the South West, with only four seats in both.
Map identifying the 100 seats where Labour was closest to winning in the 2019 general election
A majority of the seats, 62 of the 100, sit within one of the UK’s 63 largest towns and cities. Of these seats, seven are within London, in constituencies ranging from the Zone One Cities of London and Westminster seat to the suburban Chingford and Woodford Green. Five of the seats are in the Manchester area, including Bury North, a seat held by the Conservatives by only 105 votes. Another five are in Birmingham. Outside of these cities and large towns, the majority lie within close proximity: 25 are in hinterlands and just 16 are deeply rural.
Map showing the marginal seats situated in the UK’s largest cities and towns
In general, the maps below show that the economic challenges faced by the marginal constituencies in the North and South are very different. Those further north tend to have lower shares of graduates, more people out of work who want a job, more of their jobs in manufacturing and lower house prices. In contrast, the maps show the southern marginals to be much more prosperous, with the challenge being dealing with the costs of growth. For example, they have higher shares of their jobs in Knowledge Intensive Business Services activities, but have both higher house prices and lower levels of outright home ownership.
From analysing these 100 marginal seats, it is evident urban areas will be central in deciding the next general election, with a particular focus on suburbs across the width and length of the UK.
With demographic profiles varying greatly across the country, parties face the challenge of appealing to a broad range of people living in a variety of seats across regions, each of which facing its own unique problems – where housing may be the issue of upmost importance to London and other southern voters, economic opportunity and tackling involuntary activity will be on the minds of voters in the North East. This suggests that prioritising any one grouping of seats and set of issues is not an option, rather parties must build a coalition of voters spanning geographies and outlooks. This will be at the forefront of parties’ minds as they decide which policies to include in their manifestos.
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