General Election 2019: The top six constituencies to watch
This General Election campaign is perhaps the most complex in recent history. The two major parties are more polarised on domestic policy than ever before, with the added complexity of each taking a distinct position on Brexit.
The usual ‘simplicity’ of marginal seats being fought between just two parties, or a particular political view coalescing around a single party, simply does not apply. In many northern Labour strongholds, a strong Leave vote will further complicate matters, undermining Labour’s traditional dominance, while Tory hopes of snatching some Labour held marginals may be dented by the threat of the Brexit Party.
The Brands2Life Public Affairs team has taken a look at the constituencies that illustrate this complexity – and where the 2019 General Election is likely to be won or lost. Here’s our top six seats to watch.
Bishop Auckland – Labour must win
While a constituency that has been Labour held for 97 of the last 101 years may not spring to mind when we think of key electoral battlegrounds, Bishop Auckland in north east England will be a significant barometer of the impact of Brexit on this election. The Labour incumbent, Helen Goodman, has a majority of just 502 votes, while the constituency voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in 2016. If Labour stands any chance of gaining a majority on 12th December, pro-Brexit seats such as this have to remain red.
North East Fife – Three way marginal
North East Fife holds the distinction of being the most marginal seat in the country. In 2017 the SNP won here by just two votes, clinging on from their 2015 victory that saw them snatch the constituency from the Liberal Democrats, who remain their closest rivals. But don’t discount the Conservatives – in 2017 the Tories finished just 3,655 votes behind the winner. As three-way scraps go, this will be fascinating – particularly when you consider that Lib Dems and SNP will be fighting over the same remain vote.
Loughborough – Conservative battleground?
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan surprised many when she announced that she would not be contesting the 2019 election, citing the abuse she has received during her time as an MP. The Conservative majority is over 4,000, but with a new candidate in place, and a strong remain vote (50.09%), could this be a Labour surprise? After all, Loughborough has voted for the winning party at every election since February 1974.
Sheffield Hallam – Lib Dem must win
The former seat of ex-Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Sheffield Hallam fell to Labour in 2017 in a surprise result. This time around, it will be a key barometer of the success of the Liberal Democrats Brexit strategy. The constituency voted by 66% to remain in 2016 – frankly, if the Liberal Democrats cannot win here, they’re in for a very tough night.
Airdrie and Shotts – Labour gain?
Labour were all but wiped out in Scotland in the 2015 election, with a modest resurgence to just seven MPs in 2017. If Jeremy Corbyn is to win a majority, he needs to regain Scottish seats such as Airdrie and Shotts, held by the SNP by just 195 votes at the last election. However, once again Labour’s seemingly less than emphatic pro-Remain Brexit position may prove problematic – the constituency voted 60% for remain in 2016.
Bassetlaw – Conservative dream win
Bassetlaw has been a Labour seat for close to 100 years. But with its incumbent MP, John (now Lord) Mann, standing down, and controversy dogging the selection of the new Labour candidate, the Conservatives will have higher hopes than normal of breaking the Labour grip on the constituency. They will be aided by an overwhelmingly pro-Brexit electorate – 68% of voters plumped for leave in 2016. But the Brexit Party will have a big say in whether the Tories can gain the 5000 vote swing they need – this is exactly the type of seat in which the Conservatives will be desperate for Nigel Farage to stand down his candidate. If he does, and the Tories win Bassetlaw, they will be on course for an outstanding night.
Written by Jamie Slavin, Senior Account Director, Public Affairs