New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
6 June 2024

The end of the Tory safe seat

The party is running out of places to hide.

By Will Dunn

Every national poll currently suggests a dismal result for the Conservatives in the general election on 4 July. Labour is somewhere between 12 and 27 points more popular than the Tories, a number that may or may not seem particularly seismic to a normal person. Hidden in the polling numbers, however, is another indicator of just how deep the Tory malaise has become: even in the “safest” Tory seats, a shrinking minority is prepared to vote Conservative.

Safe seats are generally seen as less interesting than the swing seats that could create a Portillo moment or a rebuilt Red Wall. They can be revealing, however. The New Statesman’s Britain Predicts model, created by polling expert Ben Walker, uses a wealth of polling data to forecast the vote (as a percentage for each party) in every constituency. It has been very successful in the past, and its predictions for safe seats are eye-opening.

In Labour’s safest seats, it dominates completely: in eight constituencies Labour is forecast to win at least 80 per cent of the vote. In the Lib Dems’ most popular constituency, Oxford West and Abingdon, they’re forecast to win a 58 per cent share of the vote, one of seven constituencies in which the Lib Dems are forecast to win over 50 per cent of the vote. The Greens have one such seat – Brighton Pavilion – in which they’re forecast to win 56 per cent of the vote.

The Tories have none. There is not a seat in the UK in which the Conservatives are predicted to win more than half of votes. According to our model, there are just four seats in England where the Tories can expect to receive more than 40 per cent of the vote.

Their top share in England (in Scotland, another three seats scrape over 40 per cent) is in Stoke-on-Trent South, where they are forecast to receive 41 per cent, but even here, Labour is forecast to edge a close victory, with 42 per cent of the vote. The same is true of Dudley (where they lose 40 to 41) and Bassetlaw (where they lose 40 to 43). Even in the places with the highest number of people prepared to vote Conservative, they are in critical danger.

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It’s worth looking, too, at the seats in which the main parties are least popular. There are only two seats in which Labour is predicted to win less than 10 per cent of the vote. For the Tories, it’s almost 60.

There are plenty of seats in which the Tories can still win despite a smaller share – they’re forecast to take seats such as South Cotswolds and Melksham and Devizes with less than a third of the overall vote – but the polls currently suggest the Tories are heading for a share of the overall vote that will be considerably lower than 1997.

[See also: The seismic radicalism of Nigel Farage]

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