Connect’s ten seats to watch on election night
Beneath the headline polling, this election is likely to see significant changes in voting patterns across the UK. Connect has highlighted a range of key seats to look out for on election night and outlined what the results in each of these constituencies might tell us about wider voting trends across the UK.
When Hartlepool voted to leave the European Union by 70%, it was clear that Brexit would change the voting dynamics of the constituency. Once considered a safe Labour seat, Hartlepool is now under threat from the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. Hartlepool is the Brexit Party’s number one target, however the party now runs the risk of splitting the Brexit vote between, and potentially allowing Labour to retain the seat.
Mike Hill is the incumbent Labour MP hoping to hold onto some of his 7,650 majority. The Conservative candidate looking to win is Stefan Houghton, a Stockton-on-Tees councillor, and the Brexit Party’s candidate is party chairman, Richard Tice, who currently serves as a MEP for the East of England. With such a high-profile candidate and leave-voting electorate, if the Brexit Party cannot win here, it is difficult to see where they could.
Hartlepool will be crucial in assessing how the Conservative Party perform in leave-voting Labour seats where the Brexit Party is also standing. If the Conservatives win, then the party can expect a sizeable majority. The latest polls place Labour on 39%, the Conservatives on 31% and, splitting the leave vote, the Brexit party on 22%. The result is expected around 2am.
This Welsh constituency had been considered, up until now, part of Labour’s traditional heartlands, having been held by the party since 1935. Constituents voted to leave the European Union by 58% in 2016 and Labour’s majority has diminished over the last few elections. At the last election it fell to just 1,832.
Wrexham’s former MP, Ian Lucas is standing down and Mary Wimbury, who works in social care, has been selected to run in his place. The Conservative candidate is Sarah Atherton, who is a social worker specialising in mental health and older people.
A Survation poll predicts that the Conservatives will win 44% of the vote, with Labour trailing far behind on 29%. The YouGov/MRP poll has the race much closer with the Conservatives on 44% and Labour on 43%. If the Conservatives win here, it is likely to be indicative of a significant majority and a proof that their strategy to sweep up Labour Leave voters has been effective. The result is expected around 2am.
In Belfast North, Sinn Féin is hoping to take the seat from the DUP’s Westminster Leader, Nigel Dodds. As a recently elected councillor, Lord Mayor of Belfast, and a candidate for Belfast North at the last general election, Sinn Féin’s John Finucane is well known to constituents.
In recent years, Belfast North has become increasingly more mixed demographically, resulting in nationalist parties taking more of the vote share. John Finucane’s chances of success at this election were boosted by both the SDLP and the Green Party’s decisions not to field candidates. Although collectively these two parties only took 5.9% of the vote share in 2017, should their voters decide to back Sinn Féin, it could be enough to overturn DUP’s slim 2,081 majority.
If the DUP retain this seat, expect their vote to hold up across Northern Ireland. A win, in the context of a small Conservative majority or a hung parliament, could once again position the DUP as kingmakers in the next government. If Sinn Féin win, John Finucane would become the constituency’s first nationalist MP. This would be a watershed moment and his party could expect to pick up other seats across Northern Ireland. The result is expected around 3am.
Bolton North East
This constituency is socially diverse in terms of income and tends to be highly marginal. The electorate voted to leave the European Union by 58% and it is expected to be a close race between Labour and the Conservatives at this General Election.
The Labour incumbent MP, David Crausby, has held the seat since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. At the last election he won with a majority of 3,797. The Conservative candidate hoping to overturn this is Mark Logan, a former diplomat based in the Foreign Office.
The most recent YouGov/MRP poll puts each party on 45 points with the Labour ultimately claiming the seat. If Labour win it could be indicative of a smaller Conservative majority than initially anticipated, or even a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party. If, on the other hand, the Conservatives win then expect them to be on course for a decent majority of around 30 seats. The result is expected around 3am.
Chingford and Woodford Green
This seat has been represented by former leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith since the constituency was created in 1997. However, at the last election, his majority fell from 8,386 to 2,438, and this was matched by a 15-point gain for the Labour Party. The Labour candidate is Faiza Shaheen, the director of a left-wing think tank, she is seen as a rising star within the party.
The constituency is experiencing demographic change, with those priced out of central London migrating to the suburbs and increasing its proportion of more traditionally left wing, pro-Remain voters.
With 50.1% of the constituents voting to remain in the European Union, the race is expected to be close. Polling in Chingford and Woodford Green shows that Iain Duncan Smith is leading by approximately 1.5%. If Labour is successful in squeezing Liberal Democrat support and picking up the majority of remain voters, Labour will win. The result is expected around 3am.
Cities of London and Westminster
This constituency is not usually considered a key seat to watch, having been held by the Conservatives since 1847. However, with high profile defector Chuka Umunna running for the Liberal Democrats, there is a chance that the party’s strong anti-Brexit stance will resonate with an electorate that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union.
Former Labour MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna is running against Conservative candidate and the current leader of Westminster City Council, Nickie Aiken. She replaced former MP, Mark Field who stepped down from Parliament when the election was announced. She is well-known throughout the constituency and the capital and will hope her claims of Chuka Umunna of being “parachuted” in to fight the contest will resonate with voters.
A victory for the Conservatives in Cities of London and Westminster will indicative of how the party performs in prosperous remain-voting areas where the remain vote is split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The result is expected around 3am.
Esher and Walton
At each election, everyone seeks the one seat that will deliver the biggest shock of the night, the general election’s ‘Portillo moment’. At this election, Esher and Walton might just be that seat. As an affluent and partly rural area in Surrey, Esher and Walton has typically been a safe Conservative seat. At the last election, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab won with a majority of 23,298 votes.
Dominic Raab’s chances of retaining the seat, however, are now being threatened by tactical voting in favour of the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrat candidate looking to pull off this big victory is Monica Harding. She will hope to benefit from pro-Remain Labour and Green voters, in a seat which voted to remain in the European Union by 58%.
Tuesday’s YouGov/MRP poll showed Dominic Raab ahead of Monica Harding by 2 points, with the Labour candidate, Peter Ashurst polling on 8 points. A lot, therefore, rests on whether Labour voters will lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats. If this is the case, it may show the value of tactical voting in similar seats across the country. If the Liberal Democrats win here, expect the party to pick up seats like Winchester and for the calls for Jo Swinson to stand down as leader of the party to disappear. The result is expected around 3am.
Ochil & South Perthshire
Ochil and South Perthshire was formed in 2005 from parts of the old seats of Perth, an SNP-Conservative marginal, and of Ochil, a Labour stronghold since 1997. Having been won by three different parties over its 14-year history, the seat has earned a reputation as one of Scotland’s most volatile seats.
Conservative incumbent MP Luke Graham gained the seat at the 2017 election with a majority of 3,359 votes over the SNP. He was a vocal advocate to remain in the European Union but has voted consistently for a Brexit deal. His main challenger is SNP candidate, John Nicholson, who previously served as MP for East Dunbartonshire between 2015-2017, before losing the it to now Liberal Democrat Leader, Jo Swinson. In a constituency that voted to remain by a margin of 61%, the SNP will be hoping to consolidate the seat’s anti-Brexit vote.
Should the SNP win the seat, the party can expect to have successful night and gain around 10 seats. These seats are largely expected to be Labour-held seats like Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and Midlothian, however if Ochil & South Perthshire turns yellow, expect other Conservative seats like Angus and Gordon to follow suit. A Conservative hold here would increase the prospects of larger national Conservative majority and illustrate that the pro-Union vote in Scotland remains firmly intact and centred largely around the Conservative Party. The result is expected around 3am.
Labour incumbent MP Rosie Duffield has made a name for herself in Parliament with her passionate remain stance after winning this long-held Conservative seat at the last election, with a majority of just 187. The Conservative candidate is leave-supporting, Anna Firth who is a former investment banker, barrister and district councillor.
While the majority of Kent voted to leave the European Union, constituents in Canterbury voted by 55% to remain. While this could be enough to tip the votes in her favour, Labour’s position is threatened by the Liberal Democrats who, despite their original candidate Tim Walker standing aside to give her a clear run, are still fielding a candidate. With such a slim majority, any split in the remain vote could allow the Conservatives to reclaim the constituency.
If Labour hold this seat, it will indicate that Labour has done well among young voters and remainers, even outside traditionally strong areas. If the Conservatives win, it could indicate that the party will be on course for a big majority of 60+ seats, as the party will be picking up seats in both leave and remain areas. The result is expected around 4am
This seat, made up of former mining communities, has been held by Labour since its creation in 1950. Constituents voted by 70% to leave the European Union and the seat was marked as a target for the Brexit Party early on in the campaign. At the last election Labour’s majority dropped to 5,288, falling well below 10,000 for the first time in the constituency’s history. Now the seat is a close race between the Conservatives and Labour, a claim that would have been almost unthinkable a decade ago.
Incumbent Labour MP Dennis Skinner, a socialist and former miner, has held the seat for 50 years. A long-term Eurosceptic, he will be hoping to retain some of his majority, despite his party’s stance on Brexit. The Conservative candidate is Mark Fletcher. A Northerner and grandson of a miner, he campaigned to leave the European Union which is sure to win him votes.
If Labour win this seat, then the Conservative strategy of targeting Labour heartlands that voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union will have failed. It will also likely mean that seats like West Bromwich East, Don Valley and Leigh will remain in Labour’s hands. If the Conservatives win this seat then a considerable Conservative majority in the region of 60+ seats is expected. The Conservatives winning Bolsover would also signal a massive and historical realignment of British politics. The result is expected around 5am.