A strange one
This election has a number of unusual features which make the outcome more unpredictable, especially at a local level. The ‘Brexit effect’ is seeing some people decide who to vote for on the basis of whether they are Leavers or Remainers, rather than voting along the lines of traditional party political loyalties. And the more widespread use of innovative forms of campaigning on social media makes the likely outcome more difficult to decipher.
The intervention of religious leaders e.g. the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Archbishop of Canterbury, goes against convention. The scenario of former party stalwarts advocating that the public vote for a different party is hardly the norm e.g. Lord Heseltine, former Tory grandee, calling on voters to support Lib Dem or Independent candidates and Ian Austin, former special adviser to Gordon Brown and Labour MP, urging voters to back Boris Johnson. In the same way, former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair have recently encouraged the public not to vote for the parties they once led.
The election date is also a rare one - the last time a U.K. general election was held in December was in 1923, with a turnout of 71%. Of course, only men over 21 and women over 30 could vote at that time. The voting age was made equal in 1928 and in 1969 the voting age was reduced to 18. There is debate currently as to whether it should be decreased further to 16 and this proposal is supported by all the main parties except the Tories.
There had been some speculation as to whether a December date will impact on the level of turnout. Recent elections have shown significant variation in turnout rates, but little change in dates:
2017 68.8% June
2016 72.2% June (EU Referendum)
2015 66.1% May
2010 65.1% May
2005 61.4% May
2001 59.4% June
1997 71.4% May
1992 77.7% April
1987 75.3% June
Well known names standing down
Many well known MPs have stood down - these include;
- From the Tories, Nicholas Soames, Jo Johnson, Nicky Morgan, Alan Duncan, David Liddington, Nick Hurd, Michael Fallon and Amber Rudd.
- From the Independents (many of whom were former Tories until they recently lost the whip over Brexit votes) - Ken Clark, Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening, Rory Stewart, Philip Hammond, Nick Boles and Ian Austin.
- From Labour - Tom Watson, Kate Hoey, Keith Vaz, Ann Clwyd, Owen Smith, Stephen Twigg and Gloria De Piero.
- From the Lib Dem’s - Vince Cable, Norman Lamb and Heidi Allen.
- The former Speaker - John Bercow.
There has been some discussion suggesting that more MPs than usual have stood down this time, not least because of the serious threats and abuse many have been subjected to, especially on social media. However, the numbers do not stack up. A total of 74 MPs have stood down (20 women) and at the elections over the last 40 years, only two elections have seen less than that. Over the same period, the highest numbers of MPs standing down at a general election were 149 in 2010, 117 in 1997 and 90 in 2015.
There are 1,124 women candidates, up from 2015’s record of 1,033, though that is still only one third of the total of candidates. Among the parties, Labour had the highest percentage of women candidates at 53%, Greens 41%, SNP 34%, Lib Dems 31%, Tories 30%, Sinn Fein 27%, Plaid Cymru 25%, UKIP 23%, Brexit Party 20%, DUP 12%.
Seats held by the Parties at the Dissolution of Parliament
Conservative 298 (60 women:238 men)
Labour 243 (115:128)
SNP 35 (12:23)
Independent 24 (5:1)
Lib Dems 20 (10:10)
Democratic Unionists 10 (1:9)
Sinn Fein 7 (3:4)
Independent Group for Change 5 (3:2)
Plaid Cymru 4 (1:3)
Greens 1 (1:0)
There are 650 constituencies (seats) in the UK Parliament. On the face of it, 326 seats are needed for a majority but, of course, the number is slightly smaller as Sinn Fein MPs do not take up their seats. Seats in each country of the UK - England 533, Scotland 59, Wales 40, Northern Ireland 18.
The 10 safest seats in the UK are all held by Labour over the Tories. The safest, Liverpool Walton, and the second safest, nearby Knowsley - both held those positions in the last three general elections.
The Prime Minister’s constituency
The PM has been MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015. At the last election he had a majority of 5,034 over the Labour candidate, which was about half the majority he gained in 2015. It is the slimmest constituency majority of any PM since 1924, when Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald defended a 3,512 majority in Aberavon. In the Referendum, the constituency voted 57.9% in favour of leaving the EU.
Other big names facing a nervous election night (potential Portillo moments!)
The traditional definition of a marginal seat is a constituency where the sitting MP won by a margin of 10% or less at the last election. This would suggest there are 169 marginal seats across the U.K. But given the increasingly volatile nature of British politics, some of those with a bigger cushion may be far from safe:-
- The current Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has a significant majority - 23,298. But a recent poll showed that his lead had been cut to five points over the Lib Dems in his Esher and Walton constituency.
- Theresa Villiers, currently Secretary of State for the Environment, had a majority of just 353 (0.6%) over Labour in Chipping Barnet.
- Anna Soubrey, leading Remainer, won a majority of 863 (1.6%) over Labour when she stood as a Tory candidate in Broxtowe, which is a Leave-supporting area. She is standing there again as the leader of the Independent Group for Change.
- Robert Buckland, Justice Secretary, has a majority of 2,464 (4.8%) over Labour in Swindon South.
- Iain Duncan Smith, staunch Brexiteer and former Tory leader, has a majority of 2,438 (5.2%) over Labour in Chingford and Woodford Green.
- Alok Sharma, International Development Secretary, has a majority of 2,876 (5.6%) over Labour in Reading West.
- Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, has a majority of 5,198 (9.7%) over Labour in Sherwood (Nottingham).
- Jo Swinson, Lib Dem leader, had a majority of 5,339 (10.3%) over the SNP in Dunbartonshire East.
The 10 most marginal seats
North East Fife (Held by SNP/Lib Dem second place))
Perth and North Perthshire (SNP/Con)
Dudley North (Lab/Con)
Southampton Itchen (Con/Lab)
Richmond Park (Con/Lib Dem)
Crewe and Nantwich (Lab/Con)
Glasgow South West (SNP/Lab)
Glasgow East (SNP/Lab)
In 2017, 70 seats changed hands. There are 97 marginal seats that will change hands on a swing of 5% or less, 31 of which are held on a 1% or less margin.
London marginal seats
The capital doesn’t have an especially high number of marginal seats. What it does have is more marginal seats that are three-way battlegrounds, rather than the predominantly head-to-head contests elsewhere. This heightens the degree of unpredictability.
Some examples of these three/way contests are - the Cities of London and Westminster constituency. The seat is held by the Tories with a majority over Labour of 3,148 (8.1%). The current MP, Mark Field, is standing down. The constituency voted 72% Remain. Chuka Umunna (who has switched both party and constituency since the last election) is the Lib Dem candidate.
In Putney the Tory MP Justine Greening, is standing down. She had a majority of 1,554 (3.3%) over Labour. There is no Green candidate and with a 72.4% Remain vote in the constituency , the Lib Dems may also fancy their chances. Despite this strong Remain vote, the Brexit Party is fielding a candidate.
In Finchley and Golders Green at the last election the Tories had a majority of 1,657 (3.2%) over Labour. This time the Lib Dems candidate is Luciana Berger who quit Labour over the anti Semitism row. The Greens are not standing.
And, of course, two of the most marginal seats in the country - Kensington and Richmond Park are in London (see above).
At the Dissolution of Parliament, the 73 London seats were split as follows - Labour 46, Tory 19, Lib Dem 4, Independent Group for Change 2, Independent 2.
Top Bellwether seats (ie those seats that have predicted the most general election outcomes in a row):
Dartford, Kent (since 1964)
Loughborough (since 1974)
Northampton North "
Portsmouth North "
On 12 December
Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm. Before 10pm the media cannot report on any of the day's campaign events, no opinion poll on any election-related issue can be published; it is a criminal offence to publish anything about the way people have voted before 10pm.
As soon as the polling stations have closed, the media will publish exit polls. Then there will be a short gap of time before the declarations begin, very slowly at first. In the 2017 election, 73% of seats had declared by 4.00am - the bulk of results coming between 2.00am and 4am.
First to declare were:
Newcastle Central (11pm)
Houghton and Sunderland South (11.07 pm)
Did you know?
.......... that the Yorkshire Party is standing in 28 seats.
.......... that the most popular first name for candidates is David (91), John (73), James (60) and the most popular woman’s name is Sarah (22).
.......... that the most popular surname is Jones (31) and Smith (30); there are 17 Johnsons!
......... that the name Bellwether comes from Medieval times. It was the name for a bell dinging around the neck of a castrated ram, a wether. The wether led the sheep so the bell reflected the direction of the flock - a shepherd could tell the movements of the flock by hearing the bell, even when the flock was out of sight.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2019