A rough guide to the British election

A region-by-region beginners’ guide of what to look for in today’s/tomorrow’s British election.

This post features, or will feature, a region-by-region run through of the key constituencies and their prospects for the British election, which is being held overnight our time with the business end of the count occurring tomorrow morning. The maps identify Conservative marginals as “primary” if they would fall to Labour on the uniform national swing predicted by the polls, which broadly point to a Conservative vote of 34% (down three on the last election), Labour on 33% (up five) and the Liberal Democrats on 9% (down fourteen). “Secondary” marginals are those which might be expected to fall if Labour won a majority, which I’ve crudely drawn at the 12% point on the swing-o-meter. I’m playing Liberal Democrat seats by ear according to the betting markets in identifying them either as safe or under threat from this party or that.

I’ll be adding regions to the guide progressively as I complete them. And what better place to start than:


Six seats in London that would fall from Conservative to Labour on the uniform swing indicated in the polling, but no real prospects for Labour beyond that, the margin in Ilford North being 11.5%. I’ve heard it said that the swing is expected to be slightly above par in London, but an Ashford poll during the campaign had the Conservatives with a four-point lead in Croydon Central. With respect to the Liberal Democrat seats, Labour are very short-priced favourites in Brent Central and favourites in Hornsey and Wood Green. Other Liberal Democrat seats are at least endangered, but betting markets favour them in each case.


This area is ground zero for the Ukip insurgency, being home to the two seats they have won at by elections, Clacton and Rochester & Strood, and the seat being targeted by party leader Nigel Farage, Thanet South. It’s also good territory for the Greens, encompassing their solitary seat of Brighton Pavilion.

The strength of both parties is causing Labour headaches, and could certainly cost them what should otherwise have been an easy win in Thurrock, which the Conservatives won last time on the tightest of margins. Southhampton Itchen is the only seat anywhere identified as a potential Conservative gain for Labour, partly due to a retiring sitting member, but also because Ukip is believed to be biting into the Labour vote (the number for it has failed to show up on my map tomorrow, but it’s the one bordering Eastleigh to the west).

The Greens vote could also cost Labour potential gains in the two seats neighbouring Brighton Pavilion, Hove and Brighton Kemptown, although they are the favourites in both cases. Seats Labour is clearly favoured to gain from the Conservatives are Hove, Brighton Kemptown and Hastings & Rye, and the betting is fairly tight in Milton Keyes South.

The Conservatives are short-priced favourites to win Portsmouth South from the Liberal Democrats, and rated competitive but behind in Eastbourne. The markets rate the Liberal Democrats a better chance than Labour to unseat the Conservatives in Watford, for what reason I’m not sure.


This region is the greatest area of strength for the Liberal Democrats, and much depends on the extent to which they can dig in here. The Conservatives are clearly favoured to win St Austell & Newquay, Taunton Deane, Somerton & Frome, Wells, Mid Dorset & Poole and Chippenham, and it would appear to be very close in St Ives, North Cornwall, North Devon and Torbay. Labour is expected to win Bristol West from the Liberal Democrats, despite determined efforts from the Greens. The only seats the Liberal Democrats are clearly favoured to retain are Yeovil, Bath, Thornbury & Yate and Cheltenham. As for the few Conservative-Labour contests, Labour is strongly favoured to gain Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport, it’s expected to go down to the wire in South Swindon, and the Conservatives are slightly favoured in Gloucester.

Midlands/East Anglia

Moving up to the central band of England, we find rock solid Labour industrial areas and equally safe Conservative countryside, with marginal seats tending to crop out where the two blur together. Labour is very strongly favoured to win Sherwood, City of Chester, Broxtowe, North Warwickshire, Wolverhampton South West and Corby, and moderately favoured in Cannock Chase, Erewash, Amber Valley, Lincoln and Bedford. Crewe & Nantwich, Nuneaton, Halesowen & Rowley Regis, Northampton North, Ipswich and Norwich North are thought to be lineball, while Labour holds out some hope in High Peak, Cleethorpes, Loughborough, Worcester, Peterborough, Great Yarmouth.

There are only a few Liberal Democrats seats here, but one of them is Nick Clegg’s seat of Sheffield Hallam, where polling long found him struggling to hold off Labour, although more recent polling has been more favourable to him. Labour is also expected to gain Norwich South, but the Conservatives are favourites in Cambridge, and Birmingham Yardley is lineball. Next door to Birmingham Yardley, the Conservatives are short-priced favourites to unseat the Liberal Democrats in Solihull.

The North

Around Liverpool and Manchester, we see a repeat of the pattern in the Midlands where marginals seats fill the cracks between Labour-voting industrial and Conservative-voting country areas, although elsewhere in the north the distinctions are more pronounced. The betting markets favour Labour to win six seats from the Conservatives throughout the region: Wirral West, Bury North, Dewsbury, Lancaster & Fleetwood, Morecambe & Lunesdale and Carlisle. The Conservatives are rated as having the edge in South Ribble, Rossendale & Darwen, Pendle, Colne Valley, Elmet & Rothwell and Blackpool North & Cleveleys, while Keighley and Pudsey are down to the wire.

The expectation is that the Liberal Democrats will be hit hard in the north as voters react against their involvement in the coalition by returning to Labour, who are thought all but certain to gain Bradford East, Burnley, Manchester Whitington and Redcar, with the Liberal Democrats given a slight edge in Leeds North East. There are a further three seats where the Liberal Democrats are under pressure from the Conservatives, with the markets favouring the Liberal Democrats in Southport, the Conservatives in Berwick upon Tweed, and evenly split in Cheadle. The wild card constituency in the region is Bradford West, which George Galloway won from Labour for his Respect party at a by-election in March 2012. His re-election bid would appear to be a 50-50 proposition.


My casual observation of polling suggests the Conservatives have dropped a point since the last election, Labour has gained one, the Liberal Democrats are down thirteen and Plaid Cymru are up about four. Labour are short-priced favourites to take Cardiff Central from the Conservatives and Cardiff North from the Liberal Democrats, and at least some chance of further gaining Carmathen West & South Pembrokeshire, Vale of Glamorgan and Aberconwy from the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats are also under pressure in Brecon & Radnorshire from the Conservatives and Ceredigion in Plaid Cymru, who otherwise don’t seem in danger of matching the SNP’s accomplishments.



It may seem odd to be short-changing Scotland in a guide to this election, but there really isn’t all that much that needs be said: anything that isn’t held by the Scottish National Party is under threat from them. The map to the right accordingly sticks to representing the result of the 2010 election. Out of 41 seats currently held by Labour, a list of seats from The Week where they “might survive” consists of Coatbridge Chryston & Bellshill, Glasgow East, Glasgow North East, Glasgow South West, Motherwell & Wishaw and Paisley & Renfrewshire South. The SNP is clear favourite in every one of the 11 seats held by the Liberal Democrats with the exception of the border seat of Berwickshire Roxburgh & Selkirk, a three-way contest in which the Liberal Democrats might instead lose to the Conservatives.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland and its 18 seats are generally treated as an appendage to the real action, since it has a distinctive party system with an overlaying of sectarianism. Sixteen of those seats behaved the same way at both the 2005 and 2010 elections, with five being won by Sinn Fein, eight by the Democratic Unionist Party founded by Ian Paisley, and three by the nationalist, Labour-aligned Social Democratic and Labour Party. The Ulster Unionist Party lost its only seat at the last election after formally aligning with the Conservatives, causing its one incumbent, Lady Sylvia Hermon, to contest and hold her seat of North Down as an independent. The other change was that the non-sectarian Alliance Party won Belfast East from the Democratic Unionist Party, which is mounting a determined effort to win it back.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

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