A Labour Election Win Is Not Inevitable – And The Hurdle's Right Under Our Noses

It may not be the Conservatives who get in Keir Starmer's way, but constituency lines.
Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak
Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives may be trailing in the polls behind Labour, but new changes to the electoral map means the next election could still be an uphill struggle for Keir Starmer.

The prime minister has hinted that he may call an election in the “second half” of 2024.

Still, the turbulence of the last 14 years under the Tories means many are now predicting a rather easy Labour victory.

But new analysis, commissioned by BBC News, ITV News, the Press Association and Sky News, and put together by election experts Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, suggests otherwise.

Why is the 2024 election set to be so hard for Labour?

It’s all to do with the way the constituencies are drawn out in the UK.

The boundaries have changed since the last general election in 2019 to reflect population changes and ensure there is roughly the same number of voters in each constituency.

Areas which now have a denser population have been split up while those which have a sparser population may now belong to larger constituencies.

This does not change the number of seats, though – there are still going to be a fixed 650 available in the Commons.

Boundary changes are meant to happen every five years, but they’ve been cancelled repeatedly since 2010 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland last had its boundaries redrawn in 2005.

These new changes means the areas traditionally seen as “strongholds” for some parties may no longer be a certainty – and a few sitting MPs may not even be fighting for the same constituencies.

England now has 543 seats, up from 533. Scotland has lost two seats, going from 59 to 57, Wales lost eight seats, going down to 32, while Northern Ireland remains unchanged on 18 seats.

Tory chancellor Jeremy Hunt is now up for the new constituency of Goldalming and Ash, instead of his one, current old South West Surrey.

Meanwhile, his shadow front bench opponent, Rachel Reeves, secured a 10,564 majority in 2019 in Leeds West but, with the new electoral lines, she’ll be fighting in the new Leeds West and Pudsey constituency.

If local authorities voted the exact same way they did in 2019, that means her majority would drop down to 2,963, according to the estimates from the analysis.

What will Labour need to win?

Labour will need a 12.7% national swing from Tory voters just to secure a small majority – and that’s on the assumption no other parties see a significant change in support.

For context, Tony Blair’s famous landslide victory in 1997 saw just a 10.2% swing.

But, if Labour were going for more modest success – just making sure the Tories no longer had a majority – they would need a more accessible 4.2% swing.

Labour would need to win a 8.3% swing to become the largest party in a hung parliament.

With that in mind, all parties will now be focusing on some different “target seats” – those with the smallest majorities – compared to 2019 due to these new battle lines.

Why are these changes tougher for Labour than the Tories?

These new lines would have meant Boris Johnson’s landslide victory with 365 seats overall seat would probably have increased to 372.

That’s because most of the new constituencies are areas known for voting Tory.

Meanwhile, Labour would lose two seats, the Lib Dems three and Plaid Cymru two, while no other parties would be impacted.


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