Mon, 20 May 2024

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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Dozens More 'Red Wall' Labour Seats Could Go Conservative, New Analysis Predicts

The analysis found further northern seats could be lost at the next election

3 min read

As many as 36 additional 'red wall' Labour seats could fall to the Tories if overall vote share is consistent with the last election, according to a new analysis from the Onward think tank.

The group, which used the same methodology to predict the risk to Labour in northern seats in 2019, also predict that the Conservatives do not yet face a challenge in southern 'blue wall' seats despite an apparent drift in support.

The report said Boris Johnson should continue to focus on winning over voters in the North, rather than diverting his parties resources to defend seats in the south of the country, even though the seats of senior MPs, such as former party leader Iain Duncan Smith and former minister Theresa Villiers, could be at risk.

The Onward analysis did find that there was a slow shift in support away from the Conservatives in some of their traditional southern heartland seats, but claimed there was unlikely to be a significant enough shift in the next several planned general elections to cause a tidal wave loss in seats.

Instead, they claimed Labour was at risk of losing dozens more northern seats, including that of shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, while the Liberal Democrats were at risk of losing former leader Tim Farron.

According to the group, around six-in-ten battleground seats at the next election – set for 2024 – would be in northern England, compared to just two-in-ten in the south.

The research also concluded that a reported Liberal Democrat-Labour pact, which would see an informal non-aggression agreement in certain key seats, would not be enough to remove the Conservatives from government, with even a "perfectly" organised arrangement only resulting in a Tory loss of 44 seats.

A separate survey for the Sunday Times, however, predicted the Tories could lose as many as 164 seats at the next election.

Onward believe there is still a significant risk from a resurgent party from the right, saying a "NewKip" style party could be a "credible challenge" which could cost the Tories as many as 53 seats – enough to wipe out a Conservative majority.

The research on the threat from a right-wing party caused concern among some Tory MPs when it was shared with them in January, leading to fears that Nigel Farage could return to frontline politics and take dozen of seats from the Conservatives.

Onward director Will Tanner, who previously served as deputy head of policy to Theresa May, said: "The next election, like the last, will be won in the North of England. While the South is steadily becoming less Conservative over time, there is no Blue Wall waiting to fall across the home counties in two year's time.

"But there are dozens of traditional Labour seats in the North that could yet switch. This report underlines why making headway on "levelling up" is utterly essential for the Conservative Party – and why Labour still has a mountain to climb."

James Blagden, chief data analyst at Onward, added: "The heart of the Tory Party has been shifting northwards for the last thirty years. Since Margaret Thatcher's 1983 landslide, there has been a steady decline in Conservative support in London and the Home Counties and growth in the North and the Midlands.

"That trend is set to continue. But the greatest short-term concern for the Conservatives should be backsliding in the Red Wall, losing their iconic 2019 gains, and putting their majoirty at serious risk.

"The Conservatives stand on shaky ground, with their 2019 gains not yet secure and traditional southern heartlands slowly drifting away. The government needs to deliver tangible results on levelling up and focus on uniting the coalition around their shared values."

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