Because of my well known interest in all things political, one of the most frequent questions I am asked these days is “What do you think will happen in the election?”. My general response up until now has been the psephological equivalent of sticking my finger in the air to guess which way the wind was blowing.
A week ago though, I decided to attempt a more systematic approach and look at the available data in order to predict the likely outcome in each constituency. Previously this would have been impossible as the only local numbers were the parties’ own private polling. This time, thanks significantly to Lord Ashcroft, we have detailed numbers for many of the most marginal seats as well as prediction models from organisations like UK Polling Report, Election Forecast, and Electoral Calculus.
So, having spent a week going through those numbers for each constituency, I have estimated that the likely outcome (excluding Northern Ireland) as being:
- Conservative – 265 (down 41 from 2010)
- Labour – 268 (up 10)
- Liberal Democrat – 34 (down 23)
- UKIP – 9 (up 9)
- Green – 1 (no change)
- SNP – 50 (up 44)
- Plaid Cymru – 3 (no change)
- Respect – 1 (up 1)
- The Speaker (no change)
leaving Labour with a narrow lead over the Conservatives, and with neither party able to form a majority in the House of Commons with the support of just one other party. In either case, the larger parties will need to garner the support of a number of smaller parties, which must include either or both of the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in order to form a secure administration.
You are probably wondering how I arrived at these figures. First of all I established a spreadsheet for all 632 constituencies in England, Wales, and Scotland. For each I entered the party currently holding the seat, the majority at the 2010 General Election or any subsequent by-election, the party who came second at that election, and a note as to whether the sitting MP was standing down, thus losing any incumbency advantage.
Where Lord Ashcroft has published a poll for a constituency, I entered the date of that poll and its outcome into the spreadsheet. In most cases, I accepted that poll as being the likely result for that seat, especially if it was taken within the last three months. In some cases, where the polling data was old and/or where it is known there is an active campaign or other circumstance which could materially alter the result, I have made a judgment call on what I believe is the most likely result, including, where appropriate, a positive incumbency factor of up to 5%.
For other seats I made the following assumptions:
- In Scotland, any Labour seat with a majority of less than 16,000 goes to the SNP, except where there is clear evidence (e.g. an Electoral Forecast poll) to the contrary;
- In England and Wales, I have regarded as safe Conservative and Labour seats with majorities over 3,000. For those under a 3,000 majority, I have used the most recent Electoral Forecast data;
- For Liberal Democrat seats where the sitting MP has retired and the majority is low, I have recorded it as a loss. For seats where the incumbent is seeking re-election, I have included a positive incumbency factor of up to 5%;
- Generally, where the margin between the top two parties in a constituency is 3% or less, I have considered it too close to call and have normally given the incumbent the benefit of the doubt. The exception being where UKIP is a strong contender, or there are other specific local circumstances, e.g. the MP has retired or the leading opponent has a strong local record.
Winners and Losers
On the basis of these predictions, I believe that 110 seats will change hands in England, Wales, and Scotland on May 7th, which will be:
(Key: # – sitting MP has retired; Parliament; + – potential anomaly, see below)
Conservative Losses – to Labour
|Brentford and Isleworth|
|Cardiff North #|
|City of Chester|
|Ealing Central and Acton|
|Halesowen and Rowley Regis|
|Hastings and Rye|
|Lancaster and Fleetwood|
|Milton Keynes South|
|Morecambe and Lunesdale|
|North Warwickshire #|
|Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport|
|South Ribble #|
|Wolverhampton South West|
Conservative Losses – to the Liberal Democrats
Conservative Losses – to UKIP
|Boston and Skegness #|
|Cannock Chase #|
|South Thanet #|
Labour Losses – to the SNP
|Aberdeen North #|
|Airdrie and Shotts|
|Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock|
|Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill|
|Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East|
|Dumfries and Galloway|
|Dundee West #|
|East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow|
|East Renfrewshire +|
|Edinburgh North and Leith|
|Edinburgh South West #|
|Glasgow North West|
|Glasgow South West|
|Kilmarnock and Loudoun|
|Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath #|
|Lanark and Hamilton East|
|Linlithgow and East Falkirk|
|Motherwell and Wishaw|
|North Ayrshire and Arran|
|Ochil and South Perthshire|
|Paisley and Renfrewshire North|
|Paisley and Renfrewshire South +|
Labour Losses to UKIP
|Great Grimsby #|
Liberal Democrat Losses – to Conservatives
|Mid Dorset and North Poole #|
|North Devon +|
|Somerton and Frome #|
|St Austell and Newquay +|
|Taunton Deane #|
Liberal Democrat Losses – to Labour
|Brent Central #|
|Cardiff Central +|
Liberal Democrat Losses – to the SNP
|Argyll and Bute|
|Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross +|
|Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey +|
|North East Fife #|
|Ross, Skye and Lochaber +|
|West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine|
Inevitably in elections there are seats that buck the national or local trend, often due to the popularity or notoriety of the sitting MP. This has historically been the case with Liberal Democrat incumbents supported by strong local campaigning and I believe that may result in some MPs being re-elected despite, for example, the SNP surge. So, whilst they are currently predicted by some polls as being defeated, I might still put a wager on at least some of the following being back in Westminster for the new Parliament:
Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey), Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), Duncan Hames (Chippenham), Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber), Tessa Munt (Wells), John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross), and Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central).
They are in addition to the popular Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) who is running a strong campaign, who I have already predicted will hold her seat by a tight margin, and Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) where local polling puts her narrowly ahead.
Also, in Scotland, Labour’s big names like Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire), and Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South), will I suspect scrape home on name recognition and high levels of media coverage.
My final potential anomaly is in South Basildon and Thurrock East, which Ashcroft predicts as a narrow win for the incumbent Tory, Stephen Metcalfe. I however wouldn’t rule out the UKIP candidate, Ian Luder CBE, former Lord Mayor of London and a highly experienced campaigner.
These predictions are only as good as the data they are based upon and my own instincts and feel for what is happening on the ground. We remain two and a half weeks from polling day and it remains all to play for. To all the candidates I know in all parties across the country, I wish them the best of luck. We’ll see on May 8th how they did and if my predictions were right.
Edward Lord OBE has been a political activist for almost 30 years in the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, and is a graduate of the University of Essex Government Department. He is a common councilman in the City of London. a member of the London Councils Leaders’ Committee, and has served for eleven years in leading roles in the Local Government Association.