• Development Intelligence

Who will win the General Election?

secretlondon123 / CC BY-SA 2.0

It is just a statement of fact that at most General Elections more than 500 of the 650 Parliamentary seats simply don’t change hands. Just 70 did in 2017. 111 did in 2015. Even in the Blair landslide of 1997 only 133 seats moved party. Many seats haven’t changed party allegiance in over 100 years. So the election battleground will be those 100-odd seats that could possibly move.

The volatile electorate

The most recent British Election Survey tells us how unusual the current electorate has now become:

1. In the last two General Elections (2015 and 2017) there was more voter switching between

political parties than ever before.

2. We have one of the most volatile electorates in our history: almost 50% of the population are now part of the ‘floating vote’.

3. Brexit is now THE defining issue of voting intention, not the simple Left/Right divide we have all been used to.

So if you believe your party leader has magic vote winning properties, as Boris and Jezza supporters do, then there is literally everything to play for.

Paddy Ashdown used to say that “only a lunatic tries to predict an election result”. So we’ve taken our happy pills and here goes…


First off, let’s look at the ‘very special circumstances’ to use a planning term we all know well, to understand the context. There are a number of important and unusual factors:

1. The very reason for/timing of the election in the first place, obviously.

2. How many constituencies are actually in play (i.e. electorally marginal in the first place) or, with our new added layer of Brexit complexity, a Leave or Remain marginal with the wrong colour MP?

3. What impact will the 25 MPs who since 2017 have moved political parties have, if any?

4. What will the fortunes be of the 20 de-whipped Tory MPs who still choose to contest the election?

5. What will be the impact, if any, of the departure of the 30+ MPs (not covered by points 3 and 4

above) who have already announced their retirement?

6. Boris’ alleged polling toxicity in Scotland.

Quick constituency analysis

Looking at the constituencies actually in play, it looks tricky for Boris and a horror story for Jezza, truthfully. If one somewhat positively assumes a 6% swing to the Tories due to all Boris’ Brexit posturing, and yes ‘a uniform swing is imprecise’ and yes ‘who says 6% is right/wrong/even remotely accurate’, then this is what things look like:


• Conservatives – The majority of their marginals with Labour in 2nd place are Leave voting seats

• Labour – The majority of their marginals with Conservatives in 2nd place are also Leave voting

seats (33 to 10 in fact)

• Lib Dems – They have three marginals with Tories in 2nd place which are Leave voting seats

Target seats

• Conservatives – There are 19 Labour seats that voted Leave and would fall to the Tories on a 6%

swing (30 on a 10% swing)

• Labour – Realistically they could only possibly pick up a single figure number of their target seats

as most are decent Leave seats

• Lib Dems – Only 27 out of their top 60 target seats are held by the Tories, and some of those are

decent Leave voting ones

The polls

What the polls have shown us time and again is clear: when opinion is settled and clear, the pollsters can act as solid, reliable indicators. But when opinion is unsettled and unclear, they are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

Right now, the Tories look to be in the mid to low 30s, Labour are bumping around the mid to low 20s, jostling with the Lib Dems which are in the high teens, and the Brexit Party are struggling to stay in the low teens. In effect, Boris received an initial bounce for the Tories on his arrival in office and has then picked up a couple more points after all the party conferences. If Boris does actually get a deal, the polls would probably bounce up for him some more. But polls tend to narrow during an election campaign, so this may not all be so clear by polling day.

The messaging

This election will be ‘Get Brexit Done’ and ‘or you get Corbyn’, in either a deal or no deal scenario. It remains to be seen how much Labour can lever the media off that clear, overriding theme which Boris’ team will work hard to try and keep them repeating endlessly.

The DI hunch

At this stage, and things always change, Lab should do badly unless Jezza can turn it around.

The Lib Dems should do well but being the third party is tough in a ‘first past the post’ electoral system, so what does ‘do well’ look like: 30 seats? 40 seats? 50 seats? It’s definitely not the 100-300 seats that was being thrown around with much irrational exuberance at the Lib Dem party conference.

Boris could do well. He could even get a small majority. But he would need his ‘hopey changey boosterism’ thing to take off in voters’ minds as on current polls/seat numbers it’s not clear how his victory comes about.

So we could be in hung Parliament territory with the Tories once again the largest party.

It’s all to play for.