New analysis by centre-right think tank Onward, which uses the same methodology that correctly identified the “red wall” in 2019, has found that 36 additional seats held by Labor in the North – including 18 in Yorkshire – would be vulnerable to the Tories in the next election if the overall vote share is in line with 2019.
He said the results mean delivering on “leveling up” promises is key to the Tories’ success in the upcoming vote.
The research, which looked at where party vote share outperforms or underperforms against factors such as age, education and home ownership, highlights Hemsworth, Hull East and constituencies of Normanton, Pontefract and Yvette Cooper’s Castleford as prime target seats for the Conservatives in the next election.
While 18 seats held by Labor in Yorkshire and the Humber are listed as likely to change hands due to demographic changes, only one Tory seat – Keighley – is considered a key “battleground” seat.
Onward said the shifting political center of gravity means the views of the Conservatives as the party of the South and Labor representing the North are increasingly outdated.
The report says that if Tory support in the south gradually wanes, it is unlikely to have a major effect in the next election, meaning the Tories should prioritize retaining seats in the north and the Midlands won in 2019 and target further regional victories. .
The report found that even in the event of a perfectly executed electoral coalition between Labor and the Liberal Democrats in which the two parties do not compete, it is likely that the Conservatives would still retain a parliamentary majority.
In Yorkshire, such a pact would only see Labor win three seats – Dewsbury, Keighley and York Outer, while the Liberal Democrats would win.
However, the report warned that the Tories’ position could be more threatened by the emergence of a new Ukip-style party that would split votes on the right. His analysis suggested such a party could cost the Conservatives 53 seats, resulting in a hung parliament. In contrast, a Labour-Lib Dem pact would lose the 44 Conservative seats.
In a sign of the challenge facing Labour, the research suggests the party could win back 31 seats in the North, Midlands and North Wales if Tory voters in 2019 return to their preferred party, but only three seats from the South would change hands.
Will Tanner, director of Onward and former deputy chief policy officer to Theresa May, said: “The next election, like the last, will be won in the north of England. As the South gradually becomes less conservative over time, there is no blue wall waiting to fall in the Home Counties two years from now. But there are dozens of traditional Labor seats in the North that could still change. This report highlights why it is absolutely essential for the Conservative Party to make progress in the “race to the top” and why Labor still has a mountain to climb.
James Blagden, Chief Data Analyst and Head of Future Politics at Onward, said: “The heart of the Conservative Party has moved north over the past 30 years. Since Margaret Thatcher’s landslide in 1983, there has been a steady decline in Conservative support in London and the Home Counties and growth in the North and Midlands.
“This trend is set to continue. But the biggest short-term concern for the Tories should be backing into the red wall, putting their majority at risk. The Tories are on shaky ground, with their 2019 gains still unsecured and the heart of the south slowly slipping away.
William Hague supports the conclusions
Former Tory leader and MP for Yorkshire William Hague said the findings were “important reading for Tories”.
He said: “This is a timely and far-sighted report on the central issue in Britain.
electoral politics – can the new conservative coalition be sustained?
“It offers a compelling antidote to the idea that conservatives can only succeed in the north at the expense of the south, but comes with its own caveats – it’s important reading for conservatives.”
What the analysis shows in Yorkshire
Onward found that 21.8% of battleground seats (using the Red Wall-style outperformance methodology) are in Yorkshire. 18 of them are opportunities for the Tories to gain ground and only one is a potential loss for Labour.
Labor ahead of Conservatives
Kingston upon Hull East – 1,239
Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford – 1,276
Wentworth and Dearne – 2,165
Doncaster Central – 2,278
Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle – 2,856
South East Sheffield – 4,289
Sheffield, Hallam – 5,013
Kingston upon Hull North – 7,593
Sheffield, Heeley – 8,520
Leeds North West – 10,749
Onward chose ‘Labour lead over Conservative’ as the measure due to the Brexit Party finishing second in Barnsley East and Barnsley Central and the Liberal Democrats finishing second in Sheffield Hallam in the last election.
The think tank says a ‘perfect’ Lib-Lab pact would win just three Labor seats in Yorkshire (Dewsbury, Keighley and York Outer) compared to 21 seats nationally. Lib Dems would make no gain.