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Thursday 27 June 2024

UK Election Special: The Conservatives could lose almost every seat to efficient tactical voting


Of course MRP polls could be wrong. However while looking at many of these polls (using this very useful site from Peter Inglesby), the following observation struck me. There were only 17 seats where all the MRP polls agreed the Conservatives would win. That is 17 out of 631.

Maybe that is a result of one or two rogue MRP polls. So I looked at the most recent (on 26/06) MRP by WeThink. That has national vote shares typical of recent non-MRP polls and with the Conservatives firmly in second place above Reform. The MRP modelling translates that into only 76 Conservative seats with the Liberal Democrats close behind on 52 seats. All 76 seats are in England and Wales, with the Conservatives projected to lose all their seats in Scotland. What struck me was that in these 76 seats, the projected winning Conservative percentage vote share was normally between 30% and 40%. Even with a significant Reform percentage, that would seem to give efficient tactical voting among 'progressive' (Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green) voters a strong chance of overtaking that Conservative vote share.

It therefore seemed worth spending a bit of time not watching football, but instead doing a few calculations. In each of the seats WeThink have the Conservatives winning in, I calculated the combined Labour, Liberal and Green percentage of the total vote. If I got this right there are only two seats (Castle Point in Essex and Clacton) where the Conservative vote (just) exceeds the combined progressive vote. More importantly, in all but 12 seats the progressive vote total exceeded the Conservative vote by 10% of the expected vote or more.

Which means if progressive voters are determined to get rid of their Conservative MPs, in all but a handful of seats they could. That would be a Canada 1993 style event, where the Canadian Conservative party, in power in Canada for 9 years, went from 167 seats to just 2. This is made possible, of course, by the right wing vote being split and assuming there is little appetite from Reform voters to vote tactically to defend a Conservative MP.

One of the reasons this result may not happen is that in many of these seats it is very difficult for voters to know which progressive party they should coordinate on. In one of these seats, Waveney Valley, WeThink have the Green party clearly ahead of the other two progressive parties, and there has been some constituency polling backing up the view that they are the main challenger there. In the other seats it is between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In only three seats are the Liberal Democrats 10 or more percentage points (of the total vote) ahead of Labour. In forty seats Labour are ahead of the Liberal Democrats by 10 or more points, which leaves about 35 seats where WeThink calculate that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are within 9 points of each other.

Of course this uncertainty over who to tactically vote for is increased if you also look at MRP polls by other organisations. This suggests two things. First, it is a great shame that there have not been constituency polls in any of these seats. Second, it shows the costs of lack of formal cooperation between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The problem in both cases is that it is difficult to predict before the election which the critical seats will be.

Does this matter, as Labour seem likely to win by a landslide? Towards the end of this post I argued that the goal of making the Liberal Democrats the official opposition was well worth striving for. My post next week will amplify this argument, as well as giving some suggestions on these problem seats. To this end, here is a list of seats where I think it is not completely clear whether tactical votes should focus on Labour or the Liberal Democrats, based on looking across MRP polls. Do let me know via social media if I have missed any evidence besides the MRP polls and the advice from tactical voting sites.

List of seats in England and Wales where MRP polls predict the Conservatives may win but differ on whether Labour or the Liberal Democrats are the main challengers to the Conservatives:

Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Bicester & Woodstock, Brecon, Chelmsford, Chichester, Didcot, East Grinstead & Uckfield, East Hampshire, East Surrey, Ely, Epsom, Exmouth, Fareham, Frome, Hamble Valley, Harpenden & Berkhamsted, Honiton, Maidenhead, Mid Bucks, Mid Sussex, Newton Abbot, North Cotswolds, North Dorset, North East Hampshire, North West Essex, Reigate, Runnymede, Sevenoaks, South Shropshire, St Neots, Stratford-on-Avon, Sussex Weald, Tewkesbury, Tiverton, Torbay, West Worcestershire

1 comment:

  1. I live in one of those seats, currently Conservative held, where various MRP polls have suggested a win by all three of Con/Lab/Lib, and variously placed either Labour or the LibDems as the stronger challenger. At least one poll had the vote split very nearly equally three ways.

    It really is going to be immensely frustrating if a lack of coordination elects a Conservative MP with ~30% of the vote.


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