Labour's Pathway to an overall majority

Labour currently represents 203 seats and needs to reach 325 to be sure of forming a government that has an overall majority, meaning they must win a minimum of 122 seats. This blog post contains a list of seats that Labour most likely can win and would take them to the total they need to reach to form an overall majority. This study uses a simple methodology to define which seats are most winnable for Labour. It examines seats where Labour is second and the winning party has a majority level below 30% of the constituency’s electorate. It initially factors out Scotland as due to its multi-party nature the majority levels tend to be smaller, and therefore are not that comparable to English and Welsh constituencies. If we take constituencies that meet the above criteria there are 126 constituencies that meet this criteria, which would take Labour 4 above the overall majority threshold, if they won every single seat on this list. If Labour were to improve in Scotland then there are a further 7 seats the party could win, which if all won would take them to 11 above an overall majority. There are newer Labour-Tory Conservative battleground seats Labour could win, but some of these seats have majorities of over 20% for the Conservatives and these seats are thought to be mostly safe, but are not impossible to achieve if a large 1997 style swing was secured. However, the purpose of this blog is to focus on the most winnable seats and set out how big Labour’s task is in their most realistic pathway to victory. Therefore, only the seats that could take Labour to a majority of 11 are focused here.


Below is a table that outlines a list of constituencies that have long been key marginal seats that have determined Labour’s possibility of winning and losing elections. These are the seats that New Labour dominated for three elections which enabled them to form majority administrations. There are 54 of these seats, 51 of them having majorities of less than 20% of the electorate and half of them having majorities of around 10% and under. These are therefore, some of the most winnable seats. 12 of these seats have been won by Labour within the last decade and most have been won since New Labour’s 2005 election victory. It should be noted that even in good times Labour had small majorities in these seats and these constituencies will be a close fight even if Labour is doing well in the polls. Moreover, some of these seats have not been won by Labour since the 2010 boundary review which altered most constituency’s boundaries, therefore meaning Labour must win these constituencies with slightly less favourable demographics than existed in 2005. One such example is the key marginal seat of Hastings&Rye where in 2010 local villages on the outskirts of the constituency were added into the seat under the review and Labour has not been able to win this seat since. Consequently, Labour must win under conditions that they have never been able to if they are to start their pathway to forming a coalition that can create an overall majority.


Traditional Key marginal seats.

Note: Column Leave v shows the percentage leave vote for a given constituency and the next column outlines a yes/no response to the question if the area vote to leave the EU. 19maj, shows the Tories' 2019 majority and Con & Lab pv10-19, show the change in the share of the vote across the decade for Conservative and Labour. The last two columns show when Labour last won the seat and what their majority level was when they last won the seat. This is the same for all tables.


New Key Marginal seats:


Moreover, with the changes that have been created post-Brexit there are some former safe seats that are now key marginal seats, most often battlegrounds between Conservative and Labour. Only one of these seats have been won by Labour recently, Kensington in 2017. Consequently, Labour has not won the vast majority of these seats as they are currently formed. Yet, some of these seats are possible gains as six of these seats only have a 10% majority and nine of them are within 15%. Although some of these may be tough wins for Labour they are all needed to get them to an overall majority. If Labour wins 50 of the traditional marginal seats and all of these new Tory-Labour marginal seats that would only give them another 65 seats, leaving them with 57 needed to be gained before they would reach the magic number of 325.

Old Labour seats:


The following group of seats Labour would need to win back is the Red Wall seats that are within a 30% majority. Some seats Labour lost in the red wall areas, especially amongst the ones they lost in 2017, now display majorities of more than 30% for the Conservatives and are not included in the below table. 25 of these seats have majorities of less than 20% and 5 had majorities between 20-30%. If Labour is able to win these seats back along with the other seats outlined above this would still leave them 15 short of a majority.


Red Wall:


The following group of seats Labour would need to win back is the Red Wall seats that are within a 30% majority. Some seats Labour lost in the red wall areas, especially amongst the ones they lost in 2017, now display majorities of more than 30% for the Conservatives and are not included in the below table. 25 of these seats have majorities of less than 20% and 5 had majorities between 20-30%. If Labour is able to win these seats back along with the other seats outlined above this would still leave them 15 short of a majority.

Moving on from these seats Labour could gain one seat from Plaid Cymru, leaving them 14 short.

PC-Lab marginal Labour is targeting:

Therefore, Labour would need to obtain 7 seats in the following table of constituencies they are nearest to winning, but are mostly considered to be fairly safe Conservative seats, nearly always having majorities of more than 20%. They would then need to win another 7 seats in Scotland to bring them to an overall majority. If Labour won all of these safer Conservative and Scottish seats, something incredibly hard to do, this would take them to an overall majority of 7, and if they won the 4 key marginal seats left out earlier, which have very high Conservative majority levels, this would take them to an overall majority of 11.


Safer Tory Seats & Scotland Seats:

Note: Column "Unionist win?" identifies if a united unionist pact could have won the seat in 2019 (if Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem forces merged into one party with one candidate and got their voters to back this one candidate).


The above tables has shown Labour’s monumental task of getting back into government. Labour must win some seats they have never won before if they are to form an overall majority in the next election, or even its subsequent election. This pathway to 10 Downing Street is long, hard to navigate and will have many obstacles contained within it. However, Labour must tread almost every step and not leave any holes in the path it forges if it is to achieve 325 seats and form an entirely Labour administration.


Afterward: A list of Labour’s target constituencies: Ordered by most to least winnable:

Note: New 10, outlines if the target seat is a new constituency which came into existence after the 2010 election boundary review. This does not show changes to boundaries that are slight modifications, such as Hastings&Rye which had a couple of villages added to its constituency in the 2010 boundary review process.


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