Labour facing real risk of wipeout as their polling slump continues

The past days have seen a number of opinion polls released ahead of June’s General Election, and they continue to make grim reading for the Labour Party. The ComRes/Sunday Mirror poll gave the Conservatives a 50% share, double that of Labour on 25%. The last fortnight has continued to give Tories a vote share in the high forties, whilst Labour have been languishing far behind on the low to mid twenties.

Were these results to be replicated in the election itself, it would be catastrophic for Labour. In a First Past The Post Election, a party that captures an absolute majority of the popular vote could find itself winning a landslide greater than Labour managed under Tony Blair in 1997. In the 2015 General Election in Scotland, Labour polled 24.3% to the SNP’s 50%, and lost 40 of their 41 seats. There is no reason to believe Labour’s Scottish disaster could be replicated across vast swathes of Britain two years on.

To illustrate the predicament Labour find themselves in, the following chart shows all 632 constituencies in Great Britain, with the percentage of the electorate who voted to leave the European Union on the y-axis and the combined share for the Conservatives and Ukip on the x-axis. Ukip have themselves seen a serious setback in terms of their support since the Brexit referendum, and as all evidence appears to show that the majority of voters deserting Ukip are supporting the Conservatives.

I have highlighted four areas on the chart where Conservatives might expect to make gains. The area to the right can be considered entirely safe for the Conservatives, whilst the constituencies where the combined Tory & Ukip share was less than 30% in 2015 is presumably safe territory for Labour, the SNP, the handful of safe Lib Dem seats and the solitary safe seats for the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

The green red area shows seats where the combined Ukip & Tory share in 2015 exceeded 50%, and where the electorate backed Brexit by 60% or more. It would be an impressive achievement if Labour held even a handful of these seats, all of which would appear to be lost causes if current polling is reflected in actual votes. There are 20 Labour seats with this profile.

After the red area, the L-shaped orange area is the next most likely area to see strong gains by the Conservatives. These are constituencies that voted Leave, and where the combined Ukip & Conservative vote exceeded 50%.

This is the region of the chart where Labour are defending the most seats (68). Were the Tories to sweep this area, then they would also gain two seats from the Liberal Democrats. Included in this area is the former constituency of Tony Blair, Sedgefield, and the seat of former Labour leader Ed Miliband in Doncaster North. The red and orange areas are shown in greater detail below.

The other two areas where Labour could be vulnerable are the yellow area, which voted Leave and where the combined Tory & Ukip share exceeded 30%; and the green area, which voted Remain and where the combined Tory & Ukip share was greater than 30%. The detail of these areas is shown below.

The yellow area contains 47 Labour seats, one Plaid Cymru seat and one Lib Dem, whilst the green area contains 48 Labour seats, two Liberal Democrats, six SNP seats and one Plaid Cymru.

An excellent night for Labour would see them containing losses to the 20 seats in the red area, whilst holding on elsewhere. However, if they start making serious losses in the orange region then they are in serious trouble. Should they also incur heavy losses in the yellow and green regions then the losses would be catastrophic.

If Labour defy the pollsters and only lose seats in the red region of the chart, then they will still have in excess of 200 MPs in the House of Commons. However, should the hitherto unthinkable happen and the Conservatives sweep every single seat in all four coloured areas of the map, then Labour would be left with 49 seats.

This would be worse than even their nadir in the 1931 General Election, when they won 52 seats. The General Election of December 1910 would be the last time Labour had a smaller representation in the Commons, when they won 42 seats and came fourth behind John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party. Under this scenario the largest opposition party would be the SNP.

Polls such as the YouGov poll giving the Conservatives a ten point lead over Labour in Wales demonstrate that there are now very few Labour seats that are truly safe. Of the 232 constituencies that elected a Labour MP in 2015, 148 voted to leave the EU. And just because a constituency has been held by the party for decades does not mean that it can’t be swept away in a wave, as many former Scottish Labour MPs will be able to tell you.

The local elections on the 4th of May could provide a clue as to the fate awaiting Labour in June, and if there will be any individual constituency polling carried out this might provide some insight also. However on the night of the election, the usually safe Labour seats in Sunderland will provide an early glimpse of whether Labour are facing a merely bad night, or a cataclysmic one.

Data Sources:

EU Referendum data: House of Commons Library blog
General Election 2010 & 2015 results: Electoral Commission

The data used to create this analysis can be found as a Google Sheets spreadsheet here.

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  • Gavin Smithson

    Oh happiness. A world without socialism.

  • Zorin001

    Unrestrained Capitalism then Gavin? Unregulated markets and winner takes all? Didn’t do us much good back in 2008.

  • Matthew Doherty

    Hey, it’s a nice analysis. Just wanted to point out that:

    “The green area shows seats where the combined Ukip & Tory share in 2015 exceeded 50%, and where the electorate backed Brexit by 60% or more”

    Should probably read “red area” right? Also is it possible to put the box colour shading behind the constituency data points? In the green box the red Labour dots almost look like orange Lib Dem dots.

  • salmonofdata

    Oops, thanks for the spot, I will amend.

  • ulidian

    I’m already tempted to order in the popcorn. Labour would be up against it under any leader, but Comrade Corbyn might just help to consign them to virtual oblivion.

  • murdockp

    Reminds me of the SDLP where 100% of the people who attend the party conference just think they are brilliant

  • Zig70

    In a lot of ways, I don’t care if Corbyn isn’t the messiah, or if labour get annahilated. If the English can’t see the lack of investment in infrastructure, nhs, training etc is crippling them then they will get just desserts. The time when plastic politics hits the dirt will come.

  • ted hagan

    The tactic of a desperate Labour Party appears to be this. Predict the very worst for the party, encourage the harbingers of doom; annihilation and destruction , so that if it turns out anything better than forecast then it will be ‘tidings of great joy’ and at least a platform of recovery to build on over the next decade.
    Whatever. Corbyn will just be a bad memory by this time next year.

  • ted hagan

    That’s coz they’re usually half pissed.

  • Popo LaFleur

    Excellent analysis! Fully expect Labour to get 150+, but still, 2 years
    ago they had a chance to coming top, now they are in a complete and
    utter downward spiral. Brilliant.

  • Katyusha

    Meanwhile, in Germany:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/ba/OpinionPollingGermanyFederalElection2017.png/800px-OpinionPollingGermanyFederalElection2017.png

    #keinebremsen
    Of course, if in this brave, new, post-Brexit world, the world is actually just Britain, I understand.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yeah but without socialism, people can get paid a pittance to be a rent a mob for a bunch of demagogues and nationalists.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Or rather England and Wales specifically.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    Yup, the English need to finally get what they wish for so that they learn their lesson once and for all.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    This is the most worrying thing, that the bog standard post-ideological masses (such as yourself) consider someone like Corbyn, who would have been seen as boringly centrist just a decade or so ago, is on the extreme left to the extent of being likened to a communist.

    Just shows how far to the right the english speaking world has slid and how little hope there is for a turnaround until people get what they wish for, extreme job insecurity, decrepit infrastructure, privatised everything etc. and learn by experience what indulging the most selfish and cynical parts off their psyche does to a society.

  • Zorin001

    There are major issues coming down the road with emergent tech and increased automisation of jobs (starting to include white collar) which so far no major party has done more than pay lip service too. Make mo mistake that is the major issue over the medium to long term.

  • Zorin001

    History repeats Ciarán, but I think weare in the farce stage rather than tragedy.

  • aquifer

    Labour’s union boss connections, and a leader not chosen by MPs, makes them politically stupid, so better gone.

  • GS

    I have been trying to look at this a little closer but it is tricky unless you go into the manifestos etc

    Would Corbyn’s Labour be further left than New Labour manifesto of 1997? Have you seen any comparison reports etc?

  • Reader

    There’s a lot of space between Socialism and Unrestrained Capitalism. It seems that neither Fianna Fail nor New Labour were the right parties to explore that space.

  • Zorin001

    Oh I agree Reader, i’m not a Marxist by any means; I believe markets are necessary though with strong regulation to avoid companies and individuals gaming the system.

    This is a problem for a lot of the parties of the Left, especially with the massive changes in how we work and increased automation of jobs. Its been easier for the Right to fill that space as immigration and the EU has been easy targets for public anger but they are symptoms not the underlying cause.

  • hgreen

    Indeed the English and Welsh deserve everything that’s coming their way. Fools duped into voting for higher class sizes and lower life expectancy because they think Corbyn is a poor leader. With Scotland’s departure imminent hopefully we’ll be next.

  • hgreen

    Burning down the house because you don’t like the curtains. Idiocy.

  • hgreen

    Maybe, however he’ll be replaced by another socialist rather than a neoliberal.

  • hgreen

    Just wondering. Was it the media that convinced you he was a bad leader or did you come to that conclusion yourself?

  • hgreen

    The greatest trick the Tories ever pulled was cutting education spending, turning the English into uncritical, compliant fools.

  • ScottishClive22

    The UK’s (not just England’s) poor productivity compared to the rest of Europe is well know and has been for decades. So its not just the recent government that have messed things up. Its a long terms thing, which i guess is masked by the large financial sector pumping money into London.

  • Katyusha

    The strange thing is, classical Marxism dealt with the problem directly. Indeed, it was seen as the final method to finally free the working classes from having to labour for their living – a world where the means of production can whirr along in an automated state, requiring only a little maintenance, while people are free to pursue whatever they actually wish to pursue.

    Unfortunately, we’ve settled on the idea of a 40 hour week representing the fair share of labour in society, necessary to earn a full livelihood, when there isn’t forty hours worth of work for everyone to do any longer. The citizens income proposed by the Greens among others is probably the most sensible suggestion I’ve seen to this developing socioeconomic problem, but there is still the problem that anyone who doesn’t work full time or is a net beneficiary of the state is seen as a scrounger.

    Of course, the UK has other ways of fudging around the problem, including not automating their processes (resulting in appallingly low productivity), keeping people “employed” on zero hours contracts or with sophistry that allows their employer to disavow responsibility for their livelihood, and by blaming foreigners and the EU for its economic ills.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Brilliant Analysis Peter ! Always enjoy your charts ! 1st Class ! It could take the Labour Movement a generation to recover from this or could even see it knocked out all together and a split emerges within the Labour Party leading to 2 new Left-Centre political parties ?

  • JoeCro

    It is going to be as blood bath. The conservatives could easily and up with 400 plus seats.

  • Zorin001

    Indeed, its been common knowledge for at least two decades that we have been lagging behind the rest of Europe.

    Its still more important to be seen to put the hours in at your desk/workstation even if you are spending half your time on your phone or the internet rather than what you produce.

  • Enda

    If you go and buy a map of the globe, you’ll see that the world is quite a lot bigger than the bottom 2/3 of Britain.

  • Simian Droog

    If the Brits want hard brexit and the complete privatization of their country, then let them have it. Corbyn is too genuine a man for the current climate. As my Eastern European friends mentioned, “The English have not suffered, they do not know what suffering is, they think they are immune” which is quite true when you compare the recent histories of the majority of European countries. Socialism will return to the UK but only after a decade or two of Tory mismanagement.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Great charts Peter, especially the first one mapping Tory vote against referendum voting. McCandless would be proud! Shows the Labour dilemma.

    And I’m not sure today’s setting out of the position by Starmer – though I like him a lot personally – is going to get the Brexit monkey off their back. It kind of makes sense and it does show thought but is too complicated and hedged to really cut through big time to voters and change the terms of the debate – which is what they needed to do. But as a party straddling the divide like no other, and with Brexit a done deal, Starmer is stuck really.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that is the real battle I think a lot of Labour people are already engaged in – the succession. You would have thought a massive election defeat would be a message even Corbynistas would get; but I suspect they won’t. It won’t be Corbyn or Momentum’s fault, it will be the MSM, ‘Blairites’ etc.

    It all rides on the character of the new joiners, who now make up a lot of (most of?) the membership. Did they all join for a hard left version of Labour come what may? Or join for a reconnected version of Labour that returns to its real values and takes on vested interests, and are open to whoever can do that? I wonder.

    There will be a hard core of people who will be fighting for a Corbynist succession, but I suspect a big tranche of newer entrants to the party might be more realistic about what has happened under Corbyn and question not only him but his advisors and allies. My first thought when the election was called was a positive one for that reason – Labour can start rebuilding 3 years earlier than we previously thought and we’ll have three years fewer of the Momentum cancer growing inside the party. Theresa May might just have saved Labour in the long term.

  • Mike the First

    Corbyn and McDonnell were not seen as “boringly centrist” a decade ago or so – I remember them being seen as being firmly on the left (along with the likes of Livingstone and Galloway) in the 90s.

  • SDLP supporter

    MP, why do you tell a straight-out downright lie? Do you ever read your previous posts? A few months ago you were predicting wipe-out for the SDLP in the March 3 Assembly election. Didn’t happen: SDLP retained its 12 seats in an Assembly reduced from 108 to 90 seats.
    To me you just come across as a mean-spirited, cantankerous obsessive who would start a row in a graveyard.
    You really should get help, or start your own one-man party and see how far you get.

  • Skibo

    This poll was carried out without one public statement by Theresa May. The only message being heard at the moment of a Labour implosion. Perhaps when we hear what TM has to offer and what kind of government the UK will have post Brexit things may change.
    At present, the Tories are seen as pro Brexit and Labour as anti yet Corbyn has said he will abide by the referendum. The only English party that is actually completely remain is the Lib Dems.

  • jporter

    Indeed. While I voted remain myself, I’ve had a few surprised and/or angry reactions from remainer friends when I regularly mention (which I did right from when the referendum was announced) that I think Brexit is actually a bit of a side show compared to the pressures on our basic economic structure from automation, the environment, debt and income stagnation.

  • Zorin001

    Plus society places so much value on someone having a job and being a productive member of said society. Look at the vilification of the so called “scrongers” on the dole.

    We are already at a point in some communities were it is impossible to get a job, what happens when that becomes systemic? Factor into that the already massive inequalities we see and you have a potential tinderbox.

    Eventually we run out of scapegoats, unfortunately there’s still plenty left to blame yet.

  • SleepyD

    Centrist – are you kidding? Corbyn was a bloody Marxist, you eedjit.

  • SleepyD

    Yeah, cos what the UK really needs at this point in history is some good old fashioned left wing socialism. It’s worked well in France….

  • SleepyD

    Keep your eye on Rebecca Long-Bailey. West Belfast roots.

  • jporter

    The rise and fall of governments are ultimately driven by the economic cycle, or to a lesser extent, wars.
    I’m actually starting to think that in a decade or so, Labour will look back in relief if they are hammered in this GE.
    None of the parties have any sort of plan for the upcoming structural economic changes. Labour flirt with a citizen’s income but lack the clout or language to argue effectively for it.
    Owning the events that will unfold in the next 5-10 years are going to bury whoever gets in.
    To be honest Labour should go to ground, dump the neoliberals and old-school state socialists and start creating policies for the future – the battleground will be with the rentiers in an automated economy, in a new tech age with an ageing, workless population increasing in numbers, ironically the focus will be on land, resources and who ‘owns’ them.