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Starmer needs even bigger swing than Blair to win Labour majority

Labour will need a record swing to win a majority at the 2024 general election, as the party’s path to power has been made more difficult by big boundary changes.

A major new YouGov survey has indicated that Labour is heading for a repeat of Tony Blair’s crushing 1997 victory over the Conservatives.

However, new research shows that Sir Keir Starmer will have to achieve a swing of 12.7 points from the Tories to become a majority-holding prime minister – larger than the 10.2-point swing Tony Blair managed in his landslide.

It is also even higher even than the 12-point swing achieved by Clement Attlee in the historic 1945 post-war Labour victory, and more than double the swing at any other election since.

Sir Keir’s task is made harder by the impact of the boundary changes, the first since 2010, which are intended to ensure that constituencies have similar numbers of voters.

The new parliamentary constituencies were drawn up by the permanent and independent Boundary Commissions, and fewer than 12 per cent of the 650 Commons seats were left untouched.

Rishi Sunak said earlier this month that he was planning to go to the poll in “the second half of this year”, with a date in October or November considered the most likely.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to revive Tory polling fortunes (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak is under pressure to revive Tory polling fortunes (PA Wire)

The boundary changes give him a modest boost, analysis by leading professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher suggests, after they compiled notional results from the last general election in 2019 had it been fought on the new constituencies.

They said the overall impact is that the Conservatives will be defending a notional majority of 94 at the next general election, compared with the 80 majority they actually achieved in 2019.

“Broadly speaking, this reflects a pattern where the east, southeast and southwest of England have gained seats reflecting the increase in electorates, and Wales has lost them, following the implementation of the new rules,” the academics say.

The Tories have made a net gain of seven seats from the changes, while Labour has a net loss of two seats. The Liberal Democrats lose three seats and Plaid Cymru drops from four seats to just two.

The changes mean England is allocated 543 seats, an increase of 10. Wales will have 32 seats, a reduction of eight. Scotland will have 57, down two. Northern Ireland remains unchanged with 18.

Despite the cut in the number of seats in Scotland, the SNP remains on 48 seats, and there is no change in Northern Ireland, with the DUP on eight, Sinn Fein on seven, SDLP on two and the Alliance Party on one.

The Conservatives won 365 seats in the snap 2019 December election. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour took 203, giving Boris Johnson a Commons majority of 80, and 162 over Labour.

Keir Starmer has told his troops to ignore the polls (PA)
Keir Starmer has told his troops to ignore the polls (PA)

While the number of Conservative MPs is now down to 349, partly because of by-elections, with another two next month, that makes no difference to the calculations for the general election, which are based solely on the notional results.

Following the 2019 election, a direct swing of seven percentage points from the Tories was needed for Labour to become the largest party in a hung parliament. However, the boundary changes mean this rises to 8.3 percentage points.

For an overall majority, Sir Keir’s 12.7-point swing requirement is up from 12 on the old boundaries. Any uniform swing from Conservatives to Labour greater than 4.2 and less than 12.7 is likely to produce a hung parliament.

However, focusing only on the direct swing between Conservatives and Labour makes the assumption there will be no change in the share of votes cast for the other parties, which is highly unlikely to be true.

For instance, a 10-point swing from the SNP to Labour would give Sir Keir 15 gains under the new boundaries, easing his path to Downing Street, according to professors Rallings and Thrasher.

The top election experts compiled their notional results on behalf of BBC News, ITV News, Sky News and the PA news agency.

Despite the warnings about the scale of the turnaround needed by Labour, the YouGov poll of 14,000 voters found Sir Keir’s party is on course to achieve a stunning 120-majority.

It found that the Tories were headed for as few as 169 seats, while Labour would sweep into power with 385.

The survey, commissioned by Tory donors working with arch-Brexiteer David Frost, also predicts that the chancellor Jeremy Hunt could be one of 11 cabinet ministers to lose their seats, in what would be the biggest collapse in support for a governing party since 1906.

The Conservatives’ election chief Isaac Levido fired back at Lord Frost at a meeting of the Tory backbenchers’ 1922 Committee last night.

The strategist said those who organised the timing of the poll – ahead of the showdown Rwanda vote – are “intent on undermining this government” and “more interested in what happens after the election than fighting it”.