It’s the week of the election and Boris Johnson is to spend the final days of the campaign visiting every region in England and Wales – starting off with a tour of Leave-voting Labour marginals. The polls vary in the size of the Tory lead – starting from a 6pt lead and going up to a 14pt lead.
Anything below seven points suggests that a majority is not guaranteed and the Tories could find themselves in hung parliament territory. The Conservative result rests on how successful their electoral strategy is in different parts of the country. As ConHome’s Paul Goodman recently said on the Spectator’s Edition podcast, it’s like a fruit machine – if they hit all three lemons the majority will be sizeable, if they only have one then things start to look shaky.
So, how is the strategy faring across the country?
The red wall
The part of the Tories’ electoral pitch that has got the most attention relates to the so-called red wall. As I reported previously, this pollster term refers to the block of traditional Labour seats in Wales, the Midlands and the North which have been Labour for generations. The idea of these places (e.g. Bolsover, Bishop Auckland and Ashfield) voting Tory was once unthinkable. But the combination of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn has led the Conservatives to believe that these seats are within reach.
It’s also where the Conservatives now sound the most bullish – and Labour campaigners the most nervous. The Tories believe their efforts are coming to fruition here and the YouGov MRP poll suggested they are right. Seats across the North, West Midlands and former mining seats – including Bolsover – are predicted to be ripe for the Tories to take. Labour campaigners have been receiving a very hostile reception in these areas and feel that the Tory slogan of ‘get Brexit done’ is cutting through above all else.
There had been a view pre-election that the Tories would be annihilated in the capital. Then there was optimism that the Tories could actually do quite well in London as a result of the Lib Dems splitting the Labour vote. However, in the final weeks of the campaign the Labour vote has risen and seats like Croydon Central are seen to be most likely out of reach. There is still optimism that they can hold on to Chelsea and Fulham and Putney – while also potentially winning Kensington back.
Ahead of the election being called, there were predictions of a near total wipeout for the Scottish Conservatives. But as the campaign has progressed the picture has become brighter for Tories north of the border. It’s not that Boris-mania has broken out across Scotland, instead the election has become about the SNP push for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Tory campaigners are increasingly confident that they will hold close to the 13 seats they won in 2017 – even if that means some of those seats changing hands. Recent polling chimes with this view:
Scottish Westminster voting intention:
SNP: 39% (-1)
CON: 29% (+1)
LAB: 21% (+1)
LDEM: 10% (-1)
via @Panelbase, 03 – 06 Dec
Chgs. w/ 22 Nov
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) December 8, 2019
Seats the Tories win back with a national swing
The idea is that if the Tories have a large enough lead over Labour, they will win back swing seats they lost including Canterbury, Kensington, Wirral West and Gower. However, the Tories are aiming for a different demographic in this election and there’s scepticism among campaigners that a seat like Canterbury will go blue – even if the Tories win an overall majority. What is making it harder in certain areas that have been Tory in the past is the student population and tactical voting.
The commuter belt and South West
There had been concerns that the Liberal Democrats would make gains in Lib Dem/Tory marginals in the commuter belt and south west. The party is braced for some losses such as in St Albans. However, on a good night they believe they could hold Cheltenham.