Election 2017 results: how many more seats could have been switched by anti-Tory tactical voting?

The election results are in, and it’s close. The Conservatives have won 318 seats, and with the DUP’s 10 seats that’s enough for them to win votes in the Commons – which probably requires at least 321 votes. Even working together the other parties (excluding Sinn Fein) – Labour (262), the SNP (35), Lib Dems (12), Plaid Cymru (4) and the Greens (1) – would only have 314 seats. But clearly not much would have to change for the Conservatives to lose control, and there were lots of close results: in Richmond Park for example the Tories beat the Lib Dems by just 45 votes. If the Conservatives had won just 7 fewer seats, the governance of the country would be very much more in doubt.

This blogpost is not meant to argue for or against any kind of ‘Progressive Alliance’, but it’s undeniable that there is an overlap of sympathies amongst many Labour, Green and Lib Dem supporters. Crucially, many – though certainly not all – are willing to vote tactically if it means the difference between a Conservative win or loss and if that difference is clear in advance. So in the next election, whenever that might be, though especially if it comes soon after this one, where might extra tactical voting make the biggest difference? (Of course, people vote for all sorts of reasons and we shouldn’t expect all of a party’s supporters to switch wholesale to another, but hopefully such analysis is nonetheless useful to consider!)

There were 5 Conservative wins where Green votes would have made all the difference to Labour:

1.       Southampton, Itchen: 31 Con majority and 725 Green votes

2.       Chipping Barnet: 353 Con majority and 1,406 Green votes

3.       Norwich North: 507 Con majority and 782 Green votes

4.       Calder Valley: 609 Con majority and 631 Green votes

5.       Telford: 720 Con majority and 898 Green votes

There were 9 Conservative wins where Labour votes would have made all the difference to the Lib Dems (Green votes could not have made the difference but obviously would have helped – or indeed did help where the Greens did not stand):

1.       Richmond Park: 45 Con majority and 5,773 Lab votes

2.       St Ives: 312 Con majority and 7,298 Lab votes

3.       Cheltenham: 2,569 Con majority and 5,408 Lab votes

4.       North Devon: 4,332 Con majority and 7,063 Lab votes

5.       Cheadle: 4,507 Con majority and 10,417 Lab votes

6.       Lewes: 5,508 Con majority and 6,060 Lab votes

7.       Hazel Grove: 5,514 Con majority and 9,036 Lab votes

8.       St Albans: 6,109 Con majority and 13,137 Lab votes

9.       Wells: 6,582 Con majority and 7,129 Lab votes

Had there been more tactical voting in those 14 constituencies alone, the removal vans might already have been round to No. 10 – for better or worse.

There were also 32 Conservative wins where Lib Dem and Green votes could have won the constituency for Labour (though it’s less obvious that all those Lib Dem voters would prefer Corbyn to May). In order of their Conservative majorities, they are:

1.       Preseli Pembrokeshire 314
2.       Pudsey              331
3.       Thurrock              345
4.       Hastings & Rye  346
5.       Aberconwy         635
6.       Stoke-on-Trent South   663
7.       Northampton North      807
8.       Broxtowe            863
9.       Bolton West       936
10.   Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland   1,020
11.   Hendon                1,076
12.   Northampton South       1,159
13.   Pendle           1,279
14.   Morecambe & Lunesdale          1,399
15.   Putney           1,554
16.   Camborne & Redruth     1,577
17.   Finchley & Golders Green        1,657
18.   Milton Keynes South     1,725
19.   Harrow East        1,757
20.   Milton Keynes North     1,915
21.   Watford               2,092
22.   Chingford & Woodford Green    2,438
23.   South Swindon    2,464
24.   Worcester           2,490
25.   Reading West    2,876
26.   Southport           2,914
27.   Cities of London & Westminster       3,148
28.   Truro & Falmouth            3,792
29.   Filton & Bradley Stoke   4,182
30.   Wimbledon        5,622
31.   Colchester          5,677
32.   St Austell & Newquay   11,142

We can also add in votes for the nationalist parties, though this of course complicates tactical considerations. In Wales (on top of some listed above) there were 4 Conservative seats close enough for tactical voting including Plaid Cymru to have made all the difference:

1.       Vale of Glamorgan, majority 2,190
(where Plaid voters could have won it for Labour)

2.       Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, majority 3,110
(where Plaid voters could have won it for Labour)

3.       Clwyd West, majority 3,437
(where Plaid voters could have won it for Labour)

4.       Brecon & Radnorshire, majority 8,038
(where Lab and Plaid voters could have won it for the Lib Dems)

Finally, the Conservatives now have 13 seats in Scotland and of those only in Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk did they win more votes than Labour, Lib Dems, SNP and Greens put together. So in theory up to 12 more seats might be vulnerable to anti-Tory tactical voting, but of course there are even more considerations at play for voters there.

Of course, some similar analysis could be done from a Conservative perspective, with assumptions of them hoovering up the remaining UKIP votes or asking Lib Dems to vote against Labour in key marginals. And I certainly wouldn’t say that switching many of the above seats were a sufficient – or in some cases even realistic – plan for progressives. But some of those results, especially Richmond Park and Southampton Itchen, are so tantalising from a centre-left perspective that one can’t help but hope that voters (and local parties) there reconsider the tactical option in the next election.

Thanks to Britain Elects for creating and sharing the spreadsheet of results on which this analysis was based. Let me know if you spot any errors in this blog!

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