Key London 'battlegrounds' where vote will be won or lost at General Election 2024

A sign is adjusted oustide the polling station in Bridlington Priory Church, Yorkshire
-Credit: (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

As Rishi Sunak announces a new General Election all eyes are turning on the political battlegrounds where the vote could be won or lost in a matter of months. Parts of London will play an important role as one area in particular has been called 'one to watch' ahead of the election.

Across the rest of the UK, North-west England will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the General Election. The region is home to the number one target seat for Labour, Burnley, and the chief target for the Conservatives, Warrington South.

It contains five of Labour's top 10 targets and three of the Tories' top 10. Other key Conservative-Labour battlegrounds include the Midlands and Yorkshire, while most of the pivotal Conservative-Liberal Democrat contests are in southern England. Scotland and Wales hold opportunities for several parties to make gains.

READ MORE: Everything that went wrong during Rishi Sunak's election speech

How the targets are calculated

The top targets for the General Election are based on how easy or hard it would be for a seat to change hands. This is done by calculating the change in the share of the vote in each seat, or swing, that would be needed for a party to make a gain.

The smaller the swing, the higher the seat is ranked on the list. Labour needs a swing of only 0.13 percentage points, or 0.2 if written to one decimal place (as 0.1 would not be enough), to gain Burnley from the Conservatives.

The Tories would take Warrington South which at the next election will be treated as a Labour defence because of boundary changes on an even smaller swing of 0.06 (or 0.1) points.

Five other seats in Labour's top 10 would fall to the party on a swing of 1.0 points or less, all of which are being defended by the Conservatives: Leigh & Atherton in Greater Manchester, High Peak in Derbyshire, Bangor Aberconwy in Wales, Wolverhampton West in the West Midlands and Bury South in Greater Manchester.

Bury North and Bolton North East in Greater Manchester, Watford in Hertfordshire and Chingford & Woodford Green in north London complete Labour's top 10 all Tory defences.

Boundary changes

Leigh & Atherton, Bangor Aberconwy and Wolverhampton West are all examples of new seats at the General Election.

They have been created as part of a UK-wide redrawing of constituency boundaries carried out to reflect changes in the size of local populations.

This is also why Bury South will be treated as a Conservative defence at the next election, even though its present MP, Christian Wakeford, defected from the Tories to Labour halfway through the current parliament.

The last time a major redrawing of boundaries took place was ahead of the 2010 general election.

To identify which seats on the new electoral map will be the parties' top targets, and to work out the swing needed for the seats to change hands, a set of notional results for the last general election has been calculated to show what would have happened if that contest had taken place using the new boundaries.

These notional results have been compiled by Professor Colin Rallings and Professor Michael Thrasher of the University of Plymouth, on behalf of BBC News, ITV News, Sky News and the PA news agency all of which will use the figures as the basis for reporting the gains and losses on July 4.

For example, Burnley, Labour's number one target, had a notional result in 2019 of the Tories on 40.46% of the vote and Labour on 40.19%, while Warrington South, the Tories' top target, was 44.47% Labour and 44.35% Conservative.

This is why Warrington South will be treated as a Labour defence at the next election and is considered the Conservatives' top target despite it being currently represented by Tory MP Andy Carter.

Key Labour and Conservative contests including key London areas

The data shows that, of Labour's top 50 targets, 10 are in north-west England, seven in Wales, six in the East Midlands and five each in the West Midlands and Yorkshire/Humber, with the remainder spread across the rest of the UK.

All of these will be treated as Conservative defences at the election and all would fall on local swings from Tory to Labour of up to 5.4 percentage points. Labour would need to perform much better to stand any chance of forming the next government, however.

The party needs a uniform nationwide swing from Conservative to Labour of 8.3 points to become the largest party in a hung parliament, and an even bigger swing of 12.7 points to gain an overall majority more than the 10.2-point swing achieved by Tony Blair in 1997.

Two key constituencies to watch will be Chelsea & Fulham in London, which Labour would gain from the Conservatives on a local swing of 8.3 points, and Buckingham & Bletchley in Buckinghamshire, which the party would gain from the Tories on a local swing of 12.7 points.

Of the Conservatives' top 50 targets, 11 are in Yorkshire/Humber, seven in north-west England and five each in the West Midlands and Wales all areas that appear high on Labour's list.

An exception is north-east England, which holds only two of Labour's top 50 but nine of the Tories' top 50, all of which are being defended by Labour.

Along with Warrington South, the Conservatives' top 10 are all Labour defences and include two other seats in the North West: Wirral West in Merseyside and Heywood & Middleton North in Greater Manchester.

Three are in the West Midlands: Coventry North West, Coventry South and Warwick & Leamington; one is in Wales, Alyn & Deeside; and three are in London: Kensington & Bayswater, Beckenham & Penge and Dagenham & Rainham.

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