Why winning in 2020 will be so tough

By Dave Bodimeade.


Labour is not very good at winning general elections.

Since universal suffrage in 1918 there have been 26 general elections.

Only 5 elections have resulted in a Labour government with a majority of 10 or more seats.

These elections were 1945, 1966, 1997, 2001 and 2005.

The biggest swings of floating voters from Tory to Labour has been 1945 (11.7%) and 1997 (10.0%).

Swings from Tory to Labour are usually much smaller, eg 1964 (3.1%) and Feb 1974 (1.3%).

Up to 2015, Labour has had 16 leaders. Only 3 have won any kind of overall majority.

In the 20th century the Tories were in power for more years than the Communist Party in USSR.

The last Labour government was the longest period of non-Tory rule for over 200 years.

2015 general election result

Tories – 11.3 million votes (36.9%) – 330 seats

Labour – 9.3 million votes (30.4%) – 232 seats

UKIP – 3.9 million votes (12.7%) – 1 seat

Lib Dems – 2.4 million votes (7.9%) – 8 seats
SNP – 1.5 million (4.7%) – 56 seats
Green 1.2 million (3.8%) – 1 seat

Labour needed an average swing of 4% from the Tories but we lost votes in many Tory marginals.

Even if Labour had won Scotland the Tories would still have had an overall majority.

2020 general election

The challenge for Labour is huge.

Due to the way votes were distributed in 2015, Labour must be around 10% ahead of the Tories to get an overall majority.

That’s a Labour lead over the Tories of around 3 million votes.

That would mean an average swing of 9% from Tory to Labour since 2015.

That’s around 2.5 million floating voters switching from Tory (in 2015) to Labour (in 2020).

Labour can win with 2015 UKIP/LD/SNP/Green voters but would need 5 million switchers.

That’s because floating voters who switch from Tory to Labour count double, by also reducing the Tory vote.

If we can’t reduce the Tory vote then, to achieve a 10% lead, Labour needs to poll more than 45% – something we’ve not done since 1966 – 50 years ago.

2020 election will be won in Tory marginals, where Labour must win at least 70 seats.

2015 Tory voters (11.3 million) are a much bigger target than the pool of 2015 UKIP/Lib Dem/SNP/Green voters (9 million).

All of these figures will be made worse when the boundary review is implemented.

Electoral Calculus

On www.electoralcalculus.co.uk you can explore and predict the 2020 election.

I switched 8.8% of 2015 Tory voters to Labour. This gave Labour 39.5% and the Tories 29.5%.

Labour were still 10 seats short of a majority.

That’s how difficult it will be to win in 2020.

Dave Bodimeade, former Chair and Secretary, Rayleigh and Wickford CLP – you can email David at david@david393.orangehome.co.uk and follow him on Twitter: @davesuncat

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