Monday, January 11, 2010

My General Election Prediction

Over the last few days I have been going through every single parliamentary seat with the aim of trying to predict which party will win it at the next election. As you can imagine, it has been quite a task. Why have I done this? For one reason - that I do not believe in national swings, or to be honest, even regional swings. The days of uniform swings have gone and for that reason, it is difficult to put much faith in the predictions of national opinion polls.

I have always thought that there will be some very odd results at the next election. Labour will retain some seats with comparatively small majorities, and they will lose some seats with quite large majorities. You cannot possibly predict LibDem seats without treating each seat as an individual entity. So, here's what I have come up with.

Conservative 331
Labour 216
LibDem 69
Plaid Cymru 5
Green 1
Others 3
Northern Ireland 18*

This gives the Conservatives a majority of just twelve seats. Labour are back to their 1983 showing, but it is the LibDem seat haul which has surprised me. I didn't think they would lose as many seats as many other pundits appear to think, but I am surprised that, by my calculation, they will actually have a small net gain of seven seats. Here are how the seats change hands from 2005...

  • LibDems lose 9 seats to the Conservatives and 1 to Plaid Cymru
  • Conservatives lose 2 seats to the LibDems but none to any other party
  • Labour loses 112 seats to the Conservatives, 15 seats to the LibDems, 2 seats to Plaid Cymru, 1 seat to the SNP and 1 seat to the Greens
  • Respect loses 1 seat to Labour
  • SNP loses two seats to the Conservatives

Additionally, I predict the Conservatives will win a total of 9 seats in Wales and 4 seats in Scotland. The LibDems will win 15 seats in Scotland, but only 3 seats in Wales.

The main surprise outside England is that I can only see the SNP winning 7 seats - exactly the same as they currently have. If you look at the size of the Labour majorities they would have to overturn you can see the task ahead of them. I readily admit that my knowledge of Scottish seats is not the same as my knowledge of English seats, but I'd love to know where Alex Salmond thinks his target of 20 is to come from. I just can't see it. Indeed, I think they will lose a couple of seats to the Tories, which are then compensated by 2 gains from Labour.

I have done a spreadsheet containing predictions for each seat, but at this stage I am not going to list each seat's prediction on here. I might do that nearer the election, although to be honest I don't want to upset a number of friends of mine who are Tory candidates by publicly predicting they might not make it!

* Apologies for not predicting anything for Northern Ireland. I do not know enough to predict anything meaningful.


Anonymous said...

My prediction is that Iain Dale fails to get a winnable seat

Ingrid Koehler said...

For Northern Ireland - I predict Iris Robinson may be in trouble.

Anonymous said...

I need to remember to return to this and compare come election night!

A surprising result if the Lib Dems do as well as you say, I would have thought they'd be squeezed between the Tories and Labour.

Nick de Bois said...

I would be surprised if it were that narow a margin but I think you are spot on about discounting the national polls as I have sensed a much closer local examination of candidates than ever before. Local factors and the incumbents expenses record wil influence results more than ever before.

Paul Robinson said...

Am I right to assume your thinking is John Bercow will hold on against Nigel Farage. ;-)

Mike Smithson said...

Iain - I think that you have got you his majority projection wrong

331 seats is six more than the 325 required but equates to a majority of 12.

You always take the difference in seat numbers from 325 and then double it. That's why all majorities are even numbers

Chris Lovell said...

Finally someone has cottoned on to the fact that you can't predict Lib Dem seats on national swing! Our campaigning has never been the same on a national level as Labour and Conservatives but has always (in my view) been better locally.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Don't think you've got this quite right, you state Labour will lose 2 seats to Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems will lose 1 seat to Plaid Cymru which makes a total of 3 gains. You don't predict Plaid Cymru will lose any seats, so with the 3 they have that makes 6 and not 5.

Anonymous said...

The south Manchester seat of Withington could well be a gain from the Lib Dems to Labour. A high proportion of public sector workers could swing what will be a very, very close call.

Alfred said...

What-ho old son!

Simple arithmetic - 331 minus 319 equals 12, not 6.

Kind regards, Nick H.

DiscoveredJoys said...

How refreshing to find a 'pundit' who admits up front the areas where they don't have sufficient knowledge to form an opinion.

Does the prediction of the comparatively low outright majority carry implications for the 'style' of the next government?

Unknown said...

I would love to see the Lib Dems win 100+ and set up a good'n'proper hung Parliament. The SNP should do a little better than 7, God knows how though.

Either way an outright Conservative majority is just such a horrible thought.

Simon said...

Great work Iain - I agree with you about swings. They can be very misleading.

I would certainly hope that the Tories can win with a larger majority however the huge task they have cannot be under-estimated.

If they can win a majority and carry out the cull of MPs they have promised then obviously things will change at the following election (a Labour loss of around 55 seats). If the Scottish gained independence then that would be the end of Labour in England forever. Not that would be a particularly a good thing - every government needs a strong opposition.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I'm surprised you haven't given the BNP a single seat (Barnsley perhaps?) or mentioned their absence. They never do as well as they expect but I would expect them to get at least one this time round, especially if there's a second dip in the recession. Also, I notice UKIP don't appear. Again they may only be strong enough to gain at most one seat but I would have thought there'd be a mention of why there would be a non-showing for them.

Doktorb said...

yUnder the circumstances of a very close election, during which the main three party leaders will be under far more scrutiny than ever before, your Scottish prediction seems spot on. I cannot see the SNP making much headway in an election where the emphasis will be on national, rather than devolved, matters.

Peter Roberts said...

You seem to be ignoring the publics frustration and mistrust of the current mainstream parties. With UKIP coming 2nd in the EU elections and the BNP taking disgruntled Labour votes this election might well throw up a few surprises.

I think a lot of people will 'protest' vote this time which could mix things up a bit.

I predict a hung parliament which will fail after 6 months and then the Conservatives will win a working majority.

Richard Manns said...

I can't see this happening (or maybe I just hope it won't).

Why are the Liberals so resilient? They do like to peddle a story of "once we've got a seat, it's ours forever", but they've never fought a Tory resurgence since their party was formed. Given that their 97 expansion was due to Tory votes falling (theirs fell as well), why should they be protected in 2010? And everyone "knows" that LibDems are more left than right, so the party literature can legitimately say that a vote for the LDs is a vote for Brown.

The rest of the prediction assumes that there'll effectively be no reversal of tactical voting from the last 10 years; you're claiming that all the swing voters that haven't been converted to outright Tory, will hate us as much as in 1997 to vote tactically. I really don't think this is likely.

Iain Dale said...

Plaid Gwersyllt at 9.34, The reason is that boundary chanages make Arfon (currently Caernarfon) a Labour seat, so I have it as a Plaid Gain.


this is great work Iain. It bears out what we;ve all been saying for months - work, work and yet more work. it's on a knife edge.

Sir Compton Valence said...

Iain, a good idea to look at things seat by seat, but won't the general unpopularity of G Brown be a common factor that will produce a nationwide effect? People will be voting against him as much as they will be voting for anyone or anything else.

Barry said...

Seems a pretty fair assessment to me. The Tories will not do as well as the would have done a few months ago; but then currently we are in a fluid situation.
A lot will happen in the next few weeks. I am rather inclined to believe that the failed attempt eon Gordon Brown earlier this week was not to unseat him as leader but to force him to adopt some sensible plans on teh economy.
If this was the case then it appears to have succeeded if the Chancellor's latest pronouncements are to be believed.
Sill a week in politics is a long time!

Phil said...

Who are the three 'Others'? Independents?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, 12 seat majority with nine seats in Scotland and four in Wales = 13 outside England. Sounds like the Tories may need the votes of their Scottish and Welsh MPs (and UUP allies) to pass laws affecting England only. West Lothian +.

strapworld said...

The Lib Dems will lose all but one of their south west seats to the conservatives and here in wales it will be an almost total wipeout for labour with the nationalists and conservatives taking the seats!

I believe that the BNP will gain a definate one but possibly two seats from labour and the Ukip will be represented by Farage- who will support the tories!!

The surprise will be a LibDem victory kicking out Cameron!

But that is a dream, the nightmare is Brown winning with an overall majority of three!

Dave said...

My prediction is the Conservatives are going to very well at the General Election. The Labour Party is dying on its feet and will not be able to mount an effective campaign at any level. To me this looks like 1997 in reverse. In many constituencies Labour will virtually have one man and his dog campaign. Except the dog refuses to go out.

Ulster is a different proposition. What the Conservatives need is for the Conservative/Unionist (adds to the Conservative majority) to do well against the DUP and for Sinn Fein to do well as they won't take up their seats (adds to the Conservative majority).

Prodicus said...

Er, no.

simonh said...

I think this is a really interesting approach that I've never seen used before. Without being rude, I question whether one person can have enough detailed political knowledge to forecast every constituency individually but a newspaper, broadcaster or polling organisation might consider using local or regional expertise to build up a seat-by-seat picture on a national basis.

Jess The Dog said...

It's an even more complex exercise because of the boundary changes.

My prediction is that Ed Balls will hold on with 300 votes and Alan Duncan will do a wild victory jig that is captured on camera by the BBC, becoming one of those iconic election images. This is becasuse of a very vivid dream I had following an evening imbibing the best part of a bottle of Rioja and watching the film Inglourious Basterds!

Now, a 300 majority in the Balls Normanton constituency may seem like a Tory wipeout given the swing of 20-odd% from 2005, but the boundary changes will change the demographic somewhat, and not in Balls's favour.

Anyway here's my prediction - Balls hangs on by 300 votes.

Conand said...

@ Phil BC 10:26

The three independents are:

1. The Speaker
2. Richard Taylor - Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern
3. Gordon Brown - Continuity New Monster Raving Loony Unity Alliance.borg

Robert said...

And to think the Boy King could have swept the board by accepting Pearson's offer.

Cameron will be dumped after the next election unless he gets a workable majority.

Harry Hayfield said...

Re:"You don't predict Plaid Cymru will lose any seats, so with the 3 they have that makes 6 and not 5."

Whilst it is truethat in 2005, Plaid won three seats (Caernarfon, Merironydd and Carmarthen East), boundary changes have merged those seats into a Dwyfor seat, however Caernarfon is now re named Arfon and is a notional Lab seat (thus meaning that Plaid enter the election with two seats)

NB said...

A very interesting analysis! I would be surprised if the Lib Dems got more seats in Scotland than the SNP. The Tories might also get a few more than you expect.

Whilst Farage might be able to whip up enough support to nick a seat on FPTP, I can't see the BNP presenting a strong enough candidate to beat the three major parties outright. Would also be interesting to know where you predict the Green seat will fall. The popular Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper is contesting a Westminster seat in Edinburgh and I suspect he will have a good chance due to his reputation.

Paul E. said...

Do you not think that - in Scotland and Wales - that defensive strategies will kick in? Won't Labour and the SNP really pour resources into seats threatened by the Tories?

Just a thought....

Anonymous said...

Any chance of a national map to predict the outcome visually?

Nich Starling said...

Iain, I would be surprised if the Lib Dems lost Ceredigion because PC have not covered themselves in glory in their deal with Labour in the Welsh Assembly. Otherwise, I tend to agree with you.

You acknowledge that Lib Dems buck trends in ways that pundits fail to predict, you know that as well as anyone, so I think your analysis of the Lib Dem position may be right.

There will, of course, be the occasional surprise. Nobody I knew was predicting Manchester Withington as a Lib Dem gain last time, so there will be those seats that nobody has on the radar who have run an outstanding campaign with a candidate well known locally, but not nationally.

Anonymous said...

I think Galloway will pull it off in Tower Hamlets.

Fitzpatrick didn't exactly do himself any favours when he walked out of the wedding because he couldn't sit with his wife.

Shame really, as Jim is pretty decent chap.

Unknown said...

Well thought out, but you seem to forget the Cameron factor, he will put his foot in it more than Gordo will, and the public just will not trust a man with little experience.

Think outside the Box. Obama is failing, and he was the man without experience but he wanted "Change" the Torys are going to run the same route, but without looking at "What has changed?" Nothing in the US, Obama has released less people from Q, than Bush ever did. 3 Terror attacks in the US, so its worse.

The Torys, if they keep with this "Change" idea will get pounded by anyone with two brain cells, because little experience equals what... What happened in the US maybe? Not sure I want to take that risk.

Now Labour has lost this, I mean Gordo is still in the closet, and if he close out, well I think we should run a how many eggs hit Gordo a meter...

Lib Dems will pick up, I mean they have it right, tried one, tried two, why not try three, but they will fail because they have Legover, I mean Clegg.
This country is lost until it gets someone with a brain, and the Balls to speak queens english, and people behind him who echo the message.

The Purpleline said...

Iain, if you are confident put your money where your mouth is and have a bet at the bookmakers.
Spread your bets around all the companies and clean up.

If you win quite a lot you can donate the money raised to abgood cause.

If you want to do it collectively through this site we could set up the Dale foundation for good causes. I'm sure you could raise a couple of thousand pounds this way for charity and it would be better spent than trying to lose weight.

Conand said...

I do agree that it is entirely possible for LD to get more seats in Scotland than SNP.
The polls on the independence question are still against. I think the SNP will continue to do well in Holyrood. Their voters seem to prefer them fighting for Scotland IN Scotland.
To put it another way: They prefer Salmond and his merry band to make raids south of the border but not be too antagonistic. I love my Scottish cousins (some of whom are SNP) and this is a position I understand (even as a dyed in the wool Tory) and respect.

Talking of Respect> I think The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party will probably hold on in Bethnal Green and Bow.

Irene said...

I think you need new batteries for your calculator!

Lord Blagger said...

So how have you factored sleeze in?

For any incumbant who's been criminally or otherwise fiddling their expenses, they are going to have a swing against on top of the general movement between the parties.

For the other incumbants, they did nothing to stop the others stealling.

Another swing, perhaps smaller.

Unknown said...

Either way an outright Conservative majority is just such a horrible thought.

I agree. Democracy is a repulsive thing.

James Dowden said...

Not publishing individual seats? Well, we can pretty much reconstruct Wales: you think Plaid are going to gain Ceredigion (unless you've lost your senses and had television's Heledd Fychan beat television's Lembit Öpik instead) and one or other of Ynys Môn and Llanelli (as well as the silly notional gain in Arfon). With the Tories, that's six gains which I presume are Aberconwy, Cardiff North, CW&PS, Vale of Clwyd, Vale of Glamorgan, and one other. The possibilities for that other seat are: Cardiff South & Penarth, Newport West, Gower, and Bridgend if it's coming straight from Labour, or either of the Powys constituencies if off-set by a Lib Dem gain in Newport East or Swansea West. From your coded message about not wanting to upset people, I think this sounds like a straight gain of one of those four Labour seats (and probably not Bridgend, as that's the First Minister in the Assembly, so they'll be desperate to avoid embarrassment there).

My view on that basis is that you're being very conservative with your predictions in Wales, and therefore probably in England and Scotland too. I'd expect Labour to lose a few more seats than that.

Simon Lewis said...

I think Iain has produced an excellent prediction and I think he is right about the very small Tory majority. Polls are 9 or 10% ahead but this will be a very different election as Iain has said. Nothing will be uniform and it shows what I believe that it is not over yet

dazmando said...

I think that if I was you Iain. I would not release the details of the seats until after the general election.

I would then compare the seats to the actual result and see how your system could be improved and report on why there was differances and on how close you were.

This is certainly some very interesting work you have done here.

Unknown said...

There is simply no way on this earth the Limp Dims will have a net gain of seats. Impossible.

Even if they poll the 2005 percenatge of 22% they still only get 60 seats. That would still be a net loss of 3 seats.

20% at the next election would give them just 50 seats.

I have seen no evidence in any polls for a long time to suggest Clegg's rabble are on there way to increasing seats. If anything, they are set to lose a good 15-20 seats - unless the Tories have a really bad night, which I doubt.

John said...

A very interesting thought exercise. The Green seat you have down is, I assume, the bookies' favourite Caroline Lucas, who's favourite at evens with Ladbrokes.

She has a great chance, it's true, but reports from the area suggest the Greens have a well-run and very active campaign machine in Norwich South, as well as a smart and presentable candidate, and that's certainly where the value is in betting terms. Victor Chandler has the best odds there, I think.

In addition, Edinburgh East is interesting, as mentioned above. Britain's first Green parliamentarian, Robin Harper, contesting a seat in an area he's represented for more than ten years. Worth a punt.

ScottS said...

I've done the same exercise in the last several elections, and my figures are (of sourse) different but probably because based on an average 10% swing:

Conservatives 376 seats
Labour 204
LibDems 36
PC 4
Others (N.I.) 18

So an overall Conservative majority of 107.

O'Neill said...

"Apologies for not predicting anything for Northern Ireland. I do not know enough to predict anything meaningful"

Play our cards right, 5 Conservatives and Unionists returned from NI.

3 seats for the Conservatives-UUP in NI- N Down, Strangford and S Antrim- the latter 2 gains from the DUP. TUV capture N Antrim from the DUP.

Other seats probably staying as they are, although possibility increasing (with Robinson's problems) of surprise in E Belfast (Conservatives and UUP) and just maybe S Blfast(Again Conservative and UUP gain).

Simon Gardner said...

So a puff of wind and your predictions mean a hung parliament.


Winston Churchill said...

Within our system, British Elections are won (and lost) in the ‘marginal’ seats; principally, that means the Midlands and London. In these areas, all the polling evidence is that the Tories have a bigger lead than the general, national figure.
Historically, on a good election night for the Tories, the Liberals always do badly – Clegg’s only chance of gaining seats will be from Labour in the North because he will certainly lose seats to the Tories in the South.
On this basis, expect something between a good working majority and a big win for Cameron.

Conand said...


Sounds good. Presumably your analysis is based on the status quo pre- L'affaire Robinson?

Is the exact degree of severity in fall-out from that going to have an effect?

Anonymous said...

When electioneering starts in earnest, will we have any more vigorous, inspiring speechmaker than Boris? Above is the link of the video when he wows them in Weat Hampstead.

O'Neill said...


"Sounds good. Presumably your analysis is based on the status quo pre- L'affaire Robinson?"

Pre Robbogate, PR was a cast-iron for E Belfast, depending on what happens the next couple of days that looks to be no lonegr the case. I'd say it's gained us an extra two seats, although I think the natural home for disaffected Paisleyites will be the TUV.

Still, if we can deliver 3-5 seats to the wider national Conservative cause, I think we'll be entitled to give ourselves a pat on the back!

Conand said...


Thanks for the info. The more seats the better :)

Gareth said...


How many seats do you think the Conservatives will win in Scotland?

I think two at a stretch.

mirthios said...

Not really good enough to post twice.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Sometimes Iain I do wonder about you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your analysis.

I think that Conservative will have a similar gain over Labour, but I think both Labour and Conservative will give up 10's of seats to both UKIP and BNP.

The "big three" of Con, Lab And LD are perceived to be squabbling over the minutae of middle ground politics. This has created, in the mind of the electorate, that there is nothing to choose between them.

I believe that a lot of people are looking for a party with stronger, more obvious policies.

The BNP have policies that chime with some of the old style socialists. Policies of nationalisation of industry and jobs for life will influence a lot of people, and they will be prepared to overlook the rascist Nationalism.

UKIP will appeal to "Empire Tories", those that look back at the days of the Raj and of the British Empire and think it's the way things should be. The "island mentality" and not wanting integration with Europe will appeal to many.

Unknown said...

@eddie said...
Not really good enough to post twice.



Who are the other three? Speaker? 3 x Indi or UKIP/BNP etc?

Victor, NW Kent said...

I use tea bags myself so there are no leaves to read.

However, I did the entrails thing and saw a clear vision of a Tory overall majority of 63.

Richard Abbot said...

Agreed, uniform swing won't wash any more, except maybe they'll be a regional swing in Scotland.
Scotland will be a key battleground and Salmond potentially king maker. I agree Iain that the SNP target of 20 is optimistic, but Scottish Labour have a fight on their hands for the first time in years (decades?).
I Scottish Labour collapses implodes then it makes its game over for them.

Regards England, i fear there are more people sympathetic to Labour than might identify themselves as such. After all, who's going to vote for a cut in their benies?

Osama the Nazarene said...

Greens to get a seat? I doubt it. Where Oxford or Norwich?

Galloway is moving onto a different seat in Newham I believe.

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dems will be lucky to get 35 seats in the next GE.

I know you had a bad experience in Norfolk North but that was atypical. The Tories won seats off the Lib Dems in 2005 when the Tory vote stayed much the same nationally and the Lib Dem vote surged by about 5% nationally.

Next time round the Tory vote should be surging nationally by at least 7% and maybe as much as 12% whilst the Lib Dem vote drops by between 3% and maybe upto 8%. Incumbancy is not the pancea for the Lib Dems it was once credited with.

The Lib Dems being difficult to oust is playing the last three 'wars' - Different kettle of fish this time! Clegg will be done up like a kipper when the results are released and his party will be a tiddler in the westminister pool with a halving of MPs.

Strathturret said...


two comments on Scotland from a chapper of doors.

Lib-Dems are bombing.
No sign of any Tory upturn even in their targetted seats.

bryboy said...

Wildly optimistic Iain, I think that the public in general cannot wait to gain revenge on the cretins in Westmonster. I think there could be a swing to anyone who is not tainted. Cameron has let Brown off with murdering the economy and is not announcing the kind of policy that the 'Court of Public Opinion' wants addressing. We need a vast quantity of new blood!

Unknown said...

Your figures are the same as for a national percentage share of Con: 39%, Lab: 27%

In reality people will vote pragmatically for one of the big two, and the Lib Dems will get squaaezed.

neil craig said...

If this is in the right ballpark there are going to be about 100 MPs from parties that support PR. They may not agree on anything else but they will agree on that.

If, as I expect, after the election Alan Johnson becomes Labour leader the Labour party will do so too.

That would leave the representatives of 60% of the people on the PR side & I suspect a significantly higher % of the population there too. I think the Conservatives should very seriously think about whether they want to be the last hold outs against a democratic electoral system or get to choose what variety we get.

Strathturret said...

Latest Sun poll which asked 1000+ in Scotland as part of a UK survey is showing following split:
Lab 36% (-3) SNP 25% (+7) Con 17% (+1) LD 15% (-8) Change from 2005 GE.

Opinion on SNP Tactical Voting is that Scottish figures are not corrected as it was part of a UK poll so care requird.

Anonymous said...

First off - a majority of 12 will be fantastic. it will mean brown out and the Tories in.
And given subsequent boundary changes it will be worth at leat 30.
But 'winston churchill' is right. It is what happens in the marginals and voters there 'know' their vote has an effect. Polls show tories ahead more in the marginals.
I believe the last poll had tories 12% ahead. I also believe it will be quite remarkable if the libdems keep their current number or anything like it.

And the basic premis is in deed quite wrong. The swing is the killer. Its down to the mood of the nation, the only only native in the collection of kindling is the effect of the expenses scandal.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be being very generous towards the Lib Dems Iain.

People (especially in Hampshire) are fast seeing them as just another version of Labour but with a different rosette.

Down you Lib Dems!

Conservative 381
Labour 195
LibDem 39
Plaid Cymru 5
Green 1
Others 3