Comparing the Labour and Conservative “surges” 

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Labour surge” and I blogged about it yesterday. In an attempt to avoid a narrow view of the election I decided to look at this from the other side: the “Conservative surge”. 

Yes, there was one, and it has been lost in the chatter about the very impressive Labour surge.

First some facts. The Labour vote share went up an impressive 9.5 points. But what many people, especially Labour supporters missed is that the Conservative vote share went up a not insignificant 5.5 points. 

The most interesting thing to do is to compare the surges for each party. To do this I’ve produced two graphs of the top 50 surge seats for each party (I modified the Labour surge graph I did yesterday). Note both are to the same scale to make comparisons more meaningful. They are shown below.

What do they tell us? 

The top 50 Labour surge seats had a total of 579,000 extra votes whereas for the Conservatives the top 50 surge seats generated 421,000 extra votes which is more than a quarter fewer than the Labour surge generated.

Despite generating fewer surge votes, the Conservatives made them count more as they produced more gains for the party and they ate into more Labour majorities. Conversely, the Labour surge votes predominantly increased existing Labour majorities, made fewer gains and ate into fewer Conservative seats. 

With fewer “surge” votes the Conservatives have made them achieve more. 

The Conservative surge graph should be up on the wall at Labour high command as it shows the seats where the Conservatives have either won seats from Labour or made a major dent in the majorities. 

The common factor with these seats is that they are nearly all “post industrial communities”. No doubt the Labour message enthused young people and those living in metropolitan cities but Labour need to ensure that they can enthuse the post industrial communities too. This incidentally was point made by John Mann MP yesterday with his “Bolsover question.”

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Some analysis of the “Labour surge” 

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Labour surge” so I’ve had a dig in the numbers to see what I can find. This is just a quick analysis and if I get time I will post more. In the meantime here’s what I’ve found. 

Before we look at the Labour surge I want to look at the frequency distribution of the majorities for the two main parties in 2015 and 2017.

The two graphs below compare the 2015 and 2017 majorities. Note, to enable like-for-like comparisons of the trends the graphs only show the seats that were held in 2017 – they do not include the seats that were won or lost by each party in 2017. The graph uses histogram bins of 2,500.

Three things strike me:

1. In 2017 Labour increased the majorities of safe seats and made them even safer. This can be seen by the dark red line shifting significantly to the right. Much of the Labour surge means Labour piling up extra votes where they are of little use other than to flatter the MP.

2. In 2017 the number of Labour seats with a majority of 2,500 or less decreased. These are what would be seen as classic marginal seats. Form a Labour perspective this is good as they will have fewer marginals to defend.

3. Conversely for the Conservatives in 2017 the number of seats with majorities of of 2,500 or less increased. This means they have more marginals to defend. Again this is good for Labour.

Below is the 2017 comparative frequency distribution of the seats held by each party. You can see Labour has far more ultra-safe seats where the votes have piled up.

Finally, turning to the biggest part of the surge, the graph below shows the 46 seats where Labour added on more than 10,000 extra votes. The colour coding shows which seats were Labour holds, Conservative holds and Labour gains. It shows quite convincingly that the biggest part of the Labour surge only (where Labour put on 10,000 or more votes) only helped Labour gain four seats out of the 46 seat where the biggest surges happened.

Any future “mass Labour surge” needs to be make a bigger difference to maximise the seats gained rather than making already big majorities bigger.