More election stats

Second places
We know the Liberal Democrats didn’t end up increasing the number of seats they hold, but they did substantially increase the number of second places they have, and have more winnable marginals. The notional 2005 figures had the Lib Dems holding 62 seats and in second place in 188. Following the 2010 election the Lib Dems hold 57 seats, but are in second place in 242. On the 2005 notional figures the Lib Dems were within 10% of the winning party in 31 seats, now they are within 10% in 45 seats.

Conversely, Labour held 348 seats and were in second place in 151 – a total of 499. Those figures are now 258 and 160 (assuming they retain second place in Thirsk and Malton), a total of 418 and suggesting they have dropped to third place in an additional 81 seats.

Swings needed
Based on the 2010 results, the Conservatives would need a swing of 2% in order to gain an overall majority (meaning they would still need a lead of roughly 11 points over Labour to win an overall majority). In short, any effect from unwinding tactical voting or shifting voting patterns has not made the system kinder to the Conservatives.

However, it has got less kind to Labour. On the notional 2005 result, Labour could have got an overall majority by getting an equal number of votes to the Conservatives. From the 2010 results, Labour would require a swing of 5% in order to gain an overall majority, the equivalent of being 3 psoints ahead of the Conservatives. For Labour to become the largest party in a hung Parliament they would need a swing of 1.7%.

Regional differences
We have past instances of Scotland behaving somewhat differently to the rest of Great Britain (most obviously 1992, when England and Wales swung towards Labour, but Scotland swung to the Tories). This election produced an extreme contrast – in England and Wales there was a swing of between 5-6% from Labour to the Conservatives, in Scotland there was a 1% swing towards Labour, mostly at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, whose vote rose in England and Wales.

More unusually there was a significant difference between London and the rest of England. In London the swing to the Conservatives was only 2.5%, compared to 6.1% in the rest of England. Labour’s vote fell by 2.3% in London, but 8.2% elsewhere in England. Perhaps some of it is a Boris effect, but some will also be the high ethnic minority population in London. Labour’s vote seemed to hold up better in seats with a high ethnic minority population, and in some seats with a high proportion of Muslim voters Labour’s vote share increased as the Iraq effect from 2001 faded.

Marginal swing, and a puzzling question
The Conservatives performed only slightly better in marginal seats. In the country as a whole they had a swing of 5.03% from Lab=>Con, in Lab held marginal seats with a majority of under 10% they got a swing of 6%, in Labour held marginal seats with a majority between 10% and 20% they got a swing of 5.13%. This does raise the question of why they got so many seats – they managed 305 seats, when on a uniform swing of 5% they should have got only 289. If they didn’t do better in the marginals, how come they won more seats than they should have?

There are two reasons. Firstly, while the mean average swing in Conservative marginals where they needed a swing of between 5% and 10% was only 5.13%, the median swing in those seats was 5.84%. The mean was dragged down by some Scottish and London marginals where the Tories went backwards, but in most seats in that range the Conservatives did slightly better than their average performance across the country. The other reason is sheer, dumb luck. There were 11 seats where the Conservatives and Labour were within 1% of each other and the majorities were under 500 votes, the Conservatives won 8 of them.

1,255 Responses to “More election stats”

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  1. Cozmo – Did you see Boulton with AC? And also with Ben Bradshaw? Apparently after the BB interview, he spluttered “How DARE you talk to me like that?”
    Robinson was so outraged at one point, he stopped being a BBC reporter and allowed HIMSELF to be interviewed, where he screamed “UNELECTED, UNELECTED, UNELECTED” at the screen. (Seemingly he forgot both that we don’t elect PMs here and that no-one won the election.)
    I’d never seen anything quite like it in my life. Boulton particularly looked unstable.

    Good morning Sue. Yes, I saw that particular outrageous rant by Robinson. I have recorded it and my complaint will go to BBC ( as soon as I have had just one more coffee !)
    I have not seen the Boulton episode but I have noted the Youtube link and will have a look this morning. I can’t wait!! I am a great admirer of Alisatair and Peter and felt SO much better when I knew they were in number 10 with Gordon.
    Love ‘em or hate ‘em , all three make a great team and I am sure that their opponents wish they had such talent in their ranks.

  2. BTW, if an RC PM were deliberately barred , think pf the compensation they’d get for descrimination! It would run into tens of millions lost earnings (not to mention expenses) :)

  3. @Rob S
    totally agree with you.Just get the ballot boxes out again now.However I think Clegg is now damaged beyond repair for his double dealings.Even if he gets is “rainbow coalition through” it won’t get past queen’s speech.There are enough decent Labour MP’s as shown on tv last night who will not support this alliance.Clegg must be aware of this and despite this,is doing exactly what he said he would not do ,put party wishes ahead of at least some kind of stability.
    Surely the though of another unelected Labour prime minister would make him think “what will the electorate make of this” ,very shabby indeed.If this gets past queen’s speech expect daily no confidence call from the tories ,

  4. @John TT<


    Worth a punt then I think :)

  5. Oooooh, Eoin, I love Andy Burnham, do you think he might?

    I met him too, and he’s dishy ;)

    Seriously though, he is very passionate and really quite old Labour in his way (dressed in New Lab clothing perhaps….) What is more, he and I see totally eye to eye on the NHS and I’ve often cheered him on from my sofa!

  6. Rob S

    Yours is the 2nd most likely scenario. At the moment I believe NC hasn’t got 75% of his MPs for that yet.

    In any case, a referendum for AV is not what the Lib Dems want, its the lowest denominator and it comes attached to coalition government with the Tories which many Lib Dems can’t support. The Tories need some guarantees themselves!

    The Cons are inching towards wanting a replay..
    STV maybe. Jenkins Com recommendations maybe. The centre issue is approach to and management of the economy.

  7. @Sue,

    Well above all else he is quite principled and in a manner similar to Gordy- he has morals. I am not sure an athiest as PM is what our country needs.

  8. @EOIN

    Come on. You’re one of the most intelligent and nuanced posters here, surely you don’t buy into the “morals come from God” guff.

  9. “There are enough decent Labour MP’s as shown on tv last night who will not support this alliance.” Reid and Blunkett aren’t even MPs and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Diane Abbot support the government on anything at all in 13 years.

    Getting a bit bored now of the outrage of the “Right to Rule” mob. Reid and Blunkett aren’t even MPs and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Diane Abbot support the government on anything at all in 13 years.
    The frustrated whining of “But it’s our TURN” is getting embarrassing.
    I was all sympathy for my good friends Rich, Matt and Neil last night and their right to vent at coming first and facing not winning, but let’s get a grip now eh?

  10. Rob – adding my agreement.
    A tamed monority con governmentad facing them refreshed at the next GE plus an LD party that will have sustained the Tories.
    A result most Lab supporters would have taken a year ago.
    imo – I think a Lab/LD coalition is not sustainable but our leadership have to push to help the LDs gets more concessions from the cons.
    I wish Reid and Bunkett would realise Blair has gone and express ther veiw privately.

  11. @Duncan,

    They can come from many sources, agreed. But I got mine from up yonder, and I am sure Gordy did too. It would be a leap of faith (pardon the pun) to back an athiest. I am not saying no, just being honest that it would be new fangled to say the least.

  12. EOIN:

    “There has never been a Roman Catholic prime minister of Britain, although there is no constitutional barrier to such a move. ”
    h ttp://

  13. @Ash,

    As ever, thanks. :) I think AB or EM are the two most likely sucessors.

  14. @Sue
    Diane Abbot is a fan of Gordon Brown,but not of Many et al,despite Reid and Blunkett not being MP’s they still represent a lot of opinion.Did you see the MP for slough on also ? she too would vote down this alliance.This not about who’s turn it is,it is about fairness and decency.The scores are in and but for a few seats the tories won. Now had the Lib-Lab seats added up to a majority ,there could have been stability.But the though of nationlists who have their OWN parlaiment and want to break up the UK holding together a pact like this ,is not fairness and will not work,it will as i said be voted down before it gets of the ground.This is not about party politics,it is about numbers and stability .None of which this fantasy coalition is likely to provide.

  15. I certainly think Andy Burnham has a chance if the Balls/Miliband vote is split.

    he ticks most boxes and I think he would appeal to the public

  16. For those who have not seen this amazing row on Sky Live between Adam Boulton (Sky News) and Alastair Campbell (Labour)

    Latest update…meeting between Labour and Liberal Dems is “going so well” …….on BBC

  17. Sue Marsh, Eoin,

    Communicating with the media is all important of course, but it is sometimes forgotten that an ability to command respect, and yes, to dominate the HoC is the overriding requirement. With the greatest respect to Burnham/Johnson, I am not sure they can do that.

  18. Michael B – “it is about fairness and decency.The scores are in and but for a few seats the tories won.”

    yadda yadda yadda. Fairness and decency my eye.

    I think the crucial words in your sentence are “but for”

  19. Burham is an Everton Fan so we could get a Blue leader.

  20. Agree with you Sue. The news media always grab the dissidents because that makes for discussion – they love splits
    Got to go but will catch up later

  21. @EOIN

    Fair enough, there’s no denying that Gordon did get his morality from his faith and I’ve been of the view that he tended to mean well generally. I’d consider it quite a step forward for there to be an atheist who was not a communist elected but I could see how many of those of faith would have issues with that.

    Anyway back to (mostly) lurking! Incidentally, thanks for your contributions to the site over the campaign. That goes for a lot of the other major contributors to this site too, interesting stuff.

  22. Malcolm Rifkind has just said on BBC tv that NC, having said that they would talk to Cons first & CONCLUDE those talks BEFORE talking to Labour, talked to Labour yesterday without DC’s knowledge-whilst Laws was indicating -“going well-three items of clarification needed”

    Rifkind said Trust between Cons & LibDems would be THE key ingredient.

    It has clearly been breached.

    DC has obviously rowed back from pulling the plug precipitately, in order to retain the moral high ground if failure results.

    But he will need to receive a truly enequivocal pledge of support from NC, (if the latter decides Con/LD) to convince many Conservatives that trust is present.

    I think DC must be close to the point at which Time & Trust have run out for the Liberal Democrat Party.

    The nation should judge again whether they have acted reasonably.

  23. EOIN:
    If there is a Lib-Lab pact then Labour leader would become Prime Minister and in that situation both your choice of leaders would be considered a little too young I think. They are both 40 years old. They would make better opposition leaders in this situation.

  24. NC does not believe in God
    Though his wife and children are RC

  25. Eoin and Rob S and Jim Jam

    I think it has been lost on MSM and this space. The enormous influence both Paddy Ashdown and David Steele are having on Lib Dem strategy.

    Ashdown has enormous respect in the international community indeed much more than here in the UK.

    There is no question in my mind as to the preferred deal, the bottom lines and what they want Labour to swallow.

    As a champagne Libertarian I am excited and partisan in this outlook.

  26. Malcolm Rifkind on BBC24 moaning that NC “was having secret meetings with Gordon Brown – – – before the discussions with the Conservative Party had been terminated”

    NC – the bounder! The cad sir !
    IMHO the LidDem negotiating team were aware of the dangers (to themselves) of negotiations dragging on day after day but getting nowhere.

  27. @Duncan,

    Interject more frequently, by all means, we could do with some reasoned thought.


    Yes I agree. My own choice would be Ed Balls. But if the aprty is entering this telegenic chatshow are we seem to have got ourselves into, i simply picked the two best looking of the front bench.


    I am an closet Evertonian myself, thus I have a soft spot for little Andy Burnham whatever his politics. John Reid as Hom secretary could do no wrong due to his Celtic links.

  28. @Eoin

    Some Irish religiosity creeping in there? ;)

    Lets agree to disagree on this one ;) ;) ;)

  29. Colin – One of our crossover moments!

    I’m sure you can imagine how most Labour supporters felt when Clegg decided he knew better than the constitution and allowed no other leader a chance to go any way but his. It is not just the Tories he has treated shabbily, remember Labour lost a leader yesterday, almost certainly because Clegg wouldn’t work with him.

    He has tried to call the shots at every stage.

    One get’s the impression when he left the Labour talks last night, however, that the Dark Lord had not played softball with him if that is any consolation.

  30. @EOIN

    Haha, much appreciated! Unfortunately I don’t have the time at the moment to do too much more than lurk and I’d ideally like to work on making my language more neutral and my trains of thought more concise before posting regularly. Perhaps in a couple of months.

  31. Eoin – how can you possibly think Ed Milliband is better looking than David? I’m calling into question your impartiality lol
    My friend always laughs because I call them “the good looking one and the less good looking one”

  32. Standing on the world stage is an important consideration, and like it or not, a certain ease with the elites (PM knows a thing or two about that ;-) )

  33. Since my post early this morning I have seen how exasperated Clegg looked and I think he & Laws want to deal with the Tories but the open toed sandal brigade would rather deal with labour. However I do believe it was disingenuous of Clegg to be speaking with Labour before talks with Cameron were concluded and the deal offered, rejected.
    He is probably between a rock & a hard place but the Liberals are in danger of being seen as playing Labour & Tories against each other to their own benefit. That is hardly putting the country first.
    As for the spat between Boulton & Campbell, Cambell was just spouting lies and Boulton just got exasperated with him. I didn’t see the Robinson episode but again it was probably an inconvenient question not being answered.
    I also see no reason why Cameron should fear for his position. He has just won a landslide of seats – the most of any for 80 years. How is that failure?

    We must just wait the outcome.

  34. It’s looking as if a Lib-Lab coalition can’t happen – Labour ruling out the SNP, senior Labourites and some backbenchers indicating strong opposition to PR etc.

    Lord, what a mess we’re in.

    My preference now is for emergency multiparty govt and another general election in October. I just don’t see any other workable way out of this mess – anything they cobble together now is very likely to fall apart.

    It’s extraordinary how divided this country has become. If the Nazis were waiting to invade right now, they could just march right in and be eating scones with jam at Mrs. Butterfield’s Tea Room by 4pm because all our political groupings appear to hate each other much more than any threat to the country.

  35. Believe me, there are loads of Tories looking forward with much mirth to watching a LibLabSDLPPCGreenSNPMishMash Rainbow Coalition trying to govern :)

    I am one of them. I can’t wait!!

  36. I wonder what the odds are that the next GE Leaders’ TV debates will feature none of GB NC or DC?

    I think Clegg should have kept his mouth shut and allowed the constitution to take its course . ie GB as incumbent trying to form a Govt, then failing because NC disagreed, then resigning, then DC trying, and failing, then a new GE with new manifestos and a new Lab leader that NC could work with after a June hung parliament.

  37. One get’s the impression when he left the Labour talks last night, however, that the Dark Lord had not played softball with him (NC) if that is any consolation.
    The Dark Lord for PM ? Why not? The Conservatives had Lord Home. He was an UNELECTED Prime Minister. Gad Sir !!

    I believe that he dropped the title and became Sir Alec Douglas-Home so that he could sit in the HoC.
    So – how about Sir Peter Mandelson ?

  38. @Anthony

    I think we need a new post to discuss. Anything coming up soon?

  39. Robert in france – it’s only failure if you compare the result with the polls of a couple of months before (which were showing an even better result) How was that blown apart?

  40. Cozmo – why would Mandy PM want to sully his backside by sitting in the HofC? Surely, all those MPs should come to him if they want a say?

  41. Robert in France – Yes DC did marvellously and Sky are a fair and balanced broadcaster.

    Strangely over 150,000 have now watched the AC/Boulton row on You Tube under the title “Boulton lashes out at Campbell”

  42. @John TT
    Ok I was teasing but in these uncertain times I guess that everyone has to get used to the idea of teaming up with people who they would not normally consider. Sure it has its downsides but IMO there is something in there which must be ‘good for the soul’. ?

  43. @ SHERWICK

    “Believe me, there are loads of Tories looking forward with much mirth to watching a LibLabSDLPPCGreenSNPMishMash Rainbow Coalition trying to govern

    I am one of them. I can’t wait!!

    Yes -me too.
    I joined your group yesterday-after Brown’s announcement.

  44. Oh and Robert in France, those 80 seats you mention, “the most of any”. Any Tory I assume you mean? Because tony Blair won 170 seats AND managed to hold on to them all 4 years later.

  45. “Lord, what a mess we’re in.”

    Mandelson is the one who caused it though!


    i’m joining the club, it could be an entertaining ride. A lot of libs down here in teh west country are not happy especailly in Wells where they have just got elected on the fact they weren’t lab or con, but for them con was the lesser of 2 evils….. they don’t think they will hold the seat if they are in bed with lab.

    This is going to be interesting to how it all plays out…..

    As someone said this could be a good election to lose, well how about the “appearing” to win but not be responsible for any hardship measures….

    gilt sale isn’t going well i understand….

  47. Cozmo – Oh good!

    If you’re saying that the electorate is rather pleased with itself for making the elected think a bit less about their own pet policies and a bit more about representing the whole country, then I agree.

    I really don’t mind how it finishes (I lean a bit towards an immediate re-run), but I really enjoy the fact that at least there is no clear winner Lording it over (the majority) who lost, and nor is there likely to be ever again, notwithstanding the output of the media.

  48. R in France

    Clegg can’t carry 75% of his MPs into a deal with the Cons without seeing what Labour wants to offer.

    James Ludlow

    My understanding is and has been that this is a Lab/Lib coalition incl SDLP and alliance of 319 dependent on the tacit support of other parties to maintain a de facto majority of 14 currently and 13 after Thirsk assuming Bercow is Speaker. There is no guarantee if deposed he wouldn’t cross the floor!

    With regards the Labour Leadership and election of a Prime Minister in actuality

    It was interesting to see how Harriet Harman was positioning herself on Newsnight. There is no question that should she run she would be in with a great shout. Probably make a good PM too
    Liam Bryne would be next best but insufficient support .

    From a presentational point of view he says he doesn’t want to be Leader but Alistair Darling could certainly run a responsible and reformist government. It really depends what the Labour party wants. After John Smith died they wanted power so they elected electible Tory Blair.

    There doesn’t seem to me another obvious Blair waiting in the wings.

  49. @Sue,

    Ed’s chubby cheeks and his cute smile gets me every time :)

  50. chubby cheeks and cute smile?


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