Nine seats which tell the story of the General Election

Kensington, where Labour scored a historic victory

After an extraordinary and eclectic set of general election results on Thursday night, South Yorkshire Briefing looks at nine seats which summed up the snap election.

Bolton North East – Labour hold
LAB 50.6% – CON 42.2%

On the day that the Commons voted to dissolve itself in April, Theresa May took a helicopter to Bolton to launch her campaign. It demonstrated the assumptions on which she went to the country; that the vanishing UKIP vote would break for the Tories, and that Leave voters in Labour heartlands would support her on Brexit.

The UKIP vote did fall sharply on Thursday, but Labour held the seat with over 50% of the vote for the first time since 2001. Many Leave and former UKIP voters supported Labour, and one of the key premises of the snap election was gone.

Ilford North – Labour hold
LAB 57.8% – CON 39.6%

Labour’s Wes Streeting looked doomed at the start of the campaign, defending his party’s eighth-most marginal seat. But as the political debate has focused ever more on Brexit, immigration and Britain’s role in the world, global and cosmopolitan London has gone its own way.

After its thumping vote for Remain in the EU referendum last year, London swung to Labour by almost 6% on Thursday, and after a formidable local campaign, Streeting’s majority rose from under 600 votes to almost 10,000.

Canterbury – Labour gain
LAB 45.0% – CON 44.7%

Labour won pro-Remain Canterbury for the first time since the seat was created in 1295, although of course a Labour victory was hardly likely in its first six centuries. Of more relevance is that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour won a seat which had resisted the Tony Blair landslide in 1997.

That the Conservatives’ Julian Brazier should lose Canterbury after holding it since 1987 is a sign of how the left has come to dominate towns and cities, on a night when Labour took Ipswich, Peterborough and Derby North. It is a long-developing pattern which has reached new extremes in recent US and French elections, and now in Britain.

Moray – Conservative gain
CON 47.5% – SNP 38.8%

For the Tories to defeat Labour in Scotland, as they did on Thursday, one would normally assume that they had had a spectacularly good election night. That they could do so well in Scotland in a mediocre national effort, including unseating the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson in Moray, was a sign of realignment in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may have overplayed her hand by calling for a second independence referendum. The Tories, who are most resolutely against it, were best placed to pick up support from unionists and voters tired of SNP grandstanding. Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland, has capital in the party.

Portsmouth South – Labour gain
LAB 41.0% – CON 37.6%

Of the 28 seats which Labour gained from the Conservatives, more than half were in pro-Leave constituencies. Many who voted Leave last year, in defiance of a campaign from Number 10 which told them there was no reasonable alternative, seem to have had the same reaction to Theresa May.

Labour had no right to win Portsmouth South. They had not even come second there since 1987, and the seat voted Leave last year. But they took it on Thursday with a 9% swing, an exclamation mark in a set of highly variable results. As Mrs May overreached by trying to win Labour seats in the North, she seems to have left her own base vulnerable.

Cambridge – Labour hold
LAB 51.9% – 
LD 29.3%

That the Lib Dems failed so spectacularly to win their #1 target seat was a sign of an underwhelming night for Tim Farron’s party. Their focus on opposing hard Brexit got them nowhere even in a seat where almost 74% supported Remain last year.

Across the country, their vote share rose by an average of just 0.1% in Remain seats, and fell in Leave ones. Although they made a few gains, the much-anticipated Lib Dem revival failed to arrive, and with fewer second-place finishes than in 2015, they are no better placed for the next election.

Don Valley – Labour hold
LAB 53.0% – CON 41.7%

The Tories targeted Caroline Flint’s Don Valley seat after a good performance in the Doncaster mayoral election in May, and hoped to profit from UKIP’s decision to stand aside. But the UKIP vote did not break for the Tories as much as expected, in consistent terms with most of the Labour heartlands.

Just as Labour thought they could win the election with the low-hanging fruit of renegade Lib Dems, so the Tory strategy in 2017 relied on winning UKIP votes. When these failed to arrive, Conservative candidates in seats such as Don Valley had to win directly from Labour. They did not.

High Peak – Labour gain
LAB 49.7% – CON 45.4%

The results in High Peak are a piece of evidence that the large Tory lead squandered by Mrs May was real. That is because the Conservatives performed extremely well there in the local elections last month, earning enormous swings in the local wards in High Peak on their way to taking control of Derbyshire Council from Labour.

But by the time of the general election, Labour had not only recovered their losses but produced their own swing of 7% to take the seat, and where the Greens had stood aside to assist them. It was a rare example of a successful ‘progressive alliance’ vote.

Kensington – Labour gain
LAB 42.2% – CON 42.2%

Much has been made of Kensington, where after several recounts and a postponement, a hard-left Labour party took one of the wealthiest constituencies in the country from the Conservatives by 20 votes. In a very pro-Remain constituency, and bearing in mind the particular circumstances of London, the result was perhaps not so shocking.

But what it demonstrated clearly, in a seat without any great UKIP or Lib Dem presence in 2015, was that Labour were gaining directly from the Conservatives. A substantial chunk of voters in Kensington who supported David Cameron in 2015 switched to Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. They are the Obama-Trump voters of this election.

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