First let’s get a few things out of the way. This post concerns only two parties – the Liberal Democrats and Labour – and in one part of the UK – England. It also will not get drawn on who is to blame as to why there has been no pact between these two parties until now. And it will also not try to answer if this is ethically a good thing to do or not – you make that call as a reader.
The blog post seeks to answer the question: if either the Liberal Democrats or Labour (or, ideally, both) were to choose to stand down General Election candidates, where would they best do this?
This post has been prompted by the decision of Lib Dem candidate in Canterbury Tim Walker to stand down in favour of the Labour candidate Rosie Duffield there, and the Lib Dems threatening to nominate someone else and subject Tim to disciplinary action (transparency note: I know Tim personally, but have had no contact with him about his decision). Guy Kiddey, the Liberal Democrat candidate in High Peak, is threatening to do likewise. The Lib Dem candidate for Uxbridge & South Ruislip has stood down for personal reasons. The Lib Dems seem likely to put forward someone else in Canterbury, and I presume in Uxbridge & South Ruislip too.
But what if the Lib Dems and Labour did what Walker suggests, and were ready to stand down for each other?
There are three sorts of constituencies where this would make sense: easy two way marginals, complicated three way marginals, and free hits.
Easy two-way marginals
I mean easy in that is simple to see who should stand down.
Take the list of the top Conservative target seats:
|Constituency||Description||Majority||Swing to Defeat|
|1.||Eliminate – Scotland||21||0.02%|
|2.||Eliminate – complex 3 way marginal – see below||20||0.03%|
|3.||Dudley North||Lab first, Lib Dems 4th (1.0% of the vote) in 2017||22||0.03%|
|4.||Newcastle-under-Lyme||Lab first, Lib Dems 3rd (3.7% of the vote) in 2017||30||0.03%|
|5.||Crewe and Nantwich||Lab first, Lib Dems 4th (2.4% of the vote) in 2017||48||0.04%|
|6.||Canterbury||Lab first, Lib Dems 3rd (8% of the vote) in 2017||187||0.16%|
|7.||Barrow and Furness||Lab first, Lib Dems 3rd (2.7% of the vote) in 2017||209||0.22%|
|8.||Keighley||Lab first, Lib Dems 4th (2.4% of the vote) in 2017||249||0.24%|
|9.||Eliminate – Scotland||266||0.26%|
|10.||Eliminate – complex due to independents||441||0.44%|
|11.||Stroud||Lab first, Lib Dems 3rd (3.2% of the vote) in 2017||687||0.54%|
|12.||Bishop Auckland||Lab first, Lib Dems 3rd (2.7% of the vote) in 2017||502||0.58%|
|13.||Eliminate – has been a by-election here||607||0.64%|
|14.||Oxford West and Abingdon||Lib Dem first, Labour 3rd (12.6% of the vote) in 2017||816||0.68%|
|15.||Westmorland and Lonsdale||Lib Dem first, Labour 3rd (9.3% of the vote) in 2017||777||0.75%|
NOTE: error in this table, pointed out here. Lib Dems have stood down in Stroud already (for the Greens) as part of Unite to Remain. The main gist of the blog post is valid here though still!
Take a list of the Top Conservative seats to defend:
|Constituency||Description||Majority||Swing to Defeat|
|1.||Southampton Itchen||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (3.0% of the vote) in 2017||31||0.03%|
|2.||Richmond Park||Lib Dem 2nd, Labour 3rd (9.1% of the vote) in 2017||45||0.04%|
|3.||Eliminate – Scotland||148||0.15%|
|4.||St Ives||Lib Dem 2nd, Labour 3rd (14.3% of the vote) in 2017||312||0.30%|
|5.||Pudsey||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (3.3% of the vote) in 2017||331||0.31%|
|6.||Hastings and Rye||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (3.4% of the vote) in 2017||346||0.32%|
|7.||Chipping Barnet||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (5.4% of the vote) in 2017||353||0.32%|
|8.||Thurrock||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 4th (1.6% of the vote) in 2017||345||0.34%|
|9.||Eliminate – Wales||314||0.37%|
|10.||Calder Valley||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (3.4% of the vote) in 2017||609||0.52%|
|11.||Norwich North||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (3.2% of the vote) in 2017||507||0.55%|
|12.||Eliminate – prominent Independent||863||0.78%|
|13.||Stoke-on-Trent South||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (1.9% of the vote) in 2017||663||0.80%|
|14.||Telford||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 3rd (2.1% of the vote) in 2017||720||0.81%|
|15.||Bolton West||Labour 2nd, Lib Dem 4th (2.9% of the vote) in 2017||936||0.92%|
The pattern in all of these in England? These are two-way marginals, with the third party miles back.
It makes electoral sense for the Lib Dems to stand down in: Dudley North, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Crewe and Nantwich, Canterbury, Barrow and Furness, Keighley, Stroud, Bishop Auckland, Southampton Itchen, Pudsey, Hastings and Rye, Chipping Barnet, Thurrock, Calder Valley, Norwich North, Stoke-on-Trent South, Telford, Bolton West
It makes electoral sense for Labour to stand down in: Oxford West and Abingdon, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Richmond Park, St Ives
Or – if that is too hard in that it looks unbalanced – let the Lib Dems stand aside in 4 (Dudley North, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Crewe and Nantwich, Canterbury) and Labour in 4 (Oxford West and Abingdon, Westmorland and Lonsdale, Richmond Park, St Ives)
Complicated three way marginals
These are the most frustrating ones, and are places I have struggled with in my tactical voting guide. It would make sense for either Liberal Democrats or Labour to stand down in places like Kensington, Wimbledon, Wantage, Chelmsford, Colchester, Truro & Falmouth (non-exhaustive list). The problem here though is that while this would make electoral sense, trying to broker which party would stand down would be one hell of a task. So these ones are, for organisational reasons, probably left well alone.
Every election throws up some unexpected results, and with pollster confused now in 2019 this election could be the same. Hence how about some standing down to try to remove especially pernicious Conservative MPs? In Wokingham (John Redwood), Esher & Walton (Dominic Raab) and North East Somerset (Jacob Rees Mogg) the Liberal Democrats are best placed to win, although each constituency is a long-ish shot. In Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and Chingford and Woodford Green (Iain Duncan Smith – actually marginal-ish, 44th on the Tory defence list) Labour is best placed to unseat the Tory.
So there you go. Were there to be a pact to stand down candidates, or even were one party to do this unilaterally (following Tim Walker’s lead) this is how and where to do it.
UPDATE: there has been a critique of this post made on Twitter that I only use data from the 2017 General Election here, and do not try to model voting behaviour based on other data (local or EP elections, polling), or take into account how pro-EU (or not) the Labour candidates are in each case. Those are al fair points – and may result in choices to stand down in different seats than the ones listed here. Fair enough. Take this blog post as a start, and work from here.