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. Perth and North Perthshire Eliminate – Scotland 21 0.02%
2. Kensington 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. Lanark and Hamilton East Eliminate – Scotland 266 0.26%
10. Ashfield 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. Peterborough 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. Stirling 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. Preseli Pembrokeshire 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. Broxtowe 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.

 

Free hits

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.

4 Comments

  1. I think any cooperation by Labour and Lib Dem on the single issue of preventing a hard Brexit would be commended by most voters. Everyone recognises we should have the choice to vote for any party we feel best represents our voice. However in the GE2019 this offer comes with a big price tag…. a Tory government and a hard Brexit. The choice is for every candidate and voter to personally make. Under VR every vote would count , under today’s electoral system you either vote tactically (in a marginal) or accept your vote will not matter one bit. Hoping politicians and candidates put country first and party, personal ambition and differences on other policy aside. United we win, divided we fall.

  2. Jon, thank you! Brilliant as ever.

    But if we get a hung Parliament, it still isn’t over. Remain must still win THE POPULAR VOTE.

    So Tactical Voting must maximise demonstrably Remain votes, especially in ‘un-winnable’ Tory seats like Havant, where my vote has always been ‘wasted’, UNTIL NOW.

    The only demonstrably ‘Remain’ votes are Lib Dems, Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru. Labour votes would be reduced by up to a third, because some Labour voters support Leave.

    So, in every seat that Remain can’t win, Tactical Voting sites must maximise the POPULAR VOTE by recommending the leading one of Lib Dems, Green, SNP or Plaid Cymru, where they are standing.

    Full disclosure:  As well as being a European Movement member, I’m a Lib Dem.  But it’s in Havant, one of the safest Tory seats in the UK, so my vote has never counted.  UNTIL NOW!

  3. Trevor

    Labour MPs in CREWE, STOKE, ASHFIELD and Barrow in Furness all voted for Brexit deal.
    How many new Labour Candidates are brexiteers too?Using 2017 figures reinforces Labour bias.

  4. I massively appreciate what you have done and continue to do. I hope what you have produced here is a blueprint for cooperation between these two parties. They share a common enemy, and if the executives were to show even some entente cordiale by mutual standing-down of candidates, it would provide a huge boost for tactical voting and might be enough to push the remain-sympathetic numbers over the line. Bravo, and keep up the good work!

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