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General Election 2024: 5 key seats to watch
Text | Claudia Mulholland
Date | 28 June 2024
Read | 5 min
Claudia Mulholland

There is now less than a week to go until the 2024 General Election which is widely expected to usher in a change of Government for the first time in 14 years. Having entrenched a 20-point lead over their Conservative rivals in the national polls, Labour is anticipated to be the next party of Government, with Keir Starmer at the helm as the likely next Prime Minister.

As with any General Election, the ultimate result will hinge on the outcomes of a series of local electoral battles in 650 parliamentary constituencies across the country. Labour must win the majority of those fights if it is to go on to form a government.

The H/Advisors Cicero team has picked five key seats to watch that could shape the national picture.

Cannock Chase

There are 55 ”bellwether” constituencies across the country, one of which includes Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. Whilst voting margins tend to be narrow in “bellwether seats”, a reflection of the electorate’s tendency to switch allegiance at pace, Cannock Chase is notable for the scale of its Conservative majority. The incumbent, Amanda Milling, has grown a relatively slim 5,000 vote majority in 2015 to an impressive 20,000 vote majority in 2019. A nervous Labour will be hoping for a clean sweep across those indicative “bellwether” seats to reassure them of their path to power, but Milling’s clear local popularity could present them with a potential challenge in Cannock Chase. For now, however, Labour has pulled ahead according latest MRP polling for the seat.

Worthing West

Historically, voting in Worthing West has been notoriously consistent. In stark contrast to nearby Brighton Pavilion, which became the first parliamentary constituency to elect a Green Party MP in 2010 after periods of representation by both Labour and the Conservatives, voters in Worthing West have remained loyal to the Conservative MP, Peter Bottomley, since 1997 when the seat was first created.

Bottomley (who is standing again 50 years on from his first election in Woolwich West) is defending a healthy majority of almost 15,000 votes but has found himself facing unprecedented levels of support for the Labour candidate, Rebecca Cooper, who is campaigning hard on local issues and leaning into frustration on issues such as water quality and sewage in this coastal constituency. Latest MRP polling by YouGov suggests it could be third time lucky for Cooper who came second to Bottomley in 2017 and 2019. A loss in a historically loyal seat with a large majority would deal a heavy blow to the Conservatives who must retain as many existing Tory safe seats as possible if they are to fend off a Labour super majority.

Bishop Auckland

Looking back, perhaps the most significant development at the 2019 election was the fall of the so-called “Red Wall”, the swathe of seats in the North of England that turned from red to blue in large part due to the electoral allure and anti-EU rhetoric of former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. For Keir Starmer, regaining the “Red Wall” is a strategic and reputational priority. Bishop Auckland is amongst the seats that his activists are targeting. In 2019, the Conservatives overturned 100 years of Labour representation there to secure an impressive 8,000 vote majority. But whilst the Conservatives possess a numerical advantage, the resignation of the popular Tory incumbent, Dehenna Davidson, will likely work in Labour’s favour. Polling is currently predicting a return to a Labour majority.

Godalming and Ash

Godalming and Ash, the successor seat to the former South West Surrey constituency, will be one of the most keenly watched seats on election night. Notwithstanding its high-profile incumbent Jeremy Hunt who has been the MP for South West Surrey since 2005, the seat represents a key brick in the so-called “Blue Wall” and is of strategic importance to the Conservatives who will be keen to point to a victory there as indicative of their continued popularity across the South of England. Having come in at a respectable second place in 2019, however, the Liberal Democrats are pumping resources into the seat and represent a legitimate electoral challenge.

A loss for a sitting member of the Cabinet would no doubt be an embarrassing re-run of the now infamous ‘Portillo moment’ for the Tories. The real concern however will be the extent to which the Liberal Democrats are able to replicate a win in Godalming and Ash across other key seats in the South and Southwest in places such as West Dorset, Yeovil, and Taunton and Wellington, leaving the “Blue Wall” a relic of the past.

Barnsley North

Barnsley North is the primary electoral target for Reform UK. With the precursor party to Reform, the Brexit Party, having lost by 3,000 votes in the former constituency of Barnsley Central in 2019, Reform needs a swing of just 4.5% to put their first directly elected MP in Westminster.

The picture in Clacton, where Nigel Farage is standing, is more complex. Despite having elected Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP, in 2015, voters in Clacton proved loyal to Conservative candidate, Giles Watling, in 2017 and 2019 when he secured a majority of almost 25,000 votes. Early polling had suggested a Tory hold, but Reform will be hoping that the characteristic allure of Farage could prove sufficient to swing it for Reform in Clacton.