The General Election in Yorkshire

In this latest blog post by Ryan Swift, he makes an overview of how the general election is playing out in key seats in the Yorkshire.

There has been a lot of focus on the North of England including Yorkshire this election campaign, with the Conservatives seeking to breach Labour’s so-called Red Wall. Boris Johnson’s party are hoping that traditional Labour voters whose socially conservative values and support for Leave have turned them off Jeremy Corbyn’s party will flock to the Conservatives. With little time left until polling day, the opinion polls, which put the Conservative’s 10 points ahead of Labour on average, as well as anecdotal evidence suggest that this strategy may bear fruit for the party. In Yorkshire, there will be much to look out for on election night.

North Yorkshire is likely to be the least volatile Yorkshire county. York Central aside, it is likely that it will remain safely Conservative. Similarly, the Conservatives are likely to maintain all four of their seats in the more rural areas of East Yorkshire, but the results in Labour-held seats in Hull could be interesting.

Mainly though, it will be seats in West and South Yorkshire that will be most hotly contested this Thursday. In West Yorkshire the Conservatives will be looking to win back seats lost in 2017 like Keighley and Colne Valley. They will also be seeking to make gains in seats like Wakefield and potentially even Dewsbury and Halifax. In South Yorkshire, traditional Labour strongholds such as Don Valley, Penistone and Stocksbridge, and Rother Valley will be within the Conservatives’ sights.

In addition to these, it will be interesting to observe how the Conservatives perform in the most staunchly Labour seats across the region, many of which are in places where support for Leave in the 2016 EU referendum was highest. In seats like Hull East, Hemsworth, Barnsley East, Doncaster North, and Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Labour majorities may be too large to be overturned this time around, but the Conservatives may run them close in some.

The extent to which the Conservatives’ strategy succeeds will in part be dependent on the performance of the Brexit Party. While they have slumped in the polls since their decision to stand down in Conservative held seats and had a poor campaign overall, the way its support is distributed across the country is likely to vary widely. In post-industrial towns in Yorkshire (and in other parts of the North) some voters may find it easier to vote for the Brexit Party rather than the Conservatives given the historic distrust of the party in these areas. Farage’s Party will take votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, but in Labour-held seats this could prove more costly for the Conservatives.

Boris Johnson’s party are not the only ones looking the make gains in Yorkshire. Despite the polls, Labour remain optimistic of overturning very slim Conservative majorities in Calder Valley and Pudsey. The Liberal Democrats will also be hoping to make a gain by winning back Nick Clegg’s old seat of Sheffield Hallam. While the Lib Dems are unlikely to make gains elsewhere in the region, their performance will still be important. If Remain supporting voters who backed Labour in 2017 switch to them this time around, it will hurt Labour and could cost them seats. As the campaign draws to an end, calls for tactical voting have intensified.

The Yorkshire Party standing in 28 seats across the region is another factor that could influence the results. It is unclear which party would be most affected by support for the Yorkshire Party, but given that it backs Brexit (albeit on ‘softer’ EFTA style terms), it may hold more appeal to potential Conservative voters. Although, its arguments for greater funding for the region could have broader appeal.

Overall, the Conservatives look set to do well in Yorkshire. They should hold their existing seats in the region and are likely to make some gains. The extent to which they make gains, particularly in West and South Yorkshire, may be key in determining whether they can form a majority government. In Yorkshire, and across the North as whole, the focus will be on whether Labour’s Red Wall is merely chipped away at slightly or whether it is smashed completely.

Ryan Swift

Ryan Swift is undertaking an ESRC funded 1+3 Social Research MA and PhD scholarship in Politics at the University of Leeds. His doctoral research is focused on the party politics of devolution in the North of England.