Labour’s Electoral Conundrum

Chris Wongsosaputro discusses Labour Party election strategy.

Labour’s electoral defeat in 2019 has prompted soul searching within the party as Labour won only 202 seats which was the lowest number since the 1935 election. The 2019 results also marked a reversal from 2017 when the party gained 30 seats vis-à-vis 2015, compared to a loss of 60 seats this time round.

The debate over Labour’s electoral strategy going forward was observed during the party’s leadership election. Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and then-candidate Lisa Nandy argued that ‘without what were once our Labour heartlands we will never win power in Westminster’, emphasising on the need to regain our former standing in the former Red Wall seats. Meanwhile, our Party Leader and then-candidate Sir Keir Starmer went a step further by saying that it is insufficient to only ‘re-win our heartland seat’s but there is also a need to ‘‘draw a line from London to Bristol and look south’. The strategy advocated by Sir Keir Starmer called for Labour to expand our electoral map to include not only Scotland, Wales and the Red Wall seats but also the South, South-East and South-West.

The point on expanding Labour’s electoral map is supported by an analysis performed by the UK in a Changing Europe highlighting that there are 120 seats where Labour is within 10% of the Conservatives. Winning another 120 seats will take Labour close to reaching the 325-seat mark needed to form the next Government. The seats in discussion here can be categorised into two buckets, namely 53 where Labour has been increasing our vote share since 2015 and 67 where the reverse occurred. Seats in the former category are often less discussed in Labour’s discourse on electoral strategy as emphasis is placed on winning back our old seats. They include Truro & Falmouth, Wycombe, Altrincham & Sale West, Shipley and Rushcliffe whose results are illustrated on the table below:


Labour’s 2015 Vote Share

Labour’s 2019 Vote Share

2015 Tory – Labour Margin

2019 Tory – Labour Margin

Truro & Falmouth










Altrincham & Sale West
















The question then shifts to how Labour can achieve this feat in winning another 120 seats needed to form the Government. As a starting point, Labour can present an economic message which speaks to both categories of seats outlined above. The Financial Times article here presents some ideas for Labour to pursue such as the expansion of the Kickstart scheme from its current premise of upskilling young people to include adults too. Re-training is a particularly relevant theme across a large segment of the electorate given the speed in which knowledge and skills become obsolete in a digital age so Labour can be at the forefront of championing the expansion of Kickstart. Another is investment into transport links, especially in the post-Covid era where the need for more reliable transport links will be relevant for the economic development of the Northern Powerhouse and Red Wall seats. This theme will also resonate in the South where there is a trend of people gradually moving out of towns to the country, accentuating the need for more reliable transport links to the cities. There is also a need for Labour to push forward the message that the UK can prosper when all its regions prosper.

By pushing for economic policies which target the needs of voters in the two categories of seats, Labour will not only champion the development of our country but also put forward a path towards resolving our electoral conundrum! 



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