In this post, the team at electionforecast.co.uk discuss their current predictions for the South West. They find that the Liberal Democrats are more likely than not to lose over half the seats that they currently hold in the region, with most of these seats going to the Conservatives. Also, as in other regions in the UK, the smaller, ‘insurgent’ parties are unlikely to be competitive in many seats in the South West.
See Ron Johnston’s analysis of the campaign in the South West here.
In 2010, the 55 constituencies in the South West of England were largely made up of two-party contests between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. With the exception of Bristol West and Bristol South, the Conservatives were amongst the top two parties in every constituency in the region. The Liberal Democrats also traditionally perform well in the South West, placing either first or second in 42 of 55 constituencies in 2010. Labour’s performance in the region was poor in the last election: coming in the top two parties in only 15 seats, and winning just 4 of them.
The plot and map below show the seats won by each party at the 2010 election.
Our headline forecasts for the region suggest that there will be significant changes in 2015. In particular, we predict that the Liberal Democrats will lose a significant proportion of their seats in the South West.
The graph below gives our point predictions for each constituency in the region. Our current prediction is that the Lib Dems will lose just over half of their current seats, leaving them with only 7. We predict 7 seats will swing from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives (Chippenham, Mid Dorset and North Poole, North Devon, Somerton and Frome, St Austell and Newquay, Taunton Deane, and Wells) and 1 to Labour (Bristol West). We also predict two Conservative-to-Labour swings in Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, and Stroud.
While there is a significant degree of uncertainty surrounding our forecasts for any particular seat, we can use the distribution of our forecasts to calculate the probability that the Lib Dems will lose half of their seats in the region. Performing this calculating gives a 67% probability that the Lib Dems will hold 7 seats or fewer in the South West on May 8th.
As we have demonstrated in other regions, the rise of ‘insurgent’ parties – such as UKIP and the Greens – is a phenomenon likely to occur in only limited parts of the UK. The South West is another region in which these smaller parties are unlikely to make significant breakthroughs. As the final plot below indicates, we predict that UKIP will come second in only one constituency (Christchurch), despite the face that we forecast they will win 11% of the popular vote in the region. As in other parts of the country, the inefficient distribution of UKIP votes across the region means that the party will find it difficult to compete in any particular constituency.
Overall, our forecasts suggest that the Liberal Democrats are likely to lose a significant number of seats the South West, but we are not predicting the electoral oblivion that the party’s national polling figures might suggest. As Rob Ford has argued, the overall fate of the Lib Dems may well be determined by how well they perform in the rural and suburban constituencies of the South West. We will continue to update our forecasts with new polling data as it is released, and updated forecasts for the South West, as well as for the rest of the UK, can be found at our website.
Note: Forecasts are accurate as of April 12th, 2015.
Jack Blumenau is a PhD candidate in Government at the London School of Economics.
Chris Hanretty is a Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia.
Benjamin Lauderdale is an Associate Professor in Methodology at the London School of Economics.
Nick Vivyan is a Lecturer in Quantitative Social Research at the Durham University.