Ones to watch

Hot seat: Brunel University is in the PM’s constituency; rival Milani holds sway as ex-president of its student union.

As election day gets closer, what should you be looking out for as the results stream in on Thursday? There will be the big exit poll at 10pm. There will also be interesting upsets in individual seats.

  • Could Boris Johnson lose his seat in Uxbridge and South Ruislip?

    It is not impossible that — for the first time in modern history — a Prime Minister could lose their seat at a general election.

    At the 2017 election, Boris Johnson beat his Labour challenger by 10.8% — 50.8% to 40%. That makes the seat not quite a marginal. But it certainly makes it vulnerable.

    A recent YouGov poll suggested the result might be similar to 2017, but Labour’s young candidate, 25-year-old Ali Milani, is making waves and tactical voting could help him out. His campaign is focussed on local issues and mobilising the youth vote.

    Milani has highlighted Johnson’s failure to stick to his promise to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to stop the expansion of nearby Heathrow airport.

    Most analysts and the bookies think that Johnson will win, but his seat could be one to watch.

  • Are there any other Tory ‘big beasts’ under threat?

    There certainly are — most notably, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

    Raab’s seat of Esher and Walton ought to be rock-solid safe for him. He won in 2017 with a thumping 23,298 majority.

    But a recent Deltapoll survey in his constituency gave him only a 5% point lead over his Liberal Democrat rival, Monica Harding.

    The Remain vote in this constituency was 59% and Raab has been one of the strongest exponents of a hard Brexit. As a result, both Labour and Conservative Remain voters have been switching to the Liberal Democrats that only came third in 2017, with 17%.

    The Deltapoll puts Labour on 9%, so there are the potential votes to unseat Raab if enough people join the tactical bandwagon.

    If Raab is defeated, it will be one of the surprises of election night — and it will be even more sensational if the Tories win overall.

  • What about MPs who have swapped parties, such as Gavin Shuker in Luton South?

    Shuker was a Labour MP, with a hefty 13,925 majority in 2017. He won 62.4% of the vote against his nearest rival, a Tory, on only 32.3%.

    But Shuker resigned from Labour in February 2019 to join the new Change UK group of former Labour and Tory MPs, and he is now standing as an independent. Labour has a new candidate, Rachel Hopkins.

    Although the Liberal Democrats have stood down in this constituency, Shuker seems to have little hope of retaining his seat with voters sticking to their previous party allegiances. One forecast gives Labour 58%, only slightly down on 2017.

    One peculiarity of the UK system is that MPs who simply stand down, or get defeated at the next election, receive a redundancy payment. But if an MP has left their party, they don’t get one unless they stand again. So some MPs may stand again just to get the payment.

  • What about Tory pro-Remain independents?

    Dominic Grieve was one of the most well-known and effective opponents of both Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit. Along with 20 others, he was expelled from the Tory party for disobeying Johnson.

    Grieve’s constituency of Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire should be a safe Tory one. He was first elected MP there in 1997, and steadily built the Tory vote from 49% up to 65% at the 2017 election.

    The Liberal Democrats have stood aside and are actively campaigning for Grieve, as are many supporters who usually back Labour, although it has not formally stood down.

    A recent YouGov MRP poll gave Grieve almost 30%, but it is well behind his Conservative replacement on just under 60%. Beaconsfield voted narrowly for Remain (51%) in the referendum.

  • Will any of the Labour defectors to the Lib Dems win?

    Luciana Berger, the former Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, who says she was driven out of Labour by antisemitism, is standing for the Lib Dems in the London seat of Finchley and Golders Green. This seat claims to have the largest Jewish population of any constituency. It also voted 69% for Remain.

    The Liberal Democrats on past performance should not stand a chance — they only got 7% in 2017, compared to Labour’s 44% and the Tories with 47%.

    There have been at least three published constituency polls, showing just how much interest there will be in this result. These show the Tories hanging on 43%, but Berger up to 36% and Labour’s vote down to 21%.

    Local reports suggest a very strong ground campaign by Berger’s supporters, so she could yet cause an upset on election night.

  • Will the Brexit Party win anywhere?

    Probably not. Its decision not to stand in Tory seats, and Nigel Farage’s decision not to stand, took some wind out of its sails. Boris Johnson’s apparent determination to “get Brexit done” has taken away some of the Brexit Party’s support.

    There are a few seats in the North East with strong Leave support (like Hartlepool, which voted 70% Leave), where it still says it has a chance of winning. But YouGov polling puts the Brexit Party on only 23% — behind the Tories at 31% and Labour’s 40% — in the region. So its effect seems to be splitting the Leave vote to allow Labour to win there.

    This briefing is produced by The Day in association with ENGAGE Public Policy.

You Decide

  1. Do you think Boris Johnson will hold on to his constituency seat?


  1. Compare the Tory and Labour manifesto pledges for education. Then use the key points and statistics to write a short speech aimed at the students at Brunel University, persuading them to vote either for Boris Johnson or Ali Milani as their local MP.

Word Watch

A seat that is held only by a small majority and is at risk of being lost to another party in the election.
Short for bookmaker: an organisation or person that accepts and pays off bets on sporting and other events such as elections.
Esher and Walton
In the north of Surrey in southeast England. The last time a part of this wealthy area voted for an MP who was not Conservative was in 1906.
People who support an idea or theory and try to persuade others of its truth or benefits.
Change UK
Officially called the Independent Group for Change, it is centrist, pro-EU, founded in 2019. Its main policy is its support for a second referendum on EU membership. Its founding members include Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger; its leader is former Tory MP Anna Soubry.
Redundancy payment
A sum of money given by an employer to an employee who has lost their job. It is usually calculated on how long someone has worked at a place, and on their wages.
Ground campaign
For example, knocking on people’s doors to talk to them directly to encourage them to vote.

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