Analysis shows Theresa May spent half of campaign targeting Labour seats

8 Jun

Theresa May spent more than half of the election campaign in Labour-held seats, demonstrating how confident she is of making gains from Jeremy Corbyn’s party, a Guardian analysis has shown.

Of the prime minister’s 70 campaign stops, 57% were in Labour seats such as Halifax in Yorkshire, Ealing Central and Acton in London, and Bridgend in Wales, although May preferred to address vetted audiences in factories and offices rather than engage with voters in the street.

Just a fifth of May’s stops were defensive – in areas where the Conservatives hold seats with margins of less than 15 percentage points – including Morley and Outwood in Yorkshire, and seats in Plymouth.

Tories

The prime minister has visited Scotland five times, despite holding just one seat there. But the Tories are hoping to undergo a revival after the SNP all but swept the board in 2015. Constituencies visited include the borders seat Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, where the party narrowly lost to the SNP two years ago.

A party’s election strategy is often betrayed by the pattern of seats visited by its leader. In 2015, David Cameron spent a considerable portion of his campaign in the south-west of England, where the Tories subsequently made a string of gains from the Liberal Democrats, helping Cameron secure an unexpected overall majority.

By contrast, Corbyn has spent his campaign shoring up support in areas where the party holds sizeable majorities. Of the 76 stops that the Labour leader has made in seven weeks, 42% were in seats where the party holds a significant majority of 20 percentage points or more.

Labour

The Labour leader has spent very little time defending Labour seats with majorities of less than 15 points – just one in 20 of his campaign stops. Those included Wirral West, Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East and Southampton Test.

Marginal seats visited by Corbyn include Telford in Shropshire, where the Labour leader went twice, and Derby North, where Labour is hoping to reverse a gain made by the Tories in 2015.

The Lib Dem leader Tim Farron began his election campaign at Richmond Park, where the party took a major scalp ousting pro-Brexit candidate Zac Goldsmith in a December byelection.

LibDem

With Remainers in mind, Farron has also visited Lewes and Bath, which he hopes to regain from the Conservatives. Farron has also set out to reclaim St Ives from the Tories, despite its majority Brexit vote last June, and spent the day before the election in St Albans, another target.

Nicola Sturgeon visited 54 of Scotland’s 59 seats, including two stops to the Conservative-held seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale, also visiting Labour-held Edinburgh South. But she had not, at the time of writing, visited the Orkneys, where the Lib Dems hold a slight majority.

Sturgeon

The Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, targeted leave areas, spending time in Boston and Skegness, where he is running, and Clacton, where Ukip is hoping Paul Oakley can take the seat vacated by Douglas Carswell.

Nuttall has also visited Hartlepool and Dagenham, both areas where the party came second to Labour in 2015 and which posted strong Brexit votes a year later, although Ukip’s poor poll showing makes gains unlikely.

  • The analysis covers the period from 19 April to 6pm on 6 June. Campaign stops were sourced using wire photographs, Twitter accounts and newspaper reports. All parties were also contacted and asked to provide a full list of campaign stops, however, only Labour and the Liberal Democrats did so.

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