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Tracking the election campaigns: The seats where polling results have got worse despite leader visits | UK News

We’re now more than four weeks into the campaign and can see how the parties are faring in seats they have been targeting, for better or worse.

Watch this week’s journeys on our animated map below.

This campaign is being fought on new electoral boundaries, with many constituencies undergoing significant changes since 2019.

For the purpose of this analysis, we use notional results based on calculations by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, honorary professors at the University of Exeter, which estimate the 2019 election seat results if they had taken place on the new constituency boundaries.

Shying away?

It is safe to say the campaign is not going to plan for Rishi Sunak. When the prime minister made his surprise election call on 4 July the polls were not looking good for the Conservatives, but it was assumed the gap would narrow in the run-up to election day.

The reality has been different. The Conservatives are still 20 points behind, but both main parties have shed support to the Liberal Democrats and Reform – which is proving to be more of an issue for the Conservatives than for Labour.

Whereas last week we showed Sunak fighting a lonely battle, this week there were rumours of him backing away from campaigning altogether. He made just six visits this week, a figure which has been gradually declining as the campaign progresses.

Despite this slowdown in campaigning, Sunak maintains the overall largest tally of seats visited, at 41 since the start of the campaign compared to 31 for both Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey.

He was dealt another blow when the latest Sky/YouGov MRP poll was released on Wednesday evening.

Comparing this poll, conducted from 11-18 June, to the one fielded more than two weeks earlier from 24 May-1 June, it appears the Conservatives’ fortunes are worse now than the already dire state they were in when the election was announced; their projected seat tally has dropped from 140 to 108.

Are the visits helping?

We can compare the change in performance of parties between these two polls to assess whether things are improving or getting worse for the leaders in areas they have visited.

These projections are based on respondentsā€™ voting intentions at the time the polls were conducted, with calls for who will win seats rated from lowest to most confident projections, as either: “tossup” (too close to call), “lean”, “likely” or “safe”.

For Sunak, 12 of the constituencies he’s been to since the start of the campaign are now in a worse position for the Conservatives than earlier in the election campaign.

Of course, this might not be directly because of the prime ministerā€™s visit, and some trips were made after polling was completed, but it will do little to cheer the faltering campaignā€™s spirits.

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Lib Dem threat

A particular problem for the Conservatives is the potential efficiency of the Lib Dem vote in this election, picking up votes in just the right places to hurt the Tories.

On a projected national vote share of 11.6% – the same as their 2019 result – they are projected to win a massive 67 seats, more than six times the number they notionally won in 2019, and which would be the highest number since the formation of the Lib Dems in 1988. All of their potential gains outside of Scotland are at the expense of the Conservatives.

This can be seen in key Con v Lib Dem battlegrounds visited by Sunak: eight of those have moved in favour of the Lib Dems. Places like Wokingham, graced by Sunak in week two and Davey in week three, where the Conservatives have a 23.2% majority, are now leaning more towards the Lib Dems.

In 23 of the seats the prime minister has visited, there has been no projected change in fortunes. But 18 of those are ones his party is (still) on course to lose. This includes places like Devon North, which he visited on Tuesday, where a 13.3 point swing is needed for the Liberal Democrats to gain from the Conservatives – and they are expected to do so.

Tory gains

Things improved in four of Sunak’s previous stops, notably including his home turf visits in Yorkshire. His own constituency Richmond & Northallerton, that he’s visited twice, has been upgraded from “lean” Conservative hold to “likely” hold, and Thirsk & Malton has edged from “toss-up” – meaning itā€™s too close to call – to “lean” Tory hold.

Perhaps his focus on the area is paying dividends.

Labour’s decrease to a still healthy projected share of 39% means they’re doing worse in seven of the constituencies Starmer has visited. Derby South was downgraded from a “safe” hold to a “likely” hold, with an increase in Reform’s vote share between polls eating into Labour’s potential majority, and the “toss-up” of Finchley & Golders Green in London inching in the Conservatives’ favour.

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There has been no change to the predictions in 22 Starmer-visited seats, where Labour remain frontrunners to gain. All bar one – Inverclyde & Renfrewshire West, which they hope to take from the SNP – are currently held by the Conservatives.

Things got better for Labour in two seats visited by Starmer. Worthing East & Shoreham, which Starmer visited in the first week of the campaign, was upgraded from a “likely” to a “safe” gain from the Tories. Nuneaton in the West Midlands similarly went from “lean” to “likely” since he stopped by on 10 June, just before the second poll.

Meanwhile, Davey has the most glowing report card, with 18 of his 31 visited constituencies looking more favourable to the Lib Dems between polls.

This includes Carshalton & Wallington, a highly marginal constituency in London where the Lib Dems came second to Conservatives by just 1.3% in 2019 but are now projected to claim a “safe” win, up from a lower confidence level of “lean” in the previous MRP. Sunak visited the area early on in week one of the campaign while Davey visited this week.

Farage factor

The other big winners in vote share over the last few weeks have been Reform, following Nigel Farageā€™s explosive return as leader.

Reformā€™s increase in projected vote share to 15.4% would put them in third place nationally, above the Lib Dems. But while this certainly appears to be hurting the Tories in particular, it is less efficient at picking up seats for Reform, of which they are currently projected five.

Neither Sunak nor Starmer have visited any of the seats that Reform are now projected to gain. That includes Clacton, where it is now projected “likely” that Nigel Farage will overturn the 56.31% Conservative majority.

It would be the eighth time lucky for Farage if he does manage to convince voters in Clacton. Over 30 years he has stood in seven different parliamentary constituencies but thus far has failed to win.

Reform launched their not-a-manifesto on Monday from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales; with Farage saying the location was chosen “because it shows everyone exactly what happens to a country when Labour is in charge”.

They placed third here in 2019 but are projected to overtake the Conservatives and finish second to Labour, according to our latest MRP poll.

Sunak also took a swipe at Welsh Labour when he was in Clwyd North to launch the Welsh Conservative manifesto on Friday, where he said it was a “great country, but a country let down by Labour”.

Battle for the South West

This week there has been an increased interest in the South West. Previously a Lib Dem enclave, especially in their 2005 heyday, they had lost all but one of their seats here by 2017 and Bath is the only remaining constituency they are defending.

The Lib Dems are looking to make serious headway here, reflected in the number of visits the area has received.

This week alone there have been six visits to the region – two by each of the three party leaders vying for seats here. Sunak was seen in Torridge & Tavistock where the Conservatives are expected to fight off the Liberal Democrats with their 41.9% Tory majority.

Starmer made a rare defensive visit to Labour’s Bristol North West on Monday, while Davey was in Yeovil where his party will need a 13.5 point swing to beat the Conservative candidate.

The prime minister has visited 16% of the seats in the South West, more than any of the other leaders have in any other region. Davey has been to 12% of the constituencies here and 11% of those in the South East, highlighting the Liberal Democrats’ southern targeting.

Looking to appeal to broader sections of the electorate, Starmer has been much more dispersed in his regional campaigning. His maximum is the 7% of seats he has visited in Greater London, closely followed by the 6% he has stopped by in Wales.

So far 31% of the constituencies in the South West have been visited by at least one of Sunak, Starmer and Davey. The North West is the least frequented in England, where they’ve been to 11% of seats. However the parties have been sending other representatives there, such as deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, and Scotland has been targeted more by the Scottish versions of each party than by the national party leaders.


Dr Hannah Bunting is a Sky News elections analyst and co-director of The Elections Centre at the University of Exeter.


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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