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Constituency Changes Pose Historic Challenge for Labour in 2024 General Election

As the first constituency alterations since 2010 come into play, Labour is confronted with a monumental challenge in the upcoming 2024 general election. New research indicates that Sir Keir Starmer faces an unprecedented 12.7-point swing requirement from the Conservatives to secure the prime minister’s position. This surpasses the swing achieved by Tony Blair in 1997 and represents more than double the swing observed in any election since 1945.

Complicating matters, extensive boundary changes, the first since 2010, aims to ensure equitable representation by aligning constituency voter numbers. Independently conducted by the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, these changes have impacted nearly 88% of the 650 Commons seats.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted at a probable general election in the second half of the year, with October or November being considered likely dates.

Analysis by professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher suggests that the boundary changes offer a modest advantage to the Conservatives. Notional results for the 2019 general election, if fought on the new constituencies, reveal a shift in the distribution of seats, with the Conservatives defending a notional majority of 94. This compares to the actual 80 majority achieved in 2019, with the Conservatives gaining seven seats, Labour losing two, the Liberal Democrats losing three, and Plaid Cymru dropping from four to two seats.

Despite the reduction in Scottish seats, the SNP remains at 48 seats, while Northern Ireland maintains its status quo with the DUP at eight, Sinn Fein at seven, SDLP at two, and Alliance at one.

The Boundary Commissions aimed to ensure new constituencies have an electorate within 5% of 73,392, divided by 650, resulting in constituencies with electorates between 69,724 and 77,062, with only five “island seats” exempt.

With the boundary changes, the direct swing requirement for Labour to become the largest party in a hung parliament has increased from seven to 8.3 percentage points. Sir Keir’s pursuit of an overall majority faces a 12.7-point swing requirement, higher than the previous 12 points on the old boundaries. Professors Rallings and Thrasher emphasize the importance of considering other party votes, suggesting that swings from parties like the SNP to Labour could impact the election outcome.

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