Skip to main content

The next General Election: key issues for the 2010 Parliament

What implications does the new electoral landscape have for the next General Election?

Full print version, including charts and tables  (pdf 4.2MB) (pdf 4.2MB)

At some point over the next five years there will be another General Election.  Analysing 2010 General Election majorities at constituency level offers some insight into what may happen.


Based on uniform national swings between Labour and the Conservatives at the next election:

  • Conservative majority:  the Conservatives would need a swing from Labour of about 2% points
  • Labour majority: To win an absolute majority, Labour would require a swing from the Conservatives of around 5% points
  • Labour largest party in House of Commons: Labour would need a swing from the Conservatives of around 2% points

However, calculations based on uniform two-party swings are increasingly being called into doubt.  The electoral landscape is very different from that in the 1950s, when two parties dominated and the concept of swing took hold.  The large variation in constituency swings at the 2010 election suggests that local factors are important.  These are not accounted for in these calculations.

Safe seats

The safest seat in percentage terms is Liverpool Walton, held by new Labour MP Steve Rotheram with a majority of 57.7%.  The largest majority in terms of votes is 27,826 for Labour's Stephen Timms in East Ham.

Of the 200 safest seats, 106 are held by the Conservatives, 83 by Labour, four by the Liberal Democrats and seven by other parties.

Bar chart illustrating that Liberal Democrat seats tend to be more marginal than Conservative and Labour seats

Marginal seats

The seat with the smallest majority – four votes – is Fermanagh and South Tyrone, held by Michelle Gildernew for Sinn Fein.  Labour's Glenda Jackson has the next smallest majority – 42 votes or 0.1% – in Hampstead and Kilburn.

Of the 200 seats with the smallest majorities, the Conservatives hold 83, Labour 79, the Liberal Democrats 27, and other parties 11.

Looking at likely challengers for marginal seats, the Conservatives were second in 82 of the 200 most marginal seats, Labour were second in 73 seats, the Liberal Democrats in 39, and other parties in six.

All this, of course, assumes that the next General Election will be fought using the same constituency boundaries and electoral system.

Battlegrounds for the next election - map of UK seats 

Latest Key Issues

Key Issues 2015

The Commons Library has produced a Key Issues for the new Parliament 2015.

Find out more

Contact information

Commons Library

We provide MPs and their staff with impartial briefings to support their work in scrutinising Government, proposing legislation, and supporting constituents.

The Library's publicly available briefings are available on the website and if you wish to offer feedback, please contact:

Find out more

Briefing Papers

Find more Commons Library briefing papers on a wide range of topics from agriculture to transport.