Labour may need a swing in England larger than it managed in 1997 to win a bare overall majority at the next election, with its challenge made steeper because of the government’s boundary changes, according to a new analysis.
The scale of the electoral challenge facing Labour has been calculated by Lewis Baston, the political analyst and election expert, who found winning in England is more important than ever for the party in 2020.
This is because Wales may see a severe reduction in its parliamentary representation from 40 to less than 30 under the boundary review, while Labour faces obstacles to winning back seats from the SNP in Scotland.
In an analysis due to be published on LabourList this week, Baston found that Labour could win an overall English majority with 61 gains – reaching Gloucester on its target seat.
To win Gloucester, which was lost to the Tories in 2010, he has calculated that Labour would need a lead in the popular vote of about 4.5%.
To win overall, though, Labour will need to win seats from the SNP or make gains from the Conservatives, including some seats the party has never won before, such as Basingstoke, Portsmouth South and Canterbury.
“The swing required is not far short of 10%, requiring a Labour lead in England a bit larger than the party managed in 1997, just to gain a bare overall majority,” Baston wrote.
On top of that, he said the boundary changes will “put the targets a little further away, raising the Conservative majority from 11 in reality to somewhere between 23 and 41 on a ‘notional’ basis in a smaller 600-seat parliament”.
The analysis is part of a project by John Denham, the former Labour MP and director of the centre for English identity and politics at Winchester University, who argues the party needs to “help develop an inclusive, civic English identity”.
Labour is behind the Conservatives in the polls, but its electoral challenge has been made more difficult by government decisions, including changes to electoral registration, the boundary review, and new restrictions on opposition and trade union party funding.
There is mounting concern among MPs about the boundary review, which David Cameron is seeking to use to reduce the number of seats in parliament from 650 to 600.
Labour has criticised the fact the proposals for new seats will be based on the electoral register from December 2015, from which approximately 800,000 voters have disappeared because of changes to how they have to sign up. Many are suspected by Labour to be left-leaning students and private renters.
Preliminary figures from Labour have shown that the drop-off in numbers is most severe in university towns such as Canterbury, Cambridge and Dundee West, which have seen falls of more than 10% of voters.
Bite The Ballot, a campaign group, is this week coordinating a national voter registration drive, calling on people to register to vote.
Research from Experian has found the latest generation of voters are far more likely to have registered for Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat than the electoral roll.
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 1st February 2016 17.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010