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Conservative wipeout looms in bellwether region

By David Hopps
20 June 2024
Public Affairs
general election 2024
the north

The politics of England’s North West, which stretches from the Scottish borders in the north to the rolling Cheshire plains in the south, is as diverse as the region’s geography. Home to the sprawling city region of Greater Manchester (arguably Britain’s second city) and contrasting sharply with the remote wilderness of the Cumbrian Fells, the region is often seen as a bellwether for the country given the proliferation of marginal seats that switch between red and blue.

The Labour Party has traditionally dominated the North West as a whole, mainly due to their impenetrable support in the large urban areas of Greater Manchester and Merseyside. However, in the last general election, the party was reduced to winning 41 of the region’s 75 parliamentary constituencies, with the Conservatives on 32 and the Lib Dems on 1. The remaining seat being Chorley, held by the current Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

This election promises another sea change, possibly of significant proportions. So what are the prospects for the two main parties?


Labour has to win comfortably in the North West if they are going to form a majority in the House of Commons. In fact, after Scotland, the North West has the highest number of must-win Labour target seats in the country, at 23. If current polls are to be believed, even the most pessimistic outcome would have them comfortably surpass this figure.

The party is likely to get a clean sweep in Merseyside, defeating the Tories in the only non-Labour seat of Southport. Greater Manchester is slightly more nuanced, with the Lib Dems being the main challengers to the Tories in the Stockport seats of Cheadle and Hazel Grove. Aside from these seats, Labour is likely to win a clean sweep in GM, save from the challenge posed by George Galloway in Rochdale.

Mr Galloway won a huge by-election victory earlier this year and will be looking to hold his seat for the Workers Party on July 4th though could potentially struggle with a higher voter turnout. The war in Gaza is likely to be a significant factor in several North West seats in this election, with many unhappy at the position taken by the two major parties. Labour councillors in Pendle and Burnley defected en-masse in protest at the stance of their leadership on this issue. The great unknown is whether their electorates will follow them and vote for independent or Workers Party candidates come the general election, even they reduce the Labour vote in certain constituencies they are unlikely to pose a huge electoral threat.


2019 represented a high-water mark for the Tories, a position that is likely to be sharply reversed in this year’s general election. Some polls are even predicting a complete wipe-out of the blue team.

Whilst this seems unlikely, the chaotic Tory election campaign and the growth of the Reform UK, which is more likely to split the Conservative vote than see the election of any members of Nigel Farage’s party, could prove the pollsters right.

The party will almost certainly be exterminated in the red-wall constituencies of Greater Manchester and Lancashire, with their best chance of holding anything in the region being in their traditional heartlands away from the populated urban areas. The rural Cheshire seats of Tatton, where Esther McVey is defending a notional majority of nearly 20,000, and Chester South & Eddisbury, where Aphra Brandreth (daughter of former Chester MP and TV celebrity Giles Brandreth) is in a similar position, are their best hopes.

The Lancashire strongholds of Ribble Valley and Fylde are looking more vulnerable given, respectively, unfavourable boundary changes and a scandal involving the outgoing MP. Boundary changes have similarly been unfavourable to the Tories in Cumbria, meaning they could easily lose all parliamentary representation in the county for the first time.


The importance of the North West as a determinant of who holds the keys to Downing Street is once again at the fore in this election. But unlike any contest that has gone before, and due to an array of national and local factors, the outcome is expected to be more dramatic than ever before.

Anything can happen in the next two weeks before polling day, though given the ongoing collapse in Tory support, the rise of Reform UK, and the steady (if not enthusiastic) march of Labour (plus the fact many will be voting by post in the coming days), I can’t foresee anything other than a near wipeout of the Conservatives in this traditionally bellwether region. Unprecedented, yes. Unpredictable, no.

Of the 73 North West seats (following boundary changes) to be fought at this election, I would predict the following:

Labour: 66

Conservative: 3

Lib Dem: 3

Speaker: 1