The 2019 Election Battleground: Yorkshire and the Humber

The 2019 Election Battleground: Yorkshire and the Humber


Covers 54 seats across North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and the confusing amalgam of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire formerly known as Humberside. Labour traditionally dominate the electoral landscape, especially in the former mining and industrial heartland of South Yorkshire and urban seats around Leeds, Bradford and Hull – although some of these seats also delivered massive votes for Brexit, with traditional Labour voters struggling to identify with the liberal metropolitan direction their party has taken in recent years. The greatest strength for the Tories here is in rural North Yorkshire, although they also hold a clutch of West Yorkshire marginals and are in contention in a number of seats across the region. The Lib Dems lost both seats they held here in 2017 but have high hopes of taking back Nick Clegg’s old stomping ground.

Leave voteshare at the referendum in 2016: 57.7%

2017 seat tally (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 17 (-2)
  • Labour: 37 (+4)
  • Lib Dems: 0 (-2)

2017 voteshare (compared with 2015)

  • Conservatives: 40.5% (+7.8)
  • Labour: 49.0% (+9.9)
  • Lib Dems: 5.0% (-2.1)
  • UKIP: 2.6% (-13.4)
  • Green: 1.3% (-2.3)

Seats to Watch

Barnsley East (70.99% Leave)
Not a seat anyone expects Labour to lose, but all eyes will be on how far incumbent MP Stephanie Peacock’s majority of more than 13,000 drops in a seat where more than seven in ten voted Leave and where in 2015 UKIP were winning nearly a quarter of the vote. The Brexit Party’s Jim Ferguson will be arguing that he, rather than the Tory Adam Gregg, is the main challenger to Peacock in this former coal-mining seat.

Bradford South (63.56% Leave)
A Labour seat every time since 1945, although (on slightly different boundaries) the Tories were a few hundred votes off winning here in 1983 and 1987. Judith Cummins enjoyed a majority of 6,700 in 2017, but it’s a seat where UKIP won over 24% of the vote in 2015 and nearly two-thirds of voters backed Brexit in 2016. Her saving grace could well be a split in the pro-Brexit vote between Tory candidate Narinder Sekhon and the Brexit Party’s Kulvinder Manik.

Calder Valley (53.16% Leave)
A classic West Yorkshire marginal which Conservative Craig Whittaker gained from Labour in 2010 and has held ever since – winning more votes on each occasion, but enjoying a smaller majority each time thanks to a diminishing Lib Dem vote apparently plumping disproportionately for Labour. The Labour candidate at the last two contests, Josh Fenton-Glynn, is back for a third time and would need a swing of 0.5% to overturn Whittaker’s majority of 609.

Colne Valley (50.06% Leave)
Like neighbouring Calder Valley (see above), no party has ever been able to take this seat for granted: it was held by the Liberals as recently as 1983, but has been more of a Labour/Tory marginal since the 1990s. Brexit-backing Jason McCartney won it for the Conservatives in 2010 and 2015, but lost to Labour’s Thelma Walker by less than 1,000 votes in 2017. He’s back again to try and regain the seat and would need a swing of less than 1% to do so.

Dewsbury (57.15% Leave)
Yet another West Yorkshire marginal. In modern times the Conservatives have only won Dewsbury twice – in 1983 and 2010. Yet Labour’s hold on the seat has never been especially strong and Paula Sherriff’s majority in 2017 was a little over 3,000. The Conservative candidate Mark Eastwood is a signatory to the Stand Up for Brexit pledge and would snatch the seat on a swing of 3%.

Don Valley (68.49% Leave)
Covering the southern chunk of the Borough of Doncaster outside of the town itself, this has been a Labour seat since the 1920s and held by Caroline Flint since 1997. Mindful that nearly seven in ten of her constituents backed Brexit in 2016, Remain-voting some-time Europe Minister Flint has taken a pragmatic view on Brexit of late: she was a leading signatory to a letter in October 2019 calling for the referendum result to be “honoured without delay”, urging the EU and UK government to reach a deal so that they could “move forward to positive negotiations in stage two” – and she is the only Labour MP seeking re-election who voted both for Boris Johnson’s deal and for the Commons programme motion that sought to get it passed by October 31st. However, she will nonetheless be feeling the heat from Conservative candidate Nicholas Fletcher who would need a swing of less than 6% to overturn her majority of just over 5,000.

Great Grimsby (71.45% Leave)
A Labour seat since 1945 – and between 1977 and 2015 held by regular BrexitCentral author Austin Mitchell – although on occasions the party has held it with a pretty narrow majority. The decimation of the fishing industry here as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy contributed to a bumper vote for Brexit here in 2016 (and in 2015 UKIP had piled up a quarter of the votes cast). Conservative candidate Lia Nici needs a swing of just over 3.5% to oust sitting Labour MP Melanie Onn – a result which Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has been predicting on account of his candidate Christopher Barker helping Nici by taking more Labour votes than Tory votes.

Halifax (58.82% Leave)
Yet another perennial Labour/Tory West Yorkshire marginal. The Tories last won it in their landslide year of 1983, although it has often been a close-run thing between the parties since. Conservative candidate Kashif Ali would need a swing of 5.5% to oust Labour incumbent Holly Lynch.

Hull West and Hessle (67.99% Leave)
All the Hull seats have always been pretty safe Labour seats, but also delivered hefty votes for Brexit in 2016. In this constituency former Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry is standing for the Brexit Party in her home seat (which she contested as an Independent in 2017) with the Conservative candidate Scott Bell starting in second place, 8,000 votes behind Labour’s Emma Hardy.

Keighley (53.33% Leave)
The Conservatives’ top target in the region is a seat which has regularly switched between the red and blue columns over the last century. It was Tory-held between 2010 and 2017 when former Labour MP for Selby John Grogan snatched it back by a majority of 239, with Robbie Moore now seeking to oust him for the Conservatives.

Penistone and Stocksbridge (60.65% Leave)
This South Yorkshire seat was created in 2010 and has been held at all three elections this decade by Angela Smith for Labour, although only by a margin of 1,322 over the Conservatives in 2017. However, in February Smith left her party for the Independent Group for Change/Change UK before joining the Lib Dems in September. She has opted to leave the electoral battlefield here and is instead standing in Altrincham and Sale West, with Francyne Johnson defending the Labour majority here. For the Conservatives, South Yorkshire-born and bred Miriam Cates needs a swing of a shade over 2.5% to take the seat.

Pudsey (48.58% Leave)
Labour’s top target in the region: Conservative Brexiteer Stuart Andrew has been MP here since 2010 but held it with a majority of just 331 in 2017. Jane Aitchison is challenging for Labour but by all accounts would have her work cut out to take the seat.

Rother Valley (66.72% Leave)
When William Hague addressed the Tory conference at the age of 16 in 1977, he was chairman of the Rother Valley Young Conservatives and the local Labour MP in what many knew as the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire had a majority of over 30,000. Four decades later and, incredibly, the seat (albeit on slightly different boundaries) finds itself on Tory target lists with their candidate Alex Stafford needing a swing of less than 4% to take it from Labour for the first time in over 100 years. Labour MP since 1983 Sir Kevin Barron is standing down and leaves new Labour candidate Sophie Wilson to defend his majority of less than 4,000. The seat saw a heavy vote for Brexit in 2016 – and UKIP came second here in 2015 with over 13,000 votes – and it is unclear whether Brexit Party candidate Allen Cowles will be disproportionately taking votes from former Labour supporters in a way that could help deliver the seat to the Tories or whether a split between Leavers backing him and Stafford could aid Labour’s effort to retain the seat.

Rotherham (68.35% Leave)
Like Barnsley East, this is not a seat which anyone expects to return anything other than a Labour MP, as it has consistently done since the 1930s. But it will be interesting to see how loose Labour incumbent Sarah Champion’s grip on the seat becomes, given that nearly 70% of her constituents voted Leave and as recently as 2015 UKIP won more than 30% of the vote here at a general election. Paul Hague is standing for the Brexit Party while the Conservative starting in second place, 11,000 or so votes behind Champion, is Gerri Hickton.

Scunthorpe (68.68% Leave)
A safe Labour seat in the Blair era which Labour’s Nic Dakin has held rather more precariously since 2010. His majority was less than 3,500 in 2015 and his Tory opponent then, Holly Mumby-Croft, is back on the ballot paper and would need a swing of a little over 4% to oust him in yet another seat where nearly seven in ten voters backed Leave in 2016.

Sheffield Hallam (34.01% Leave)
This is the Remain-voting seat in which former Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg was ousted in 2017 by Labour’s Jared O’Mara by a little over 2,000 votes. O’Mara endured a difficult two years as MP here, losing the Labour whip within months of getting elected, and is not seeking re-election. On paper the fight here looks to be between Olivia Blake for Labour and Lib Dem Laura Gordon, who would snatch the seat back on a swing of less than 2% – although the Conservatives are putting up Ian Walker for the third successive election in a seat which they held until 1997 and where Walker secured more than a quarter of the vote in 2017.

Wakefield (62.77% Leave)
A Labour seat since the 1930s, although it has never enjoyed ultra-safe status. Mary Creagh has been MP here since 2005 and held it with a majority of barely 2,000 in 2017. Conservative candidate Imran Ahmad-Khan requires a swing of 2.5% to take the seat.

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia
Photocredit: Tim Green