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Strategic Battlegrounds: Sunak’s Solo Struggle and Party Manifesto Launches Define Midpoint of General Election

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Midway through the general election: Sunak confronts challenges alone on multiple fronts

Sky News has monitored the destinations that party leaders have toured during the initial phase of the general election campaign, analyzing their selections to understand the strategic intentions of their parties.

By Dr. Hannah Bunting, Sky News elections analyst, and Joely Santa Cruz, data journalist

Saturday, June 15, 2024, at 5

This week, political heads were pitching their agendas to the electorate while unveiling their manifestos. In Grimsby, Sunak and Starmer squared off during Sky News' live election event titled "The Battle For Number 10."

Follow their paths over the past week on our dynamic map below.

This election is taking place with updated electoral maps, featuring substantial alterations to numerous districts since 2019.

In this analysis, we are utilizing hypothetical outcomes derived from computations made by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, who are Honorary Professors at the University of Exeter. These calculations estimate the distribution of seats in the 2019 election if it had occurred under the newly established constituency boundaries.

Week of Declarations

The general election campaign has surpassed its midpoint, and the voting process is set to commence with the arrival of postal ballots in mailboxes.

This week, as the election draws near, political parties have unveiled their manifestos in a bid to sway voters.

The decisions regarding the launch locations underscore a commitment to safety.

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The Prime Minister selected South Northamptonshire in the East Midlands as the location to unveil the Conservative Party's manifesto, a region where they hold a 42.4% majority.

This constituency, formerly represented by Andrea Leadsom, is considered a stronghold for the Conservative Party in the area. Although its boundaries have shifted through the years, historically, it has never been held by the Labour Party.

It increasingly appears that no Conservative seats are secure. Recent polling by Sky News and YouGov categorizes this particular constituency as a "toss-up" for the Conservatives, indicating that the outcome is uncertain. Should Labour secure victory in this seat, the significant required swing of 21.2 points would suggest they are on track for a substantial majority.

On Thursday, Labour's manifesto was unveiled by Sir Keir Starmer at Manchester Central, which is located in Lucy Powell's constituency where she holds a 44.4% majority.

This area is familiar territory, and it's uncommon for Starmer to step into strong Labour districts. So far, he has only visited constituencies that his party already controls three times out of 23 total visits – a conservative strategy for a risk-averse platform.

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Each site selected is a significant stronghold for the major political groups. Similarly, the Green Party chose Hove for their launch, which is closely linked to Brighton Pavilion, where they won their inaugural and sole parliamentary seat.

Sir Ed Davey, who has maintained an air of mystery during his campaign, unexpectedly selected Hackney South & Shoreditch for his announcement, a constituency that has remained under Labour control since its inception, with Meg Hillier, chair of The Public Accounts Committee, serving as its MP since 2005.

Shortly thereafter, he resumed his offensive in Conservative strongholds, complementing it with a trip to Thorpe Park in Surrey where he took a ride on a rollercoaster.

For optimal video playback, it is recommended to use the Chrome browser.

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The prime president has been a solitary presence during the campaign, seldom accompanied by top figures from his party or making appearances in their constituencies.

Earlier this week, Sky News reported that much of the campaign material lacked his photo and the Conservative Party's usual branding. Interestingly, Nigel Farage, the leader of Reform, was featured on Andrea Jenkyns' promotional materials for Leeds South West, highlighting the challenges faced by Sunak.

Initially, he was battling challenges on two fronts, but it appears that the new Reform leader has now engaged in a third. Sunak's difficult week concluded with a YouGov survey indicating his party might have slipped into third place.

Which struggling cabinet ministers has Sunak visited to enhance their prospects?

This week, none were present, and from the beginning of the campaign, only two were involved.

During the initial week of campaigning, Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, was active in Central Devon, while Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, took to Melksham & Devizes in the following week.

He has made campaign stops at four additional constituencies where ministers face a tight race according to surveys. These include Justin Tomlinson in North Swindon, Jacob Young in Redcar, David Johnston in Didcot & Wantage, and David Rutley in Macclesfield.

As of now, the Prime Minister has not made any campaign stops to support Penny Mordaunt, Johnny Mercer, and Grant Shapps, all of whom are reportedly struggling to secure their positions in Parliament.

For an enhanced viewing experience, it is recommended to utilize the Chrome browser.

Sir Keir Starmer has largely avoided visiting the constituencies of his shadow cabinet members, choosing instead to bring many of them along as he campaigns in districts he aims to win from the Conservatives.

Key figures have been strategically placed in regions where they have strong support, such as deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, who has been active in northern English constituencies that recently switched from Labour to Conservative. Additionally, she has been targeting staunchly Conservative areas such as Macclesfield and Altrincham & Sale West, locations that have historically never elected a Labour MP.

Stay informed about the most recent developments in the UK and internationally by tuning into Sky News.

Conflict arises in regions crucial for Labour achieving a significant majority

During Wednesday's event hosted by Sky, Starmer hinted at his anticipation of leading the government.

A shift across the country of 8.3 points from the Conservatives to Labour would position Labour as the dominant party, while a swing of 12.7 points would secure them a parliamentary majority. Should Labour optimize its vote distribution better than before and capture additional constituencies in Scotland, the magnitude of the needed swing decreases.

To date, Starmer has made campaign stops in nine key districts needing less than an 8.3-point swing, compared to eleven that demand a larger shift in voter support. This week, he toured Redcar, a location that Sunak had visited the previous week.

Labour's nominee Anna Turley is attempting to reclaim her seat after her defeat to the Conservatives in 2019. Last week, we highlighted the significance of this contest for the strategies of both parties.

Stay ahead with the latest Breaking News

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He has only been to five locations where a swing greater than 12.7 is needed, including Nuneaton—a constituency that supported Brexit in the West Midlands, which was under Labour control during the early years of Tony Blair's tenure but has been with the Conservatives since David Cameron's era. Labour needs a 14.5-point swing to win there.

Out of the 34 electoral districts that Sunak has toured, 21 are competitive seats between the Conservatives and Labour that he is trying to hold onto. Seven of these seats could switch to Labour with a less than 8.3 percent swing, whereas eight would need a swing of over 12.7 percent to shift allegiance.

Sunak is also contending with challenges from the Liberal Democrats. He has campaigned in 11 constituencies, including a recent visit to Horsham in West Sussex, where the Liberal Democrats require a 15.5% swing to win.

Of the 27 campaign stops made by Davey, 25 have been in constituencies held by the Conservatives, requiring an average swing of 22.4 points to change hands.

Dr. Hannah Bunting serves as an elections analyst for Sky News and is also the Co-director of The Elections Centre at the University of Exeter.

The Data and Foreanalysis team at Sky News is comprised of a versatile group committed to delivering clear and honest journalism. This team collects, examines, and presents data to craft stories based on solid data evidence. They employ a blend of conventional journalistic techniques with sophisticated analysis of satellite imagery, social media, and various publicly accessible sources. By using multimedia storytelling, they strive to enhance understanding of global events and transparently demonstrate their journalistic processes.

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