2005 Elections

A surge to the centre

The BBC sums up the vote in the 2005 General Election as a "3.0 percent swing from LAB to CON" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/constituencies/default.stm) .

But if we look at how the share of the vote between the three big parties has changed in each constituency from 2001 to 2005, we see a different picture.

animation of the move in proportions of votes
  • Each cross represents a constituency in England, Scotland or Wales.
  • A cross's position shows how the share of the vote won by the three big parties was split between them in that constituency.
  • A cross in the red zone usually means a Labour win, but in a few cases the seat was won by a fourth party (e.g. the SNP) while Labour got more votes than Conservative and Liberal Democrat. Similarly for crosses in the orange and blue zones.
  • You can interpret the movement of seats as two-way swing by referring to this diagram:
    directions of swing
  • Outside the triangle of black lines there is no argument about which of the three big parties voters preferred. Inside are seats where the winner got less than 50 per cent of the 3-way vote. With a different voting system like approval or alternative voting, these seats could have been won by a different party.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Upward not sideways?

The clustering of votes in the centre is even clearer if we compare Labour, Conservative and Other (which includes the Lib Dems, Nationalists and Independents). Here is the current picture, with a significant majority of seats inside the black triangle.

seat map with Other instead of LD

How did your constituency move?

You can change the two maps here to apply to your constituency by clicking on the appropriate link below.

2001 status 2005 status
Your constituency in 2001 Your constituency in 2005
Aberavon Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Aberdeen North Ipswich
Aberdeen South Isle of Wight
Aberdeenshire W & Kincardine Islington North
Airdrie & Shotts Islington South & Finsbury
Aldershot Islwyn
Aldridge - Brownhills Jarrow
Altrincham & Sale West Keighley
Alyn & Deeside Kensington & Chelsea
Amber Valley Kettering
Angus Kilmarnock & Loudoun
Argyll & Bute Kingston & Surbiton
Arundel & South Downs Kingswood
Ashfield Kirkcaldy and Loudon
Ashford Knowsley North & Sefton East
Ashton under Lyne Knowsley South
Aylesbury Lanark and Hamilton East
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock Lancashire West
Ayrshire Central Lancaster & Wyre
Ayrshire North and Arran Leeds Central
Banbury Leeds East
Banff & Buchan Leeds North East
Barking Leeds North West
Barnsley Central Leeds West
Barnsley East & Mexborough Leicester East
Barnsley West & Penistone Leicester South
Barrow & Furness Leicester West
Basildon Leicestershire North West
Basingstoke Leigh
Bassetlaw Leominster
Bath Lewes
Batley & Spen Lewisham Deptford
Battersea Lewisham East
Beaconsfield Lewisham West
Beckenham Leyton & Wanstead
Bedford Lichfield
Bedfordshire Mid Lincoln
Bedfordshire North East Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Bedfordshire South West Liverpool Garston
Berwick-upon-Tweed Liverpool Riverside
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk Liverpool Walton
Bethnal Green & Bow Liverpool Wavertree
Beverley & Holderness Liverpool West Derby
Bexhill & Battle Livingston
Bexleyheath & Crayford Llanelli
Billericay Loughborough
Birkenhead Louth & Horncastle
Birmingham Edgbaston Ludlow
Birmingham Erdington Luton North
Birmingham Hall Green Luton South
Birmingham Hodge Hill Macclesfield
Birmingham Ladywood Maidenhead
Birmingham Northfield Maidstone & The Weald
Birmingham Perry Barr Makerfield
Birmingham Selly Oak Maldon & Chelmsford East
Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath Manchester Blackley
Birmingham Yardley Manchester Central
Bishop Auckland Manchester Gorton
Blaby Manchester Withington
Blackburn Mansfield
Blackpool North & Fleetwood Medway
Blackpool South Meirionnydd Nant Conwy
Blaenau Gwent Meriden
Blaydon Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney
Blyth Valley Middlesbrough
Bognor Regis & Littlehampton Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East
Bolsover Midlothian
Bolton North East Milton Keynes North East
Bolton South East Milton Keynes South West
Bolton West Mitcham & Morden
Bootle Mole Valley
Boston & Skegness Monmouth
Bosworth Montgomeryshire
Bournemouth East Moray
Bournemouth West Morecambe & Lunesdale
Bracknell Morley & Rothwell
Bradford North Motherwell & Wishaw
Bradford South Na h-Eileanan An Iar
Bradford West Neath
Braintree New Forest East
Brecon & Radnorshire New Forest West
Brent East Newark
Brent North Newbury
Brent South Newcastle-under-Lyme
Brentford & Isleworth Newcastle upon Tyne Central
Brentwood & Ongar Newcastle upon Tyne East & Wallsend
Bridgend Newcastle upon Tyne North
Bridgwater Newport East
Brigg & Goole Newport West
Brighton Kemptown Norfolk Mid
Brighton Pavilion Norfolk North
Bristol East Norfolk North West
Bristol North West Norfolk South
Bristol South Norfolk South West
Bristol West Normanton
Bromley & Chislehurst Northampton North
Bromsgrove Northampton South
Broxbourne Northavon
Broxtowe Norwich North
Buckingham Norwich South
Burnley Nottingham East
Burton Nottingham North
Bury North Nottingham South
Bury South Nuneaton
Bury St Edmunds Ochil and South Perthshire
Caernarfon Ogmore
Caerphilly Old Bexley & Sidcup
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Oldham East & Saddleworth
Calder Valley Oldham West & Royton
Camberwell & Peckham Orkney & Shetland
Cambridge Orpington
Cambridgeshire North East Oxford East
Cambridgeshire North West Oxford West & Abingdon
Cambridgeshire South Paisley and Renfrewshire North
Cambridgeshire South East Paisley and Renfrewshire South
Cannock Chase Pendle
Canterbury Penrith & The Border
Cardiff Central Perth and North Perthshire
Cardiff North Peterborough
Cardiff South & Penarth Plymouth Devonport
Cardiff West Plymouth Sutton
Carlisle Pontefract & Castleford
Carmarthen East & Dinefwr Pontypridd
Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South Poole
Carshalton & Wallington Poplar & Canning Town
Castle Point Portsmouth North
Ceredigion Portsmouth South
Charnwood Preseli Pembrokeshire
Chatham & Aylesford Preston
Cheadle Pudsey
Chelmsford West Putney
Cheltenham Rayleigh
Chesham & Amersham Reading East
City of Chester Reading West
Chesterfield Redcar
Chichester Redditch
Chingford & Woodford Green Regent's Park & Kensington North
Chipping Barnet Reigate
Chorley Renfrewshire East
Christchurch Rhondda
Cities of London & Westminster Ribble South
Cleethorpes Ribble Valley
Clwyd South Richmond (Yorks)
Clwyd West Richmond Park
Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill Rochdale
Colchester Rochford & Southend East
Colne Valley Romford
Congleton Romsey
Conwy Ross, Skye & Lochaber
Copeland Rossendale & Darwen
Corby Rother Valley
Cornwall North Rotherham
Cornwall South East Rugby & Kenilworth
Cotswold Ruislip Northwood
Coventry North East Runnymede & Weybridge
Coventry North West Rushcliffe
Coventry South Rutherglen & Hamilton West
Crawley Rutland & Melton
Crewe & Nantwich Ryedale
Crosby Saffron Walden
Croydon Central St Albans
Croydon North St Helens North
Croydon South St Helens South
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch E St Ives
Cynon Valley Salford
Dagenham Salisbury
Darlington Scarborough & Whitby
Dartford Scunthorpe
Daventry Sedgefield
Delyn Selby
Denton & Reddish Sevenoaks
Derby North Sheffield Attercliffe
Derby South Sheffield Brightside
Derbyshire North East Sheffield Central
Derbyshire South Sheffield Hallam
Derbyshire West Sheffield Heeley
Devizes Sheffield Hillsborough
Devon East Sherwood
Devon North Shipley
Devon South West Shrewsbury & Atcham
Devon West & Torridge Shropshire North
Dewsbury Sittingbourne & Sheppey
Don Valley Skipton & Ripon
Doncaster Central Sleaford & North Hykeham
Doncaster North Slough
Dorset Mid & Poole North Solihull
Dorset North Somerton & Frome
Dorset South South Holland & The Deepings
Dorset West South Shields
Dover Southampton Itchen
Dudley North Southampton Test
Dudley South Southend West
Dulwich & West Norwood Southport
Dumfries and Galloway Southwark North & Bermondsey
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale Spelthorne
Dunbartonshire West Stafford
Dunbartonshire East Staffordshire Moorlands
Dundee East Staffordshire South (2001 figures - candidate death)
Dundee West Stalybridge & Hyde
Dunfermline & West Fife Stevenage
Durham North Stirling
Durham North West Stockport
City of Durham Stockton North
Ealing Acton & Shepherd's Bush Stockton South
Ealing North Stoke-on-Trent Central
Ealing Southall Stoke-on-Trent North
Easington Stoke-on-Trent South
East Ham Stone
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow Stourbridge
East Lothian Stratford-on-Avon
Eastbourne Streatham
Eastleigh Stretford & Urmston
Eccles Stroud
Eddisbury Suffolk Central & Ipswich North
Edinburgh East Suffolk Coastal
Edinburgh North & Leith Suffolk South
Edinburgh South Suffolk West
Edinburgh South West Sunderland North
Edinburgh West Sunderland South
Edmonton Surrey East
Ellesmere Port & Neston Surrey Heath
Elmet Surrey South West
Eltham Sussex Mid
Enfield North Sutton & Cheam
Enfield Southgate Sutton Coldfield
Epping Forest Swansea East
Epsom & Ewell Swansea West
Erewash Swindon North
Erith & Thamesmead Swindon South
Esher & Walton Tamworth
Essex North Tatton
Exeter Taunton
Falkirk Teignbridge
Falmouth & Camborne Telford
Fareham Tewkesbury
Faversham & Kent Mid Thanet North
Feltham & Heston Thanet South
Fife North East Thurrock
Finchley & Golders Green Tiverton & Honiton
Folkestone & Hythe Tonbridge & Malling
Forest of Dean Tooting
Fylde Torbay
Gainsborough Torfaen
Gateshead East & Washington West Totnes
Gedling Tottenham
Gillingham Truro & St Austell
Glasgow Central Tunbridge Wells
Glasgow East Twickenham
Glasgow North Tyne Bridge
Glasgow North East Tynemouth
Glasgow North West Tyneside North
Glasgow South Upminster
Glasgow South West Uxbridge
Glenrothes Vale of Clwyd
Gloucester Vale of Glamorgan
Gordon Vale of York
Gosport Vauxhall
Gower Wakefield
Grantham & Stamford Wallasey
Gravesham Walsall North
Great Grimsby Walsall South
Great Yarmouth Walthamstow
Greenwich & Woolwich Wansbeck
Guildford Wansdyke
Hackney North & Stoke Newington Wantage
Hackney South & Shoreditch Warley
Halesowen & Rowley Regis Warrington North
Halifax Warrington South
Haltemprice & Howden Warwick & Leamington
Halton Warwickshire North
Hammersmith & Fulham Watford
Hampshire East Waveney
Hampshire North East Wealden
Hampshire North West Weaver Vale
Hampstead & Highgate Wellingborough
Harborough Wells
Harlow Welwyn Hatfield
Harrogate & Knaresborough Wentworth
Harrow East West Bromwich East
Harrow West West Bromwich West
Hartlepool West Ham
Harwich Westbury
Hastings & Rye Westmorland & Lonsdale
Havant Weston-Super-Mare
Hayes & Harlington Wigan
Hazel Grove Wiltshire North
Hemel Hempstead Wimbledon
Hemsworth Winchester
Hendon Windsor
Henley Wirral South
Hereford Wirral West
Hertford & Stortford Witney
Hertfordshire North East Woking
Hertfordshire South West Wokingham
Hertsmere Wolverhampton North East
Hexham Wolverhampton South East
Heywood & Middleton Wolverhampton South West
High Peak Woodspring
Hitchin & Harpenden Worcester
Holborn & St Pancras Worcestershire Mid
Hornchurch Worcestershire West
Hornsey & Wood Green Workington
Horsham Worsley
Houghton & Washington East Worthing East & Shoreham
Hove Worthing West
Huddersfield The Wrekin
Hull East Wrexham
Hull North Wycombe
Hull West & Hessle Wyre Forest
Huntingdon Wythenshawe & Sale East
Hyndburn Yeovil
Ilford North Ynys Mon
Ilford South York
Inverclyde Yorkshire East

Why three-way?

Most ways of summing up elections are two-way: "Swing", "X majority over Y". But most elections are multi-way and the overall picture is more complicated than just the average of lots of little pictures. A multi-way visualization is valuable, not only because many people support third, fourth and fifth parties, but also because it shows the electorate is not a homogeneous lump who "wanted a Labour government with a reduced majority, and that's what the election gave them", which seems to be the pundits' favourite analysis.

A three-way visualization doesn't tell the full multi-party story, but it's a step in the right direction. The pictures above (for 2001) were the first I'd seen. After a Google search turned up only the 3D swingometer on Wikipedia, I tried to do better and came up with the triangular map. But someone at the BBC had beaten me to it: Peter Snow had one on Election 2005 -- and a much more beautiful one than mine. Peter's didn't really show the reality of a 3-party contest though -- he kept calling it a battleground and fixated on the fronts, where the battles were all two-way, as usual. People turned a different colour when they "fell in battle" instead of moving. It's no surprise that the BBC also didn't have the black inner triangle. Pointing out how many contests have questionable outcomes doesn't have the drama of winner-takes-all conflicts. But it would allow Peter to do some interesting what-ifs if we had an alternative vote system:

differently colour map Peter: What if all those non-Labour voters in Labour seats were prepared to use their second preference votes to get Labour out at any cost?
differently colour map Peter: But what if they were saying, let's give Labour a kicking but not let the Tories in?

The first example assumes that Labour voters don't want either Con or LD in non-Labour seats (reflecting the Labour/non-Labour antagonism of Peter's hypothetical question), whereas the second example assumes Labour voters share the "don't let the Tories in" philosophy so prefer LD in non-Labour seats. Those arguments may be a little too nuanced for Election night TV, but they're plausible, and they show how people's preferences really can affect outcomes under the alternative vote.

Some more reasons to adopt the alternative vote rather than first-past-the-post are given here.

John Robinson