At the 2017 General Election, the results for the North East were:
The seats to watch on election night 2019 are: Darlington, Stockton South, Bishop Auckland, Sedgfield and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
If the Conservatives are to obtain a majority at this election, the seats in this region are the type they will have to gain. As a region the North East was 58% in favour of leaving the European Union, with the only reporting area in favour of Remain being Newcastle. Three key seats are Bishop Auckland, Stockton South and Darlington.
In these seats, Labour are defending majorities of fewer than 4,000, and all have significant Leave majorities. In Bishop Auckland, Labour’s majority is a mere 502 votes. Of the three constituencies mentioned above, this one also has the highest Leave vote. The main problem for the Conservatives is that it hasn’t voted for a party other than Labour since 1931, when the National Liberal candidate won. Stockton South is a slightly more complicated story. Labour won the seat back from the Conservatives in 2017 by 888 votes, due to the local unpopularity of previous MP James Wharton, who was blamed for his inaction over the collapse of the local steelworks, as well as the fact that the constituency was, relatively speaking, ignored by the Conservative campaign, in favour of neighbouring target seats. This election will be fought far harder by them this time, and they stand a good chance of regaining it.
Darlington has not elected a Conservative since 1987, when former defence minister Michael Fallon was its MP. In 2017, the Conservatives could achieve a very small swing from Labour, of 0.2%, and Jenny Chapman’s majority actually increased in numerical terms. As in the other two seats, much will depend on the performance of the Brexit party. The main question is which of the two main parties will they take more votes from. Estimates suggest that they gain twice as much support from the Conservatives as they do from Labour. For example, if they were to gain 10%, we would expect roughly 7% to come from people who would otherwise have voted Conservative, and 3% Labour. In many marginals, such a difference could decide the outcome in favour of Labour. The most recent poll in the North East suggests the Brexit Party could get up to 13%, enough to deny the Conservatives several seats, if the estimates on where they draw their support from is true.
Labour’s top target is Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. This seat, like Canterbury, typifies the realignment that is currently taking place in many UK seats. Labour have held this seat since its 1997 creation until it was gained by Conservative in 2017 by a little over 1,000 votes. Its 65% Leave majority, the sixth-highest in the region, suggests that they are unlikely to regain it.
Minor parties have little to feed on in this region. The Liberal Democrats best hope is probably England’s most northerly seat of Berwick-upon-Tweed, where they gained 21% of the vote, their highest for this region, in 2017. However, a constituency poll released by Deltapoll suggests that they have failed to gain any ground since then, with the Conservatives set to increase their majority.
In summary, the Conservatives are likely to make two or three gains here, but Labour have big enough majorities in most seats to ensure they should be able to see off challenges in seats such as Sedgefield and Hartlepool, where the Conservatives have to overturn majorities of over 6,000.