Thirteen HE seats to watch on election night

In 2017, a historic Labour gain in Canterbury came out of left field to become a defining election moment.

It fostered earnest discussion of the student vote, and the coining of the word “youthquake”. Arguably, this directly led to hugely expensive changes to the student loan repayment threshold in England, and the advent of the Augar report.

This time round, we’ve been looking at various potential impacts from student voting and HE experience throughout the campaign. I’ve build you all a HE-slanted election dashboard to keep you informed throughout the evening – showing the results of the two recent YouGov MRP polls, alongside student numbers, demographic data by generation, and participation rates, alongside the likely time of declaration as published by the Press Association.


So on election night, here are thirteen seats worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

Putney – 2am Friday

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Former Education Secretary Justine Greening stood down from her party and then parliament, and her former seat in Putney – which was a safe Conservative seat as recently as 2015, is now a marginal that the Conservatives are very likely to lose. Ten thousand students at Roehampton could be a key factor – as Labour candidate Fleur Anderson centres her campaign around remaining in the EU, in a seat where only 28 per cent voted to leave, one of the lowest figures in the country.

Arfon – 2am Friday

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Many seats in Wales are three- or even four-way marginals, so we can look forward to some very interesting results. In a constituency that supports eight thousand University of Bangor students, it appears that Plaid Cymru incumbent (and former academic) Hywel Williams will expand on his 2017 majority of just 92 votes.

Newcastle-under-Lyme – 3am, Friday

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Keele University is a major employer in this leave-voting Staffordshire marginal, which was won by Labour with just 30 votes in 2017. This time round it is widely expected that the Conservative’s Aaron Bell will take the seat, so a strong student vote would be crucial for Labour if they want to keep hold of a constituency they have won in every election since Josiah Wedgewood was elected in 1922.

Wolverhampton South West – 3am, Friday

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It’s absolutely too close to call. Labour are defending a 2,185 majority (and nearly 19,000 University of Wolverhampton students will be surely be of some help here), but the initial polling showing a Conservative gain has narrowed, mostly down to a tactical swing away from the Liberal Democrats. But will it be enough?

Portsmouth South – 3.30am, Friday

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Portsmouth was a marginal Labour gain in 2017, and Stephen Morgan looks set to solidify the vote this time round. Nearly around 20,000 students study at the University of Portsmouth, and a sharp rise in the majority would very likely be attributed to them.

Canterbury – 4am, Friday

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Rosie Duffield’s unexpected 187 majority was the first ever Labour victory in this traditionally Conservative (though narrowly remain voting seat) seat – and much subsequent analysis focused on more than 20,000 students at two universities. Polling suggests that the Labour lead will be extended in 2019.

North East Fife – 4am, Friday

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The UK’s most marginal seat was held by the SNP, an incredible two votes ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Polls are again too close to call, so every vote (including those of around 6,000 students at St Andrews University) will be important.

Ipswich – 4am, Friday

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The rapidly growing University of Suffolk sits within the Ipswich constituency. In 2017 Labour Sandy Martin took this heavily leave slanted seat from the Conservatives with 831 votes. Current polling suggests a Conservative MP in the next parliament, but there could well be an upset.

Ceredigion – 4am, Friday

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Plaid Cymru’s Ben Lake took this seat, which includes the University of Aberystwyth, by 104 votes in 2017. Polling initially showed him comfortably in the lead for the 2019 election, but this lead has begun to narrow over the end of the campaign.

Cheltenham – 4am, Friday

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A two and a half thousand vote Conservative majority has been reduced, if the YouGov MRP is to be believed, to almost nothing. Around 8,000 University of Gloucestershire students – and a remain-leaning young town- voting tactically could swing this seat for the Liberal Democrats.

Uxbridge and South Ruislip – 4.30am, Friday

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Boris Johnson losing his seat would be the biggest shock of the night, as former Brunel SU president and Labour candidate Ali Milani attempts to overturn a five-thousand vote majority. The PM is famously not popular in the constituency, and there are more than 10,000 student votes potentially in play.

Southampton Itchen – 5am, Friday

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Narrowly held (31 votes) by the Conservatives in 2017, South Itchen is unlikely to change hands this time round. As strongly leave-voting constituency, around eight thousand student votes from Southampton Solent could be vital to any challenge.

Edinburgh South West – 5am Friday

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Joanna Cherry is a popular and prominent remain campaigning MP, and as such her thousand vote majority is likely to increase in a constituency with two large universities and a large number of young voters. Scottish Conservatives are throwing a lot of effort at this seat too, so it may end up much closer than we imagine.

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