The resounding Conservative victory was driven by a dramatic swing of working-class support away from Labour, according to an FT analysis.
Boris Johnson’s party secured a big win in Thursday’s election as Labour collapsed across the country, leaving the Tories with a majority of 80 seats as Labour fell to its lowest number of MPs in 84 years. The Conservatives won 365 seats to Labour’s 202.
In seats with high shares of people in low-skilled jobs, the Conservative vote share increased by an average of six percentage points and the Labour share fell by 14 points. In seats with the lowest share of low-skilled jobs, the Tory vote share fell by four points and Labour’s fell by seven.
The swing of working class areas from Labour to Conservative had the strongest statistical association of any explored by the FT. But although working class support for Brexit was one of the biggest factors at the ballot box, some voters’ dislike of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was also key in pushing people away from the party.
Turnout also appears to have helped the Conservatives. The ruling party fared best relative to Labour and the Liberal Democrats where turnout fell compared with 2017, and worse where turnout rose. This suggests that in many battleground constituencies, most of the voters who stayed at home this time were Labour supporters, thereby lowering the bar to success for the Tories.
The Conservatives were helped by a failed attempt at a co-ordinated anti-Tory tactical voting campaign. Across the country as a whole, turnout fell 1.7 percentage points in the average constituency. But in seats won by the Tories two years ago that had voted strongly for Remain in the EU referendum, turnout rose by 1.4 points, suggesting a surge of Remain voters seeking to unseat the Tories.
The Remain tactical vote, however, made little headway. One of its biggest successes came in St Albans, where the Labour vote fell by 14 percentage points and the Lib Dems ticked up by 18 points, lifting them above the Conservatives into first place.
But in Kensington, the Remain vote was split as Labour fell by four points and the Lib Dems ticked up by nine. This gave the Conservatives a narrow 150 vote win over Labour, which had only taken the seat off the Tories in 2017 by a margin of 20.
In nearby Wimbledon, many Labour voters appear to have lent their support to the Lib Dems in an attempt to unseat the Conservatives, but ultimately their efforts fell just short and Tory incumbent Stephen Hammond squeezed home with a margin of about 700 votes.
The data also suggest the Brexit party played an important role in the Conservatives’ success. Where the Brexit party contested seats, they took more votes from Labour than the Tories, and Labour suffered greater losses on average where the Brexit party stood than where it did not.
This was most evident in the region of Yorkshire and the Humber where the Brexit party had their best performances. For example, in the Don Valley seat, the Brexit party picked up 15 per cent of the vote as Labour’s share fell by 19 percentage points. Despite the strong showing by the Brexit party, the Conservative vote share ticked up from 42 to 43 per cent, allowing the Tories to unseat Labour’s Caroline Flint.