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Which are the ‘bellwether’ seats at this election?

History suggests whichever party wins Dartford will also form the government.

The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at the Dartford crossing of the River Thames (Sean Dempsey/PA)
The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at the Dartford crossing of the River Thames (Sean Dempsey/PA)

By Ian Jones, PA

In general elections, constituencies where the local result has a habit of matching the national result are known as “bellwethers”.

These are seats that tend to change hands only when the government itself changes hands.

A handful of constituencies have been bellwethers for decades, and as such are watched closely for what they may – or may not – suggest about the overall election result.

The seat with the longest track record of being a bellwether is Dartford.

Since 1964, whichever party wins Dartford has also gone on to form the government.

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(PA Graphics)

At this election, Conservative candidate Gareth Johnson is defending a majority in Dartford of 13,186.

For the seat to change hands on December 12, there would have to be a large swing to Labour of 12.2%.

Elsewhere, three seats have been bellwethers at every general election since February 1974: Loughborough, Northampton North and Watford.

All three are on Labour’s target list at this election, and would fall on swings of 4.0%, 1.0% and 1.8% respectively.

Worcester has been a bellwether since 1979. At the 1997 general election, attracting the support of so-called Worcester woman was considered by Labour to be vital for victory nationwide.

At this election, Labour would need a swing of 2.5% to take Worcester, where Conservative candidate Robin Walker is defending a majority of 2,490.

There are also four seats that have been bellwethers since 1983: Amber Valley, Corby, Norwich North and Reading West.

Of these, Norwich North offers Labour the best chance of victory, with a 0.6% swing enough to overturn the Conservative majority of 507.

PA

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