Our General Election model is fully underway now, and on our election page you can track how each party has been doing, and the odds of each individual seat.
In our last article, we saw that the number of independent candidates could be as high as 6. This would be extraordinary; British politics is very difficult for independent candidates - there was only one elected in each of the last 4 General Elections. In this article we'll look through the seats where the independents have a chance of winning.
Chorley - 99.6%
This hardly counts, but we'll go through it as it is counted as an Independent in our model. Chorley is the seat of the new Speaker of the House (Lindsay Hoyle), who does not sit on the benches in the chamber. By convention, the big parties don't challenge for this seat, although the Greens (and another independent called Mark Brexit-Smith) are.
It's a ridiculous situation, as it effectively deprives the people of Chorley of actual representation in the Commons, but regardless it's the system we have. Anyway, this is the most nailed-on result.
Ashfield - 22.2%
There hasn't been much coverage of Ashfield this election but this is one of the most interesting seats, because it has a very local angle. The independent candidate here is Jason Zadrozny, of the party Ashfield Independents. This party hold 30/35 seats in the Ashfield District Council, and Zadrozny is leader of said council. A former Liberal Democrat, he now advocates a strong Leave position. This seat is currently held by Labour, but our model has them as third favourites behind the Conservatives, then Zadrozny:
East Devon - 16.1%
A good rule-of-thumb for election night is that if a constituency's name is of the format [cardinal point] [English county] then it is likely to be a very safe Conservative hold. E.g. East Yorkshire, North East Herefordshire, etc.
East Devon is no different, returning Conservatives in every single election ever held here. In each of the last two elections, independent Claire Wright has finished second here, cutting the Conservative lead from 22.4% in 2015 to 13.3% in 2017. With the incumbent Hugo Swire standing down, Wright has her best chance yet of taking the seat.
Recent polling has Wright as the only realistic challenger in this seat, and this is reflected in our model:
Beaconsfield - 12.3%
This is a seat where the Liberal Democrats have stood down. Beaconsfield is one of the 35 seats where an Independent is incumbent, after a tumultuous parliament with numerous MPs either resigning the whip or having it taken away from them. This is the latter, as this is Dominic Grieve's seat. Grieve has been arguably the backbench MP who has tabled the most effective bills, helping parliament stop a no deal Brexit.
Whilst the Lib Dems have helped Grieve, the Brexit Party have helped the Conservatives try and win back this seat, by declining to stand a candidate here. Partly as a result of that, Grieve is a distance second-favourite here:
There are a further four seats with at least 1% chance of an independent winning.
Three of these are like Beaconsfield in that the incumbent left their party in the last parliament and are now standing against them. In South West Hertfordshire former Conservative Justice Secretary David Gauke has a 4.2% chance of defeating his former party. Similarly, former minister Anne Milton has a 1.4% chance of retaining Guildford.
Meanwhile, in Luton South Gavin Shuker is taking on Labour after becoming an independent - via Change UK. He has a 1.0% chance of winning, and is third in the running behind Labour then the Conservatives.
The remaining independent isn't an incumbent, but is a familiar face, as the once-feline George Galloway challenges in West Bromwich East. Galloway describes himself as supportive of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, but pro-Brexit. Therefore it is likely he picked this seat as its incumbent is Tom Watson, someone who is seen as a figurehead of the faction of Labour that is very pro-Remain and somewhat hostile to Corbyn. However, Watson has stood down, probably neautralising one of Galloway's attack lines. Galloway is given a 2.2% chance of winning, and is also third in the running behind Labour then the Conservatives.
Personally, I feel that party politics is detrimental to the country, and that independent-minded MPs are a credit. There are MPs in safe seats who simply turn up to votes and get pushed into the correct lobby by their whips.
The last parliament saw numerous MPs exert their individuality, so it will be interesting to see whether the next parliament is the same. Electing independent MPs would be a step towards that.