What Labour needs to be in the frame for 50 seats

Liam Weeks

Given the recent analysis on this site and in the media (see RTE’s Late Debate from 23 June) on Labour’s potential performance at the next election, I have analysed the results from 2007 to see what Labour needs to do to win 50 seats, a figure that has been suggested in some quarters.

I have excluded 8 constituencies where the Labour vote was less than 5%, the highest of these being Cork North West (4.91%) and the lowest Mayo (1.16%).

This assumes then that Labour will win at least one seat in the remaining 35 constituencies and two seats in 15 of these constituencies. Based on Adrian Kavanagh’s analysis of recent opinion polls the constituencies I deemed most likely where Labour could win 2 seats are:

Cork East, Dublin Central, Dublin MidWest, Dublin North, Dublin South, Dublin SouthCentral, Dublin SouthEast, Dublin SouthWest, Dublin West, Dun Laoghaire, Kildare North, LongfordWestmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.

If Labour is to win 50 seats from these chosen constituencies, it needs some pretty remarkable swings in its vote. (The following analysis is based on the size of the electorate from 2007, which is likely to have increased in 2012). To calculate what vote Labour needs the limit chosen is 0.8 of a quota from first preferences (ie 13% to win one seat in a five-seat constituency, 41% to win 2 seats in a four-seat constituency). This proportion of votes does not necessarily guarantee victory (it is a rather conservative estimate that minimises the Labour swings required), but it enables us to see how the cards would fall on a good day for Labour.

The increased level of support in each constituency is detailed in a table below, but the following is a summary of some of the more interesting statistics:

Beginning in Cork East, it would require a 53% increase in the party’s vote to be in with a shout of winning 2 seats, while a 107% increase is required in Cork South-West to win one seat.

In Dublin, where the many of the party’s two-seat victories are expected to transpire, here is what Labour requires to be in the frame: a 155% increase in Dublin Central, 233% in Dublin North, 193% in Dublin MidWest, 175% in Dublin NorthCentral, 161% in Dublin South, 92% in Dublin SouthEast and 134% in Dublin West.

Outside of the capital, being competitive in Kerry North requires an 83% increase in the party vote, 48% in Kerry South, 83% in Kildare North (for 2 seats), 255% in Limerick West, 81% in Longford Westmeath (for 2 seats), 221% in Louth, 414% in Sligo-Leitirm, 95% in Tipperary North and 128% in Tipperary South.

Spare a thought for Jerry Cowley, however. He needs to increase the Labour vote by 1072% in Mayo to be in with a chance of winning a seat.

Of course, since many of the polls are suggesting that Labour’s national vote will increase by 150%, perhaps some of these victories are possible, particularly in Dublin. The opinion polls suggest this is certainly a feasible target, but an increase of 150% would only suffice if (1) the gains stated below were achieved evenly across each constituency, (2) if the vote was divided evenly between Labour candidates and (3) if they manage to pick up enough transfers to move from 0.8 of a quota per candidate to a full one. The occurrence of all three is an unlikely scenario as the surge in the Labour vote per constituency will be very much related to the strength of its local organisation. Taking this into account Labour needs well over 500,000 voters to cast a first preference for one of its candidates in 2012 if the 50 seat target is to be realised (with a stronger organisation Fine Gael won 51 seats from 564,000 votes in 2007). It would be more a hurricane than a gale if such a swing was to occur.

Const DM S07 V07 Inc2012 S2012
Ckk 5 0 9.4 45 1
CM 5 0 1.2 1222 0
Clare 4 0 1.6 913 0
CkE 4 1 20.9 53 2
CkNC 4 1 12.3 30 1
CkNW 3 0 4.9 307 0
CkSC 5 1 9.3 47 1
CkSW 3 0 9.6 107 1
DonNE 3 0 1.8 999 0
DonSW 3 0 2.8 617 0
DubC 4 1 12.6 155 2
DubMW 4 1 10.9 193 2
DubN 4 0 9.6 233 2
DubNC 3 0 7.3 175 1
DubNE 3 1 15.2 32 1
DubNW 3 1 20.3 -1 1
DubS 5 0 10.4 161 2
DubSC 5 1 21.1 29 2
DubSE 4 1 16.7 92 2
DubSW 4 1 20.0 60 2
DubW 3 1 17.1 134 2
DunL 5 1 16.0 70 2
GalE 4 0 3.1 411 0
GalW 5 1 11.1 23 1
KyN 3 0 10.9 83 1
KyS 3 0 13.5 48 1
KildN 4 1 17.4 83 2
KildS 3 1 20.7 -3 1
LaOff 5 0 2.4 471 0
LkE 5 1 10.3 32 1
LkW 3 0 5.6 255 1
LongWth 4 1 17.7 81 2
Louth 4 0 5.0 221 1
Mayo 5 0 1.2 1072 0
MthE 3 0 11.9 68 1
MthW 3 0 4.0 395 1
RoscL 3 0 1.8 1005 0
SliLei 3 0 3.9 414 1
TippN 3 0 10.3 95 1
TippS 3 0 8.8 128 1
Wat 4 1 11.3 41 1
Wex 5 1 13.8 98 2
Ww 5 1 16.3 66 2
Tot 166 20 10.1 180 50

Note: S07=seats won 2007; V07=% votes won 2007; Inc2012=% increase in votes required to win 50 seats in 2012; s2012=predicted number of seats 2012 (to reach 50)

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3 thoughts on “What Labour needs to be in the frame for 50 seats

  1. They would also need to find more than 50 candidates to run. The days of Thomas J. O’Connell are long gone.

  2. Liam, I think you may have a calculation wrong (or perhaps it’s just a typo).
    You say that 41% is required to win two seats in a four seater. But that’s more than two quotas. Realistically, 30%+ can deliver two seats – perhaps 35% to be on the safe side. e.g. in CNC in the last GE, FF took two seats in a 4 seater with 36% of the vote. They fell short in DSE with 29%.
    With high transfer appeal, that might drop lower, but I think 35% is reasonable.

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