Election 97

Future histories

Unless something extraordinary happens, the next general election will be in four or five years. Look ahead with us at the new electoral maps that could arise from the current situation.

All right, so we've got four or five years to wait for the next bout of general election fever - and it may not even be fought on the same system. Still, there's no harm in playing fantasy politics... Scroll to the bottom of this page and you'll find 25 maps of the UK, which will show just how bad - or good - things can get for the major parties. You may have to do a bit of left/right scrolling to appreciate the maps.

The horizontal axis of the swing matrix represents the next general election swing to Labour, starting with a 10 per cent swing away from Labour, and proceeding in 5 per cent increments to a 10 per cent swing towards the party.

Similarly, the vertical axis goes from a 10 per cent swing away from the Lib Dems, at the top, to 10 per cent towards them at the bottom. The result is that the (extremely improbable) map at top left represents a 20 per cent Tory swing with Labour reduced to pure core support. The (equally improbable) map at bottom right shows what happens with a 20 per cent swing away from the government. The inner ring of maps is somewhat more likely, but it's entertaining to take things to the limit.

It is unlikely that swing calculations like this will represent the true situation in any detail. The calculations are based on a straightforward calculation of 'uniform swing' - the assumption being that voters everywhere will behave in unison. In fact, as you will see from our constituency profiles, local factors and tactical voting are of supreme importance.

If these maps emphasise anything, it is that this election was an unmitigated disaster for the Tories. They now have an electoral mountain to climb to get back into government. Even a straight 10 per cent swing back to the Conservatives from Labour (not a completely impossible anti-government swing) merely results in a hung parliament - probably a Lab-Lib coalition. To look at all good, the Tories need a meltdown of the Lib Dem vote on these maps. Conversely, they must also avoid their ultimate nightmare - their replacement as the second party by the Lib Dems. This can start to happen on quite 'small' (compared with 1997 that is) swings away from the Tories, but stranger things have happened in our volatile first-past-the-post system.

Labour: -10% Labour: -5% Labour: 0% Labour: +5% Labour: +10%
Lib Dem: -10%
Lib Dem: -5%
Lib Dem: 0%
Lib Dem: +5%
Lib Dem: +10%