Election 97

Alternative worlds

Tory meltdown, Labour letdown, or Lib Dem false dawn? Explore the wilder reaches of swing with 25 alternative maps of the UK

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, but we make no apology for that - it's worth it.

The horizontal axis of the swing matrix represents the 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.

Having said that, the maps do show one or two important things. First off, they outline the areas that constitute rock-solid bastions for the three parties, for example the Lib Dem fiefdoms in the West country, Labour's urban strongholds, and the firm Tory hold on the rural Home Counties and North Yorkshire.

Second, they strongly illustrate a very real effect - that any swing to the Liberal Democrats is of much more benefit to Labour than to the Tories. Very few seats are straight Labour-Liberal Democrat fights, but in many parts of the country the Lib Dems constitute an alternative opposition, and can either take seats directly or, of great interest to Labour, lop enough votes from the government to allow Labour in. Keep watching the polls...

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%