In Depth

How many seats do Labour and the Tories need to win?

The UK's main parties are shooting for widely varying magic numbers at the upcoming election

The outcome of the 12 December election will decide the direction of both Brexit and Britain as a whole - but how many seats does each party need to secure to lead the nation?

As the clock ticks down until polling day, here are the current numbers:

Conservatives 298Labour 243Scottish National Party 35Independents 24Liberal Democrats 20Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 10Sinn Fein 7The Independent Group for Change 5Plaid Cymru 4Green Party 1Speaker 1Vacant 2

How many seats are needed for a majority?

To win an election and form a government, a party needs to get one more seat than all the others added together. As there are 650 seats in parliament, that means they must win at least 326 seats to govern. The size of the majority is the number of extra seats the winning party has. If one party won 326, then the total of seats held by other parties would be 324 and the majority would be two.

Since 2010, the UK has only had one majority government, when David Cameron won in 2015. In 2010, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems formed a coalition government after no party won an overall majority, and in 2017, the Conservatives entered a confidence and supply arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to remain in power.

What is the Tory government’s situation now?

When the upcoming election was called last month, the Tories had 298 seats, while the opposition parties had 352. These figures give the impression that the other parties have a majority of 54 over the government. However, this majority is actually 44, because Irish party Sinn Fein, which holds seven seats, has a tradition of not attending the Commons, while the speaker and their two deputies are excluded from voting.

All the same, the Conservative government is lagging in the numbers stakes, largely as a result of the ongoing row over Brexit. In September, Johnson removed the Tory whip from 21 Conservative MPs after they voted against his Brexit withdrawal bill. Although 11 later had the whip restored, the government’s official majority was reduced by ten.

In addition, Charlie Elphicke had the Tory whip removed after being convicted of sexual assault, Amber Rudd resigned from the party to sit as an independent, and Phililp Lee crossed the floor to join the Liberal Democrats. Lee’s defection came during a speech by Johnson and reduced the prime minister’s working majority to zero.

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How many seats does Labour have?

Labour holds 243 seats, down from the 262 after the 2017 election. Like the Conservatives, Labour has also seen its number of seats diminished by resignations and suspensions.

Most notably, eight Labour MPs resigned from the party in February to form The Independent Group for Change. The party also suspended Chris Williamson in June following a series of anti-Semitism scandals, as well as removing the whip from Ivan Lewis, Stephen Hepburn and Kelvin Hopkins over sexual assault allegations.

Jared O’Mara was suspended after making sexist and homophobic statements, while Louise Ellman resigned from the party in October in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

So how many seats would Corbyn need for a majority?

To reach the magic 326 seats needed to gain an absolute majority, Labour would need to win an additional 83 seats, while holding on to all of the party’s gains from 2017.

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