General Election 2019: What to look out for as Black Country and Staffordshire voters have their say
Voters across the West Midlands are heading to the polls today for a landmark vote, with major changes to our society guaranteed whichever party comes out on top.
It is the most important general election in decades, bringing a result that will determine the course of Britain’s future.
Boris Johnson, who has based his campaign on a pledge to finally deliver Brexit, needs an extra nine seats to gain the majority he needs to drive through his withdrawal deal.
Labour is promising radical change should Jeremy Corbyn gain the keys to Number 10, with plans in place for nationalisation of key services and tax hikes for big business and the rich in a bid to fund an £83 billion spending spree.
- Follow expressandstar.com/ from 10pm for live updates from across the counts
Mr Johnson needs key seats in the West Midlands to strengthen his position.
The Tories are targeting the two West Bromwich seats, two seats in Wolverhampton and Dudley North.
What to look out for across the region:
- Dudley: Tories favourites to fill Ian Austin sized hole
- Sandwell: All change in West Bromwich as stalwarts stand down
- Stafford: Will Stafford be bellwether seat again?
- Walsall: Vaz, Hughes and Morton hoping to hold onto seats
- Wolverhampton: Will city's three seats stay Labour?
He will be hoping his decision to call for an election does not backfire in the same way as it did for his predecessor Theresa May.
She lost seats in the snap poll in 2017, forcing her to thrash out a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP in order to stay in power.
A similarly dismal performance from the Tories this time around could well lead to a minority Labour administration, with Mr Corbyn’s party propped up by the SNP.
According to the latest polls the chances of a hung parliament have increased dramatically over the last week.
The YouGov MRP poll, which accurately predicted the Conservative vote share at the last general election, has predicted a Tory majority of 28, down by 40 from the same poll at the end of last month.
The Tories also fear tactical voting could work against them, with anti-Brexit groups organising themselves to back remain candidates.
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Voting rules and what to expect on polling day
Polling day brings with it a special set of rules and regulations to ensure that voting takes place in a free and fair atmosphere.
– When do polls open and close?
Polls open at 7am and polling must close at 10pm.
However, the Electoral Commission says any eligible electors who at 10pm are in a queue inside or outside the polling place must be allowed to vote.
– What happens to election coverage?
Under Ofcom rules, discussion of politics is not allowed while voting is under way.
Broadcasters must also not publish the results of any opinion polls while people are voting.
– When is the exit poll?
It will be announced live on the BBC, ITV and Sky News and will offer the first clues as to how the night will unfold.
At each of the past few elections, the exit poll has produced a very accurate projection of the actual result.
Fieldwork will be conducted by polling company Ipsos Mori, with tens of thousands of interviews conducted at 144 polling stations across the country.
On leaving one of these stations, voters will be asked throughout polling day, using a mock ballot paper, how they just voted.
– Do I need ID to vote?
If you live in England, Wales or Scotland you do not need to bring any identification to vote, however you will need to show photo ID to vote in Northern Ireland.
You do not have to take your poll card with you, but the Electoral Commission advises if you have it with you it can help speed up the process.
– Can I use a pen to vote?
There will be a pencil in the polling booth, but voters can use a pen if they prefer.
The Electoral Commission warns voters not to write anything else on the paper – other than a cross in one box – or your vote may not be counted.
If you make a mistake – as long as you have not already put it in the ballot box – polling station staff can give you a replacement ballot paper.
– Can I take a photo?
Taking photos inside the polling station is not allowed as it risks the secrecy of voting.
The Electoral Commission says you are welcome to take photos outside the polling station.
– Who are those people outside the polling station?
People outside the polling station called “tellers” may ask you for the number on your polling card.
These people are volunteering on behalf of candidates – and often wear rosettes – and they use the information to check who has voted and remind people who have not to do so.
The Electoral Commission says: “They are allowed to be there and to ask for the information, but you don’t have to give them any information if you don’t want to.
“If you are concerned about the conduct of a teller, speak to a member of staff at the polling station.”
Which are the ‘bellwether’ seats at this election?
In general elections, constituencies where the local result has a habit of matching the national result are known as “bellwethers”.
These are seats that tend to change hands only when the government itself changes hands.
A handful of constituencies have been bellwethers for decades, and as such are watched closely for what they may – or may not – suggest about the overall election result.
The seat with the longest track record of being a bellwether is Dartford.
Since 1964, whichever party wins Dartford has also gone on to form the government.
At this election, Conservative candidate Gareth Johnson is defending a majority in Dartford of 13,186.
For the seat to change hands on December 12, there would have to be a large swing to Labour of 12.2 per cent.
Elsewhere, three seats have been bellwethers at every general election since February 1974: Loughborough, Northampton North and Watford.
All three are on Labour’s target list at this election, and would fall on swings of 4.0 per cent 1.0 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.
Worcester has been a bellwether since 1979. At the 1997 general election, attracting the support of so-called Worcester woman was considered by Labour to be vital for victory nationwide.
At this election, Labour would need a swing of 2.5 per cent to take Worcester, where Conservative candidate Robin Walker is defending a majority of 2,490.
There are also four seats that have been bellwethers since 1983: Amber Valley, Corby, Norwich North and Reading West.
Of these, Norwich North offers Labour the best chance of victory, with a 0.6 per cent swing enough to overturn the Conservative majority of 507.
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