RYEDALE and the country go to the polls today – with all the evidence suggesting that the Conservatives will be swept from power after 14 years and that, by tomorrow, Sir Keir Starmer will be the country’s new Labour Prime Minister.

The key question, as people head to the polling booths today, is just how big Labour’s majority will be.

Turnout at the 2019 general election was 67 per cent.

It is quite possible that it will be lower today, admits Dr Anna Sanders, a lecturer in politics at the University of York who has been watching the election campaign closely.

That will be a concern for Labour, she admits. They will be keen to get every vote out today, amid fears that many will assume a Labour victory is a done deal and so won’t bother voting.

“But while that might affect the size of the majority, it’s unlikely to affect the overall outcome,” Dr Sanders said.

Unsurprisingly, Dr Sanders is predicting a big win for Labour’s Rachael Maskell in York Central. But she also predicts that Labour’s Luke Charters will win quite comfortably in York Outer, ousting incumbent Conservative Julian Sturdy after 14 years.

Labour also look set to win big in Selby, she says, with Keir Mather holding on to the seat he won from the Conservatives in the by-election last year following the resignation of Nigel Adams.

Mather’s by-election victory followed one of the biggest swings to Labour from the Conservatives since the war. Slight changes to the boundaries of the Selby constituency favouring Labour mean he might even increase his 4,161 vote majority this time, Dr Sanders said.

Selby will be an interesting race to watch, she added – because it is a ‘bell-weather’ seat. “Whichever party wins in Selby is likely to win nationally.”

Elsewhere in our region, Dr Sanders says polling suggests Conservative incumbent Kevin Hollinrake may well hold on to his Thirsk and Malton seat, despite a big swing to Labour.

Rishi Sunak is also likely to hold onto his seat in Richmond and Northallerton.

But the fact he has actually been seen campaigning in the constituency – almost unheard of for a Prime Minister - is a sign of just how defensive the Conservatives have been in this campaign, Dr Sanders says: keen to protect their heartland seats rather than fighting to win in more marginal areas.

In Harrogate and Knaresborough, meanwhile, she believes incumbent Conservative Andrew Jones may well lose his seat to Lib Dem challenger Tom Gordon.

That would follow a pattern of the Lib Dems scoring some notable individual successes around the country, partly as a result of tactical voting to remove Conservatives, she believes.

With Lib Dem support in the polls nationally having been fairly steady at about 11 per cent, however, she does not believe they will make a major breakthrough overall.

As for Reform UK - they have been surging in the polls in recent weeks, with support reaching as high as 17 per cent.

But they are unlikely to see that turn into more than a small handful of seats – perhaps three or four – following today’s election, Dr Sanders predicts.

That is because their vote is thinly spread across the country rather than concentrated in key areas of strength, which means they will not do well under our ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system, Dr Sanders says.

Big issues in the 2024 election Taxation, immigration, the economy, inflation and health care are the issues that have dominated this election, says University of York politics lecturer Dr Anna Sanders.

Perhaps surprisingly, given Labour’s lead in the polls, it is the Conservatives who have largely set the agenda when it comes to what issues are being talked about.

That is possibly because Labour, conscious of its big lead in the polls, has fought a very cautious campaign, she says.

Nevertheless, every time the Conservatives have tried to hammer Labour by warning that the party will put up taxes, Labour has been able to point out that the Conservatives have done exactly that -no fewer than 26 times - since 2010, Dr Sanders says.

Issues that have got barely a look-in in the election campaign - again, perhaps surprisingly, given the extent and depth of the cost of living crisis that has affected so many people's lives - have included social care and child care.

One reason why all the main parties - apart from the Lib Dems - may have shied away from promising to 'fix' social care is that it is complicated, Dr Sanders said.

"Issues like social care require long-term investment and planning, and can't be done with a quick fix solution. Theresa May's social care policy in 2017, dubbed the 'dementia tax', was an example of (an attempt to fix a social care issue) backfiring."

Another issue that has got barely a mention is Brexit. It dominated the election campaign in 2019.

"But it has hardly been mentioned this time," Dr Sanders said.

That might be because Labour have made clear they will not seek a return to the EU, she said.