Infographic

For Boris Johnson to Become Prime Minister Again, He (Probably) Has to Win His Seat First

The Conservative Party leader’s hold over his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat represents the narrowest constituency majority for any prime minister in more than five decades.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson campaigns in England's northwest on Dec. 7.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson campaigns in England's northwest on Dec. 7. Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, campaigning in the North West, takes part in the warm up before a girls’ soccer match between Hazel Grove United JFC and Poynton Juniors on Dec. 7, 2019 in Cheadle Hulme, United Kingdom.Toby Melville – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Despite a favorable election forecast for the Conservative Party, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a surprisingly close race in his own West London district. 

A victory for Johnson’s rival, the 25-year-old Labour candidate Ali Milani, could result in the first ever unseating of a serving prime minister in their parliamentary constituency. As Stephen Paduano reports in Foreign Policy, the Iran-born Milani may be trailing Johnson in the polls, but “an upset is within the margin of error.” And parliamentary election data shows Johnson’s hold on his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency has been narrowing over time.

Before becoming prime minister, Johnson won his district in the 2015 general election by nearly 24 percentage points, or 10,695 votes. As seen in the chart below, his lead was more than halved two years later, to 10.8 percentage points—the narrowest constituency majority for any prime minister in more than 50 years. 


Constituency majorities of British prime ministers

By percentage point margins of victory. Number of votes in parentheses.

*Heath won in Feb. 1974 but resigned after failing to form a coalition government. A new election was held in October of that year. SOURCE: UK Parliament.


The reasons for Johnson’s slim lead in his own constituency vary. As mayor of London, Johnson opted to seek parliamentary election in 2015 despite having no prior connection to the district. The prime minister also faced criticism for missing a vote in 2018 over a controversial proposed runway expansion to Heathrow Airport, located near his constituency. Residents of Uxbridge and South Ruislip have both grown more diverse and more supportive of Labour candidates over time. 

But Johnson has shown in the past he knows how to appeal to a broad demographic—he won two terms as mayor of London, a diverse and often Labour-voting city.

C.K. Hickey is the interactives and features designer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @seekayhickey