Monday, August 17, 2009

What the LibDems Gain on the Roundabouts They Will Lose on the Swing

Over the weekend I have been doing a lot of work on the new TOTAL POLITICS GUIDE TO THE 2010 GENERAL ELECTION. In particular I was struck by the list of LibDem target seats and the most marginal LibDem held seats. If you examine them, it is very difficult to see how the LibDems can avoid losing ground. Let's look at this in some detail, starting with their target list. In 1997 they made great headway by winning Conservative seats, largely in south west London and the south west. This time, their target must be to win Labour seats. But if you look at their top 30 target seats, you can see the problem...

Top 30 LibDem Targets

1. Guildford 0.09 Con
2. Solihull 0.12 Con
3. Rochdale 0.17 Lab
4. Oxford East 0.37 Lab
5. Edinburgh South 0.47 Lab
6. Hampstead & Kilburn 0.57 Lab
7. Eastbourne 0.70 Con
8. Islington S & Finsbury 0.78 Lab
9. Watford 1.17 Lab
10. Ealing Central & Acton 1.37 Lab
11. Aberdeen South 1.62 Lab
12. Weston-Super-Mare 2.13 Con
13. Ludlow 2.18 Con
14. Dorset West 2.31 Con
15. Meon Valley 2.45 Con
16. Devon Central 2.49 Con
17. Edinburgh North & Leith 2.52 Lab
18. Devon West & Torridge 2.68 Con
19. Wells 2.87 Con
20. Totnes 2.88 Con
21. Worcestershire West 3.02 Con
22. Newbury 3.21 Con
23. City of Durham 3.69 Lab
24. Norwich South 3.70 Lab
25. Leicester South 3.78 Lab
26. Liverpool Wavertree 4.45 Lab
27. Chelmsford 4.60 Con
28. Oldham East & Saddleworth 5.19 Lab
29. Haltemprice & Howden 5.26 Con
30. Orpington 5.39 Con

Only fourteen out of these thirty seats are held by Labour and it is highly unlikely they will win them all. In Ealing Central & Acton they are in third place, and in Norwich South their vote seems to be going to the Greens. It is also difficult to see them winning many, if any, of their Conservative targets. In the lower half of the list there is not a single Conservative seat which has a realistic chance of falling to the LibDems. To do so any remaining Labour vote would have to go almost entirely to them. I'm honestly not being partisan here, of these thirty seats I can only identify five which I would tip to go to the LibDems.

Now lets look at the LibDem held seats which are most under threat.

1. York Outer 0.44 Con
2. Romsey & Southampton N 0.46 Con
3. Ceredigion 0.61 PC
4. Cheltenham 0.66 Con
5. Somerton & Frome 1.12 Con
6. Eastleigh 1.12 Con
7. Manchester Withington 1.39 Lab
8. Westmorland & Lonsdale 1.70 Con
9. Hereford 2.39 Con
10. Bristol West 2.55 Lab
11. Carshalton & Wallington 2.93 Con
12. Taunton Deane 3.30 Con
13. Chippenham 4.70 Con
14. Leeds North West 4.96 Lab
15. Hornsey & Wood Green 5.06 Lab
16. Torbay 6.01 Con
17. Sutton & Cheam 6.22 Con
18. Chesterfield 6.35 Lab
19. Cornwall North 6.87 Con
20. Camborne & Redruth 7.08 Lab
21. Richmond Park 7.09 Con
22. Birmingham Yardley 7.30 Lab
23. Cheadle 7.41 Con
24. Portsmouth South 8.00
25. Dunbartonshire E 8.69 Lab
26. Truro & Falmouth 9.25 Con
27. Southport 9.32 Con
28. Inversess, Nairn etc 9.37 Lab
29. Brecon & Radnorshire 10.18 Con
30. Newton Abbott 10.50

Having been walloped by an incumbent LibDem in the last election I am under no illusion about the power of LibDem incumbency, and my own view is that the LibDems will lose fewer of their seats to the Conservatives than some pundits believe. In many of the seats there is still a bit of a Labour vote for them to squeeze. They must hope that the votes they gain from Labour will cancel out those they lose to the Conservatives through the Cameron love bombing campaign.

However, even LibDems themselves believe that some of the safer seats in the South West will fall. I do not see them losing any to Labour, though. If they restrict their losses to five they will have done well, and they would cancel out the five or six gains they would get from the target seat list above.

So my conclusion is that if the LibDems can hold firm on 62 that will be a very good result from them. It is difficult to see them going much higher than than, but perfectly possible to see a situation where they would go down in numbers - possibly dramatically. As it stands at the moment, my own prediction is that they will have 55 seats after the next election.


John Devon said...


While I think a strong LD showing would be good for democracy I'm sure you are right. Under the current system I can foresee an increase in their share of the national vote but their number of MPs falling to 50. The electoral arithmetic is stacked heavily against them, partly as a result of "first past the post" (which I'm sure you support) and partly due to gerrymandering of the Boundary Commission over decades by both Conservative and Labour.

It takes many, many more votes to elect a LD than a Tory, and many more to elect a Tory than a Labour MP, althouth DC is on record as promising a reduction in the number of MPs - which will mean at least partial equalisation of constituency size and therefore Labour losing seats in the old industrial areas.

I also expect a Conservative majority of 100+, and once they are in office the Conservative government will ensure that any constitutional change works in their favour, as all governments do.

All of this means the old two-party monopoly will continue indefinitely... to the detriment of the political engagement of Joe Public.

Anonymous said...

The LD are doomed - DOOMED to defeat!

Looks like it is Reliant Robin time for them!

Anonymous said...

I have little doubt Trevor Ivory would beat Norman Lamb this time if he got equal publicity.

Here is his Facebook group if you don't believe me:

Scott1946 said...

I do my own seat by seat predictions - updated every few months - and I just use the latest polls and calculate the swing from the previous election. It's a blunt instrument, but it worked very well in 1997 anyway. My latest prediction is 36 seats for the LibDems. I agree this is almost certainly too low, but I DO believe a LibDem collapse like this is possible.

Stepney said...


They are in meltdown in the SW and the west london suburbs.

30 if they're lucky.

Anonymous said...

I dont think this LD incumbancy bonus theory is going to carry on assuming the current polls are correct.

I think Nolfolk North was a very dodgy result and from reading the Conservative candidates (Iain Dale)recent account on it - think that he was campaigned against due to sexuality. Which was wrong, whether it is your side sitting on their hands or the LDs doing it indirectly. That sort of campaign is no better than rascism IMO.

While not wanting to diss the current MP, I think Iain has shown himself to be a much more robust media performer and potentially inflientual individual than NN current MP will ever be.

I think the UNS models also cause some people to overstate LD fortunes, one model the Martin Baxter model recalibrated its swing calculations in LD seats to account for LD 'Bonus' incumbancy in 2007. The LD then claim that when these models show LD down at 20-30 seats it does not count because LD are exempt from UNS! The point is even if you go with the UNS does not 'count theory' it has already been included anyway! They double count it!

In the coming election I dont think Incumbancy is going to be a Bonus. Does anyone think that Chris Huhne is going to get Brownie points from the Channel 4 News shouting match? Or some of the other LD expense problems? Sure all parties have had problems and LD are not immune but LD tried to make capital out of it and Ming Campell looked very unerved by the audience reaction to him.

The other thing of interest is funding. In 2005 Michael Brown gave the LD a £2.4 Million donation that turned out to be money stolen from Investors in a scam and the LD failed to return it or accept there is even a problem. Then Lord Rennard the Chief Executive of the LD HQ was caught troughing expenses, he is still there and the LD are being very flexible on his finish date. This guy was at the centre of the party, probably in daily contact with Clegg! The LD on expenses and Sleaze have one hell of a millstone plus they are in effect broke!

The final thing going against the LD is this ridiculous notion that the local campaign will make a difference, the LD claim that the national polls do not count! Utter rubbish and those taken in by that are as stupid as the LD who trick people into believing it.

Incumbancy has already been counted in if we look at the swing models like Baxter. Our we to believe that at a time of Economic national crisis people are going to vote on who can clean up the most dog poo and paint red letter boxes red!

The other interesting thing is LD policy changes like the tides of the sea - I think the LD have been rumbled by many as just being an extention of the New Labour coalition. So Labour/LD will suffer this next time and even the former comrades in Labour have now started to do bar charts about LD not winning here.

So to conclude the LD are up the creak! People who are familar with my view will not be surprised but the South West wipe out in recent elections is validation of my view!

Duncan Stott said...

Thirteen, not eleven, of those seats are held by Labour. Please correct.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous you are right about North Norfolk PPC Trevor Ivory.

He really is a dark house having looked at his Facebook group:

Anonymous said...

burgh north and leith is a labour seat.

Anonymous said...

Cheers for sharing Trevor Ivory's Facebook group link.

I think he is good. I liked you too Iain. I reckon however Trevor has learnt from mistakes made at the last election.

David said...

I think that incumbency is a lot less significant in fighting 60+ seats rather than, say, 20 because the resources that build up the base are more stretched. The LibDems are seriously short of money which is partly why they have not paid back money they got from a convicted fraudster.
Nick Clegg is also a lot less personable than Charlie and will win less of the housewives vote.
I think the LibDems will lose 20+ seats to the Tories and gain maybe 5 from labour. In some of their target seats, particularly in the south, I expect the tories to come from third to take the labour seat from them. Many of these MPs, particularly in the south west, used to be supported by the local administration. That is no longer the case and will hurt with activitists on the doorstep.

Mark Senior said...

The usual misconceptions with no evidence to back them up with from the usual suspects .
The LibDems are certainly not in meltdown in the West London suburbs all the movement there recently has been from Conservative to LibDem .
The LibDems are not short of money . They may have less to spend annually than Labour or Conservatives but they finished 2008 £ 0.5 million in the black . The Conservatives ended 2008 £ 7 million plus in debt , Labour rather worse .
A sensible forecast is for 10-12 losses to Conservative but 2-3 gains from them , around 10-15 gains from Labour , perhaps a couple of losses to Nats .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous I think you mean Trevor Ivory is a dark horse!

I think it is amusing Trevor Ivory has Youtube videos when Eric Pickles said he reckons a lot of Conservative PPCs would make fools of themselves on it at the next election.

Anonymous said...

As a LD supporter don't think your too wide of the mark Iain.

Although I think our approach is even more targeted than before, which should sacfrifice national share of vote for number of seats - hence i think we will come out around even with the best case scenario coming out slightly up.

Think you will see some really quite stunning Labour defeats in previously safe seats to the LD's. The fact is we are second in most of the urban seats in which Labour support has dropped off a cliff.

Do not under estimate the amount of Labour supporters that will stay at home and the willingness of others to come over to the LD's if it means getting rid of Labour. Keep you eye on places like Sheffield Central.

Anonymous said...

I find this scenario amusing.

Norman Lamb and his supporters at the election help out in Broadland and Norwich South.

They underestimate the Conservative swing and Trevor Ivory becomes North Norfolk's MP.

Good Facebook group by the way.

Sean said...

Feeling a little stupid here (is is Monday or just me?) but what do thos numbers stand for?

Arden Forester said...

I think it will be swings and roundabounts all round. I predict (with my neck sticking out a bit!) that all three main parties will lose seats as well as gain them. And I don't mean a couple here and there.

We have almost 20% of the electorate supporting minority parties. It is perfectly possible for David Cameron to win but have a fairly derisory amount of total votes.

My guess is that Cameron will be prime minister but I do not detect a great distrust in Labour (which for the life of me I cannot fathom). However, he will do this having experienced the UKIP gadflies swarming around him. They sense better things next year.

hawkeye said...

If the Lib Dems had any brains at all, they would agree a pact with Cameron that tories and libs would not stand against each other in three way marginals so as to ensure that the anti-Labour vote is consolidated.

The prize is the same for the tories and the libs - Labour in 3rd place.

BOF2BS said...

Not quite Reliant Robin in my view but certainly a much smaller bus.

At 19% of vote on Electoral Calculus at present a 44 seater is envisaged.

Allowing for Scottish seats & an assumed strong SNP performance 3 of their target seats (from Labour)appear unlikely and 2 of their held marginals might be lost.

Any expenses drop outs?

Possibly a 20-35 seater should be booked!

wapping boy said...

I agree with Stepney in that a lot of Lib Dem support in greater London is going to transfer to the Tories come voting time. People want Labour out and will vote to achieve that. Families in the leafy suburbs voted Tory before it became unfashionable to do so in the 1990s, and will do so again in order to eject the tyranny of NuLab.

Peter Cranie said...

The Lib Dems will also have to cope with many more Green candidates in 2010 than in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Word reaches me that North Norfolk constituents can't stand Gordon Brown.

I doubt an anti-tory vote would work this time.

Trevor Ivory has a good Facebook group I agree.

Anonymous said...

Good Facebook group:

If North Norfolk was fought on Facebook and Youtube Trevor Ivory would win hands down.

Sadly for him it is not that simple.

Lord Monteagle said...

Try Ashfield (Hoon), the Lib Dems should take it

Margaret said...

I'm just plain bored at the moment.

Roll on the party conferences, especially so called New Labour, and let all the back stabbing recommence - then maybe we can actually get on with holding this (morally if not legally) overdue election. Sorry if you still have work to do for your publication, Iain, but, as my old school motto said, "Ad Rem Mox Nox" (Just had a quick look at the website and it appears to have been dropped and the badge changed. Presumably too elitist for the current pupils to understand Latin. Most of us only did Latin for a year but we coped with it.)

Grumpy old woman mode off.

SDW said...


Are you going to let us in on the secret? Which are the 5 Lib Dem target seats in the list of 30 that you think they will win next year?

Solihull and Rochdale will have the incumbancy factor you mention.

What are your other hunches?

Im more optimistic and think the LDs could get to 80 seats or at least stay at 62 (or 63 including Dunfermline and West Fife/ Willie Rennie) so Im hoping your 55 is a underestimate!

Anonymous said...

"wafer seats"--rather good!

"If the Lib Dems had any brains at all, they would agree a pact with Cameron that tories and libs would not stand against each other in three way marginals so as to ensure that the anti-Labour vote is consolidated.
The prize is the same for the tories and the libs - Labour in 3rd place."

yep but the libdems don't have much by way of brains

i just find them annoying

Anonymous said...

Who's this marginal Lib Dem in York?!

Anonymous said...

Come on Iain, you of all people should know that a lot has happened since 2005, for good and bad. The LDs had some truly great results in certin seats in 07, 08 & 09. I can name seats that have full time LD staffers working on them that aren't in the top 30 seats as calculated over 4 years ago. Do you honestly think the LDs will lose Eastleigh and Westmoreland?? No neither do I.
What may I ask are the Tory seats underthreat? Let's face it some of your MPs have made a fantastic mess of things of late. Oh just an afterthought, expect a big Con > LD swing in Bexly and Old SIdcup.

Ian Thorpe said...

If Nick Clegg can find a personality and some decent jokes the Lib Dems could still do well at Labour's expense in the industrial areas.

Anonymous said...

Peter Cranie "The Lib Dems will also have to cope with many more Green candidates in 2010 than in 2005." That is if the Green Party hasn't torn itself apart - the internal election for External Communications Co-odinator has been suspended, because of dirty tricks. Let's face it this year's Euros were the best opportunity for the Greens have had in twenty years for a breakthrough, but it was in the words of Matt Woottan (former External Comms) 'a terrible failure'. After hyping up the Greens prospects in the more gullible media, then coming 5th, Rupert Read has ensured no one will bother giving Greens coverage in future. I‘m more scared of the Pirate Party!

David, Maidenhead said...

I totally agree with your analysis regarding the LibDems problem at the next election. On a good night for the Tories, which will certainly be the case next May, Cameron will be taking LibDem seats in the South which means that the Clegg has to make huge strides in the North against Labour if he is to achieve his stated aim of a LibDem government within 2 parliamentary terms – some hope! This is surely the golden scenario for the Tories. If the LibDems have 40 seats after the next election they will be doing extremely well.
Incidentally, you omitted Sheffield Hallam on your list of Con/Lib marginal’s!!

Michael H said...

Iain! You must not let your defeat at the hands of a Lib Dem spin artist cloud your judgement of how weak and vunerable Lib Dems are when the two-horse race crunch starts to bite.

In 2007, the Lib Dems lost nearly 250 councillors- these all had "personal votes" as well on a local level, but the overwhelming support for the Tories saw a thumping defeat for them. In both 2008 and 2009, they had a near 0% increase in councillors- having lost all their gains to Tory candidates. In some areas, Labour actually *won* back seats held by them.

It is an extremely basic assumption to think that Labour voters will vote for the Lib Dems to keep the Conservatives out- just look at the Henley by-election- the Labour vote collapsed, but nearly none of it went to the Lib Dems- if anything it went to the Conservatives (who had a bigger percentage vote gain!)

Also- various amounts of those seats that have Labour as the main opposition (Leeds North West, Watford etc) have the Conservatives in a very close third place- and will undoubtably see a leapfrog were the local Conservatives were weak in 2005.

Norman Lamb is a formidible opponent- very few Fib Dem MPs have his ability to manipulate the media and I honestly think 55 seats at the next election is far far far too generous- it's going to go back to somewhere around the 42 mark.

It really is a two horse race between the Conservatives and Labour!

Anonymous said...

Solihull is already a held seat. It'll count as a gain because of boundary changes after the last election.

I think your analysis is generally fair, but it's rather difficult to assess the Lib Dems in such a way because most of the time the seats aren't won on a national message, because they can't fight the Tories on that. The gains they make will be made because of strong local issues, and therefore you can't just blanket them.

Personally I think they'll hit 65, with about 6 lost to the Tories.

Anonymous said...

who cares?

Anonymous said...

"Only fourteen out of these thirty seats are held by Labour"

So pretty much half then.

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dems will lose Rochdale for certain. Paul Rowen is utterly bananas

Anonymous said...

Trevor Ivory's group is great:

In North Norfolk my vote is switching from Liberal Democrat to Conservative.

I regret not having voted for you Iain. Sorry.

Unknown said...

You should not discount the possibility of substantial defections from the Conservatives to UKIP at the next election so that it would be quite possible for the LibDems to gain seats in the Lib/Tory marginals even if they only manage to stay at their present percentage level.

I think Cameron & Co may be in for a nasty shock particularly if they do not make it clear that they will hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty whether or not it has been previously ratified.

Labour will almost certainly dump Brown before the election so they may perform better than is currently indicated too.

Nich Starling said...

Iain, I hp[e you will refute the allegation of homophobic campaigning from the Lib Dems in NOrth Norfolk as one idiot (known as illiberal Democrat) claims in a comment on this posting that it was a feature of the Lib Dem campaign and responsible for the result in 2005.

Chris Paul said...

Why is Rochdale in the targets and Man Wit in the defences? Both are Lib Dem held seats with Labour attacking and both have fairly small majorities. And in both cases the key question of whether voters prefer Lab or Con in Number 10 will probably crystalise matters and this will not benefit the LDs.

In Rochdale Paul Rowen MP appears to be trying to commit hari kari by threatening legals over Labour leaflets involving the concepts of a gravy train and bananas ...

He might have more of a case to argue if anyone was saying it was against the letter of the laws to be siphoning money off by various means to fighting funds, but generally these endemic Lib Dem ruses are arguably within the rules. Or in what the LDs themselves term grey areas.

His party in the NW ain't going to be thanking him for drawing attention to their exes when in the re-calibrated brave new world deliberate sharp practice "within the rules" seems to be just as capable of gaining scalps as foolish, accidental or knowing claims outside the rules.

Chris Paul said...

PS I'm thinking that the Lib Dems in the deep South West will actually tend to hold on to their seats. Against the pattern in the rest of the British Isles where they will be run ragged. They've been found out as jumped up local councillors masquerading as MPs in many cases and as a party they stink rather than being any sort of breath of fresh air after some rather inept local government and coalitiony outings.

Chris Paul said...

PS I'm thinking that the Lib Dems in the deep South West will actually tend to hold on to their seats. Against the pattern in the rest of the British Isles where they will be run ragged. They've been found out as jumped up local councillors masquerading as MPs in many cases and as a party they stink rather than being any sort of breath of fresh air after some rather inept local government and coalitiony outings.