Bob Worcester forecasts Lib Dems to be reduced to 24 seats in 2015. I’ll run naked down Whitehall if that’s the result.

At a conference fringe meeting on Monday evening, the pollster’s pollster Bob Worcester, MORI’s founder, made a forecast of how many seats the Lib Dems will win at the 2015 election: 24.

His prediction was based on current polling which he’d fed into the Electoral Calculus website and implied the number should be 17. His slightly higher punt allows for known Lib Dem strengths, such as our MPs’ habit of holding on tight in seats we win through sheer Stakhonovite grit.

Forecasting the next election is a bit of a mug’s game, as the Coalition means there’s no past precedent to guide us. Usually the Lib Dems pick up 3% or so during the campaign thanks to increased media exposure. But next time, who knows? Will the tactical ‘squeeze’ on Labour votes in Lib Dem / Tory battlegrounds still work? We can’t be sure.

But I’m willing to stick my neck out, and more besides:

It’s not an original pledge, by the way. Iain Dale promised to run down Whitehall naked if the 2010 exit polls’ prediction of the Lib Dems on 59 seats turned out to be accurate. (He didn’t.) Dan Hodges has since gone one better: ‘If UKIP break 6% at the next election I’ll streak naked down Whitehall in a Nigel Farage mask whilst singing Land of Hope and Glory…’. So, at least if I’m wrong, I’ll have some company.

Two polls this week have made me more confident that my modesty (and Whitehall watchers’ gaze) will be safe on Friday 8th May 2015.

Lib Dems just 3% behind Tories in our top targets

First, Lord Ashcroft – the former deputy Tory chairman and the man who spends more on polling than all the political parties combined – released his latest findings this week. 13,000 voters in the 40 Conservative seats with the smallest majorities were surveyed, including eight where the Liberal Democrats came second in 2010: Watford, St Albans, Oxford West & Abingdon, Harrogate & Knaresborough, Camborne & Redruth, Truro & Falmouth, Newton Abbot and Montgomeryshire.

Remember: these are seats which are potential Lib Dem gains in 2015. The result? Overall, across the eight seats, the Lib Dems are just 3% behind the Conservatives, 32% to 29% (with Labour third on 18%). The reason? Not hard to guess: Ukip, which is polling 12%. None of us know if the rise of Ukip is a bubble, or a permanent feature. But I’m struck by the number of senior Lib Dems who tell me they expect to make gains (plural) from the Tories at the next election (though not necessarily net gains from them).

Lib Dem MP incumbency boost still holds true

Secondly, Phillip Cowley, professor of Parliamentary Government at the University of Nottingham, has published an article in the latest Total Politics magazine, What does the population really feel about its MPs, local and national? In it, he and co-author Rosie Campbell challenge the oft-cited claim that “while people don’t like politicians, they do like their own MP”. Though broadly true, there is a lot of variation:

The response differs depending on which party the MP belongs to. The net score among respondents with Labour MPs was -5, and among those with Conservative MPs -13, slightly worse than the national average. Liberal Democrat MPs, however, scored +14. The ability of that party’s MPs to dig in to their constituencies appears to have survived the various traumas of coalition politics.

Put these two bits of evidence together and…

We are of course 18 months away from the next election. Much can change. But put these two findings together — the party polling reasonably well in Lib Dem / Tory battlegrounds where we don’t have an MP; and in seats where do have an MP polling suggesting they’re more appreciated than Labour or Tories are — and you start to see why Lib Dems are don’t believe we’re out for the count.

None of this changes the essential truth: our support has halved (at least) since the 2010 election. It is therefore highly likely we will make a net loss of seats in 2015. We are helped, however, by the fact that the Tories are in second place in 37 of the 57 Lib Dem seats. My hunch is that as the election nears Labour voters in those seats will be persuadable to a ‘keep the Tories out’ squeeze message.

Which is why I don’t expect to be streaking down Whitehall in 18 months’ time – you’ll be relived to hear.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • The party’s finances are a mess, membership is down by a third since 2010 and Clegg is a hate figure. Frankly , a third of seats where Labour are the second place party are already gone. Will Stephen Tall run down Whitehall naked if our seats fall below 24? I notice he has promised to just do so if it hits 24 but what if it is below that? Despite what some people think we can’t fight 57 Eastleighs’s – the resources just aren’t there.

  • I really don’t think the Lib Dems have a cat in hell’s chance of distinguishing themselves from the Tory party. And why vote for the plastic when you can have the real thing. They have little if any support in the North and I just can’t wait for their Election Manifesto, I’m stopping in with a few beers that night because this is going to be Comedy Gold.

  • Absolutely right. We continue to operate in cloud cuckoo land. We are no longer a national party and will be insignificant next time, the public will vote for a majority government by one party. It is sad but becoming inevitable.
    Many constituencies are now without the party and after the Euro elections next year God help us. My bet is that we will go the same way as the Greens in Eire. It is hell being the junior partner in a coalition!!!!!!

  • Chris Rennard 17th Sep '13 - 5:57pm

    Before the 2001 General Election, Bob Worcester forecast that we would be down from 47 seats to 32. I forecast that we would be up to 52 or 53. We won 52.

  • Will Millinship 17th Sep '13 - 6:12pm

    Never underestimate the “betrayal” narrative – there are people out there who believe it, sadly, and would vote for a Tory to “punish” those who “enabled” the Tories. All sounds daft to me, but worth keeping an eye on.

  • markfairclough 17th Sep '13 - 6:37pm

    the Libdems wont fall below 37 seats

  • Simon,

    7th in the South Shields by Election is a sign of things to come.

  • Steve Griffiths 17th Sep '13 - 7:15pm


    “fewer councillors, fewer members, less enthusiasm”

    Yes you’ve hit the nail on the head there. You can concentrate your troops at a by-election, but do you have enough for 57 constituencies at the same time? The left of the party has largely evaporated away in disaffection – nice compliant party for Nick, as we have seen at Glasgow this week. But those former members on the left of the party (like me) were very committed activists and they are either gone altogether, or awaiting for the time that the party wakes from it’s current daydream and realises that it needs to be a ‘broad-church’ to survive.

  • Leekliberal 17th Sep '13 - 7:19pm

    Come on Bob (Worcester) the challenge is on! If our Stephen is willing to back his judgement shouldn’t you have the guts to back yours – and I know you are no friend of ours. If you do my money is on you to be seen as the King without clothes!

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 17th Sep '13 - 7:41pm

    And, of course, Liberal Democrat Voice will be there to provide live (non-)coverage of the event… in high-definition video… 🙂

  • Elections in the UK are still, thank God, fought in individual constituencies (although I have to say that I remember as a teller being confronted with a voter, not in the Finchley constituency, who was puzzled that Margaret Thatcher’s name was not on the ballot paper !). The majority of our MPs sit for constituencies where the principal challenge comes not from Labour but from the Conservatives, and that is a challenge which we certainly ought in most cases to be able to see off (and this is not “mindless optimism”, Caratacus). There are also seats where although the principal threat comes from Labour or from the SNP, our sitting MP is securely entrenched. I do not myself see that we will come out of the election with less than 40 seats and we may well do better than that.

  • paul barker 17th Sep '13 - 8:39pm

    We will have a much better idea on May 25th when we get the results of the European Election. The 2 big questions that should answer are how far The Tories panic in the face of UKIP & how much damage Labour does to itself.
    We have seen this years UKIP bubble slowly deflate over the last 4 months & The Conservatives should have learned from that. Whether they have learned I have no idea.
    Labour should have a quiet conference next week but the Big One is in March. Nothing good can come from The Milliband Reforms. If The Leadership loses their authority will be destroyed & The Far-Left seen to have won. If The Reforms go through Labour will lose income & the money will go instead to rival candidates who will take Labour votes. Either way Labour divisions will be exposed & deepened.
    I expect The Libdems to increase both our vote & Seats in 2015 & to beat whatever passes for Labour in terms of votes.

  • “I expect The Libdems to increase both our vote & Seats in 2015 & to beat whatever passes for Labour in terms of votes.”

    Presumably that implies the Tories will have an overall majority?

  • Julian Tisi 17th Sep '13 - 9:00pm

    Part of the reason for Labour’s lead in the polls and the Lib Dems dismal showing is the unquestioned belief that this has been the most right wing government in history etc. So far Labour have escaped any real scrutiny:
    – what would they do differently?
    – what are their policies for the economy, for health, schools, tuition fees etc?
    Crucially, their line that they wouldn’t reverse most of the government’s cuts simply doesn’t make any sense alongside the suggestion that this is the most right wing government ever, that Lib Dems haven’t achieved much. As the election gets closer, I suspect Labour’s hyperbole is going to bite them. I really can’t see Labour winning the next election and I’m tending to believe that Lib Dems might do much, much better than people are currently predicting.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Sep '13 - 9:09pm

    paul barker
    In the interests of general entertainment, and in recognition that you have been consistently making your prediction of Lib dem gains in 2015 (in the face of almost universal derision), are you going to join Stephen Tall in putting your dignity where your mouth is? 😉

  • @Paul Barker

    “Labour should have a quiet conference”

    Will that be as quiet as the Liberal Democrat conference, from what I have seen on the Tv most of the seats have been empty.
    If it had not been for good old Vince Cable i think the whole event would have gone unnoticed.

    Labours membership is in a far better state than the other 2 parties.

    Liberal Democrats finances are in no better shape, with a massive reduction in numbers, loss of government subsidies. Huge loss of grassroots who would have been available for canvassing at the next election.
    I think your opinion that Liberal Democrats will increase their number of MP’s at the next election is really quite fanciful.
    At some point you have to stop and look at the real world, being in constant denial is just digging a deeper hole

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '13 - 9:12pm

    @Julian Tisi “what are their policies for the economy, for health, schools, tuition fees etc?”
    Sadly, the question we have to answer is what are Lib Dem policies on these issues, and how likely are they to be the same after the election.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Sep '13 - 10:12pm

    Julian Tisi – I’ll tell you what your problem is there. I hear that an awful lot, but I think that this, ‘most right-wing government ever, ‘ really is a bit of a lazy shorthand. But equally I really don’t think you can just dismiss quite how strongly some people feel as, ‘Labour hyperbole.’ The problem is that this government – this Coalition – has, during this fiscal consolidation, seriously picked winners and losers. We have seen carte blanche protections for pensioners and the NHS (the two biggest budgets) for example. Quite how this reconciles to the imperative of deficit reduction is anyone’s guess – but plainly when you have protections for certain areas of spend the implication is surely deeper cuts elsewhere. And this is to say nothing of the 80:20 ratio. The message that went out with the 50p to 45p tax rate was hideous (leaving aside the rights and wrongs).

    Take a look for example at the Pensioner Income Series on the DWP website to get an idea of just how much the pensioner protections are worth. To say nothing of property wealth. We have seen on several occasions the idea that there is no money left come out – yet there is money for triple locked pensions. There is money for NHS IT. There is even money to bomb Syria. If you are looking at £9k fees, or you are a soldier being laid off or you are seeing your local Council close all its services it is entirely plausible to think that you are on the short end of the stick with or without Labour.

    We see it again today with school meals – why is this a tax and spend priority at a time of wider cuts? I see no economic justification for this. Why is this more important than, say help with commuter train fares or military equipment?

    No – Labour would probably not reverse cuts. Indeed at the last election Alastair Darling was clear about the level of cuts Labour would have made. Maybe the NHS and pensioners are more, ‘worthy,’ than everyone else, I let others make the value judgment there. And certainly I suspect that Cameron deeply regrets using the words, ‘all in it together.’ But the Coalition parties can not simply keep protecting its favoured causes whilst telling everyone else to take on the chin, and expect no reaction. The young in particular have been clobbered.

    Of course people may be in favour of cuts, provided those cuts do not affect them, that paradox faces all governments. But at times the winners and losers nature with this Coalition has been rather in-yer-face and voters can and indeed should make of that what they will.

    Labour will, presumably, come up with its own ideas – we take it as we find it then. For my part I did not vote Lib Dem as I could not stomach the immigration amnesty, I will look again in 2015 with an open mind. My suspicion is that 24 seats is at the very low end of the scale, but not totally theoretical.

  • @Simon

    “So, is that a seat that Lib Dems used to hold?”

    You were sandwiched between the British National Party and the Monster Raving Loony Party. The party lost its deposit with just 1.4 per cent of the vote. Ok, the ship’s not sinking. ‘Carry on Captain’.

    I used to vote Lib Dem once up on a time. Now I just look at you with dispair.

  • markfairclough 17th Sep '13 - 10:21pm

    The Libdems will win at least 37 seats

  • andy – I have just two words to say to you.

    Ed Miliband.

  • Come on Stephen make it interesting, one item of clothing per seat.. It will beat the hell out the dreaded swingometer !

  • @ Tabman

    Nearly as unpopular as Nick Clegg. It’s a shame for LIb Dem and rather fortunate for Miliband that Cleggs replacement is going to have to battle it out with Cameron in the next election. The left has left and they’re not coming back. Supporting the Tories was always going to end with a clear choice of Tory Party Tory v Tory Party Lib Dem and I really can’t see many voting for Tory Party Lib Dem when they can have the real thing.

  • Caractacus – to quote from the website you link to:

    “it shows that where Lib Dems are embedded they are almost impervious to the calamitous national decline in their vote share, though helped by UKIP diminishing the Conservative vote alongside.”

  • andy – you’re retreating into tribal certainties. Well, good luck to you.

    I believe that some of the electorate will want to vote for Liberal Democrat Liberals.

  • We also don’t know what flavour of Labour Party we will have in 2015 following Ed’s showdown with va bruvvas

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 1:03am

    @Tabman “I believe that some of the electorate will want to vote for Liberal Democrat Liberals.”
    This might be a question more suited to UK Polling Report, but your comment does make me wonder if anybody has ever polled to find out the proportion of Lib Dem voters who are voting against one of the other two parties rather than for Lib Dem policies. I guess it would vary strongly from one constituency to another. A strong showing in 2015 (in terms of seats rather than national voter share) could even suggest that the anti-Labour/Tory votes are the most loyal!

  • I have also watched conference on TV and the seats have not been empty all the time, however at 9.00 am they are. I wonder if conference committee would consider starting at 9.30 and ending at 18.30 so more people will be present at the start of conference each day. I recall years ago making my first and only conference speech on a motion with a start time of 9.00 am and very few people were in the hall to hear it.

    The Total Politics report states, “We need to be cautious here: once you cut the data in a normal-sized survey down to focus just on Lib Dem voters (of whom there are currently not many) and who have Lib Dem MPs (of whom there are even fewer), you’re soon down to very small numbers of respondents and large margins of error.” It is important to remember that while a Lib Dem incumbent may get a boost it hasn’t stop us losing Oxford and Abingdon West and Romsey and North Southampton and many other seats. So while I agree we will have more than 24 MPs after the next general election I think it may be in the region of 42 MPs.

  • “I’ll run naked down Whitehall if that happens” Make sure you don’t bump into Iain Dale running the other way

  • Can’t tell much from one Council byelection, of course, but one in Woking was held, unusually, yesterday. The result showed Lib Dems losing out to the Tories, and relegated to 4th place (admittedly following a disqualification).

  • (admittedly following a disqualification).

    Er, which might *just* have a bearing on it.

    I think the outcome will be very, very patchy next time round. In areas where the economy depends on the public sector, then it will probably be very bad. In other areas, where we are up against Tories, and if UKIP holds up, we could make net gains.

    The Rallings & Thrasher analysis after this year’s local elections, when we were no better off than we are now nationally, had us maintaining 50 seats. I think around 45 MPs might be right. All the polls show we have around a quarter to a fifth of our 2010 voters as don’t knows at present. If we can get our national share up to 15% from 11% currently (not over ambitious), then I think we could probably achieve that.

  • Andrew Colman 18th Sep '13 - 9:54am

    Agree with the article that Lib Dems will do much better than polls suggest due to (A) Local loyalty to incumbent mps as mentioned above and (b) An increasing cynisism about the media. Fewer and fewer people are believing what they read in the press. The right wing media did everything it could to try and unseat the Lib dems in Eastleigh for example but they failed. This “Eastleigh experience” shows there is hope for the future, not from the political establishment, but from the people themselves.

    This is why outside (non party) campaigning is hated and feared so much by the establishment and explains the real reason behind the lobbying bill. But I am confident (the lobbying bill) will “fail” and those behind it will ultimately get their just reward.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '13 - 9:59am

    Hugh p

    The majority of our MPs sit for constituencies where the principal challenge comes not from Labour but from the Conservatives, and that is a challenge which we certainly ought in most cases to be able to see off (and this is not “mindless optimism”, Caratacus).

    Yes, but a portion of our vote in such constituencies will go off to Labour, and I very much doubt will be compensated by a drift of formerly Conservative votes to us. If we want to hold these seats and win more of them, we HAVE to push ourselves as the opposition to the Tories, and our leadership has confirmed that it will not do that, and it will get its Tory friends in the press to bad-mouth any leading LibDem who dares to differ (see Vince Cable).

    It has already been the case that the result of the “I’ll never vote LibDem again” mentality in local elections has been to benefit the Tories as hopeless Labour third places get raised to respectable but still unwinnable Labour second places. What do you expect when our Dear Leader’s outgoing Director of Strategy told all of us who’ve been working so hard for years to build up the Liberal Democrats as a party of the left that would be more appealing to southern and rural voters than Labour was that all we were doing was “borrowing votes” from Labour, and we should just B- off and join Labour?

    Eastleigh showed we can still hold onto those places where we’re REALLY REALLY dug in, to the point that most voters see us more in terms of local activity there than in terms of our Dear Leader and his “look at me ma, I’m a big boy now, I’m in government posing”. But how many other places are there like Eastleigh that we’re so dug in that even now we’re still winning almost all council seats? I think approximately 0.

  • Well, colleagues, after a fairly unifying conference [despite what some will be printing] we have a few months left to attract as many election workers as possible for the biggest fight we have had for decades. I hope it will not be run as the AV referendum was! Sorry to say, I walked away from campaigning in London for AV because there was no strong LD driving force – just a wet acceptance that the press and Mr Cameron had turned against our hopes of a balanced voting system [I always supported STV]. That I recall solely so we don’t act like that from his moment on to 2015. I will be ashamed if we do!
    The next few months needs to be our short period of rallying-call. Gaining back our activists, rather than wasting their huge talents. Young, and not so young, all working to prevent the dam from bursting in 2015 – so we come out of the election with credit for the strength and determination of our campaigning. The call for membership must begin, the focus on holding many and winning new seats. There will be losses and new wins but we don’t need to work hard on a thin blanket of votes over the country – that will happen naturally as loyal voting LDs maintain a presence. We will mostly focus all activists on those seats which we can advance under FPTP. Watford in my case? Hope you are reading this Mr Clegg. Put effort into this now. Don’t wait until 2014 to start the ball rolling. Starting now with signing back our activists. Target the right seats. Talk to us about the things we understand and the country will be surprised in 2015. Maybe amazed. Bring it on!

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '13 - 10:23am

    Andrew Colman

    (b) An increasing cynicism about the media. Fewer and fewer people are believing what they read in the press.

    Yes, but the problem seems to be that those who don’t pay much attention to the press are still absorbing the message that something has gone seriously wrong with the Liberal Democrats and so it’s not a party worth voting for any more. In some ways it’s those who are not avid followers of the news who are our biggest problem, because they’re picking up the “nudge-nudge wink-wink, Liberal Democrats, hah-hah-hah” attacks, but without the nuances we can get out about the reality of the situation. Of course those who don’t follow the news at all won’t vote at all.

    It’s rather like the way UKIP soared in popularity. People who don’t follow the press nevertheless pick up on the message second hand that most of it is pumping out about how bad the EU is, and how most of this country’s problems are due to some supposed EU domination. It’s nonsense because if the EU was really this great oppressive thing that they’ve been led to suppose it is, wouldn’t it be obvious how it was doing its oppressing? But if you asked people just what is it that the EU is doing that is so bad, all you’d get is a load of those silly “bent banana” stories, and something about immigrants. UKIP offers absolutely nothing, just more-of-the-same right-wing economic policies that the Tories offer, and it doesn’t even do an effective job of being critical of the EU with its MEP who were elected to do that job – their lack of activity being perhaps further evidence that what they are saying is all nonsense, because if it wasn’t, wouldn’t they be out there getting evidence for its rottenness from within it?

    People vote with what they think is gut feeling, often not realising how much it really comes down to being manipulated by the press, who despite falls in actual readership still push the main political agenda. Of course we need activists to counter that, which is why the Richard Reeves message to activists “B- off, we don’t need people like you, we’ve got millionaire backers who’ll pay to make us a real ‘liberal’ party” message (link here) was just so, so, damaging. Clegg could have disowned him, but he didn’t. By his silence at this message being given by someone who seemed from his billing to be so close to Clegg’s thoughts, it can be assumed he backs those thoughts. That’s why I won’t bother doing any more work for the party of which I was once a proud and hard-working activist.

  • jedibeeftrix 18th Sep '13 - 10:25am

    i am somewhat concerned that the conference has outed a new slogan along lines of “our demographic”, which would appear to be a call to focus party appeal on the ‘core’ 25% of the electorate likely to sympathise with lib-dem’iness.

    i believe this would be a mistake as a long term strategy, for the party must look to replication the big two in occupying the common ground, country wide, with the intention of WINNING in our adversarial system. This means explicitly holding the ambition of displacing one of the two incumbents.

    as a short term strategy, fine, rome wasn’t built in a day and lib-dem’s will first need to survive the electorates first encounter with them as a serious party of government, but by 2020 i expect the party to be aiming higher.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Sep '13 - 12:06pm

    ‘My hunch is that as the election nears Labour voters in those seats will be persuadable to a ‘keep the Tories out’ squeeze message.’

    And what evidence really is there that there is any credibility for left-leaning LD and Labour voters and wobblers that voting LD is a reliable way of keeping the Tories out given they are right now in government with them? Keeping them out of the seat, maybe, but keeping them out of government which is what those voters probably want?

    I think it’s obvious the election is hard to predict in the specifics, and the LDs may again surprise everyone; but just as LD decline should not be taken for granted, previous voting patterns on the left should also not be taken for granted as this article appears to do. Even among those favourable to the LD policy positions, there’s still a lot of incomprehension and distrust about how this coalition is working out and what it means for long term reliability of what I guess we could call party ‘branding’ and ‘positioning’.

    MY hunch (and obviously I’m just an oik here, not a member of any kind of governing elite) is that unless the LDs give clear signs that there is flexibility in their position visa vis BOTH of the two big governing parties (ie even going as far as to make hints and nods that Clegg stepping back, or down, to make coalition workable with Labour if that is what is demanded) some people whose votes, voices and support the party needs will absent themselves or spiral off into voting for all kinds of people in fairly unpredictable ways.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 1:40pm

    @Matt (Bristol)
    I share your hunch. I don’t think that the anti-tory vote is guaranteed to go to Lib Dems in Con-LD marginals: it may simply stay at home or register a protest vote for a 3rd place Labour party or some other candidate (Green, UKIP?). Showing a genuine equidistance between the Labour and Conservative parties might reassure that part of the electorate, but I am not clear that such a position would sound credible from the mouths of Clegg, Alexander or Laws. The anti-Labour vote is more certain: the Oldham & Saddleworth byelection showed that conservative voters were prepared to flock to a Lib Dem alternative to Labour.

  • @Simon Shaw
    You forgot to mention the two seats the Lib Dems gained from Labour in Maghull, on Merseyside, a couple of months ago.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Sep '13 - 2:38pm

    @ SImon Shaw and Peter Watson – the point I infer from what you both post in short succcession is that the party (of which, again I am not a member of and have not yet been in my career so far of voting for it), at least in England, has effectively 2 sub-groups within it: one based largely in Tory-held or Tory-opposed seats and focused on winning over Labour waverers and presenting the side of the LD argument which goes down best with that element in the electorate, and one based largely in Labour-held or Labour-opposed seats and focused on winning over Labour waverers and presenting another side of the LD argument. One subgoup sniffs disaster ahead as long held rhetoric and strategies have to be twisted, retooled or disowned whilst activities feel a bit lost in the new world; the other sniffs a chance to dig in and hold on, and even, just possibily, make gains. I’m not saying this is an ideological ‘split’; that would be the media’s way of portraying it, though.

    Can the two groups still work together in a coherent campaign 2015; and which wing will the leadership nurture more, give policy ‘red meat’ to and present and praise in public more? This is very interesting in terms of tothe longterm political content and presentation of the party for those of us who are ‘consumers’ of it rathetr than participants in it.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Sep '13 - 2:41pm

    Sorry, in last post ACTIVITIES should read ACTIVISTS and TOTHE should be THE

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Sep '13 - 2:44pm

    Sorry, sorry, I got Labour and Tory mixed up in my first post; is it clear what I mean or do I need to reclarify. Not getting the hang of this…

  • Simon

    You will know better than me but just looked up the stats for Sefton Council

    Labour currently have more councillors than they have had since the council was reformed in 2000 and currently hold the council – a first I think

    The LD in 2012 had the lowest number of councillors that they have had since 2000

    The LD high point was when in period before 2010 so there has been a drop off

    The biggest drop has been the Tories

    It is true there have been those by-elections in Maghull but isn’t Maghull historically a LD area and weren’t there some local issues at play there?

    It seems Sefton has been fairly resilient, especially in the northern part of the seat around Southport, a seat incidentaly never held by Labour, but there has been a swing towards labour over the last few years

    As stated previously, isn’t it the case that in a Tory vs LD face-off the LD are holding their own but when it comes to facing labour things are much more difficult – this has even been seen in Sefton to some extent.

    Labour are not targetting seats like Southport – how are things going to go in Withington and Redcar though. These are the seats Labour will be targetting along with Burnley, Bradford West, Birmingham Yardley.

    The only thing that will save LD MPs is tactical/UKIP voting to keep out the Tories in those seats in the South – cosying up to the Tories like has been seen during the last week will not help

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 4:15pm

    @Matt (Bristol)
    To be fair, you only have to look at posts on this site to see that there is a third subgroup of longstanding members representing core Liberal Democrat values. But the leadership’s talk of anchoring the government in the centre ground, and a mantra of “Labour cannot be trusted to build a stronger economy. The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society” does not help me either: it still looks like a message that will be emphasised differently in different constituencies to avoid scaring away tactical voters rather than a clear statement of what Lib Dems stand for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '13 - 4:48pm

    Matt (Bristol)

    And what evidence really is there that there is any credibility for left-leaning LD and Labour voters and wobblers that voting LD is a reliable way of keeping the Tories out given they are right now in government with them?

    Well, we’re talking here specifically about those seats where Labour is in a poor third place. If people who would have voted LibDem in those seats vote Labour, the consequence will be a better Labour vote, but no more Labour MPs. Most LibDem MPs hold seats like this, if they lose votes, it’s the Tories who will win the seat. So the behaviour you’re suggesting here will help the Tories win a majority.

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '13 - 5:05pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “So the behaviour you’re suggesting here will help the Tories win a majority.”
    I agree with what you wrote earlier, and I don’t know if the Lib Dem leadership is doing enough to make it clear to anti-Tory voters whether a Con-LD coalition really would be different from or better than a conservative majority. The result could well be apathy or protest votes for other parties, at the expense of Lib Dem seats.
    Clegg seems to be floating some sort of differentiation today over free school meals versus married couples tax breaks, but it feels very artificial – and not very differentiating either.

  • Ray Cobbett 18th Sep '13 - 6:45pm

    Where I live the council once had 16 Lib Dem district councillors, 4 county councillors and a second-placed parliamentary result. Now it’s down to one district councillor, no county councillors and the May contest suggests next year Ukip and the Tories will slug it out. Core Lib Dem votes was always tiny in comparison and we relied heavily on Labour switchers and the more adventurous very light blues who liked our approach. Free school meals maybe but my neighbour asked what’s the point of spending public money on people who can otherwise afford to buy their kids lunch. Universal benefits are over. Another gift to the Daily Mail readership.
    Nobody deserves his job and that applies to Nick too.

  • Stev e Deller 18th Sep '13 - 7:15pm

    Scottish independence would throw the calulation out in any case. With Scotland removed from the 2015 election Labour will fail to win a majority.

  • @ Rebecca Taylor

    Couldnt agree more. Chris Davies seat in the North West is looking very precarious in the light of current polls. I encourage all Lib Dems to get out and support their MEP’s next year, its going t o be tough going I think.

  • “The fact that most of the 57 seats we hold are Conservative-facing rather than Labour-facing is why most of us consider the Bob Worcester “prediction” to be hilarious.”

    I think how hilarious the next election will be for you will depend to quite a big extent on the behaviour of the people who are currently telling the pollsters that they intend to vote for UKIP. If they do that, or even if they end up abstaining, the Lib Dems may avoid the level of losses that Bob Worcester suggests.

    But if when the crunch comes they vote Conservative – and if the Lib Dem share of the vote is anywhere near what the current polls are suggesting – then it’s difficult to see how the losses could be much smaller than he is predicting.

  • Richard Heathcote 19th Sep '13 - 10:39am

    I have worked in Southport aswell as many other areas of the North West and it is never been traditionally a Labour area. From my experience it is an affluent area and I would say not very typical of the rest of the North West.

    My family have also voted Lib Dem for over 30 Years giving support to David Alton in the Mossley Hill area of Liverpool. All of them will not vote Lib Dem again as they feel the party is not the one they have been supporting for all those years.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Sep '13 - 11:43pm

    John Roffey

    By 45% to 34% people think it was the wrong decision for the Lib Dems to go into coalition with the Conservatives, though this is mainly driven by Labour voters.

    Yes, so what do they think should have happened? And if they don’t like the coalition so much because it’s too Tory, how come people voted by two-to-one in 2011 against electoral reform with the strongest line coming from the “No” side – including many prominent Labour people – that the FPTP system is preferable because of the way it distorts representation in favour of the largest party? The largest party in the 2010 general election was the Tories. Anyone who voted “No” following the “No” campaign’s line was in effect saying what they wanted was a Tory government, and they considered it best to have an electoral system which props up the Tories by giving them a much bigger share of the seats than they had of the votes.

    When people are being so illogical in this way, I think we have to question what they really mean. I’ve never yet had a coherent answer from anyone as to what the WORKABLE and POSSIBLE alternative to the present coalition would be.

  • There were four truly possible options open to the Liberal Democrats in 2010 after the election, all difficult, all hazardous, and all requiring different amounts and kinds of political courage, as none would have been popular all around.
    1) Is, of course, the full coalition with the Conservatives, which was actually taken.
    2) Was a Conservative government with confidence and supply support from the Liberal Democrats. I am sure this was turned down on several grounds: first, that it was believed that the Lib Dems could put more restraint on the Tories from inside government; second, that Lib Dem support for the Tories deserved a greater reward than just the chance to remain on the sidelines looking in (and no doubt if they had, then Cameron would have met every Lib Dem criticism by saying “they had a chance to be in government and failed to take it”; third, that the Lib Dems had been out of office for a very long time, and this provided a road back to government, maybe even a road back to a permanent rôle, especially if certain constitutional changes could be managed; which obviously didn’t happen.
    3) Was short-term support for the Tories, going to a new election in, say, six or nine months. At the time, however, nobody believed that such an election would yield anything other than an absolute Conservative majority, and might well be disastrous for the Lib Dems, if they were blamed for forcing an election on an unwilling populace.
    4) Was a grand coalition involving Labour, though I don’t believe this was ever seriously considered for a moment — however well it might be argued to reflect the popular indecision. Obviously, this was going to give the Lib Dems a much smaller slice of the pie, and would involve unpalatable compromises all around. Politically for the Lib Dems, and in terms of policy for the country as a whole, this might have been the best alternative; but I think the belief was that the people had decisively rejected Labour and wouldn’t stand to see them remain in power, and in any case the economic problems of 2010 would be easily solved and then the happy victors would be suitably rewarded at the polls, no doubt much of the reward going to the ever-reasonable Liberal Democrats, who would be seen as having looked out, rationally and sensibly as ever, for the best interests of the British people.
    That, at least, is how it looked in the rose-coloured days of the Rose Garden.

  • David – I think you’ve characterised the options very well. Where I would take issue with you is in the following:

    “[A] grand coalition involving Labour [would have been p]olitically for the Lib Dems, and in terms of policy for the country as a whole … the best alternative; ”

    Politically it would have been disastrous. We’ve seen revelations today about how Gordon Brown’s spin doctor briefed against his own party members. Interest rates would have rocketed at the thought of more Balls, and the economy would have tanked even further.

    We would forever be remembered as the party who ducked the brave decision and the verdict of the electorate in removing Labour from power, in order to give a reanimating jolt to the corpse of Gordon Brown’s premiership.

  • “Lets be clear – if you look at the polling by Ashcroft the actual result in the seats where the Lib Dem were a close second was to put them in third place. It was actually Con 33% Labour 24% Lib Dem 18% UKIP 14% Green 5% others 7%
    … if the truth gets out that the Lib Dems aren’t even 2nd in places they hope to win, the results could be disaterous.”

    That’s an interesting observation. It does suggest that if the Lib Dem poll ratings do remain very low in the pre-election period there is a danger of potential tactical voters no longer thinking it’s worthwhile. The visibility of the local Lib Dem campaign becomes very important in those circumstances. Perhaps Nick Clegg would do well to avoid disillusioning his remaining activists.

    But I still think the biggest risk illustrated by the Ashcroft poll is that if those UKIP votes were to be squeezed (back?) to the Conservatives during the election campaign, that could leave the Lib Dems well behind in Lib Dem/Conservative contests.

  • Peter Watson 20th Sep '13 - 1:00pm

    As a disclaimer I have no local knowledge and don’t know if there are any special circumstances, but I notice that in a by-election in Woking council yesterday (Maybury and Sheerwater,, Lib Dems lost the seat heavily, slumping to 4th place with a huge swing to Labour who came second. There was also a swing to Con (and UKIP) which prevented a Labour win. If this is remotely representative of other elections, 2015 could be more unpredictable than expected.

  • @Tabman: You could be right. Of course there is no way to re-run history and find out. But I think it might have been *better* for the Lib Dems if both Labour and the Tories had been forced to share the pain of whatever policies were threshed out between the three parties. That doesn’t, of course, mean it would have been *good*; and it might well be that, in any case, Labour would have refused to enter such a coalition, leaving only one of the other alternatives.

    The problem, of course, is that the 2010 election results were far from decisive in any direction, and any number of outcomes could be argued to reflect the will of the people or, conversely, to be thwarting the vox populi. With such opportunities to define the outcome politically one way or another, one is left to reflect that the Liberal Democrats seem to come out worst no matter which outcome or which interpretation is chosen.

  • Peter There were special circumstances at Woking as I understand it. There had been postal vote malpractice previously.

  • Paul in Twickenham 22nd Sep '13 - 5:22pm

    Exit polls from Germany indicate that the FDP – in whose image Mr. Clegg appears to be intent on reshaping the Liberal Democrats – will gain between 4.5% and 4.7% of the vote and will be electorally obliterated. It is fortunate that we have FPTP in this country, no?

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Sep '13 - 6:50pm

    @ Rebecca Taylor
    Absolutely, and it is also worth mentioning that Lib Dem MEPs, unlike MPs, are not bound by the Coalition Agreement, so are free to take an undiluted Lib Dem position. Of course they are bound by membership of ALDE, but this is a grouping based on a common ideology, and in any case party discipline is rather weaker in the European Parliament than in the UK Parliament. So even in regions that have Lib Dem MPs, our MEPs are in a better position to fly the flag for liberal democracy. Also apart from UKIP, we should also make hay from the extremist tendencies of the Tory MEPs and their ECR group.

    @Paul in Twickenham: Germany’s electoral system has a FPTP element, but the FDP never wins any constituency seats. Presumably it has no local strongholds, unlike the Lib Dems and Liberals whose relative strength in the ‘Celtic fringe’ kept the party in Parliament even in leaner times. And you could just as well take VVD as a model for where Clegg is supposedly taking the Lib Dems: but VVD is currently the largest party in the Netherlands, while the left-liberal D66 is 6th. Denmark is similar: it’s the classically liberal Venstre that does (again the largest party), while the left-liberal Radikale Venstre sometimes threatens to fall below that country’s threshold.

  • Paul in Twickenham 23rd Sep '13 - 6:46am

    @Alex – I take your points, but the fact remains that the FDP is a small, historically Liberal party that has existed in the margins between a Socialist/Social Democrat and a Conservative party since the second world war. It has recently been in coalition with the Conservative party and has noticeably shifted to the right, including voting against its own manifesto policies (such as gay marriage) for reasons of political expediency. It has now been totally wiped out in Parliament after bumping along at record lows in opinion polls for several years. Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Eleanor Green 31st Aug '14 - 11:47am

    @ Steve E Deller: ‘Without Scotland’s MPs Labour would fail to win a majority’. Untrue based on current polls, which have Labour winning 341 seats. Take away their 41 seats in Scotland and they win 300 seats. Without the 59 Scottish MPs there would be 591 MPs in the House of Commons. To get a majority a party would need 296.

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