Election Media Watch: The Lib Dem Strategy for the General Election

I don’t think it will come as any surprise at all to any of us that our key plan in this election is to gain seats in the “Blue Wall” where we have come second to the Tories. Not all of those seats are in the South East of England. Harrogate, Cheadle, Hazel Grove, are all up north. And then there are all the seats in the south west which came into play when we won Somerton and Frome.

Of course, as Alex Cole-Hamilton will tell you, we “have our grappling hooks” into the acid yellow wall of the SNP. We are hoping to retain our current 4 seats north of the Border and gain Susan Murray in East Dunbartonshire and Angus MacDonald in the new version of Charles Kennedy’s old seat.  If you think the latter is unlikely, you are likely not aware of the power of work that Angus has been doing. I was very pleasantly surprised last Summer to see enormous billboards with his name on them entering Inverness on the A9 from the South and on the A82 from the West.

And in Wales, it would be fantastic to regain the new Brecon, Radnor and Cym Tawe seat being fought for us by David Chadwick.

And if you are in any of those seats, you will be in no doubt that we are the challengers to the incumbent Conservatives or Nationalists. You will have been able to wallpaper your house 3 times over with the literature we have delivered over the past 4 years.

Anyway, it’s good to see some positive coverage of this in the newspapers this weekend.

The Guardian has highlighted the 2 million leaflets dropping through Blue Wall letterboxes this weekend. (Spoiler: I know how many more are coming soon and this is only the start).

Lib Dem strategists said the party had to deploy a leafleting and digital advertising blitz early on to convince voters, especially those intending to vote Labour in these seats, that Lib Dems were better placed to remove the Tory incumbent.

While they believe tactical voting has the potential to work, they want to reach voters while they are focused on the announcement of the election.

The Lib Dems are now seeking to begin a “Labour squeeze” in a collection of target seats in Tory southern heartlands, where they have been building momentum. It means the swift return of Lib Dem bar charts claiming they are the only party with a realistic chance of removing the incumbent Tory MP.

Activists have already been warned they have a “critical” job to reach voters in the opening weeks of the campaign. A series of 200 digital ads across dozens of seats where the Lib Dems are the main threat to the Tories are being sent to Labour voters.

I have to say, Chichester candidate Jess Brown-Fuller looks a lot more comfortable in her life jacket than Ed does in the photo!

From the Sunday Times (£):

An orange wave is heading for the Tory “blue wall”, where a Lib Dem revival, and the future of a string of Conservative cabinet ministers — although not that of Gove, who announced on Friday he is standing down — will be decided over the next six weeks.

While the Lib Dems are standing everywhere, they have, since 2019, channelled their resources into 90 constituencies where the party is currently second to the Tories. These are now Davey’s target seats, where he will spend the most time campaigning – and where the Lib Dems believe tactical Labour supporters will prove vital in helping them oust the Tories.

They are mainly located in the blue wall, the loose collection of Tory seats in southern England filled with economically conservative, socially liberal voters. They include the seats held by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt (Godalming & Ash); the leader of the Commons, Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North); and the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire).

LBC got the memo too:

Buoyed by a series of by-election and local election victories within the so-called blue wall, the party is eyeing the constituencies of several Cabinet ministers including Jeremy Hunt, Gillian Keegan and Lucy Frazer.

It will also be targeting Michael Gove’s seat of Surrey Heath, which the prominent MP announced he would not be fighting in this summer’s vote.

The party said details of the marginal constituency in which its battlebus tour will be launched will be released later.

Sir Ed said: “Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to save our NHS after years of Conservative chaos. The NHS will be at the heart of our manifesto with a plan to make sure everyone can see a GP when they need one and repair hospital buildings left in a desperate state.

“The Conservative Party can never be trusted with the NHS after their legacy of crumbling hospitals and soaring waiting lists.

“Conservative ministers have shamelessly broken their promises to build new hospitals and left ageing buildings to fall apart. It has left patients worrying about a roof collapsing over their head instead of being treated with dignity in clean and modern hospitals.”

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  • Bit worried that Angus MacDonald openly identifies himself as economically right wing on the highland lib dems website, how’s that going to go down in such a poor constituency?
    The SNP are already attacking him over a past donation to the Tories.

    Thankfully we do have a good number of progressive candidates who are a lot more certain to win.

  • Alex Macfie 27th May '24 - 3:33am

    The Scottish Highlands is one of those places where electoral success depends strongly on personal popularity, and ideology is a lesser consideration. If this Angus MacDonald has established himself well in Charles Kennedy’s (RIP) old constituency, then he stands a good chance.

  • FAO Newshound. “Not all of those seats are in the South East of England. Harrogate, Cheadle, Hazel Grove, are all up north”. Yes, but, yes, it’s the leafy Home Counties with with a bit of a northerly elevation.

    Harrogate, Cheadle and Hazel Grove are in the posh wealthy temporarily disillusioned Tory bits. What about the old textile cities and towns like Leeds, Bradford, Halifax Huddersfield, Preston, Bolton, Blackburn which used to be Liberal strongholds back in the days of Liberal Government over a century ago ?

  • Given the wall-to-wall coverage we’re all going to endure over the next few weeks I thought some slight relief might be to share a couple of gems from my childhood reading…… quoting from the ‘Just William’ series by the late Richmal Crompton.

    1. In ‘The Job I’d like best, 1927’. “There are three sides’, said William, ‘Conservative, Liberal and Bolshevist”.

    2. In ‘William, Prime Minister’ (1929), William stands as a Conservative in a mock school election, and inevitably wins. Yet even here, the ultimate message appears to be somewhat sceptical. William’s friend Ginger offers the following summary of the political landscape:

    ‘There’s four sorts of people tryin’ to get to be rulers. They all want to make things better, but they want to make ’em better in different ways.

    There’s Conservatives an’ they want to make things better by keepin’ ’em jus’ like what they are now. An’ there’s Lib’rals an’ they want to make things better by alterin’ them jus’ a bit, but not so’s anyone’d notice, an’ there’s Socialists, an’ they want to make things better by takin’ everyone’s money off ’em, an’ there’s Communists an’ they want to make things better by killin’ everyone but themselves”.

  • Peter Watson 28th May '24 - 1:06am

    @David Raw “Yes, but, yes, it’s the leafy Home Counties with with a bit of a northerly elevation.”
    Sadly, I get the impression that the Lib Dems no longer have any interest in garnering support in less well-off parts of the country. 🙁
    I’ve pointed numerous times in recent years to Alasdair Rae’s infographics (https://twitter.com/undertheraedar/status/1390632762105806856) that show the trend of Lib Dem representation narrowing to a less diverse and more affluent demographic, and the party’s strategies since 2015 – but especially under Ed Davey – seem intended only to continue this.

  • Anthony Acton 28th May '24 - 6:52am

    Peter – have you ever been to Yeovil, Bridgwater, Honiton, Chard, Bodmin etc etc – the West Country may be leafy but it’s not affluent. There must be a dozen target seats down here where poverty and deprivation are real issues and the Lib Dems are the only serious challengers to the Tories.

  • Yeovil Yokel 28th May '24 - 7:17am

    Peter – firstly, I echo what Anthony says about large parts of the West Country; I believe Cornwall and Somerset are amongst the poorest counties in southern England. I’m very fortunate to own my assets of land and machinery, but my current cash income from farming amounts to a few paltry £/hour of work.
    Secondly, under FPTP we (and the Greens) have to target our limited resources where we have a chance of winning: unlike Labour there is no point us spreading ourselves thinly across large numbers of seats north of Watford Gap because we’d end up with nearly nothing. Ed Davey is taking a pragmatic approach to try & maximise our influence in the House of Dinosaurs….sorry, Commons.

  • Chris Moore 28th May '24 - 7:19am

    Seats in the Blue Wall in the south have poorer areas within them. In the several I know personally, there are pockets of deprivation, food banks etc.

    Please stop regurgitating all the cliches about leafy southern seats.

  • Chris Moore 28th May '24 - 7:26am

    I have to wonder if sone of you have ever actually visited a “leafy” Blue Wall seat?

    Btw what is this nonsense about “leaves”? I think you’ll find there are trees in every constituency in Britain. And some rural areas- many trees, even more leaves – are pretty deprived.

  • Peter Watson 28th May '24 - 8:35am

    Yes, there are less affluent parts of constituencies up and down the country, but which ones are Lib Dems targeting? Which byelections did the party machine get excited about?

    I don’t know the south west, though based on deprivation (https://automaticknowledge.org/images/uk-deprivation-constituency-2021-v1-border.png) in 2021, Yeovil (along with Hazel Grove, up here in the north west) sits – just! – in the least deprived half of the country.

    But, regardless of geography, how many Lib Dem seats and targets are in the 20% least deprived constituencies in that diagram, and how many in the 20% most deprived? Compare the spread of Lib Dem seats in 2001 with 2017 (England & Wales only, https://twitter.com/undertheraedar/status/1192727840216829957/photo/1) which shows a trend that worsened subsequently.

    I don’t think the party has a north-south problem, but I do think it has a socioeconomic one, and the self-publicised “blue wall” strategy with all its gimmicks seems calculated to reinforce this. Is there a post-election strategy to broaden support?

    I appreciate the desire to get rid of this awful Tory government and the constraints of targeting limited resources, but the party seems to have wilfully ignored a large part of the electorate and left a vacuum for Starmer’s Labour to fill. Worse still, the momentum might mean small-c conservative Labour snatch Lib Dem targets while the Greens nibble away at those places looking for an alternative.

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