Mori’s Sir Bob Worcester increases his forecast for Lib Dem seats in May 2015

Sir-Robert-WorcesterYes, you read that headline right: founder of MORI, Sir Bob Worcester, increased his forecast of how many seats the Lib Dems would win in May 2015 when asked for a prediction at last week’s Lib Dem conference.

I’ll be honest, though: I don’t think he meant to.

Last year, you may recall he predicted the party would win 24 seats. I certainly remember: Bob Worcester forecasts Lib Dems to be reduced to 24 seats in 2015. I’ll run naked down Whitehall if that’s the result (17th Sept 2013). I further, erm, nailed my colours to the mast on the BBC’s Daily Politics: Lib Dem blogger pledge ‘to run naked down Whitehall’.

I’ll be honest again. I’m a little less cock-sure than I was a year ago. But, still, I don’t think it will be as bad as 24. And neither, apparently, does Sir Bob now: this year he forecast the Lib Dems would win 25-30 seats. I was careful to make a note of it at the time:

So it seems I (and the denizens of Whitehall) will be spared a sight none of us wish for next May: a disappointing poll.

* 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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39 Comments

  • David Evans 16th Oct '14 - 8:18pm

    25 to 30 seats. Hurrah. Nick vindicated! Only 90 to 95 short of his target!

  • Matt Downey 16th Oct '14 - 9:03pm

    “cock-sure”
    “disappointing poll”
    THIS is why I read LDV

  • From Stephen Tall’s piece on 12th August 2014 —

    “It’s almost two years since Ryan Coetzee was appointed as Nick Clegg’s director of strategy, replacing Richard Reeves.
    One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party.
    However, his publicly funded special adviser role had started to attract some controversy. … Ryan switched roles, to …. General Election Director of Strategy.
    Key Responsibilities:
    1. To advise and work with the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to determine political strategy.
    2. To lead the realisation of the agreed political strategy by providing active and inspirational leadership at every level of the party. ”

    So, two years and two months gone and six months to go.
    And the best spin Stephen can manage is that dear old Bob Worcester thinks we might get more than 24 seats.

    If we are now talking about 25 – 30 seats, when last week the media were being briefed that we would get 35-40 seats, is there a game of downgrading expectations going on?

    Is that — “……providing active and inspirational leadership at every level of the party. ” ?

    Or is it providing advanced cover for failure to meet objectives ?

  • In all of the nation-wide elections of the past four years, actual results have been even more disastrous than the most negative prognostication. Based on that, for a realistic assessment of the Lib Dems’ prospects in 2015, I’d look for the worst-case prediction and then subtract five.

  • Peter Chegwyn 16th Oct '14 - 9:49pm

    So if we hang onto just half our Westminster seats that will somehow be regarded as some form of victory???

    Shows how low our expectations now are!

    And don’t forget all the council, European and Scottish Parliament seats we’ve already lost over the past 4 years.

    We need to start planning now regarding how we re-build our party after next May and we also need to start promoting a more inspiring political message than ‘vote for us because we’re not as bad as the others’.

    Endlessly debating how many Westminster seats we may cling onto or who we may or may not go into coalition with does nothing to inspire the troops or attract disillusioned voters to support us at the polls.

  • Peter Chegwyn 16th Oct '14 - 10:47pm

    Simon – With the greatest of respect I doubt whether the hundreds of hard-working Lib. Dem. councillors who have lost their seats over the past four years through no fault of their own will agree with you.

    You claim we have still retained a clear majority of seats each time. In truth we’ve been completely wiped-out in many areas. Even those areas like my own where we actually made a net gain of seats this year have only done so by insulating our local campaigning from national factors and the national leadership. I still can’t find a single successful local election candidate anywhere in the land who’ll admit to putting a photo of Nick Clegg in their election material this year!

    I hope you’re right that we end up with 30 – 40 seats next May (which in itself, would see us lose a third to a half of our seats) but all my gut instinct from 40+ years of campaigning makes me fear it will be worse than that and could be a lot worse if UKIP’s continued momentum (and that of the Scots Nats) sees us sidelined and regarded as an unpopular irrelevance in large parts of the country.

    We really should be starting to plan now for how we re-build our party from the bottom-up post-May. I fear there’s going to be a lot of re-building to do… but it can and must be done.

  • Tsar Nicolas 17th Oct '14 - 12:55am

    @Simon Shaw

    What exactly do you mean by saying that ‘we have retained a majority of seats’ each time?

    The LDs certainly did not retain a majority of local government seats in the UK, or in Scotland, or England, or in Wales. Are you referring to any one particular local authority area?

    Your statement is, to say the least, most misleading.

  • Peter Chegwyn 17th Oct '14 - 1:05am

    @ Simon Shaw

    Sorry but you are wrong and far from precise in what you wrote in your first three paragraphs at 11.01pm.

    To give but one example.

    You say that where we have been wiped-out in local elections over the past four years, to the best of your knowledge ‘none of those areas are where we have the MP’.

    Best tell that to John Leech MP in Manchester.

    In 2010 we had 31 Lib. Dem. councillors in Manchester. Now we have none.

    I agree with your 4th paragraph. We have indeed entered a new era of 4 to 5 (maybe even 6) party politics as I indicated in my earlier post at 10.47pm. Sadly I don’t think our own party leaders or HQ have yet worked out how to respond to the electoral challenge posed by UKIP (about which I first warned over 2 years ago) or the SNP or even, vote-wise if not seat-wise, the Greens.

    Yes, if UKIP take votes disproportionately from the Conservatives rather than the Lib. Dems. then that MIGHT help us hold local and national seats next May but if all the momentum is with UKIP and we’re sidelined and ridiculed by the media and large swathes of the electorate then there is a real and growing risk that we could do even worse in votes and seats than now appears likely (and that’s saying something).

    The next seven months could be the most interesting politically that most of us can remember (and I’ve worked at all levels of the party for over 40 years).

    The next seven months could also be the most disastrous for our own party politically since the late 70s Lib-Lab pact (when I was constituency agent for one of just 11 Liberal MPs returned in 1979) or even before.

    I agree with your final sentence. We do indeed live in strange (political) times. Fascinating, exciting and in some ways very worrying political times.

    Whatever happens next May I hope your own MP in Southport, John Pugh, survives. He’s one of the good guys!

  • Simon Shaw
    I assume the situation you refer to, say, as you are used to, elections by thirds, that if a constituency (or a local council area started out with 16 Lib Dems, that by this year, with ? 3 elections , that we have maintained at least 2 Lib Dems?
    In other words, not under 8 kept in Year 1, not under 4 in Year 2, and not under 2 in Year 3? Obviously, in the situation I am used to , where we have all out elections, with the same numbers, you are saying that there are not less than 8 after one round of elections? Looking back at your original comment, I suppose you mean the total defended across the country was not more than halved each time. In which case I can only endorse Peter Chegwyn’s comment that that is hardly any sort of ambition! How quickly, or how slowly (!) we will be wiped out.

  • Simon Shaw 16th Oct ’14 – 11:01pm
    “…@Peter Chegwyn —-I don’t know what your work background is, but I’m an accountant…”

    Simon Shaw, you have been a member of the party since the 1970s and you do not know what Peter Chegwyn’s work background is???

    I can only assume that you have been very busy with your accuntant’s practice during this time. Or maybe you do not get out of Southport very often, or have never read Liberal News, attended a conference or have ever taken part in anything other than very local activities.

    Nothing wrong with that of course — many party members probably never look beyond their own back fence. But they have the good sense not to start picking a fight and throwing around supposed election facts and pretend data in a discussion with Peter Chegwyn.

    If you still do not know who he is, I recommend you keep quiet until you have found out.

  • Can I suggest that Simon Shaw carries out detailed research into Peter Chegwyn’s contribution to the Liberal and subsequently Lib Dem parties? Perhaps the fact that he has a song in his honour in the Glee Club songbook will be a start not to mention his background as a national organiser!

  • @Simon Shaw

    Another fly in your ointment is Tessa Munt’s seat of Wells. Since nabbing it by 800 votes the Tories have held their share of district councillors (35 out of 43 by my count) and their share of county councillors (12 out of 13). You might say that they haven’t made gains – and therefore we’ve not made losses – but those scores are hardly a vindication of the claim that we do well where we have an MP. Especially as the European Election count in the District Council that covers part of Tessa’s patch and part of David Heath’s had us miles back and scrapping with the Greens for the minor placings.

    I wish I could share your optimism but in the neighbouring seat of Somerton & Frome, we’ve just lost a very high profile county council by-election too. And that was despite all our Somerset MPs using their incumbency to hammer the county council over a ridiculously well paid council executive. Despite that, the Tories still won because we’re just really unpopular.

    I’m with those who say that we should be thinking about the rebuild after 2015. By Simon’s logic we should be doing ok in Somerset but I think we’ll just about manage to hold on to David Laws and lose the rest. Sorry for being so negative!

  • Ruth Bright 17th Oct '14 - 9:23am

    Blimey Simon Shaw – any other living legends you want to patronise?!

  • ………what have I said that is patronising?
    ………. (mainly in the Hampshire area, isn’t it?), but I have no idea whether he is, for example, a professional statistician by background, or even any good at maths.

    I have no idea if Simon Shaw is any good as an accountant but I think he was wise not to follow a career in politics.

  • @Oli87 Hi ,can I ask you what you envisage ” starting the rebuild now”would require in terms of allocating time and resources?Why is it a good idea to start now when realistically the next 7 months will be dominated by the GE and why is it advantageous to start when it’s far from clear who will be leading the Party post 2015?
    As someone who’s helping out in a LD seat which is far from safe,(but potentially saveable),I’d be inclined to argue that the overiding priority was to focus what resources we have,both financial and human), into fighting for every vote in those seats where we’re in with a shout.

  • Peter Watson 17th Oct '14 - 11:11am

    @Stephen Tall ” I further, erm, nailed my colours to the mast on the BBC’s Daily Politics: Lib Dem blogger pledge ‘to run naked down Whitehall’. I’ll be honest again. I’m a little less cock-sure than I was a year ago.”
    Please help me get that image out of my head 😉

  • Dean.W. 17th Oct ’14 – 10:57am
    the overiding priority ……. to focus what resources we have,both financial and human), into fighting for every vote in those seats where we’re in with a shout.

    Dean.W.
    You are right to say this. But I am not sure that message as got through to the top of the party. Only a couple of weeks ago we had the madness of the party calling on people in South London to go and help in the Referendm in Scotland. Not exactly the best use of money and people’s time and energy. I cannot imagine that one Liberal Democrat seat will be saved by the referendum result.

    Those who are better informed than me suggest that there are about a dozen seats where outside help could make a difference to hanging on to a LIberal Democrat MP. But how many members in the 600 seats where we will not be electing a Liberal Democrat have been asked to help in those twelve seats?

    The General Election proper will be in full swing in March. But in the precious weeks before then a great deal could be done in those dozen seats.

    If LDV devoted as much space to the candidates and campaigns in those seats over the next few weeks as it has to Jeremy Browne over the last few days, it would be a start.

  • “In 2010 we had 31 Lib. Dem. councillors in Manchester. Now we have none.”

    Also it wasn’t that long ago that the Liberal Democrats jointly ran Southampton City Council with Labour. Now the Lib Dems have 2 Councillors (just) and it seems a lot of those seats have gone to Labour. Seats lost included the once very popular former leader of the council Adrian Vinson.

    I’m sure this sort of thing has been repeated throughout the country and the problem, fundamentally, is poor leadership so it’s very sad that the Liberal Democrats (those left) have allowed their leader and his cohorts to stay in power for so long.

  • Jenny Barnes 17th Oct '14 - 4:15pm

    I’m sure I remember more than 2 MEPS before the last euro elections. Catherine Bearder & Sharon Bowles in the SE…there surely were others

  • Thankyou for the patronising tone – just right, Simon. It would, of course, have helped had I, after speaking of your “elections by thirds” situation, had then written it up as such, rather than managing to mangle thirds with all-up elections. The point I was inadequately trying to make was that when you have one election, followed by the next cycle, and the next, it is not really very long till you are wiped out, even if you maintain 50 – 60% of your defended councillors each time. Those of us, for instance, who are going into the second all-up cycle of District elections, in your criterion, ONLY have to maintain 25% of the original seats as in 2010. We were fortunate in 2011 – we didn’t lose any District seats net. We MAY be lucky next year….

  • Peter Galton 17th Oct '14 - 7:14pm

    I am very sorry to say that we in Southampton have been wiped out. We lost our final 2 seats in May. We have been 50 votes short for the last 2 years in the Portswood ward. We are very short of active party members now. A very hard rundown to the next election.

  • David Evans 17th Oct '14 - 8:47pm

    Of course Simon as a politician you are a wordsmith as well as an accountant and the words chosen do have an impact Compare your chosen expressions (I have corrected the years)

    In 2011 we retained 59% of the council seats we were defending which were up for election – A clear majority
    In 2012 we retained 57% of the council seats we were defending which were up for election – A clear majority
    In 2013 we retained 74% of the council seats we were defending which were up for election – A clear majority
    In 2014 we retained 58% of the council seats we were defending which were up for election – A clear majority

    with a more sober realistic choice of words

    In 2011 we retained 59%, less than two thirds of the council seats we were defending which were up for election
    In 2012 we retained 57%, less than two thirds of the council seats we were defending which were up for election
    In 2013 we retained 74%, less than three quarters of the council seats we were defending which were up for election
    In 2014 we retained 58%, less than two thirds of the council seats we were defending which were up for election

    I too have written audit reports which, while perfectly true, had the wording subsequently so mangled by my managers who wanted to stay in favour, so that the actions needed were never justified.

    I am afraid your choice of words, while perfectly true, is an example of the latter.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Oct '14 - 10:30pm

    Simon Shaw
    But David Evans doesn’t deny that those figures constitute “a clear majority”; he just points out that that’s not the only way they can be described nor necessarily the most appropriate way to do so. After all, it’s not a majority of anything except seats that the party already held. The Labour Party held onto a clear majority — over 70% — of the seats they were defending in parliament in 2010. That didn’t make it a good result.

  • Simon – in Brent (also represented by a LIb Dem MP) we have been reduced to one councillor. In Haringey we have 9, down from 23 in 2010.

  • Simon Banks 19th Oct '14 - 5:14pm

    It does seem to me that from somewhere there’s some downgrading of expectations going on, but it’s impossible to say if this comes from the top . A while back there seemed to be an unattributable consensus that less than 40 seats would be a bad enough result to make Nick Clegg’s exit likely. Now I suspect say 37 seats would be spun as a pretty good result and anything from 30 up would be grin and bear it territory. But maybe in fact anything above 25 will be hailed as a triumph, and my guess is we will get more than 25. Just add no overall control again and I suspect those people who are grimacing and bearing it at present believing there will soon be a leadership contest will be disappointed (unless, of course, one is somehow forced and I can’t see that happening while our brave boys and girls are going over the top to try to cut a deal with the Tories (or Labour).

  • Simon Banks 19th Oct ’14 – 5:14pm
    All the points you make are valid. On the last one if Liberal Demcorats active in the next General Election want a leadership change after May, they should ask the candidate they are helping if they will be part of that change.
    If the answer is no or an equivocation, switch to a candidate who is for change.

  • Simon shaw

    “Those currently betting with their own money think we will have more seats in 2015 than Sir Bob’s 25-30 (as do I),”

    You are correct – but it’s close – the latest betting is 7/4 31 – 40 seats, 9/4 21 – 30 seats, 5/1 11 – 20 seats, with the rest at larger odds. Not sure that any off those results would be good and don’t forget it is not at all rare for 5/1 shots to win.

  • The bookies also expect the LibDems to lose Taunton – which may explain Browns decision to stand down – and say that Danny Alexander is in “big trouble” and unlikely to hold his seat.

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