Community data creation – A first (and wrong) attempt at listing the constituencies where the Liberal Democrats were second in the general election

UPDATE: This post has now been superseded. I have now issued a new post with the revised spreadsheet showing 91 seats.
Thanks everyone for your input on my errors, I hope you enjoyed joining in!

A friend asked me if I knew where, on Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s ingenious interweb device, there is a list of the 90 seats where the LibDems were second in the general election in December.

It turns out that I couldn’t find such a list, so I have created it – displayed below through the magic of Scribd.

90 is the figure that has been bandied about but in fact that is just seats where the Tories were first. There are a further 14 where the SNP or Labour were first and we were second.

Please let me know if you spot any errors in this list, as I knocked it up quite quickly.

I did it on Excel using a text file on the Electoral Calculus website.

I have ranked it with the slimmest majorities at the top, and colour coded it – blue for the seats where the Tories were first, red for Labour and yellow for SNP.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in General Election.


  • Why are Belfast South and Foyle included? Lib Dems aren’t standing in Northern Ireland.

  • RogerRobers 26th Jan '20 - 3:43pm

    Ceredigion -unfortunaley Lib Dems were third. Plaid first, Tory second !

  • Sorry, but something is wrong in this list.

    For example, you have Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, but we’re 3rd there.,_Nairn,_Badenoch_and_Strathspey_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s

    The same is true of Argyll and Bute:

    When I did the numbers I got 91. I’ve not quite got the time to go through it now in detail, but I can at some stage.

  • David Warren 26th Jan '20 - 4:12pm

    Belfast South Labour?

  • John Peters 26th Jan '20 - 4:36pm
  • Richard Malim 26th Jan '20 - 5:18pm

    The important point is that only in 15 seats was the winning majority under 5000, and in 11 under 10,000, with 2 SNP and 2 Lab out of the 26. A cynic might say that LD are on the brink of marginalisation, with LD 4 seats in Scotland and 1 in England with less than 5,000 majorities and 3 more less than 10,000.

  • Christine Headley 26th Jan '20 - 5:32pm

    We held many of these seats less than ten years ago, on the same boundaries. Equally, we have never held six of the top eighteen. (I stopped counting at Down South!) Voters are fickle and it is strange how they clump and go off in one direction or another, many of them together. One of these days….

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jan '20 - 5:40pm

    Thanks Paul i am sure you will iron out any errors in the list .What i am more interested in knowing is have teams been put together to work over the next 3 years to make them first places ,for example candidates for the local elections ,mayoralities and Crime and Policing Commisioners get em used to voting Liberal Democrat and then reap well earned rewards.

  • Sorry but I have an election program which is up to date with the 2019 GE result. Labour had 303 2nd places, Tories 216, LD 91, SNP 11, DUP 6, APNI 4, Ind 4, Brexit 3, UUP 3, Grn 2, SDLP 2, SF 2, Ashfield Inds 1, Birkenhead Social Justice 1, PBP 1

  • The swing achieved in Sheffield Hallam in 1997 (our biggest swing at that election) would give us 55 seats.

  • David Evans 26th Jan '20 - 6:11pm

    Neil, If only it were that easy – but it ain’t.

  • @ Christine Headley “Voters are fickle and it is strange how they clump and go off in one direction or another, many of them together”.

    It could be said, Christine, that that’s democracy. It could also be argued that that’s what a particular group of politicians did back in 2010 and that the voters took a considered view on it.

  • David Evans 26th Jan '20 - 7:37pm

    Sesenco Indeed. The swing achieved by Richard Allan in Sheffield Hallam in 1997 – 18.2% – was truly exceptional, but then he was a truly exceptional candidate. At his peak he had a bigger share of the vote than Nick got in 2010!

    Of course he won by taking votes from both the Conservatives and Labour. I think your calculation assumes that swing would all come from the party currently first place. A more realistic approach would assume two thirds from Con and one third from Labour.

  • Paul Holmes 26th Jan '20 - 7:38pm

    @Neil Sandison. I would be interested in how you would expect these ‘teams’ to be ‘found, created, trained, organised and funded’? Especially as you seem to envisage it having already been done in the 6 weeks since the General Election.

    I helped build one such team in the 1980’s and 1990’s which then went on to win the Parliamentary Seat in 2001 and 2005 (narrowly missing in 2010) and to elect 38 out of 48 Borough Cllrs. Then, after all the damage the National Party could inflict on us from 2010-2015, we started rebuilding in Jan 2016 and last year moved from 9 Cllrs elected in 2015 to 17 in 2019.

    It is not something that can be done with the click of a finger especially in a small Party that is almost entirely volunteers with a tiny number of paid staff. Even if the National Party, unusually, has money to burn (as apparently in the recent GE) that particular experiment has shown that simply throwing money at a seat at the last moment is not enough.

  • @Paul Holmes – I think you’re being a bit harsh on Neil S. there. Essentially you’re both making the same point: i.e. we need to get teams on the ground in these seats working like hell. Neil may have erred in using the past tense, but I suspect he didn’t really mean that he expected everything to have been put in place in 6 weeks. The main thing is you both agree (as do I) on what is necessary. Now let’s convince the rest of the party!

  • David Evans 26th Jan '20 - 9:39pm

    Ross, I think you have misinterpreted Paul’s comment.

    The key part of Paul’s comment was “I helped build one such team in the 1980’s and 1990’s which then went on to win the Parliamentary Seat in 2001 and 2005” – i.e. it took 15 to 20 years.

    The key part of Neil’s comment was “have teams been put together to work over the next 3 years to make them first places” – implying it can be done in three years.

    That is a big difference – one based on experience, one based rather too much on wishful thinking.

    P.S. If you doubt Paul’s timescales, look on Wikipedia at Southport for how long it took Ronnie Fearn to win, or Burnley to see how long it took Gordon Birtwistle.

  • “Essentially you’re both making the same point: i.e. we need to get teams on the ground in these seats working like hell.”

    That presupposes they have something new and different to say and a convincing message to convey….. If not it’ll be like a hamster in a wheel. The evidence from December is that 88.4% of the electorate in the UK weren’t convinced by the prevailing message.

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jan '20 - 10:31pm

    Well i seem to have caused a few grumbles but i have been around since the SDP/Liberal Alliance when we used to slap ourselves collectively on the back for getting lots of seconds .But seconds do not count .only winning gives you the power to change things or overcome the 80 seat majority Labour gifted the tories by their constant indecision .
    Perhaps the regions should be giving more assistance to these potentally winnable seats and they through their local parties identify the most likely contenders we can capture .Boris is going abolish the fixed term parliament we really have not got as long as some of us may think . HQ got it so wrong at this election .My encouragement is for you to put up your own teams be they local or regional and target ,target, target .

  • @David Evans – Thanks but I have been around in this party for a long time too, and I know all about targeting and how long it can take. My point is that those of us who believe in local community campaigning and hard work to gain these seats should be sticking together and pushing that narrative within the party. Neil is an ally in that cause, not an enemy.

  • Neil, you are quite right that second places mean absolutely nothing at all in themselves unless they can be turned into first place in the future. Having joined the SDP in 1983 I cannot though remember much self congratulation about second places -mind you in my area we had been third at every election since WW2 at that point in time!

    Most of the Target Seats this time around seem to have been picked, at fairly short notice, by someone in London and without Regional input. A significant number would never have been selected under the Target Seat criteria that gave such good results in 1997, 2001 or 2005 -and came nowhere near success in 2019. Other seats were even banned from spending their own money (above £1,000) on their own campaigning at one point during the Long Campaign -so much for local and/or Regional initiative being encouraged.

    As you say “HQ got it so wrong at this election.”

  • David Evans 27th Jan '20 - 1:28am

    Ross, Clearly Neil is not an enemy and I can’t think why you should consider it needs saying. But what Neil said was clearly misleading, implying 3 years is long enough to win a seat when he said “teams been put together to work over the next 3 years to make them first places.” We all know it just doesn’t happen like that. Even in the relatively good times, when 15% in the polls was a poor performance, it took around 15 years to get to that stage.

    Us Old hands should never mislead new ones, even inadvertently. At the very least it leads to complacency but more often it leads to wasted resources with too many seats chasing too few activists.

  • Nick Collins 26th Jan ’20 – 6:49pm……………… But I still have the problem of how best to deface the brexit half quid…………..

    I’m filing them down to turn them into 20p pieces..After all, that’s what they’ll be worth after a few years of ‘Brexit’.

  • David McHardy 30th Jan '20 - 6:35pm

    The list currently has us as second in Ceredigion, whereas we’re actually third behind the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru.

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