The next general election will be a Conservative-facing one: some stats

Following the 2019 general election, we are now second in 91 seats, of which 80 are held by the Conservatives and just 9 by Labour (the other 2 are held by the SNP). Of the 10 seats where we are closest (less than 3000 votes behind), 8 are currently held by The Conservatives.

You can model some interesting seat projections based on various swing scenarios. As shown by Electoral Calculus:

In other words, when we take votes off Labour then The Conservatives win, Labour lose and we barely move. When we take votes off The Conservatives then they lose, we win and Labour also win.

From Labour’s point of view, the story is similar:

Fascinatingly, we would actually win more seats with a 5% swing from The Conservatives to Labour than we do with a 5% swing from The Conservatives to us. The overall picture is clear: vote swings between Labour and the Lib Dems would have much less impact on seat numbers than vote swings to or from The Conservatives.

None of this is to comment on the strategy or politics of the 2019 election, or to advocate some kind of electoral pact; these are just statistics and projections. But I think they make for illuminating reading.


These predictions do not take account of likely boundary changes at the next election, so are performed using the boundaries as of the 2019 general election.

These predictions assume identical swing in Scotland as in the rest of Great Britain, which is clearly a flawed assumption, but the results are basically the same if you assume no swing in Scotland.

All seat prediction calculations from the Electoral Calculus.

* David McHardy is a Lib Dem member and activist in the Cambridge party.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tony Greaves 21st Jan '20 - 7:16pm

    I suggest that before we start worrying about winnable seats (unless we get a fluky by-election) we spend time and thought and energy sorting out the party. What we are for and what we need to do to build up a party that can achieve that.

  • The party could attempt to right the wrongs of the Coalition years. A way to get voters like me supporting the party in seats they can beat the Tories. A full and exhaustive investigation into the terrible cruel decisions made during the Coalition years. The only way to get those centre Left voters back is a sincere and total apology..if not then the decline will continue

  • The problem is that if anything the Tories and Johnson are getting more popular by the day. “If” Labour come to their senses and elect Lisa Nandy or Starmer as leader they may attract voters from the Tories, but they are more likely to appeal to Lib Dem voters. I can see you doing OK at local level, but in a general election? I’m afraid it’s looking like a very difficult time ahead.

  • James Belchamber 21st Jan '20 - 7:41pm

    This is a good analysis of where we stand, both in what our goals should be and our role in the wider UK left movement. While not taking our eyes off Labour (who may well be destined to another decade in the wilderness that we should not wait for them to emerge from), it’s clear from both our targets (80 of our “second places” are Tory) and the political landscape (we can win where Labour can’t) that our main goal over the next 5 years toppling Tories.

  • Of course Tony Greaves is correct – we don’t know what the party is for any more, so this is a huge issue. I mean, please, someone at least tell us it’s for action on the climate, electoral reform or tax cuts – anything!! We’ve established elsewhere that the party is against three things currently … that isn’t going to enthuse our activists let alone voters. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the analysis here, it’s that I don’t know what we can do with it. Being against Brexit may help in future when the true meaning of this madness becomes apparent and even the Tory press can’t deflect the news focus onto hapless aristocrats and the like forever. Being against Scottish self determination is bizarre to me as we are meant to support that (see preamble to our constitution), ok it helps us keep a couple of seats in Scotland for now but, wow, I’m not moved to work for a Liberal and Unionist Party guys.

    This is quite an existential crisis! If we have something to say in Wales, I haven’t heard it and we’ll need more than manifesto promises of free
    Toothbrushes for all to recover the 5 lost assembly seats. I have doubts about endless reams of Focus saying increasingly less; but then maybe potholes are what we do now?

  • @ johnmc “tell us it’s for action on the climate, electoral reform or tax cuts – anything!! ”

    I’m afraid tax cuts is a wee difficulty, john. The only consistency is inconsistency.

    In the 2001 election Charlie Kennedy announced a penny on income tax for education. In 2002 he cancelled the idea.

    In the 2008 Glenrothes byelection I was asked to put out a leaflet saying a 1p income tax cut. That went down well – the Lib Dem vote dropped from nearly 5,000 to 900.

    In the 2010 election Cleggy opposed any VAT rise as ‘a Tory bombshell’. Six weeks later he voted for it – up from 17.5% to 20%.

    In 2017, “Lib Dems pledge 1p tax rise to ‘rescue NHS and social care’. Tim Farron says money from income tax rise will go into ring-fenced £6bn annual budget to address chronic underfunding”.

    In 2019, Sir Ed Davey said ‘if they got into government, the Lib Dems would run a 1 per cent surplus on current spending – meaning day-to-day costs of public services would be lower than the amount raised in taxes. He claimed a “Remain bonus” would help shore up state finances.This ‘pledge’ was repeated in 2019….. he then went on to announce a 1p for the NHS and Social Care.

    Now as an old fashioned tax and spend Liberal, I’m a bit confused by all this and not sure what the latest position or underlying theory is – if there is one. Try asking Alexa – she probably knows.

    PS On your other question, fortry years ago some senior Libs (D.M.S. Steel a bit, Ludovic Kennedy a lot – used to be in favour of Scottish Home Rule….. Russell Johnston wasn’t, Jo Grimond havered between was and wasn’t. Today Willie certainly isn’t. Again, not sure if this will change.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jan '20 - 8:03am

    “Following the 2019 general election, we are now second in 91 seats …”
    Whilst this will make for good bar charts in the next election the party needs to determine how much of this was due to a temporary boost from Remainers who have no other reason to stick with the party.
    To echo Tony Greaves, “sorting out the party” is a priority, in particular, “what we are for” (though strictly speaking, from my perspective these days it’s “what are you for”!), having spent most of the last few years defining the party in terms of what it’s against.

  • David Raw 21st Jan ’20 – 8:57pm……………Now as an old fashioned tax and spend Liberal, I’m a bit confused by all this and not sure what the latest position or underlying theory is – if there is one. Try asking Alexa – she probably knows………….

    You mustn’t say ‘tax and spend’; such words are only used as an insult in today’s politics. You are only allowed to ‘reduce’ higher rates of tax for the benefits of ‘trickle down’.
    Strange how Labour’s £75 billion to build 150,000 council/affordable homes was a left wing plan to bankrupt the country whilst the current £106 billion (and still rising) HS2 is still on the table. It seems that only Labour borrowing is ‘unsustainable’.

    As for the rest of this party’s policies, I’m getting an ‘Echo’ for my birthday (17th Feb) so I’ll have all the answers then. What is worrying is that it seems the leadership is using the same approach.
    BTW….Apologising for 2010-15 is only half the battle; the hard part is putting together policies that show things will be different and an even harder part is convincing the electorate of the change.

  • Julian Tisi 22nd Jan '20 - 9:36am

    @Silvio “The party could attempt to right the wrongs of the Coalition years. …The only way to get those centre Left voters back is a sincere and total apology”
    Hell no. This party has been apologising for too long for the one time we’ve been in government in a century. When we consider the context of the Coalition years – the absolute need to take difficult decisions, which any government would have been faced with, when you consider what came before and what’s come since, the coalition record is rather good. The economy improved, we went from being the slowest growing economy in the G7 to the fastest (then since the Brexit referendum we went back to being the slowest). Unemployment fell, despite all predictions to the contrary. Of course we made mistakes but every government does. Why do we feel ashamed of all of this? In any case, the far left are never going to come back to us if we keep on apologising. But there are lots and lots of voters out there who want to make the country fairer but who also understand that things cost money. Many of these sadly now vote Conservative. But if we want to gain their trust and their votes we’re unlikely to do so if we have no confidence and pride in ourselves and our record. After all, if we don’t admire ourselves, why should they?

  • Jane Ann Liston 22nd Jan '20 - 10:12am

    We support Home Rule. We do not support a hard border at Berwick. They are not the same thing.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Jan '20 - 10:30am

    I first met David Raw in the Liberal Party’s youth office in the basement of LPO “Liberal Party Organisation “, 1963?

  • How can you not know what you are for?

    Here’s a clue:

    You are for identity politics.
    You are for the UK being absorbed into a country called Europe.
    You are for open border immigration and by definition societal change for its own sake.
    You are for higher taxes
    You are for political correctness
    You are for political reform if it helps you get more seats, but you are against political reform if it means your over-representation in the un-democratic Lords is affected.

    It would be easier to say what you are against:

    Everything that is of interest to the majority population who occupy the common ground.

    On the substance of the thread, I have no doubt that most of the 80 places you were second in, were in 80 seats that the Brexit Party didn’t stand in, which makes a mockery of this extrapolation of potential winnable seats from 2019 incomplete data.
    As a matter of interest, how did you do in those 80 seats in 2015 when there was no imminent Brexit to muddy the waters, and there was a ‘common ground’ party UKIP competing for none Labour/Conservative votes, I will leave it to others to do the research, but I would lay money that you could probably take the 0(zero) off the 80.

  • @ Martin

    “What was it about politics in the 70s that gave rise to a radical wing in which Tony was involved? ”

    Well there wasn’t a social democratic Liberal Democrat Party for a start, there was a Liberal Party. The party today is not liberal in the traditional sense, it is just a mini me version of a Blairite type social democrat party, appealing to the same sort of middle class, principally public sector people. I wonder how many people on here with the exception of Tony Greaves would classify themselves as Liberals, and how many would be equally at home within a Blairite type Labour party.

  • @ Tony Greaves 1964, Tony, don’t make me older than I am – and I remember beating you and Garth Pratt at snooker in the basement of the N.L.C.

    @ Jane Anne Liston I don’t think anybody or any party wants a hard border at Berwick, Jane Anne, especially the drivers on the 253 bus service…… but good luck with the railway to one of my alma maters.

    @ Julian Tisi “Hell no. This party has been apologising for too long for the one time we’ve been in government in a century.”

    That’s a great comfort, Julian. I’ll pass it on to the recipients of the 6,000 food parcels and personal hygene items issued by my local foodbank last year (cause ? the 2012 Welfare Reform Act) ………….but do, please, get your history right. There were Liberal Ministers in various Coalitions between 1931 and 1945, though 2010-15 was the first Lib-Dem Coalition at Westminster. There was also a Lib-Dem/Labour Coalition at Holyrood before 2007 when we used to be a radical party.

  • @ Jack Graham It was the sixties, Jack, not the seventies ….. in the days of Martin Luther King, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, the Czech uprising, anti-apartheid, the Sharpeville Massacre, the Vietnam war, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger….. and that much underestimated radical dear old Eric Lubbock….. and the early Jo Grimond…. talking about citizen participation, and the nonsense of ‘the so called independent nuclear deterrent’.

    We wanted a better world. In the N.L.Y.L. we even produced a rather corny record with the chorus of ‘equal opportunity for all’. Since then the party has developed into a neo-liberal home for accountants in Windsor and the Home Counties.

  • Please remember that in discussing these scenarios we are moving away from electoral reform that is our path to relevance. We must give our new MPs the opportunity to join the leadership race and show that they have what it takes to transform our future. It’s good that working with Labour will also win us (and them) seats.

  • Innocent Bystander 22nd Jan '20 - 12:36pm

    Just a comment on the new border between Gretna and Berwick. English nationalism is quiet, like a wasps’ nest, but IndyRef2 will be acrimonious and will be just the stick poked into the nest.
    If 55 million English want a border, there’s a border.
    I am sure the LibDems would disagree but they have a long and proud history of being somewhere the public aren’t. As evidence there are 650 MPs and 639 aren’t LibDem.

  • Julian Tisi 22nd Jan '20 - 1:19pm

    @David Raw, I’ve corrected your statement below:
    “That’s a great comfort, Julian. I’ll pass it on to the recipients of the 6,000 food parcels and personal hygene items issued by my local foodbank last year (cause ? the economic crash in 2008, which all political parties agreed necessitated big cuts; more recently, the sluggish growth caused by Brexit and Conservative cuts since 2015)

    But hold to your view that it was all the fault of the coalition if you wish. I don’t know if you’re a Lib Dem, David, but if you are, why do you accept the Labour party’s take on the coalition lock, stock and barrel? Interestingly, Labour were blaming the coalition for cuts from the very start of the coalition; at the time, most of the public didn’t accept Labour’s take that cuts were unnecessary; most blamed the situation the coalition inherited. Since then, the Labour view appears to have taken more hold, even in our party; some members forever want to write the coalition off as one huge aberration.

  • David Raw. I must speak out in defense of accountants (in my case former) from the home counties. A number of contributors here feel the party has been taken over by SJWs obsessed with identity politics, now apparently it is neo-liberals who rule the roost. Both can’t be true but it does speak to a fundamental schism which we need to discus honestly (rather than just throwing bricks at each other).

  • John Roffey 22nd Jan '20 - 4:02pm

    Chris – also as a former accountant from the home counties – I agree. A way to settle the differences between the two groups needs to be found through careful discussion – not conflict.

    Having said that – it does seem, at present, that these discussions will be long and challenging. Perhaps a little humour might help.

  • Ian Bailey, I see no real desire for a federal U.K. and even less for one which involves splitting England into regions. Neither do I see any overwhelming desire for P.R. lowering the voting age or allowing E.U. nationals to vote. I doubt any of these will attract people who aren’t already voting for the party.

  • @ Julian Tisi “But hold to your view that it was all the fault of the coalition if you wish.”

    I don’t wish, Julian, I know – as do 4 million plus who stopped voting for the Lib Dems in 2015…… and as do those at the sharp end of this BBC News Report 25 Apr 2019 :

    “Food bank supplies help record numbers.There are now about 2,000 food banks across the UK – the Trussell Trust accounting for about 1,200 of them. The number of supplies being distributed has risen by 73% over the past five years.”

    You ask about me, Julian …… joined the Liberal Party, 1962. Employed at party HQ, worked for a Liberal M.P., five times elected as a Liberal/Lib Dem Councillor, managed an £ 80 million budget as Chair of Social Work so know about tough decisions. Never lost my seat…….. how about you ?

    ‘”Accepting the Labour take on it ?” As far as I know Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac weren’t members of the Labour Cabinet in 2008. Clegg & Co didn’t have to vote for Universal Credit in the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 or for the Bedroom tax – or at the same time reduce the top rate of income tax……they could have said no.

    Even Jo Swinson has apologised for it – but “Hell, No” – you must know more about it than she does.

  • David Raw, Gordon Brown based govn spending on the back of saying he had abolished the boom/bust business cycle in the UK, making no provisions for an inevitable crash (the market is bigger than govn’s – hard to believe, I know) so when the financial system went bang he was left with a gaping hole in the budget and nowhere to go, hence the crash of Sterling and demise of Labour. The Left can rewrite history by repeating their mantras but few believe them…

  • David Evershed 23rd Jan '20 - 12:00pm

    David Raw “Since then the party has developed into a neo-liberal home for accountants in Windsor and the Home Counties.”

    John Roffey ” Perhaps a little humour might help.”

    Being an actuary is for people who find accounting too exciting.

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