Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


The LD leadership race where NOT being anti-immigration could be a vote winner

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

With the Lib Dem leadership race drawing to a close the favourite, ex-party president Tim Farron, according to the Observer, has said that the UK should take 60,000 immigrants to help deal with the current crisis. According to Toby Helm’s report:

“..“We should support this because we are decent people. Our party should not have a mixed message about this. We should not turn people away,” he said.

The former Lib Dem president has written to David Cameron to say the UK should be proud of its record on taking in refugees, citing the admission of many thousands of Ugandan Asians who were expelled by President Idi Amin in 1972… “

In my judgement this is a wise move by Farron which will resonate well with the 60,000 party members who are currently voting on who should succeed Nick Clegg.

All the polling suggests that Lib Dem voters have a different view on immigration from those of other parties and my guess is that this will be more so with actual party members.

This call will help Farron reinforce his liberal credentials which have come under attack from some quarters in the campaign.

Mike Smithson


The Lib Dem choice: The highly regarded ex-minister or the formidable campaigner?

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

norman lamb tim farron   Google Search

Why my LD vote could be against my betting self interest

Just got back from a wonderfully restful holiday on the coast near the ancient sherry town of Jerez in South West Spain to find my LD leadership voting papers there waiting for my attention. The choice is very difficult.

Back in April 2011 I suggested on PB that Norman Lamb, then 25/1, might be a good next party leader bet and I do well if he wins.

Certainly if, as was possible at least twice during the coalition years, that Clegg had stepped down then Lamb, almost a John Major figure, would have been the ideal safe pair of hands to take over. He had the backing of party grandees and during his time in government built up a strong reputation particularly on NHS policy on the mentally ill. Health sec Jeremy Hunt paid him a glowing tribute after the election.

But May 7th was totally devastating for the party and the yellows need to show pretty quickly that they are not a spent force.

    A key part of that could be parliamentary by-elections where in the old days they used to be so strong. Winning a seat might be a tall order but a strong performance would provide a significant boost and demonstrate that they are in the game again.

It is here where I believe that Tim Farron offers a lot. As his Westmoreland constituency results show he is an enormously effective campaigner who can bring in the votes and energise activists.

His position is helped by the fact that the one by-election in prospect at the moment is Richmond Park – the seat of Zac Goldsmith – current hot favourite to be next year’s CON London Mayoral candidate which he held with a 23% majority in May. Goldsmith has also repeatedly threatened to resign his seat if Heathrow is chosen in the London airports debate – something that looks more probable after this week’s events.

Richmond under its old boundaries used to be in yellow hands and a by-election would provide an opportunity for campaigner Farron to show his electoral skills. Overnight the party had a gain from CON in the borough though not in the parliamentary constituency.

I can’t make up my mind which way and plan to defer voting to the very last moment.

Mike Smithson


This morning’s must read

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The Guardian have a fascinating and detailed piece on the Lib Dem time in government, it is clear how much reneging on their pre-election tuition fees pledge damaged the Lib Dems and the events of May 2014 and the failed Oakeshott attempt to remove Clegg, Vince Cable’s reputation isn’t enhanced by this story.

Nick Clegg discussed resigning as Liberal Democrat leader in the wake of the party’s humiliating reverses in the European and local elections in May 2014, an investigation by the Guardian has revealed.

In a sign of the immense toll taken by four years in coalition, the former deputy prime minister experienced what his mentor and former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown described as the “darkest of the dark nights of the soul”. Clegg consulted several senior colleagues about whether he had become a barrier to the party’s message being heard and whether he should go.

Clegg made numerous phone calls to discuss his position a year before the general election in which his party was reduced from 56 seats to eight. He told one colleague: “If I believe – and I am very close to thinking it – I am the problem and not the solution, I have to stand to one side.”

One senior Lib Dem who spoke to Clegg at the time said: “I told him, ‘You don’t have that luxury – this is your burden now, you have to carry it through to the election. Whether you believe that or not, it’s tough-titty. You can’t now put this down until the election. You can do it after the election if you want, but you can’t do it now.’”

Clegg was talked out of quitting by Ashdown, as well as by his most likely successor, Tim Farron, and most of his closest advisers. They told him to stay in post and fight to defend the cause of liberalism at the general election.

Regarding the impact of the (inaccurate) national polling

It was clear that the Tories had struck gold with their warnings about a possible tie-up between Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Voters’ fears were exacerbated by the false impression in opinion polls that the election was a neck-and-neck race between Labour and the Tories. “Our vote was being seriously eroded by the Labour/Salmond thing,” Ashdown recalled. “There was a sort of hidden army of people who were so worried about Labour that they literally came out to vote for the first time.”

I suspect had the Lib Dems stuck with their pre-election tuition fees pledge and Clegg had resigned in May 2014, the outcome of the General Election (and future General Elections) might have been very different for the Lib Dems, that’s something that’s going to spark much discussion among we political observers for years to come. Instead on May the 7th the Lib Dems ended up playing the role of the Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.

The Guardian article is available here



Meanwhile in that other party leadership contest…Stodge on the Lib Dem race

Friday, June 12th, 2015

norman lamb tim farron   Google Search

Norman Lamb or Tim Farron?

Next Wednesday I’m intending to attend the Hustings for the Liberal Democrat leadership election in London. As in 2007, I go to the event undecided between the two candidates and will listen with interest to what they have to say and how they see the future of the Party.

Paddy Power currently have Tim Farron at 1/10 with Norman Lamb at 5/1 and while for many the choice of Liberal Democrat leader may be as important as the starting line-up for San Marino’s next international football match, history tells us it may have more relevance.

After the 1970 election in which the then-Liberal Party was reduced to just six seats, it would have been a brave man who would have predicted that in less than four years, the Party would be polling over 19% and more than doubling its seat tally.

The truth is the Liberal Democrats have always been defined by the two main parties in terms of strategy, tactics and positioning. In that aspect, the election of the Labour leader is going to define the Party far more than the election of the Party’s own leader.

With a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, it would be easy but were Liz Kendall to win the Labour leadership election; the Liberal Democrats would face a serious problem. Just as the party struggled with Tony Blair and David Cameron, a leader from another Party who is able to reach beyond that party’s core vote is always going to be a big problem for all minor parties.

Is Farron at 1/10 buying money? Probably – he starts with the advantage of not having been a Minister in the Coalition Government though as he pointed out in his speech to the Gladstone Club, no one within the party has come up with a convincing credible alternative narrative for the events of 2010 and what else the party could have done after that election. Farron is from the nonconformist northern tradition of the party and while some have criticised his performance on Andrew Neil last Sunday, the re-hashing of how he did or didn’t vote on a Bill nearly a decade ago hasn’t the resonance some might imagine.

Norman Lamb brings both activist knowledge and ministerial experience to the table and has attracted support from among the ranks of the defeated MPs and peers. It would be folly to call him the “continuity Clegg” candidate and also folly to write him off.

The fact is however the party doesn’t need an experienced and capable ex-Minister to lead it – it now needs a street fighter and rabble rouser. It will be a long time before the Ministerial cars beckon again and for now the priority is to regroup and rebuild and that means looking to regain ground in local by-elections and in the key round of elections in Scotland and Wales next year.

At the present no one is listening and no one cares but that will change when the Conservative Government hits its mid-term (any takers on the date of the first sub-30% Conservative poll rating?) whether as a result of the EU Referendum or events as yet unforeseeable.

It’s a pity there’s no market on Lib Dem leadership vote shares – I expect Farron to win but it will be much closer than the current odds suggest. I think Norman Lamb will get at least 40% of the vote – as to whether 5/1 is tempting enough for those who think he can spring a surprise, ask me again on Thursday morning.

Stodge has been a commenter on PB for many years


Hard to justify Tim Farron’s 1/7 favourite odds after seeing this Andrew Neil grilling

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Mike Smithson


As the Lib Dem leadership race starts a timely reminder from Ladbrokes of the devastation the party suffered at GE15

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

There are, as expected, just two candidates in the LD leadership race – or a quarter of the entire parliamentary party. Interestingly the two, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, are the only ones in the list just Tweeted by Ladbrokes of the betting exactly five years ago.

The most important thing to say is that both held the line and their seats on May 7th against the Tory tide on May 7th. Both are equally good campaigners having taken the former CON strongholds of Westmorland and Lonsdale and Norfolk North at 2005 and 2001.

Farron is probably the better known of the two and currently the strong betting favourite.

Lamb looks set to be the choice of the party grandees which in the past has been a good pointer to LD leadership election outcomes. Earlier in the week Shirley Williams gave her backing to the former Health minister.

The election is by postal vote of the party’s 60,000 members – a total that has jumped by a third since May 7th – and the result should be known in mid-July.

It is hard to argue against a Farron victory but I think that the outcome will be closer than his odds of 1/8 suggest. I got 11/1 on Lamb on Betfair at the weekend.

Mike Smithson


25 days after losing his seat to the SNP Charles Kennedy dies at the age of 55

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015


A police statement earlier this morning said simply “Police officers attended an address at Fort William on Monday, June 1 to reports of the sudden death of a 55-year-old man. Police were notified by ambulance service personnel. There are no suspicious circumstances.

Charles, who became an SDP MP at the age of 23, led the LDs from 1999 to 2006. Under his leadership the LDs won 62 seats at GE2005,

I met him a number of times and this has touched me enormously.

Mike Smithson


It will be of little comfort to the yellows but GE15 proved to be a great example of the power of first time incumbency

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

LD incumbency
Tim Smith Univ of Nottingham

The vote shares of first time incumbents held up the most

A short paper headed “Lib Dem incumbency advantage persists but fails to prevent disaster” by Tim Smith of the University of Nottingham has just been published and provides valuable evidence of the power of first time incumbency.

This happens when someone who won for the first time at the previous elections seeks to defend the seat. The table above shows the very different performances in what were Lib Dem seats depending on whether the incumbent MP was re-standing and whether this was a defence for the first time. The figures are striking.

Overall in England the LDs saw an average drop of 16%. In LD-held seats from 2010 that increased marginally to 16.9% but look at the gap between where a new candidate was defending and where the person who had won it for the first time in 2010 was making his/her first defence. A drop on the LD share of 24.5% compared with 10.7%.

Tim Smith notes that:

“..After the 1970 election, at which the Liberals were reduced to six seats, the party made five by election gains in the subsequent Parliament, three of which they held on to at the February 1974 election, and one, Berwick, which survived until this election.”

Hopefully in the coming weeks we shall see comparable figures for Labour and the Conservatives.

Mike Smithson