Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


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


David Herdson looks at the LDs following the GE15 outcome

Saturday, May 16th, 2015


This was the biggest disaster in nearly a century?

The Lib Dems and their predecessors have been through some bad times over the years but what faces them now is their worst crisis in nearly a century. It is worse than the splits over Ireland under Gladstone that ended their pre-eminent position in the country; it is worse than the division between Asquith and Lloyd George, which ended them as a party of government; it is worse than the post-merger slump which saw them finish fourth in the 1989 European elections and reduce them to just a few points in the polls. Only the splintering of their party on the formation of the National government in 1931 was a disaster of similar scale and that took forty years to recover from, during which time they came close to extinction.

A quick recap of the Lib Dems’ current position reveals just how big a task the new leader faces:
– They have lost council seats at each of the last seven rounds of May elections, haemorrhaging more than two thousand councillors in that period.
– For every one Lib Dem MP, there are seven from the SNP.
– For every one Lib Dem MSP, there are three Conservatives.
– They have only one MEP; the Greens have three.
– They lost their deposit in more than half the seats in the 2015 General Election and finished outside the top three in the popular vote for the first time ever.
– They lie only fifth when ranked by membership, behind the SNP and Greens, though ahead of UKIP.

It is a brutally weak base, not just because of the small number of elected members but because there are now so many other established challengers seeking to take their place (something that was not the case the last time they had so few MPs).

One significant problem will be getting airtime. When he was Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg could rely on being seen and read about, as could his senior lieutenants in the cabinet. Not now. I would be very surprised if Ofcom is not reviewing the Lib Dems’ major party status in the light of their performance in the ballot box. Panel discussions will likely either be Con/Lab or will include the other second-rank parties. Either way, their voice is diminished.

And therein lies the biggest part of the problem: the voice itself. What exactly do the Lib Dems stand for? It is simply not enough to be ‘not the Tories’ or ‘not Labour’. Appealing for tactical votes is fine when you’re a comfortable second and seemingly inoffensive but nigh-on impossible when you’re fourth or fifth, which the Lib Dems are in a lot of seats (and not only non-target ones either: the Lib Dem finished fourth in Camborne & Redruth, which they held in its previous form from 2005-10 and lost by only 66 votes in 2010). Being a ‘moderating influence’ is all very well but it’s not the sort of battle-cry to inspire the troops or recruit new ones. In any case, voters unhappy with the Tories and Labour seem far happier looking for the opposite of a moderating influence: to the left of Labour with the SNP and Greens, or the right of the Tories with UKIP (yes, it’s more complex than that but not greatly so).

So if being the reasonable voice of the centre won’t cut it for the Lib Dems, what will? There is of course always the well-trodden path of local activism and that no doubt has its part to play but only where the party already has an established base and that has its limits, particularly with the boundary review likely to shake up the map. To my mind, the Lib Dems have, or could have, two genuinely distinctive messages that no other party is selling. One is being unashamedly pro-EU. That will matter in the next three years and could be the ticket back into the heart of the action. It’s true that they did play that card in 2014 and it flopped badly but a referendum may be a different matter. The second, however, is the stronger, and is to return to a more classical liberalism: for individual freedom and against state encroachment, whether economic, social or in excessive policing powers. Some would argue that no other party is selling either message because neither is popular and there’s something in that – but unpopular doesn’t mean there’s no support and the alternative is to contest other policy ground where other stronger parties are already encamped.

What is clear is that Tim Farron, Norman Lamb or whoever cannot simply resurrect the old model for success: the world has changed too much, as has the party. What is also clear – or at least likely – is that they’ll only get one shot at recovery. One disaster can be written off as exceptional; two could well be terminal.

David Herdson

p.s. A quick word about the Tories. One thing we do know about this parliament is that there’ll be a Tory leadership election. It will come at one of three points: either a revolt against Cameron if the parliamentary party believes he has failed in the EU negotiations but where the PM still intends to back ‘in’, following a defeat in the EU referendum, or in the final six months of the parliament as Cameron voluntarily hands over power. My expectation is for the final scenario. I believe the EU is ready to do a deal sufficient to keep Britain in: this is not about renegotiating fish prices but the very future of the entire Union and that will concentrate minds.

If so, the next Tory leader is probably not even in the cabinet yet, nor will it be Boris. Boris was the candidate for 2015, up against a Miliband premiership. 2020 will be a different election from that scenario, not least because the Tories will be going into it in power. The Conservatives also have a habit of picking leaders not obviously identifiable from four years out (often not so 18 months out). At this stage – and probably for the next two years – the best option is probably to lay all the leading runners.


Meanwhile away from UKIP runners declare themselves in 3 political races and an 8/1 tip from Damian McBride

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

The LAB leadership contest

The LD leadership contest

LAB selection for the 2016 London Mayoral race

And a tip from Damian MaBride


Mr. Cameron might rue the day that his party was reluctant to embrace the reform of the House of Lords

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

The numbers look potentially tricky

A key moment in the last parliament was in July 2012 when CON back-bench rebels voted down a timetable motion on the Lords Reform bill thus making it highly unlikely that it would get through the house. A few days later Cameron pulled the plans completely – a move that led to Mr. Clegg pulling the plug on boundary reform.

So the upper house remains unreformed something that could be tricky for the government as it tries to move forward with its legislative programme. In the last parliament the coalition’s numbers made the task much easier. Now things might be different.

There’s a good article by UCL Prof Meg Russell on the challenges that might lie ahead. For although the LDs were almost totally smashed on Thursday the party still has 101 members of the Lords, who are there for life, and this could present obstacles in a whole series of ways.

She notes that the band of LD peers has “swelled impressively over time – in his 10 years as Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed 54 Lib Dem peers; in the five years 2010-15 David Cameron appointed a further 40.”. She goes on:-

“..So the Conservatives are in a relatively weak position in the Lords, holding less than a third of seats. The government can readily be defeated by various combinations of other forces – including Labour, Liberal Democrats, Bishops and Crossbenchers. These last two groups vote less frequently than party peers, and also do not vote as a block. So the key group is – once again – the Liberal Democrats. They are now numerically stronger than before, and following recent events are badly bruised. Despite having worked until recently alongside the Conservatives, their instincts may now often be to vote with Labour. The Lords has traditionally taken a stand on constitutional issues (recall the climbdowns forced on Blair over restricting trial by jury, detaining terrorist suspects, and introducing ID cards) – so we can expect clashes over the government’s plans to repeal Human Rights Act, reform parliamentary boundaries and hold an EU in-out referendum, where Labour and Lib Dems will readily find common cause…”

Of course Cameron could try to appoint dozen of new CON peers to bring the numbers into line but as Prof Russell points out the Tory manifesto had a commitment to address the size of the chamber and to have any effect a large number would have to be appointed.

Mike Smithson


And so now we turn to leader resignations triggering off 3 leadership contests

Friday, May 8th, 2015

A problem for the LDs is that there are only eight MPs to choose from. Front runner must be Tim Farron and my guess is that he compete against the North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb.

Mixed message from Farage in his resignation speech

Mike Smithson


Vince Cable the next Lib Dem leader?

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Video of Vince Cable’s most memorable moment from when he was the acting Lib Dem Leader in 2007

Today’s Sunday Times reports

VINCE CABLE, the business secretary, is being tipped by senior Liberal Democrats as the party’s next leader if Nick Clegg loses his seat or resigns after a poor result in the general election.

Cable, 71, who had all but ruled himself out of any leadership contest, is now being promoted by senior Lib Dems as a “safe pair of hands” who can steer the party into a coalition with either Labour or the Tories.

Given a few weeks ago, he very publicly criticised  Tim Farron, the favourite to succeed Nick Clegg, this is what he said.

“I mean, he’s [Farron] a very good campaigning MP, but he’s never been in government and has never had to make difficult decisions and I think his credibility isn’t great. You know, he’s an entertaining speaker and has a bit of a fan club. But I suspect he would not be seen as a very credible leader, at least now. Maybe in five, 10 years time, things are different.”

You do have to wonder if Cable was on manoeuvres, there’s been polls from several pollsters showing Clegg is on course to lose Sheffield Hallam, and it would be remiss of Vince Cable not to be doing some planning on the leadership front.

If the Liberal Democrat do as badly as some expect and their leader loses his seat and other heavyweights have lost their seats or have stood down, then Vince suddenly becomes the most experienced MP in the party as he’s been in government for the last five years, something Farron has not experienced.

The line of “this is no time for a novice”, might get an airing, especially if the Lib Dems are in negotiations to enter a new coalition with either Labour or the Tories.

Some might say Vince Cable’s age might be a barrier to becoming leader, he is 72 next month, but he could point out, that the favourite to be the next President of the United States of America, is only four years younger than him, and she’ll be 69 when she takes office.

Vince Cable is  currently 8/1 with several bookmakers to be the next Lib Dem leader.



It can be argued that the flawed polls are those that don’t name candidates

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

IMG_1179~2 (1)

Why the LDs are releasing some of their private polling

Yesterday I received the full media briefing on the controversial private LD polling which has attracted a lot of attention. I was able to ask about any seat and have a pretty good picture of how things are looking.

The reason for the part disclosure is to make a very simple point that naming the candidates can make a huge difference – as seen in the one poll that was published on Lynne Featherstone’s fight to beat off LAB in Wood Green & Hornsey.

She won the seat in 2005 and has built up a powerful personal support base that is directly linked to what she has done on the ground. Effectively she has become the brand not her party.

The Ashcroft polling of the seat was about parties even with the second voting question asking people to think of their own constituencies and the candidates who might stand. It showed her some way off. The LD poll in which candidates are named, had the gap at just 1%.

The fieldwork and tabulation was carried out by Survation but the poll designed by party. As has been pointed out the voting question was not, as is the norm, put first and that can have an impact. Also it was weighted back fully to 2010 without a misremembering adjustment.

What I came away with is that the polling is designed almost solely to help the party decide where to put its resources in the final stages of the campaign. Some current LD held seats are going to be given lower priority as s result of the data. Others are going to be given boosts.

The best guide to what the polling overall is showing is in the betting prices in each constituency. Clearly the data filters out to party workers many of whom are having a punt.

My conclusion is that where the LDs are tighter than 5/2 the polling has shown that they are in with a shout.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Norman Lamb, my long-term bet for Clegg’s replacement, moves a step closer to being a leadership contender

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

The Indy on Sunday is reporting this morning that a number of the party’s peers and MPs have approached him about being a candidate should there be a post May 7th leadership contest. It reports:

Speaking before the Lib Dem spring conference in Liverpool this week, Mr Lamb admitted he is thinking about running.

‘When people raise this with me it inevitably makes you think, in the circumstances envisaged, what would I do?” said Mr Lamb. “I have to answer the question. I’m fiercely loyal to Nick. I always have been, but at some point there will be a further [leadership election] and I will consider the position. I am open-minded about it. My view is if people think well of the job that I’ve done [as Health minister] and people then, as a result, conclude they want me to have a go for the top job, then I will consider it.’

Lamb is one of the strongest LD favourites to hold his seat (N Norfolk) at the election and has the backing of the party establishment. The latter is usually the determining factor in the party.

He’s seen as a very safe pair of hands who in his own low key way is a highly effective communicator. My guess is that the party grandees would prefer him to Farron who is popular with activists.

I first got on him at 25/1 in April 2011. He’s now into about 6/1.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble