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If Starmer is ever to become PM he’s likely going to need some sort of relationship with the next LD leader

June 25th, 2020

He needs an “understanding” like the GE1997 Blair-Ashdown link

The Lib Dem leadership election is now down to just two with with the Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran taking on the current acting leader, the Kingston MP Ed Davey who, of course, stood a year ago go against Jo Swinson and lost. Moran is the odds-on favourite.

Where the contest could be important is if, as is highly likely at the next election, Starmer’s LAB is unable to jump from the 202 seats of GE2019 to the 325 required for an overall majority.

Unless there is a recovery for the party in Scotland, which seems highly unlikely, the challenge before the former DPP is daunting. Quite simply his best hope is for other parties as well as LAB, notably the SNP and LDs, to be taking CON seats and so what is currently Johnson’s party falls below the majority threshold. In that situation Starmer would be well placed to form some sort of arrangement with the other non-CON parties.

There is a sizeable batch of constituencies where LAB is much less able to compete against the Tories than the Lib Dems. These are the 90 plus seats where the LDs came out of GE2019 in a competitive second place. Almost all of them are CON held with nearly half a dozen having majorities of less than a thousand.

There is a good model from the 1997 Tony Blair Landslide. LAB won a landslide victory over the Conservatives which was far greater than uniform national swing suggested by the voting totals because the Lib Dems under Paddy Ashdown were able to jump from 18 to 46 seats on a reduced vote share compared with GE1992, Ashdown’s party was helped by a broad understanding that LAB wouldn’t actively compete in those seats where it was clear that the Lib Dems were best able to beat Major’s Tories.

I’m not sure that either Layla Moran or Ed Davey is a Paddy Ashdown but achieving some sort of loose relationship with Starmer could play a big part in their party’s recovery and ending the Tory government.

Mike Smithson