Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


Betfair punters have got the LD leadership race about right – Moran has a good chance of beating Davey

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

We’ve now got the timetable for the LD leadership race and the successor to Jo Swinson will be announced at the end of August. It looks as though the race will be between Layla Moran and Ed Davey with Daisy Cooper as possibly another candidate.

The elections was due to have been underway now but has been deferred because of the pandemic.

In the aftermath of Jo Swinson unexpectedly losing her seat to the SNP in the general election the former coalition cabinet minister Ed Davey became the odds on favourite to succeed her. An early YouGov poll of members published in January had him well ahead.

The election follows the awful general election for the party in December which, it will be recalled, only happened because of Swinson’s backing. Although there was a big increase in their national vote share the number of MPs was cut from 12 to 11.

Since then Ed Davey has been joint acting leader with the party’s president and it has been a struggle for him to get a look in because of first the LAB leadership election and now the fight against coronavirus. This has almost certainly not helped him in the leadership battle.

The current favourite, Layla Moran, retained her then ultra marginal Oxford West and Abingdon seat with a 9k majority which was one of the best results for the party on the night. Clearly for any Lib Dem security in his/her own seat is a major issue as we saw with Swinson.

Moran has an impressive campaign team round her which is led by the architect of her general election victory and, although untested, she offers something new.

A possible issue is likely to be party’s participation in the coalition from 2010 to 2015 and here cabinet minister Ed Davey might face a challenge. One of the big things that hurt Swinson at the general election was that she had been a coalition minister. Moran did not become an MP until the 2017 general election so missed the coalition.

Another possible candidate is Daisy Cooper who gained St. Albans GE2019 overturning a 6k CON majority with a Lib Dem one of 6k. She is relatively new as an MP and hasn’t had the chance to build up the same awareness within the party as Davey and Moran. Her candidature is a statement of intent for the future.

There is still a lot of goodwill to Davey but the lacklustre performance of the party in the polls since GE2019 is going to help Moran although he will do far better than the 30% he got against Swinson last year.

Mike Smithson


After the ice. The Lib Dems’ prospects for 2024

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Nemesis followed hubris so quickly for Jo Swinson, they were able to pass the relay baton in the exchange zone. No sooner had she mooted the possibility of her being the next Prime Minister than she found herself dumped out of Parliament. It is a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The Lib Dems also went backwards in the seat count. They held 21 before the election, having won 12 in 2017 and benefited from a clump of defections. After the general election, they held just 11.

In truth, the Lib Dems are still on the long road to recovery from their disaster in 2015, when they were reduced to just eight seats. Their problem ever since has been the same one: irrelevance.  

It gets worse. While they have been bumping along the bottom, there has been a lot of churn of seats. They have held just two seats continuously from 2015: Orkney & Shetland and Westmorland & Lonsdale. Of the remaining six seats the Lib Dems held that year, they are now third in two and more than 20% behind the winners in another two. They have no bedrock.

They have comprehensively lost the battle for urban progressives to Labour. In 2010, they won 19 seats where Labour were in contention at the 2015 election. Of those 19, the Lib Dems now hold just two: Edinburgh West and Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (both from the SNP). Of the other 17, Labour hold 12, the SNP hold three and the Conservatives hold two. Not a single Lib Dem seat features in Labour’s first 250 targets – Labour have maxed out against them.  

The Lib Dems are never going to have more propitious circumstances to fight Labour than 2019. Labour had a leader who was widely disliked and widely seen as extreme. Labour seemed diffident on the main question of the age, Brexit, while the Lib Dems were almost synonymous with one side of the debate. Yet they flunked it. The Lib Dems need to think hard about how they are going to cooperate with Labour rather than fight it if they want to make any progress anywhere.

The good news is that there is now more scope for progress elsewhere.  Their higher vote share coupled with a message geared towards luring cautious Remainers has enabled them to secure a position as the main opposition to the Conservatives throughout much of central southern England. This is reflected in their target list. All bar six of their top 50 targets are Conservative-held. Just as importantly, they are second in all bar three on this list (Ceredigion, Hampstead & Kilburn and North East Somerset).  Only they can win in the other 47, I’m sure their electors will be told.

Not that the Lib Dems should be aiming to win 50 seats at the next election in the absence of the most extraordinary political upheavals. The Lib Dems would need a uniform national swing of 14.5% to take that many seats. Even allowing for the fact that the Lib Dems won’t be fighting a national campaign, that’s way too rich for my blood. At three successive elections we have seen the Lib Dems fail to target effectively and as a result win fewer seats than they might have done. They need to learn at the fourth attempt.  

A 5% uniform swing would yield them just 15 seats. In truth, if the Lib Dems achieved that increase in seat numbers in 2024, they should be exultant.

The Lib Dems have another big decision to make. They made advances in a slew of seats in and around London by taking an avowedly Remain stance over Brexit. They did so at the cost of regaining seats, particularly in the south west, that had previously returned Lib Dem MPs. There are 12 seats in their top 50 targets in the south west, many of them formerly Lib Dem held. On the other hand, there are a further eight seats in their top 50 targets in London, a further 17 in the south east area and a further five in the east of England. The Lib Dems are effectively going to need to pick sides between targeting former strongholds and building on their new brand.

This is not as easy as just looking at the numbers of seats on either side of this dilemma. The Lib Dems will have a good idea of who their lapsed voters are in seats they previously held and have fought for years. Many of their new targets will be much less familiar territory for them. It may well be easier for them to generate bigger swings in well-trodden terrain – in the short term at least.

Set against that, the Lib Dems need to think about why they had the disaster in 2015 in the first place. Essentially their problem was that while they had been a third party in opposition they had been able to be all things to all men. That was impossible in government, when they were branded by their own actions. Their recent modest advances have been achieved by taking a polarising position, one that voters understand in advance, even if they don’t like it.

Durable success is best built by standing for something meaningful. The Lib Dems seem to have stumbled into their trench. They should not desert it now.

Alastair Meeks


My money’s on Layla Moran for Jo Swinson’s old job

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020


Former odds-on favourite Davey now trailing on Betfair

Ever since the former Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, unexpectedly lost her seat to the SNP in the general election the former coalition cabinet minister Ed Davey has been the odds on favourite to succeed her.

The election itself will take place after the local elections in May and we should know who the new person will be in early July. All this follows the awful general election for the party seeing a big increase in their vote share at the general election but the number of MPs cut from 12 to 11.

Of the 11 MPs seven are women and four men, and there have been indications that four of them plus Davey might put their hats into the ring in the leadership election which takes place after the local council elections in A bMay.

A big development at the weekend was Layla Moran, who retained her Oxford West and Abingdon seat with a 9k majoirity, formally putting her hat into the ring. It was said 9 months ago that she didn’t not fight against last time because her main priority was holding her seat. Clearly for any Lib Dem security in his/her own seat is a major issue as we saw with Swinson.

A big issue is likely to be party’s partipation in the coalition from 2010 to 2015 and here cabinet minister Ed Davey might face a challenge. One of the big things that hurt Swinson at the general election was that she had been a coalition minister. Moran did not become an MP until the 2017 general election and since then has built up a reasonable profile.

One thing that could impact on the campaign is the coronavirus which might make it harder for MP newcomer, Daisy Cooper, to establish herself. I’d envisage fewer events and hustings taking place which should help the better known.

Mike Smithson


Swinson’s successor may have only become an MP yesterday

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

It is a sign of the sheer carnage that the LDs suffered at the general election that one of the names being actively floated as a leader is one of those who have just been elected to the House of Commons.

The reason is clear. Even though the party increased its vote share by 4% it saw a reduction in its seat numbers and there is a very small pool from which the new leader can emerge.

The current fourth favourite in the betting is the new St Albans MP, Daisy Cooper, who has seen her odds move in sharply from 60/1 yesterday morning to 16/1 now. My guess is that she is more likely to be a runner than at least two of those ahead of her in the betting.

She is relatively well known within the party having been runner-up in an election for the party president in 2014. She is also very much without the baggage of having served within the Coalition.

The fact that there is a large Conservative majority and a smaller contingent of Lib Dem MPs is going to make the role of the leader that much less. No longer are there going to be a key Commons votes taking place when what the LDs are doing mattered.

Mike Smithson


Swinson’s successor needs to be someone untainted by the coalition and that can only be Layla Moran

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Ladbrokes have her at 7/1

The first post General Election next leader betting market has now opened and that is on, of course, who should succeed Jo Swinson as the next Lib Dem leader.

The big problem that Jo faced during the campaign was that almost whenever she appeared on the big TV set pieces such as the Question Time special or Andrew Neil she was questioned about her time as a minister in the coalition. Inevitably she was always put on the defensive and although she generally handled this well it came over as a big negative.

That is why, I believe, that in choosing their next leader the Lib Dems will be looking to someone who is completely untainted by that period in government from 2010 to 2015. The one name that stands out and fits the bill is, of course, the Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran.

She went into the election yesterday defending a majority of just 816 votes. That’s jumped more than tenfold and stand just a handful of votes short of nine thousand

During the campaign itself she played a big role and demonstrated that she’s up to it and of course, entering the Commons at the 2017 general election means there was a clear gap between her becoming an MP and the coalition years.

Last summer when at one point she was favourite to succeed Vince Cable Layla withdrew from the race on the grounds that she was a relatively new MP. She was also concerned with defending her then very small majority. That doesn’t apply now the question is whether she will decide that this time she will go for it.

Mike Smithson


Where did it go wrong for the Lib Dems?

Saturday, November 30th, 2019

This should have been their breakthrough chance

Jo Swinson confidently asserted at the start of this month that her ambition from the election was to become prime minister. At the time, it sounded exuberantly audacious; in retrospect, it sounds absurd with obvious echoes of David Steel exhorting his followers to go back to their constituencies and prepare for government. Steel ended up after the 1983 election with 23 seats; Swinson, if the YouGov MRP poll has some predictive value, will finish with fewer still.

And yet her claim wasn’t completely absurd (nor was Steel’s, for that matter). In September, the Lib Dems frequently polled in the 20s, and had led Labour in two YouGov surveys. Although those numbers had slipped by the beginning of November and the start of the campaign proper, there was a genuine prospect that if she could grasp the mantle of the leadership of the left-of-centre and ally it with the Remain vote, the Lib Dems could make huge gains.

The Revoke policy might seem extreme and certainly struggled in the room during the Leaders Question Time but there’s a lot of support for it in principle. Last week’s DeltaPoll survey found 35% support for Revoke (though the question was hedged as “without necessarily holding another referendum” – my emphasis). Even 17% of Tory voters back it, though 30% of Lib Dems don’t, including 21% who are opposed. Back in the Spring, 6.1m people signed the online petition to Revoke Article 50. The base was undoubtedly there for the Lib Dems to hit at least 25% and perhaps, with an unpopular Labour leader, a good deal more – yet the last four polls have them on only half that. Why?

Life beyond Brexit

Many people (myself included) expected the election to be dominated by Brexit, or at least for it to be the most prominent issue. The Tories, Brexit Party and Lib Dems all had an interest in keeping it that way but that’s not how it’s turned out. Labour produced a radical manifesto that provided a lot of talking points, the political media were keen to get off the Brexit treadmill that had overtaken their lives, and other tax-and-spending issues have become at least as important. For the Lib Dems, who have nothing especially distinctive to say on these issues, that’s neutered by far their best campaigning point and meant they’ve struggled again for media coverage and impact.

Swinson isn’t up to it

I’ve always had my doubts as to whether Jo Swinson was the right choice to succeed Cable. Of course, we’ll never know how Ed Davey would have done so we can’t make a true comparison and we also know that Vince Cable and Tim Farron both failed badly to make impacts during their leaderships so part of it is undoubtedly structural to a party with less than half the seats the SNP have. On the other hand, the Lib Dems had been on a roll over the summer with the polls mentioned earlier and with picking up many defections. That momentum has completely gone. With an opportunity against Corbyn and Johnson to look like a grown-up against overgrown teenagers, she doesn’t cut it and her Mori favourability ratings, for example, have declined markedly over the campaign, with voters also believing the Lib Dems are having a bad campaign by 2-to-1.

The debates are a mess

Swinson hasn’t been helped by the debates, which did so much for Clegg in 2010. Then, there were three debates featuring three leaders, which gave Clegg the chance to be seen and heard on an equal footing with the Tories and Labour (but with no smaller parties), with many people watching. This time, there’ve been so many debates that it’s become a confusing cacophony and voters have tuned out. The opportunity for a game-changing moment in a positive way – “I agree with Nick” – isn’t there.

Left-right squeeze

he Lib Dem strategy, as mentioned earlier, had to be centred on dominating the Remain vote, which also would have meant being the leading party opposing the Tories. The failure to achieve that goal reversed the dynamic the Lib Dems hoped for and with the Tories ascendant on the Brexit/right, those opposed to either Johnson’s European or domestic policy inevitably feel forced towards Labour, whatever their misgivings about Corbyn and co. Likewise, centrist Remain Tories, deeply sceptical about Johnson but seeing and fearing the rising Labour share, feel compelled to consider returning to the Blue colours. Without sufficient heft in the centre, we have a classic flight to the extremes as fear of the ‘other’ consolidates support around that which can best oppose it – but we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing the squeeze was inevitable: it wasn’t.

There is probably little that can be done for the Lib Dems now to reverse the losses of November. It may be that local campaigns can overcome the national picture and that it probably the Yellow Team’s best hope.

I assume that Swinson will stay on providing she retains her seat, which isn’t absolutely certain. Not only would the turnover itself be bad for the party but there’s no guarantee her replacement would be better. But whoever leads them, the question that she’s failed to answer this time remains: how do the Lib Dems develop enough positive support to avoid another tactical squeeze when it matters?

David Herdson


Swinson’s Choice

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

There is an ancient tradition in Britain of beating the bounds, where once a year, various members of the community walk the boundaries of their parish to fix its location and protect it from encroachment. In some cases, they would take boys and whip them, with the intent that such a traumatic event would be fixed in their memory.

The general elections of 2015 and 2017 were certainly traumatic events for the Liberal Democrats, and they clearly still weigh heavily on the party’s collective memory. The shadow of the decision to go into coalition hangs over their campaign even as they try and edge their way into a new era.

In the lead up to that 2010 General Election the Lib Dems were positioning themselves as open to a deal with either party, the sensible moderating force that could be a safe harbour for voters that were feeling disgruntled but not disgusted with the two largest parties. A realignment without a rejection. In April 2010 the Telegraph reported that “Nick Clegg had delivered his most outspoken attack on Gordon Brown, calling him ‘a desperate politician.’” Which in 2019 sounds practically friendly.

Nine and a half years on and Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats are singing a very different tune. The gloves are off and the knives are out and coated with vitriol. Boris Johnson is a serial liar, Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to the economy, both are utterly unfit to lead the country. In the event of a hung parliament she has ruled out supporting either of them. This campaign will be an exercise the creativity of her speechwriters as they hunt for new epithets to keep things fresh, and Swinson appears to relish being in the thick of the fight.

This leaves the JSLDs with few options open to them if there is a 2017 style election swing and a hung parliament is the outcome. Nick Clegg was faced with the choice of pursuing a Conservative coalition, a Labour-led rainbow alliance on a razor thin majority or allowing a Conservative minority government (and probably a hasty second election). The rest is recent, and for the Lib Dems painful, history.

That Swinson is attacking the leaders rather than their parties is a tactic aimed at attracting wavering voters rather than post-election positioning. Neither party is going to engage in the messy process of replacing a leader with a hung parliament. It’s hard to see how a climbdown is possible. Politics is a business that demands conflict and compromise in quick succession but there are limits even so.

If Jo Swinson is faced with a similar choice to Nick Clegg, she seems set to take the opposite path and refuse any deals and abstain through to a minority government or a new election. The alternative version history will play out with a separate set of pitfalls. Will allowing a Conservative minority government to take power leave them painted as Tory lackeys (as the Labour party will doubtless try to do). Will there be a new election and with it the task of dealing with questions of what the Lib Dems are realistically for if the (PR supporting) party is not interested in coalition.

We may learn what many suspected all along, that Clegg (and now Swinson) had no good options open to them.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal


Ten Lib Dem seats to watch

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

The Lib Dems do not lack for stated public ambition. Jo Swinson is positioning herself as a potential Prime Minister after the election, which shows some optimism considering that the Lib Dems started the last Parliament with just 12 MPs and ended it with just 20, many of whom look by no means certainties to return to Parliament next time.  

Still, fair lady never won with faint heart. Here are ten seats which will give a fair indication of just how the Lib Dems might do.

North Norfolk

One of the Lib Dems’ most effective ways of getting their candidates elected as MPs, and then maintaining a firm grip, was to position themselves as local MPs for local people. Sir Norman Lamb will, I hope, not mind if I say that he epitomised that approach. He first took the seat in 2001 by a gnat’s whisker, then patiently built his majority in successive elections (brushing aside Iain Dale in 2005). 

He survived the Lib Dems’ meltdown in 2015 and despite being a Remainer in a very Leavey seat, rebuilt his vote share in 2017. This time, however, he stands down. Will he be able to bequeath it to his chosen successor? It’s a long way from a sure thing.  If the Lib Dems are unable to hand on the baton, they look set to disappoint on election night.

No markets as yet.


The Lib Dems have never won Totnes at an election. That is not for want of trying. They consistently flattered to deceive in the 2000s. When the incumbent was forced to retire after the expenses scandal in 2009, the Conservatives took desperate measures for the desperate circumstances and recruited the replacement by open primary. The winner was Sarah Wollaston, who consistently showed a sturdy independence that party hierarchies always loathe.

Following the EU referendum, she gained a special place in the Leavers’ Chamber of Horrors first for her ratting on her original decision to support Leave and then for consistently being a thorn in the side of those seeking to ram Brexit through. She left the Conservative party earlier this year to join Change UK and she eventually fetched up in the Lib Dems.

This is set to be a battle royal. The Lib Dems always had a solid base here: can they both retain that and add to it the undoubted personal vote that Sarah Wollaston had developed? Or can the Conservatives reclaim a seat that they no doubt think of as rightfully theirs? Expect this one to be tight.

No markets as yet.

Sheffield Hallam

Sheffield Hallam had been held by the Lib Dems from 1997 to 2017, when a complete unknown, Jared O’Mara, took the seat from Nick Clegg. Mr O’Mara is now much better known and for all the wrong reasons. He is not expected to be standing again and certainly not for Labour. The Lib Dems will be itching to get the seat back (they need a 1.9% swing to do so), but the Conservatives are not completely out of the game in what is an affluent area – their candidate is standing in the seat for the third successive election.  

No markets as yet.


The Lib Dems are polling far ahead what they polled in 2017 and they have the scent of Conservative blood in their nostrils. On average they are polling something like 15% and the Conservatives are polling something like 38%, which represents a swing of something like 5.8% from Conservative to Lib Dem. That sort of swing would be more than enough to take seats like Cheltenham, which requires a swing of just 2.3%.

But that presupposes that current polling is borne out in the final result and that the national swing is reflected locally. The Labour vote was already squeezed to single figures in 2017, so this may be a slightly tougher nut than it looks. However, if the Lib Dems aren’t taking this one, they aren’t taking many seats at all – this is target number 6 for them (on a uniform national swing basis).  

They may be helped by the incumbent Alex Chalk’s attempt to curry favour with Remainers in this Remain-voting constituency. This may be a majority Remain-voting constituency, but most of the Conservative voters will be Leavers. This may do for his chances of keeping the seat: disgruntled Leavers may either sit on their hands or vote for the Brexit party.  

Lib Dems 1/4 (Ladbrokes, Sky Bet), Conservatives 10/3 (Paddy Power)

North Cornwall 

To show how steep the slope is for the Lib Dems, North Cornwall is target number 15 on uniform national swing, but even a 5.8% swing won’t get it for them – they need a 7% swing to pull this one off. North Cornwall voted 60:40 for Leave, so the Lib Dems will be muting their anti-Brexit campaign here. This looks odds against on current polling and given the constituency’s history. Other bettors obviously disagree. Me, I’m backing the Conservatives here.

Cons 5/6 (Sky Bet), Lib Dems evens (Ladbrokes)

Ross Skye & Lochaber

Why do so many seats where the Lib Dems are in contention have history?  This used to be Charlie Kennedy’s seat, and Ian Blackford took it for the SNP amid accusations of a dirty tricks campaign. The Lib Dems will throw themselves into this seat with zeal. At a time when the SNP are outpolling their 2017 scores, this looks like a stretch, the more so because the Conservatives came second last time. The Lib Dems would need a swing of nearly 10% from third to pull this off. Yet this is still their 17th best target by swing, showing just how slim the pickings are for the Lib Dems.

SNP 1/10, Lib Dems 4/1, Cons 25/1 (all prices with Paddy Power)


Guildford is emblematic of the respectable commuter towns that are dotted around London that the Lib Dems will be hoping to make inroads into.  The incumbent Conservative MP, Anne Milton, is standing again but this time as an independent. It is an open question whether she will take more votes from the Conservatives or from the Lib Dems. Just the 15.4% swing needed here for the Lib Dems. It’s still only their 31st target by swing. At 5/6, this has to be a bet on the Conservatives, surely?

Cons 5/6 (Paddy Power), Lib Dems 5/4 (Ladbrokes), Anne Milton 10/1 (Ladbrokes)

South Cambridgeshire 

South Cambridgeshire voted firmly for Remain. It was previously held by Heidi Allen, who like Sarah Wollaston followed a circuitous route from the Conservative party to the Lib Dems during the course of the year. However, she has decided not to contest this seat again. The Lib Dems would need a 16.6% swing from third to take the seat. Nevertheless, a constituency poll conducted by Survation suggests that the Lib Dems are on course to take the seat.  This would be a spectacular result if they indeed achieved it. And yet it’s just the Lib Dems’ 37th target seat on uniform national swing.

No prices as yet.  


The Lib Dems have good reason to hope that they can get revenge on Labour in inner London seats. Their strongly pro-Remain message seems to have been particularly well-received there. They tried this approach in Vauxhall in 2017 against Kate Hoey, where they achieved a 5% swing in their favour.  They need a further swing of 18.4% if they are going to take the seat.

The good news for the Lib Dems is that in the most recent YouGov London polling, they are looking at a swing in inner London of 20.1% from Labour to the Lib Dems. If the Lib Dems are going to achieve the kinds of epic swings that they need to take seats, inner London currently looks like their best bet.

Lab 2/5 (Ladbrokes), Lib Dems 15/8 (Paddy Power), Cons 33/1 (Paddy Power)

Somerset North East

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s seat has made its way onto the Lib Dems’ heat map. They undertook constituency polling which showed that they were in now in second place and that if the public saw it as a two horse race between themselves and the Conservatives they could get within 6% of the Leader of the House.  Controversially, they put out a bar chart based on the hypothetical but where a magnifying glass was needed to read the small print.

This would be a heroic victory for the Lib Dems. This is target number 138 on a swing basis, with a 26.5% swing needed from third. Personally, I’d file it under Not Going To Happen.  

Cons 1/8 (Paddy Power, Sky Bet), Lib Dems 6/1 (Ladbrokes), Labour 16/1 (Ladbrokes)


In general, while the Lib Dems have undoubtedly risen a lot in the polls, the electoral landscape is daunting for them. The odds for their success by and large seem to have got ahead of the objective evidence. By and large, you should be betting against them at current prices.

To make major gains, they would need precision targeting. There is no evidence that they have the detailed knowledge for that kind of targeting.  But they probably do know some of the under-the-radar seats where they may outperform, and unless you do too, you might get caught out by a gain that they have made in special circumstances. So perhaps the simplest constituency bet of all for the Lib Dems is to sell on the spreads. The Lib Dems don’t yet look close to justifying the seat counts offered at those prices.  

Alastair Meeks