Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


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


So, how will the LibDems do?

Monday, November 4th, 2019

A forecast from Robert

Let me start by saying this is not an election I have much confidence in predicting. But because that makes for an uninteresting article, I will make some forecasts.

Currently the LDs are polling about 16-17%, which is about five points down on the peak they achieved after the European elections earlier this year. I think there’s around a 40% chance that they end up in the 14-19% range at the coming elections. I reckon there’s a 25% chance they’re in the 10-13% band, and a 25% chance they’re between 19% and 23%. With a 10% possibility they either end up below the 10% or above the 23%.

This post is about the central prediction, the 14-19% one.

Let me add some other (maybe wrong, maybe right) assumptions.

Firstly, UNS still matters.

Secondly, the LDs will do better in Remainia.

Thirdly, local strength is important. The LDs need to have done well in local elections, and ideally have a base of activists to deliver leaflets and knock on doors.

Fourthly, there are more Labour to LibDem switchers than Conservative to LibDem ones. This means that the LDs will do better in seats where there is a Labour vote to squeeze.

In this scenario I think the LDs will win… all of their existing twelve seats. Norfolk North will be close, I’m sure, but I think they’ll hold it. I also think the SNP will fail to unseat Jo Swinson, or any other LibDem.

They will also make the following gains:

Richmond Park. The walk it on UNS. It’s extremely Pro-Remain. They performed very well there in the 2018 locals. The Labour vote is not yet as squeezed as it was in the late 90s. On my central prediction, I think it’s a 90+% chance of a gain.

Ceridigion. PC is a bit of a mess. There are a lot of Remainiac students. I’m not as confident as with RP, but I think they take it. 70% chance.

St Ives. The LDs ran the Conservatives close there in 2017, but it is in the fairly Brexity South West (albeit not a particularly Brexity part of the region). UNS suggests an easy take. I think it’ll be harder, but they’ll make it. 70% chance.

St Albans. UNS says yes. Remainia says yes. Local election results say yes. Big Labour vote to squeeze. I think they’ll get a majority of 5-6,000 here.

Fife NE. The SNP is doing well in Scotland. But it’s full of (not Scottish) students and the SNP is only going to get 33-36% of the vote here. I reckon the LDs squeeze Labour and take it by a few thousand votes.

Sheffield Hallam. I think the locals may have had their fill of Labour MPs for the moment. By no means a certain gain for the LDs, but (a) it’s a 65% Remain seat, and (b) the LDs have done well in local elections.

Hornsey & Wood Green. This is theoretically a bit of a stretch for the LDs. But it’s another very Remain seat where the LDs have performed well in local elections.

Leeds North West. UNS? Check. Remainia? Check. Local election results? Check. Labour to LibDem switchers? Check. My only reservation here is that Greg Mulholland is not restanding. Still, I think they take it back.

South Cambridgeshire. OK. So this is a bit of a gutsy one, because it fails on UNS (by a fair margin). But I think this is a seat that has dramatically changed in the last decade. It’s become a home for Cambridge tech company employees, and it’s got two Cambridge colleges in it. It’s also Remainiac and the LDs marmalised the Conservatives there in the 2018 (i.e pre their surge) local elections. I think the LDs take it from third with a high 30s vote share.

There are other possible gains – Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Wells, Winchester, Lewes – but I think the LDs will fall short on most of these. (And any gains there might be offset by not winning some of those predicted above.) Despite UNS, I think they’ll really struggle in the South West, because (a) the seats are quite Brexity (and Bollocks to Brexit doesn’t work as a slogan there), and (b) in most seats, there’s not that much of a Labour vote to squeeze.

I also don’t think they’ll do quite as well in inner London as they expect. Neither Chuka nor Luciana are likely to be MPs post-election.

Still, the LDs will manage to increase their MP count by about 70%. And they’ll also notch up an increasing number of second places. Their post coalition recovery will continue, albeit not at the pace they might have liked.

Robert Smithson


Betting opens on Beaconsfield which almost certainly will be one of the top constituency markets at the general election

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Ladbrokes make it CON 5/6: Grieve 5/6

The news at the weekend that the Liberal Democrats have decided to stand aside in the Beaconsfield constituency at the general election in order to give the incumbent MP, Dominic Grieve, a clear run has inevitably set off a betting market which looks likely to be a big one.

Grieve, the former Attorney-General, has played a big part in opposing Johnson’s plans for Brexit for which he was booted out of the Conservative Party following the first of the six votes that went against Cummings/Johnson last month.

Grieve’s prominent role and legal expertise in the parliamentary opposition to the PM has inevitably led to him working closely with the Lib Dems and others who have been opposed to the way Number 10 has been approaching matters.

At the last general election Grieve held the seat with 65.3% of the vote while the Lib Dems were in third place on 7.9% which was about the same as their GB vote share.

A better figure to look at in determining the impact of the move is, I would suggest, is the 2010 General Election when they were near to 20%. That of course, was at time when the LD were polling at 20%+.

Another key number to look at it what happened in the constituency at the referendum and this went Remain by a split of 51 to 49.

Grieve has got a very high profile and has served in the constituency since 1997 and I guess is that he will have a reasonably large personal following.

That the Lib Dems are standing aside will send a message to LAB voters in the constituency and might encourage tactical votes for Grieve as a means of stopping the official CON candidate.

Given that Beaconsfield voted Remain in June 2016 and he’ll be the clear Anti-Brexit contender I would rate his chances of holding on at 50%+ but everything, of course, depends on the circumstances at the time.

My guess is that we might see a similar pattern of other Remain parties standing aside in seats where prominent former CON MPs seeking to hold on.

Mike Smithson


Mayor of London Siobhan Benita? Don’t rule it out

Friday, September 20th, 2019

SV means the Lib Dems could pull off something extraordinary

In the absence of big names and big characters, London politics has dropped off the media radar a bit. After the controversial Ken Livingstone and the future PM Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan has been – spats with Donald Trump aside – a lower-profile mayor.

Khan’s term ends, however, in less than eight months, when he’ll bid for re-election. Until recently, this was all-but assured. The Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey, looks lightweight and gaffe-prone while all other candidates seemed doomed to be also-rans. No candidate from the minor parties (which in London included the Lib Dems) has ever polled more than 15%, other than exceptional case of Livingstone in the initial election of 2000; in the last two elections, none outside of Con/Lan polled more than 6%. Add in the dominance of these two parties in the polls at the start of the year and everything looked set for something like a repeat of 2016. Not now.

For one thing, Sadiq Khan’s popularity ratings generate a ‘meh’ response from Londoners. In a July YouGov poll, he recorded 30% satisfied and 33% dissatisfied, for a net -3 rating. Overall, that’s not bad and certainly much better than many politicians rate (though London has been a strongly Labour city through the 2010s so they’re maybe not quite as good as they first appear). On the other hand, there are a lot of Don’t Knows in there, which allied to the negatives suggests there is opportunity for an opponent.

However, the revolution in party support this year opens everything up. Across the country as a whole, Labour may be down by close to half what it polled in January, with the Tories down by at least a quarter. In London, the main beneficiaries have been the Lib Dems, who finished first across the capital in the European elections and have polled first in Westminster VI there too in some polls (albeit in unweighted and small subsets, with consequently large margins of error).

Of course, it’s one thing to do this in an election no-one really campaigns in or in opinion polls; quite another to produce that result when the parties are running near full-throttle. Do the Lib Dems have the manpower and resources to match Labour? That’s still a very open question and without positive evidence to suggest so, we have to assume that the campaign factor still works strongly to Khan’s favour.

On the other hand, Siobhan Benita has three things going for her (besides the quality of the other candidates and her ability to hold her own on that score). Firstly, London is a very strongly Remain city and the Lib Dems are very strongly Remain. Secondly, Khan doesn’t have a great track record and is likely to be the subject of far more negative campaigning from all parties than she will, especially on crime.

And thirdly, the Supplementary Vote system. Benita probably doesn’t need to win the first round in order to win outright: she can probably expect more transfers than Khan. This is, admittedly, finger-in-the-air stuff from me but if she can beat Bailey in the first round, then transfers will either be coming from the right-of-centre or from left-of-centre voters who have chosen not to back Khan. In both cases, I’d guess that she should win the greater number if the first round is close (although there may be high levels of non-transferable votes). If she can reach the low-30s in the first round – a level the Lib Dems have polled at in London – she’d stand a good chance of winning.

Now, it has to be said that the polling doesn’t yet bear such a prediction out. We’ve only had one poll since the party ructions in the Spring, and that was in early May, which had Benita polling fourth on 10%, behind the Green candidate Sian Berry (16%), with Bailey still second on 23%. Clearly, there is some work to do in convincing the public – to which end the EP election results, bar charts and “can’t win here” allegations would no doubt feature.

There are two other critical factors to consider. Between now and next May, there’s a good chance that at least one and perhaps two things will happen: Brexit will finally occur, and a general election will take place. Both have the capacity to do a lot of damage to the major parties. It is possible that come May, Corbyn could be in a honeymoon period, having restored post-No Deal order with an agreement, so providing Khan with a nice clear national backdrop against which to sweep to re-election.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that Labour could be in a right mess following either victory or defeat (likewise the Tories, though that’d matter less for these purposes). If YouGov’s methodology rather than Survation’s is correct then Electoral Calculus has the Lib Dems making eight gains across London, four from both the Tories and Labour on the most recent poll. For reference, YouGov got the Lab-LD gap at the recent EP elections right to within 0.2% (understating both by about 1%); Survation missed the mark by some 17%! Such a sweep of gains would surely greatly affect public perceptions as to which parties are serious contenders for the mayoral race.

Does all this make the Yellow Team favourites? Not at all. That honour still lies with the Reds and the power of incumbency, political inertia and the hard facts of such polling as we have. However, this is a race to keep an eye on, particularly on how intensely the Lib Dems are ramping up their campaign efforts on the ground in London. If they do, then the current odds for Benita, as long as 7/1, would be value.

David Herdson