Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


With ballot packs just about go out Davey is the clear favourite for LD leadership

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

When former Environment Cabinet minister last ran for the Lib Dem leadership just over a year ago he had big obstacle to surmount – his gender. There was a strong view in the party that then was the time for first female leader and my sense was that Davey felt this as well. He went through the motions but at least his decision to run meant that there was a contest.

This time I’ve observed a very different Ed Davey someone I’ve known since well before he was elected an MP for the first time in 1997. He is much more relaxed and confident about this fight and I think he believes that he is in with a good chance of leading what is third biggest party in terms of votes but not in terms of MPs.

The party is hampered at the moment by the curtailing of all local elections until next year because of the pandemic. These always provided a good peg for activity and some electoral success which is not possible at the moment.

Mike Smithson


Davey moves to a 65% chance on Betfair for the LD leadership

Friday, July 17th, 2020

Ed Davey, the only Lib Dem cabinet minister from the 2010-2015 coalition still to be be an MP, has now edged up to a 65% chance on the Betfair exchange on the election to choose the successor to Jo Swinson who, of course lost her to the SNP at GE2019.

Quite what this is based on is hard to say but Davey, currently joint acting leader, has been getting a bit more media attention than his opponent, Layla Moran. It was Davey’s question at this week’s PMQs that got Johnson to agree a formal enquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

The online hustings have already started and ballot packs go out in the next fortnight.

My reading is that Davey is being helped by the fact that he has been through all this before – just a year ago he slugged it out with Swinson.

On Betfair I’m all green on this market and I rate Layla’s chances as better than the 35% Betfair odds suggest.

Mike Smithson


With nominations closing today the LD leadership betting has settled down with Davey now clear favourite

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

The latest chart of the LD leadership market shows that Davey is now the clear favourite on 57% with Moran trailing on 41%.

We are shortly to go into the next phases in the race with online hustings taking place before the ballot packs go out. The result won’t be known until the last week in August.

In non-lockdown LD elections the hustings have played a big part and my guess is that the online sessions should attract good even bigger overall audiences. Moran has been helped by the decision of Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, to pull out of the race and declare her support for Oxford W & Abingdon MP.

What is clear is that Davey and Moran position themselves very differently with the latter taking a much more left wing approach.

I find it hard to read.

Mike Smithson


Finding the right frontrunner. Mixed messages from the Lib Dems

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

It’s easy to forget, but there’s a leadership election going on. The Liberal Democrats misplaced their last leader during another disappointing election night and now needs a new one. There are two candidates, over 100,000 eligible voters (yes, really), eight weeks to go, and virtually no media coverage. Perfect time for a look at the betting options.

Where we came from

Leadership elections are often a reaction to the perceived failures of the previous leader. Corbyn promised radicalism when Miliband was hesitant. Johnson promised uncompromising optimism against May’s Brexit triangulation. So let’s spend a moment remembering Jo Swinson’s leadership.

Swinson was the Deputy Leader to Vince Cable, a rare example of a leader not seen by the party to have failed and thus not subject to a backlash. Swinson was notable for being very young for a leader (39 at the time), the party’s first female leader (which given the woke-ness of the party was seen as an asset by the members), and was meant to bring energy and a break from the bad association with coalition (Swinson had been a junior minister, and was much less associated than most Lib Dem MPs).

Often forgotten is the fact that Jo Swinson got off to a decent start, winning the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election and picking up a string of defections to the party from former Change UK MPs. She appeared to be bringing the momentum the party had lacked since 2010, and making the Lib Dems a serious force again. However, this was overshadowed by a disastrous general election campaign in which the party was heavily squeezed, her personal ratings faltered, and the party lost seats. There is little nostalgia for her in the party right now.

So what replaces that? It depends what you consider the fundamental error to be.

The Candidates

In keeping with party tradition of failing to end FPTP, this will be the fifth successive leadership election with at most two candidates (thus making the AV system moot). While nominations are still open, all MPs have declared their hand and two are putting their name forward.

Ed Davey is the establishment candidate. The beaten challenger last year to Jo Swinson, Sir Ed Davey has been an MP since 1997 (barring a gap from 2015-17) and was a prominent minister in the coalition. He is currently the acting leader, and is running on a policy-strong platform of having the experience and gravitas for the role.

Layla Moran is the change candidate. An MP since 2017 and consequently with no ministerial experience, her platform is one of turning the page on coalition for good and broadly moving the party to the left. Reading her campaign statement on the party website you’d have to say she is less policy-focused than Davey.

So if the change candidate usually wins, as the conventional wisdom holds, then Moran should be the frontrunner? Perhaps, and that is what the betting suggested until a few days ago. But establishment backing has its benefits.

The change candidate wins – but which change?

Clearly Jo Swinson failed, and a new approach is needed. The big question now is who to target, One Nation Tories or more left-wing voters? Or both, if that’s possible?

Moran would say tack left, and that’s probably where the membership’s comfort zone is. But the party saw huge swings in southern, liberal Tory seats in 2019, and the membership also misses the party being seen as serious and important again. The question in 2020 seems to be whether Moran’s political positioning beats Davey’s projection of competence, and Moran has scored some self-inflicted wounds on this point with recent statements showing some confusion of messaging. Davey also has name recognition, which can carry more weight than we’d like to admit.

Moran offers an obvious change from a failed strategy, but Davey has won support of more MPs and membership nominations to date – including the support of Daisy Cooper MP, a rising star in the party and perceived ally of Moran. Why? My reading is that Moran has simply failed to present herself as sufficiently credible to make the election about politics and it has shifted to personality, ground where Davey has the advantage.

The only poll on this election had Ed Davey ahead 52% to 24% against Layla Moran, but that was in January. The conventional wisdom was that Moran had become the frontrunner and Davey was boxed in as the coalition candidate. I think this is a misreading – the membership is still queasy about coalition but Davey’s role as acting leader hasn’t been dogged by it (perhaps because he simply hasn’t been very visible, but even so). I think they’ll choose the leader they know, and not the one who is raising as many doubts as hopes. Even at 1.8 or so (best odds) at the time of writing Davey is probably value, though the lack of polling makes the uncertainty high.

Pip Moss

Pip Moss has been a member of the Lib Dems since 2010 and his overall position is green on Ed Davey at slightly over evens. He posts on Political Betting as Quincel. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts


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

Thursday, 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


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