Sunday, May 31, 2015

The results of 7 May were so bad that traditional Liberal Democrat campaign tactics will no longer work

No more two-horse races?

One of the pleasures of general and local elections as a Liberal and then a Liberal Democrat used to be going out for a coffee the following Saturday, buying the Guardian and going through the results. There were always plenty of seats and councils where we had made progress.

It wasn't like that this time. In fact, I haven't had the courage to look at the results from 7 May too closely.

So thank you to Seth Thévoz for looking at them for me on the Social Liberal Forum site. But his conclusions make you turn to something stronger than coffee:
While the party came fourth nationally, on a constituency level the results were even more sobering, with 54% of Lib Dem candidates coming fourth; and an even more galling 26.5% actually coming fifth; and more sixth places than first places. In numerous cases where the party came fourth or fifth, there were only four or five candidates standing, and so the Lib Dems came bottom of the poll.
Some Lib Dem seats won in 2010 did exceptionally badly. In four cases, Lib Dems came third (Aberdeenshire West and and Kincardine; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk; Brent Central; and Bristol West), and in one case (Norwich South) they came fourth. In all but one of these five seats (Brent Central), the incumbent MP was seeking re-election, so the much-vaunted ‘Lib Dem incumbency bounce’ did little or nothing to stem the collapse of the party’s vote.
In five seats that were held during the 2005-2010 parliament, but lost in 2010, the Lib Dems fell back to fourth place: Camborne and Redruth (the successor to Falmouth and Camborne, with Julia Goldsworthy re-standing after having lost by just 66 votes in 2010); Chesterfield; Dunfermline and West Fife; Hereford and South Herefordshire (the successor seat to Hereford); and Rochdale.
His concludes, surely rightly, that the debacle of 7 May means that the tactics we have relied on for the last 30 years or more are going to have to change:
If the party is to survive in first-past-the-post elections, and to even keep more than half of its deposits (let alone begin winning elections in new areas), its campaigning tactics will have to adjust dramatically. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceTactical squeezes, which were so catastrophically ineffectual in keeping 49 of the 57 held seats, are not enough. Voters will only start considering voting for the fourth- or fifth-placed Lib Dem candidate if given positive, inspiring reasons to do so.


crewegwyn said...


Could be a real opportunity to develop a "new narrative" (ugly phrase, but appropriate) setting out what Lib Dems want to achieve rather than "vote for us because the people you really want to vote for probably won't win here, and that means the lot you really hate will get in, and we'll ignore the fact that we may go into coalition with the people you hate, in which case you might as well vote as you'd prefer to anyway ..."

Anonymous said...

But after the last decade, is there a distinctive set of policies that the whole party (or even a clear majority of it) can unite behind?

crewegwyn said...

Well, if the WHOLE party united behind a policy it'd worry me frankly!