Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Tories did not win over all those lost Liberal Democrat voters

A myth is growing up about the Liberal Democrat debacle at the last general election. It holds that we lost almost all of our seats because the Conservatives ruthlessly targeted them and won over former Liberal Democrat voters.

So they did, but there is little sign that our lost voters went to the Conservatives instead.

To find out what really happened, read an article by Seth Thévoz and Lewis Baston on the Social Liberal Forum site.

Here are a few extracts:
The Conservative-facing seats showed a remarkably consistent pattern; the main factor at play was Lib Dem collapse rather than Conservative recovery. In each of the 27 seats lost to the Conservatives, the collapse in Lib Dem votes was sizably larger than any increase in Tory votes, by a factor of anything up to 29.
This means that although the Lib Dem position in many Tory-facing seats is dire following a collapse of the party’s vote, the Conservative position is not necessarily ‘safe’ or stable; the Conservatives have won many of these seats on relatively small popular votes, and there still exists in these constituencies a reasonably large non-Conservative vote which could potentially be mobilised around a clear anti-Conservative candidate with a more appealing pitch than that of the 2015 Lib Dem campaign. 
Nor is the Conservative vote appreciably growing much in such areas. In seats like Lewes, Portsmouth South, St Ives, Sutton and Cheam, and Torbay, the increase in Conservative votes was negligible, and Lib Dem defeat can be laid down entirely to so much of the Lib Dem vote having vanished.
In particular, while the Green ‘bounce’ in most of these 27 seats was smaller than the UKIP ‘bounce’, it is noticeable that the rise in Green and UKIP votes taken together – the votes for the two main ‘protest vote’ parties in England – was larger than the Tory votes gained in 26 of these 27 seats. In other words, the Lib Dem loss of the protest vote, and the protest vote being transferred to both UKIP and the Greens, was almost certainly critical in the loss of 26 Lib Dem seats to the Conservatives.
You can argue whether this shows there never was a coherent Liberal Democrat vote or that such a vote exists and we failed to appeal to it. And you should certainly note how poor Labour was at winning our former voters over.

But what is certain that the idea that we would have done better if only we had played down our differences with the Conservatives is false.

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