Friday, May 04, 2012

The danger of silver linings for the Liberal Democrats

Keith Nevols does his best to be positive and suggests six silver linings for the Liberal Democrats that can be discerned in the dark clouds of yesterday's election results.

One of these is a very good point - "UKIP doing well will help us in Con-Lib Dem marginals." And it may do so not just by splitting the Tory vote, but also by encouraging Tory candidates to follow their instincts and tack to the right, thus opening up the centre ground for the Lib Dems (and Labour) to occupy.

But I see danger in the most substantial of those silver linings:
In areas which have Liberal Democrat MPs, our vote seems to be holding its own after two years of unpopularity, which must look good for the general election.
This is true and is the most encouraging thing that can be said about yesterday's results. We have a good chance of holding many of our seats at the next election where the main challengers are the Conservatives.

But there is a danger in this too: the danger that the Liberal Democrats will be left holding the Coalition coupon in a scatter of constituencies, but have little chance of breaking out of this archipelago to win new seats.

Because what was really depressing about yesterday's elections, even beyond the loss of good Liberal Democrat councillors wherever they were challenged by Labour, was our showing in London. By comment consent he fought a good campaign, but as I write it appears that he will finish fourth or fifth in the poll.

Until we have an identity or a policy strong enough that people will be able to complete the sentence: "I know the Lib Dems don't have much chance round here, but I am going to vote for them because they stand for...", we are likely to go on suffering similar results outside our current areas of strength.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We have a good chance of holding many of our seats at the next election where the main challengers are the Conservatives."

Possibly, if the Conservatives remain as unpopular as they are now (though even then I'm not sure how many Lib Dem MPs would survive a drop of 14% in their share of the vote, which was the figure in Sheffield Hallam). But in that case you'd both end up in opposition, not "holding the Coalition coupon."

If, on the other hand, the Tories recover popularity, the Lib Dems had better do likewise, or they will lose a lot of seats.

If the Lib Dems stay at their current level of support, holding the balance of power will be close to a mathematical impossibility.