Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Did the Lib Dems do less well in the local elections than we think?

I have commented before on the Liberal Democrat weakness for confirmation bias - our tendency to notice results that suggest we are doing well and ignore the ones that suggest we are not.

That post was written after apparently encouraging results in local by-elections were followed by disappointing results in the wider local elections of 2017.

But 2018 was different, wasn't it? The local elections earlier this month were good for the Lib Dems, weren't they?

In a fair-minded article on the LSE's British Politics and Policy blog, David Cutts suggested that the truth is less encouraging:
At 16%, the Liberal Democrats projected national share of the vote was much higher than current nationwide poll ratings and 3 percentage points higher than in 2014. On the downside, it was 2 percentage points lower than in the 2017 local elections. 
Moreover, in terms of nationwide share of the vote, it was one of the worst local election performances since the party’s formation. The Liberal Democrats currently have just shy of 1900 councillors. 
To put this into some context, they would have to more than double that number just to return back to their 2010 local council composition.
He argues that the party's performance earlier this month is in line with an established pattern. We do well in local elections where we are fighting the party in government at Westminster and less well when we are taking on the opposition. And the battleground we fought on last month was rather skewed towards Labour.

Cutts concludes that our real test will come next year:
Next year’s local elections are across a larger number of English shire districts including parts of the south west where the Liberal Democrats will be seeking to reclaim ground lost to the Conservatives since 2010. This will provide a far better indication of where the party stands. 
Given the party’s current low electoral base in these councils, the Liberal Democrats will be looking for at least 200 net gains. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnything above this and talk of a comeback would have some validity, but gains around the mark achieved in this election will represent a failure and would inevitably lead to questions not only about Cable’s leadership but the long-term viability of the party.

1 comment:

David Evans said...

Of course we didn't do well in 2018. We did superbly in three constituencies - Richmond, Kingston and South Cambridgeshire, quite well in a few others - Merton, Haringey, Gosport, Hull. In the North overall we trod water, but there were disasters in places we need to regain MPs - Harrogate, Southport, Burnley, Birmingham, Colchester; and Sutton looks dodgy for our two MPs there.

Where we are weak (i.e. no councillors) our vote fell yet again.

All in all far too many of us would rather stick to the tried and tested old excuses - "We (meaning I) did nothing wrong", "Things are just about to come good", "History will look kindly on coalition", than face up to the fact that our heroes blew the one big chance we made for them, and our party now coasts gently towards near oblivion in 2022.

Now we are leaving the EU in chaos, there is a resurgent extreme left Labour party and an ever more extreme Conservative rabble, but no-voter will touch us with a barge pole.

2019 will not raise questions as to our long term viability - they were raised when almost no-one had the courage to tell Nick he had to go in 2014 - and since then results have only confirmed how bad things are.

I wonder if a senior Lib Dem will dare say anything about our dire situation before are back to 6 MPs, or will we just go on lying to ourselves to protect our self esteem and so we don't upset any of our friends?