Election forecasts

The six species of Lib Dem MP: how many are about to become extinct?

I listed recently the many narratives that are already shaping the election campaign. One of the most popular, perhaps because it involves only one victim, is the so-called impending demise of the Liberal Democrats.

But just how many Lib Dem MPs are at risk at the election? In my latest prediction, I plumped for what I think is a rather modest cull of 20. Other sites, as I noted, have gone higher. To get a more rounded idea of what might happen to the party on polling day, I’ve taken a look at the majorities of every current Lib Dem MP. I’ve then grouped the MPs into half a dozen categories. These are the six species of Lib Dem MP, and at least one – if not more – will be rendered extinct come 7 May.

1

First, the untouchables. These are the MPs with the biggest majorities and who have absolutely nothing to fear. Their re-election is (barring some personal calamity or freak arithmetical occurrence) guaranteed. Rather handily for the party, this group includes top brass such as Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, David Laws and Tim Farron, along with former leader Charles Kennedy. The seats of veterans Menzies Campbell and Don Foster are also on the list; both are standing down in 2015.

Lib Dem MPs

(The asterisk denotes seats where the incumbent is standing down)

2

Next, the dependables. These are MPs who should all be re-elected, but whose majorities aren’t quite large enough to take victory totally for granted. I don’t anticipate any of these seats changing hands, though both Hazel Grove and Gordon are being contested by new Lib Dem candidates who may find it a close run thing. Again, we’ve some well-known names in this group: Ed Davey, Simon Hughes and Norman Baker.

Lib Dem MPs3

The next group I’m calling the dicey. We’re now into territory that could well change hands, but in which the outcome is up for grabs and where a number of Lib Dems could well hang on. I think the likes of Martin Horwood in Cheltenham and Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey & Wood Green are at far greater risk than, say, Tom Brake in Carshalton & Wallington. These are seats that would all fall to another party on a landslide swing, which I don’t think we’ll see in 2015.

Lib Dem MPs

4

Welcome to the condemned: my fourth species of Lib Dem. These are people who are in severe danger of losing their seat, and for whom the battle to win re-election will be incredibly tough – if not impossible. There will be new candidates taking the place of Alan Beith and Ian Swales, and those two seats may be among the toughest to defend. I can well imagine all the constituencies on this list slipping from the Lib Dems’ hands.

Lib Dem MPs

5

The people in my fifth category might as well start packing their bags. In the case of Annette Brooke and Sarah Teather, they already have. These are the doomed: Lib Dem MPs who have no chance of surviving. Their fortunes have already been writ; their fate sealed. I don’t expect any of these people to be MPs in the next parliament.

Lib Dem MPs

6

And so to my sixth and final category. Here there is some cheer for Nick Clegg and co, for these are the MPs who may defy the swing, buck the trend and cling on. They include Paul Burstow in Sutton & Cheam, who I suspect will survive despite a majority of just 1,608, thanks in part to local support and a weak Tory opposition. Mike Thornton won Eastleigh in the 2013 by-election and ought to hold on in 2015, again thanks to a strong local organisation. The other four are in Scotland, where the Lib Dems will benefit whenever their closest challenger is a Conservative.

Lib Dem MPs

It’s worth noting that even if the Lib Dems lose every single person in my doomed and condemned categories, they will still have roughly two-thirds of the MPs they won in 2010. By no stretch of imagination could this be called a wipe-out. If the party manages expectations carefully, it might even feel like a “good” result.

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Discussion

8 responses to ‘The six species of Lib Dem MP: how many are about to become extinct?

  1. Are you really sure that Julian Huppert will make it? Considering the Lib Dems unpopularity with students, the prospect of being re-elected in Cambridge seems uncertain to me, & that’s being optimistic. (Although he did rebel & vote against the tuition fee increases IIRC, so if he can emphasise that perhaps he has a good chance.)

    • I think Huppert is enough of his own man with enough of a personal following to hang on. He might also benefit from the anti-Lib Dem vote splitting between Labour and the Tories, who came almost equal in second place in 2010.

  2. Greg Mullholland in Leeds North West has a majority of 9000 but that’s the sort of metropolitan northern constituency where Lib Dems will be particularly vulnerable – I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost that.

    Hazel Grove and Cheadle – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lib Dems hang on to both of these – they still have a v strong presence on the local council and an effective campaigner base. They may even get a few votes from Labour leaning voters holding their nose and voting tactically to keep the Tories out. I agree with J that they are likely to lose Cambridge.

    In London, the Hornsey and Wood Green constituency has obviously been flagged up (massive Labour target and they have a good strong candidate) – I also have a feeling that Simon Hughes may be unseated – having been an active cheerleader for the coalition he no longer has credibility with left-leaning voters and he represents a part of the capital which swung decisively to Labour in the local elections this year.

    • If the anti-Lib Dem vote in Leeds North West swings behind one party, then Mulholland is vulnerable. But in 2010 it split between the Tories (who came second) and Labour (third), and I wonder if something similar might happen again.

      Interesting to hear about the Lib Dem operation in Cheadle. It’d certainly provide some comfort to the party if they held off the Tories there.

      I agree that Hughes is at risk of seeing his vote collapse, but I don’t think it’ll quite collapse enough to see him lose. His seat may well end up a marginal.

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