Several months ago I drew up a list of what I called the six species of Liberal Democrat MP. I predicted that at least one species, if not more, would become extinct on polling day.
It’s time to revise my categories. Some of the MPs I had placed with confidence under headings such as “dependables” and “untouchables” have since become quite the opposite.
Here is my latest assessment on the chances of survival for a Lib Dem MP in each of the party’s current constituencies.
I’ve coloured the seat according to which party I predict will win the seat at the election. I’ve had to use a pink-ish colour for the SNP, as the yellow doesn’t really show up. See?
The name is that of the current Lib Dem MP. An asterisk denotes a new Lib Dem candidate.
1. The doomed
I had 11 MPs in this category last time. Now there are 14. These are the MPs who have no chance of surviving. I’m including Portsmouth South, which is now technically an independent seat, but which I still think the Lib Dems will fail to retake.
Solihull (Lorely Burt)
Dorset Mid & Poole North (Vikki Slade*)
Norwich South (Simon Wright)
Bradford East (David Ward)
Wells (Tessa Munt)
St Austell & Newquay (Stephen Gilbert)
Brent Central (Ibrahim Taguri*)
St Ives (Andrew George)
Somerton & Frome (David Rendel*)
Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle)
Manchester Withington (John Leech)
Gordon (Christine Jardine*)
Portsmouth South (Gerald Vernon-Jackson*)
Chippenham (Duncan Hames)
2. The condemned
This category has also expanded, from 10 to 15. 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. I’m currently predicting only Mark Hunter to hold his seat in Cheadle.
Dunbartonshire East (Jo Swinson)
Berwick-upon-Tweed (Julie Porksen*)
Cornwall North (Dan Rogerson)
Birmingham Yardley (John Hemming)
Cheadle (Mark Hunter)
Edinburgh West (Michael Crockart)
Taunton Deane (Rachel Gilmour*)
Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott)
Redcar (Josh Mason*)
Argyll & Bute (Alan Reid)
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine (Robert Smith)
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (John Thurso)
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (Danny Alexander)
Cambridge (Julian Huppert)
Hornsey & Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone)
3. The dicey
From here on, I’m predicting no more seats to change hands. But the MPs in this category are not safe, and could fall prey to tactical voting (such as Simon Hughes) or a massive swing to another party (for example Adrian Sanders). Nick Clegg is also included here, and though the result may be close, I suspect he’ll cling on.
Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd)
Brecon & Radnorshire (Roger Williams)
Torbay (Adrian Sanders)
Cheltenham (Martin Horwood)
Carshalton & Wallington (Tom Brake)
Devon North (Nick Harvey)
Bermondsey & Old Southwark (Simon Hughes)
Fife North East (Tim Brett*)
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk (Michael Moore)
Southport (John Pugh)
Bristol West (Stephen Williams)
Sheffield Hallam (Nick Clegg)
4. The dependables
There were 10 MPs in this category last time. Now there are eight. These are MPs who should all be re-elected, but whose majorities aren’t quite large enough to take victory totally for granted.
Hazel Grove (Lisa Smart*)
Bath (Steve Bradley*)
Colchester (Bob Russell)
Thornbury & Yate (Steve Webb)
Kingston & Surbiton (Ed Davey)
Lewes (Norman Baker)
Ceredigion (Mark Williams)
Twickenham (Vince Cable)
5. The untouchables
Everyone in this category is safe. Their re-election is (barring some personal calamity or freak arithmetical occurrence) guaranteed. Danny Alexander was in this category last time. Now he’s up with the condemned.
Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland)
Orkney & Shetland (Alistair Carmichael)
Norfolk North (Norman Lamb)
Westmorland & Lonsdale (Tim Farron)
Yeovil (David Laws)
Ross, Skye & Lochaber (Charles Kennedy)
6. The trend-defiers
Despite both these MPs having small majorities, I predict them to hold on. Paul Burstow will survive despite having 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.
Sutton & Cheam (Paul Burstow)
Eastleigh (Mike Thornton)
I’m predicting 28 Liberal Democrat seats to change hands. The Tories will gain 11, Labour will gain 10 and the SNP will gain seven. This would leave the Lib Dems with a total of 29 MPs: above what many others are forecasting, but still a pretty devastating result. The party’s presence in the House of Commons would be more or less halved in size. If they were to join another coalition, I’d except their representation in government to be similarly reduced, and the number of Lib Dem cabinet posts to fall from six to at most three.
I’ll be incorporating all these calculations into my next prediction of the overall election result, which I’ll publish on 7 February – exactly three months ahead of polling day.