Election forecasts

The six species of Lib Dem MP: updated

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)

In conclusion…

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.


16 responses to ‘The six species of Lib Dem MP: updated

  1. The New Statesman’s may2015, who recently did a feature on Bath, disagrees with you, considering it genuinely vulnerable to the Tories. A defecting, popular incumbent, a huge student population… maybe it’s more of a dependable than an untouchable.

  2. Sheffield Hallam is an interesting one – its never been a Labour inclined seat (includes moorland villages outside Sheffield as well as prosperous suburbs in the city itself) – however, because the seat also includes some student areas and because of the high profile of Clegg, Labour are polling really well in this ward. I expect the Lib Dems are flooding it with campaign resources but I would move this seat from 5. Untouchables to 3. Dicey.

    Personally I think Clegg will hold on by the skin of his teeth but he will be run mighty close. I’m also interested in some of those Lib Dem/Tory marginals in the south-west. The UKIP factor could actually help Lib Dems in 1 or 2 of those by taking enough votes off the Tories (and a fair few Labour inclined voters may hold their nose and vote Lib Dem tactically).

  3. I am a former LD activist and Lewes District Council member and I agree with your current analysis of Norman Baker HOWEVER this is only true for lack of any credible local opposition candidates. This has been the case ever since he was first elected (there is a story yet to be told!!) He is very unpopular everywhere outside of Lewes town and would be vulnerable ( possibly to an opponent with a greenish hue) with a sustained campaign during the next parliament. It is not always about numbers but perception and Norman is not trusted out side of the area controlled by the Lewes mafia.

  4. I would say a dead cert, yes. It was a really fluke LD gain from Lab in 2010 – there was a local backlash against the Brown government following the closure of the town’s steel works (Redcar is a one-industry town). The works has reopened since but I really doubt anyone is giving the coalition credit for that and natural Lab voters are ready to return home. Add to that, Swales is standing down after just one term – which suggests he can read the writing on the wall – so no LD incumbency bonus.

  5. Hearing from a number of people on the ground (including my non party political mum who works in the Richmond/Twickenham area on a community project) that Vince Cable is in real danger.

    I had been dismissive of these claims as misinformed but I keep hearing them. As a consequence I’m not sure I’d confidently put Vince in the “untouchable” category.

    • Well, the Tories would need a hefty swing of 10.4% to unseat him, and then you’ve got the possibility of tactical voting by Labour supporters to keep Cable in (though admittedly Labour polled only 7.7% of the vote in 2010). I’m interested in what you’ve heard, though. As such I’ve moved Vince from the “untouchables” to the “dependables”.

      • Essentially what I’ve heard is:

        1) several people (some closely) connected to the Conservative campaign saying that they thought the seat was very winnable.
        2) general expressions from people in the area expressing how unpopular Cable is

        Nothing hugely ground breaking but surprising as I, like you thought Vince was “untouchable”

        The other aspect, which I’d forgotten about when I made my last post, that underpins the “Worried Cable” stories I’d seen floating around is the polling carried out in Twickenham by ICM in April 2014 and paid for, rather controversially as you may remember, by Lord Oakeshott. There was some criticism of the polling but the headline VI figures show Cable trailing the Conservatives by 2%

        The polling data is here:

        Click to access 2014_twick.pdf

        Commentary on the polling From Anthony Wells here:


  6. Hi. I’m loving your blog. It’s really interesting seeing a new perspective and point of view.
    I know this may be crazy and a bit out of left field, but do you think there is a chance Charlie Kennedy may take over leader of the Liberal’s? With lots of their MP’s going, including bigwigs like Lynne and others could he maybe take over for the next couple of years just until new blood comes through? Do you think he would? I always liked him so it’s probably just wishful thinking.
    Side note- is Lynne the biggest scalp that will be taken?

    • I think Danny Alexander could be the biggest head to roll. If Labour voters swing behind the SNP in enough numbers, he’ll be out – which of course would effectively end his chance of becoming Clegg’s successor as leader.

      The idea of Kennedy as an interim leader is interesting, especially as he was the only Lib Dem MP to vote against forming a coalition with the Tories. Labour would certainly find it easier to negotiate with him rather than someone like David Laws or Ed Davey.

  7. tim brett for fife seems a bit of a dodgy choice …elder of kirk etc….involved in move to (only) private care homes ?? ….councillor.. uninspired selectn.

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