6 February 2014

Lib Dem prospects in the South West

Next week London’s LBC radio will be going national on DAB, something that will almost certainly raise the profile of its weekday evening presenter, Iain Dale. Anyone who hasn’t heard of him should read his Wikipedia profile. I used to like going to his Politico's Bookstore and Coffee House until it closed and I have a few books from Biteback Publishing. A former Tory candidate, he used to blog as Iain Dale's Diary, later revived as Dale & Co where he recently posted Why The Libdems Will Win 30-35 Seats in 2015. In 2010 he thought they would get more than 59 – it turned out to be 57. He now reckons:
Of the 57 seats, I predict 35 will remain LibDem, 14 will fall to the Conservatives and 8 to Labour. But of the 35 LibDem Holds, I reckon only 13 are dead certs, 9 are hot bets, 8 are probable and 5 are rated as possible, but by no means definite. 
In the predictions … I have assumed that Labour will be the beneficiaries of most of the decline in LibDem votes across the country but that the Conservatives might benefit a little in the south and south west. The big unknown factor here is how the size of the UKIP vote might affect existing Conservative vote levels in many of these seats. I have tried not to make these predictions through blue tinted spectacles, but it maybe that I will have underestimated the impact of UKIP. I have also assumed that the LibDems will not win a single one of their top 20 target seats.

The last time I posted here about the Lib Dem prospects in the South West (2010 outcome above), I concluded:
If the Conservatives are to form a majority government after the 2015 election, as well as taking Labour seats in the North West and North East, they will have to take many of the 15 Lib Dem seats in the South West. My feeling is that the Tories will find that difficult …
So I was interested to see Dale’s opinions for the South West 15 extracted in the table and ordered by the size of the majority in 2010: The spectrum of his opinions from ‘DEAD CERT LIBDEM HOLD’ to ‘CONSERVATIVE GAIN’ match the size of the majority with two exceptions, as shown, Bath and St Ives. The first presumably would be ‘DEAD CERT’ if the present incumbent weren’t stepping down. Dale thinks that the Tories may not win the second because of their voters turning to UKIP.

I thought it might be interesting to use Electoral Calculus’s “make your own predictions” facility, (as featured in a recent post here about the main parties tying) which identifies which individual seats will change hands. The next table shows the Electoral Calculus (EC) predictions for the seats under three different scenarios. A is the EC Current Prediction on 6 February 2014, B is the state of the parties as assessed by the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham blog, Ballots and Bullets, on 13 January, and C is a guess at what a Lib Dem recovery and UKIP doing well, both at the expense of the main parties, might produce.

It’s interesting to see that at the highest level of support (37.6%) Labour gains Bristol West from the Lib Dems. It would also, according to EC, be able to take Conservative seats: Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Kingswood, Stroud and Somerset North East. The last of these is Jacob Rees-Mogg’s seat.

Unless the Lib Dems retain more supporters in the South West than they have been able to do so far nationally, it looks as though they will be losing more seats than I thought.

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