Can the Lib Dems come second in June Euro elections?

by Stephen Tall on April 21, 2009

There must be something in the water in Wales that instils deep confidence in our leaders. The Welsh Lib Dems’ leader, Kirsty Williams, has her ‘Project 31’, with its aim of propelling the party into majority government in the Welsh Assembly. And speaking to BBC Wales last week, ahead of the party’s Welsh conference, national leader Nick Clegg declared his determination that the Lib Dems should push Labour into third place in this June’s elections to the European Parliament.

The party has done this just twice in its recent history, and both times – 2004 and 2008 – were according to the BBC-projected national share of the vote in local council elections. Indeed, the last set of Euro elections were fought at the party’s post-Iraq high-water mark, and saw the party finish in fourth place, behind Ukip.

The website Predict09.eu has calculated that the Lib Dems will improve considerably on the 2004 result, up 4% to 19.1%. However, both Labour and the Tories, it reckons, will do even better, with Labour up 6% to 28.7%, and the Tories up almost 7% to 33.5%. Owing to the overall reduction in the number of UK MEPs, the net beneficiaries of such a result would be Labour (+3) and the Lib Dems (+1). The Tories would stand still, while Ukip and the Greens would incur big losses (-8 and -2 respectively).

Make of these figures what you will. As polling guru Anthony Wells notes, the equivalent prediction in 2004 was wide of the mark, significantly overstating both Labour and the Tories, and wrongly discounting Ukip. They were spot-on for the Lib Dems, though, and claim to have refined their model since then.