by Stephen Tall on July 6, 2014
The second of Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft’s polls of Lib Dem marginal seats was published this week, focusing on four of our battlegrounds with Labour: Norwich South (held by Simon Wright), Bradford East (David Ward), Brent Central (Sarah Teather standing down, Ibrahim Taguri selected), and Manchester Withington (John Leech). Also included was Brighton Pavilion, which Caroline Lucas won for the Greens from Labour in 2010.
(The previous instalment focused on the Lib Dem-Tory battlegrounds.)
It comes as little surprise to learn that, as the polls stand, all would be lost to Labour – these are, after all, the four most marginal Lib Dem-held seats where Labour is the main challenger. You can see the constituency breakdowns below, in response to the question: “thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next general election and the candidates who are likely to stand for election to Westminster there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency?”:
What will be more disappointing for the party is to see how far our proportion of the vote has fallen, down by double-digits in each case. Indeed, in Norwich South the Ashcroft poll shows the Lib Dems trailing in fifth place, behind the Greens, Tories and Ukip.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s worth remembering (as, to be fair, Lord Ashcroft continually asserts): “like all polls, these are snapshots, not forecasts”. It’s also worth remembering that, though Ashcroft’s polling prompts voters to think about their constituency, it does not prompt by the name of the candidates standing there (which, after all, is what the ballot paper will do). In the case of Lib Dem MPs, who tend to have a significant personal vote, that means the polling may under-estimate their performance. However, it clearly would not have made a difference to the outcome in these seats in this poll.
Though I can understand the logic of Lord Ashcroft deciding to poll the most marginal Lib Dem-Labour battlegrounds, the findings aren’t too surprising. We know these are the seats which are most under threat. More interesting would have been the less marginal seats which we also know will be tight next time, such as Simon Hughes in Southwark and Bermondsey or Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central or Danny Alexander in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. Still, let’s not be ungrateful to Lord Ashcroft for releasing into the public domain his polling – he can afford it better than can the Lib Dems.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.