Liberal Democrat Target Seats

These are the fifty seats with the lowest percentage majorities over the Liberal Democrat party. This does not necessarily mean they would be the most winnable seats for the Lib Dems in practice, or that they are the seats the Lib Dems party will actually be targetting at the next general election.

1. Cambridge Majority 599 (1.1%)
2. Eastbourne Majority 733 (1.4%)
3. Lewes Majority 1083 (2.1%)
4. Thornbury & Yate Majority 1495 (3.1%)
5. Twickenham Majority 2017 (3.3%)
6. East Dunbartonshire Majority 2167 (4%)
7. Kingston & Surbiton Majority 2834 (4.7%)
8. St Ives Majority 2469 (5.1%)
9. Edinburgh West Majority 3210 (5.9%)
10. Torbay Majority 3286 (6.9%)
11. Sutton & Cheam Majority 3921 (7.8%)
12. Bath Majority 3833 (8.1%)
13. Burnley Majority 3244 (8.1%)
14. Bermondsey & Old Southwark Majority 4489 (8.8%)
15. Yeovil Majority 5313 (9.4%)
16. North East Fife Majority 4344 (9.6%)
17. Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross Majority 3844 (11.2%)
18. Colchester Majority 5575 (11.4%)
19. Cheadle Majority 6453 (12.1%)
20. Cheltenham Majority 6516 (12.1%)
21. Berwick-upon-Tweed Majority 4914 (12.2%)
22. Ross, Skye & Lochaber Majority 5124 (12.2%)
23. Portsmouth South Majority 5241 (12.5%)
24. Brecon & Radnorshire Majority 5102 (12.8%)
25. Cardiff Central Majority 4981 (12.9%)
26. North Devon Majority 6936 (13.3%)
27. Wells Majority 7585 (13.3%)
28. North Cornwall Majority 6621 (13.8%)
29. Gordon Majority 8687 (15%)
30. Hazel Grove Majority 6552 (15.2%)
31. Montgomeryshire Majority 5325 (15.7%)
32. Birmingham, Yardley Majority 6595 (16%)
33. St Austell & Newquay Majority 8173 (16.2%)
34. Argyll & Bute Majority 8473 (16.4%)
35. Eastleigh Majority 9147 (16.5%)
36. Oxford West & Abingdon Majority 9582 (16.8%)
37. Bristol West Majority 5673 (8.9%)*
38. Bradford East Majority 7084 (17.1%)
39. Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk Majority 328 (0.6%)*
40. Chippenham Majority 10076 (18.2%)
41. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey Majority 10809 (18.8%)
42. Hornsey & Wood Green Majority 11058 (19.1%)
43. Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine Majority 7033 (12.8%)*
44. Bosworth Majority 10988 (20.5%)
45. Maidstone & The Weald Majority 10709 (21.4%)
46. Mid Dorset and North Poole Majority 10530 (22.6%)
47. Newton Abbot Majority 11288 (23.4%)
48. Solihull Majority 12902 (23.5%)
49. Redcar Majority 10388 (25.4%)
50. Watford Majority 9794 (17.5%)*

*Liberal Democrats currently in third place

Comments - 299 Responses on “Lib Dem Targets”
  1. I say just holding the 8 old seats they have in 2020 would be an achievements, still we don’t know what the new boundaries are going and that would very likely reduce their MPs not increase them.

    They are also likely to fall even further away in less relevant seats.

  2. I wonder how long the activists will keep the faith? There are some brave noises being made on this board, plus appeals to long historical perspectives. But most of today’s activists will not remember the 1960s (and those who do may perhaps not be the most energetic…)

    I can see a lot of people drifting away unless the Lib Dems’ fortunes revive dramatically in the next few years – and given the party’s heavy dependence on (often relatively few) enthusiastic activists in their key seats this could be a fatal development.

  3. I expect the next couple of council elections will be crucial. Two more years of big losses could finish the party off for good

  4. I think they need to hold roughly steady at next year’s council elections. Any upswing would be good, but they should realistically be hoping for a leveling off. It’ll be easier for them to bounce back at Holyrood, in Cardiff, and in the European elections, since those are proportional-ish, so that should be a major goal. Any bounce back at all would help them. There’s also a chance that they could benefit from the EU referendum with some voters, although that belief may well have been shot.

    I don’t think they’re in danger of losing any seats in 2020, but breaking beyond 15 would be hard. They need to take a by-election in this parliament, too.

  5. Proportionality doesn’t help much if you are polling 8% of the vote

  6. ‘Proportionality doesn’t help much if you are polling 8% of the vote’

    I know right-wing political geeks such as yourself probably had countless wet dreams in the run up to the election at the thought of a Lib Dem wipe out but 8% of the vote in a truly proportional system – one which I don’t support – equates to about 50-odd seats in the current Parliament – just over 600% higher than the admiteddly pitiful tally of MPs the Lib Dems now find themselves with

  7. Do you have a preference for any particular electoral system Tim?

  8. ‘Do you have a preference for any particular electoral system Tim?’

    Beloewve it or not I would be extremely reluctant to abandon FPTP and I can’t think of a better electoral saystem

    The obvioius problem with it that it’s primarily desgned for a two-party system, so is grossly unfair on parties like the Lib Dems and even more so UKIP, whose respectable tallies of the popular vote don’t translate into a decent-sized bounty of seats

    Biut if I were Labuir or Tory I’d be very reluctant to ditch it, which is why we are where we are

  9. Peter Oborne said a few years ago that PR, at least for local elections, would actually benefits the Conservatives in parts of the north which are currently deserts for them. He mentioned how their actual vote share in some Metropolitan councils could translate into seats, especially those where they have no representation.

  10. Indeed. They could gain vote share in those places too – in Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, they often can’t compete with the Lib Dems as the non-Labour Party and are suppressed by tactical voting.

  11. I’d support something similar to what they have in Scotland or Wales. It allows larger parties to have a somewhat outsize influence – useful for governing – and also has the advantages of FPTP in terms of local representation, but it maintains a more proportional system on the whole. The Kiwis and Germans are similarly on the right path.

  12. ‘Peter Oborne said a few years ago that PR, at least for local elections, would actually benefits the Conservatives in parts of the north which are currently deserts for them.’

    Had the Tories outpolled Labour in the popular vote yet lagged behind them in seats – which just a year ago looked quite plausible – I think they might have had a serious look at modifying the voting system, but having secured a Tory majority – which some of the experts told us would never happen again – I think the issue is now effectively dead in the water for the time being

  13. I’d be very surprised if they bounce back at Holyrood any time soon. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they suffer further losses next year.

  14. It wouldn’t shock, but conversely I think there’s an outside chance of the Lib Dems making a better comeback than Labour (utterly demolished) or the Tories (still loathed) in Scotland. Why? The Lib Dems have been on the track of rebuilding for four years now, whereas Labour has only just started.

  15. Thats right, and May’s election showed just how well that rebuilding in Scotland has been going…stupendous momentum across the board…

  16. To quote myself on the thread from Westmoreland & Lonsdale: I would dispute the charge that the Lib Dems did worse in Scotland than they did elsewhere… They actually held up better than I thought they would in many Scottish seats (Dunbartonshire, Fife, Edinburgh West (that was a shock), Gordon, Caithness, etc). Those and Burnley were the results I was most shocked by: places that it seemed they’d get blown off the map where they were still competitive.”

  17. Runnymede proves yet again the old truism of sarcasm being the lowest form of wit…

  18. I actually agree that a strategy for the LDs is to focus on seats where they could stop the SNP could be the most mathematically rewarding in the short term.

    I however don’t want to be associated with some of the other daft predictions round here though

  19. I wonder if the unionist tactical voting that may have shored them up in a few Scottish seats will remain in place though.

    I doubt it will in West Aberdeenshire for example, now they have dropped to third.

    The Highland seats will be the better bet…but of course the Lib Dems being reduced to scrapping with the SNP for this handful of seats on the celtic fringe just underlines again how desperate their position now is…

  20. The straw clutching on here is laughable. The Lib Dems will be no more able to tame the fanatical religious cult that is the SNP any more than Labour or the Tories will.

    PT Richards vanished for 2 months and re-appears just as if the election had never happened. At least others of us who got it wrong had the balls to post here the day after the election.

  21. I’m trying to think of the last time I met someone in Scotland who was a Lib Dem by conviction. I think they are now reduced to being nothing more than a tactical-voting vehicle in a few seats where the electoral arithmetic gives them half a chance. Even that may not last, unless Farron can work out how to make them relevant again, given that they’ll lose the incumbency/personal votes that they had in 2015.

  22. I came on here not long after the election result and admitted I was wrong as well.

  23. I’m not talking about LDS taming the SNP or anything like it. I just think that in about 3 or 4 seats with small majorities where the Lib Dems were second they could make gains, which might increase their parliamentary party by 50%.

    “PT Richards vanished for 2 months and re-appears just as if the election had never happened. At least others of us who got it wrong had the balls to post here the day after the election.”


  24. It’s hard to disagree with Hemmelig’s characterisation of the SNP as being like a religious cult.

    Funnily enough I have often thought about Lib Dem activists that way as well, especially given the pseudo-millenarian ‘winning here’/’today Bumstead Town Council Horsesh*t ward, tomorrow Westminster’ attitudes so many of them have.

    So set a cult to stop a cult? Unfortunately here the whole thing breaks down. The SNP cult also includes a lot of the SNP’s voters. The Lib Dem cult is largely confined to the members…

  25. We will probably see a fair few diehard anti-SNP voters moving to England, especially the younger ones. And perhaps some English Owen Jones types going the other way to live the socialist dream. Both trends will help the SNP in the next few years.

  26. 5 seats which the Lib Dems lost in May don’t even make this list….

  27. Re the cult-like status of the SNP, I remember reading a fair number of below-the-line comments on Guardian articles in 2013 (I can’t even get myself to visit that website anymore) from perpetual English whingers declaring that if Scotland went independent, they’d move. I didn’t know whether to laugh or groan.

  28. “5 seats which the Lib Dems lost in May don’t even make this list….”

    Brent Central, Manchester Withington, Norwich South, Somerton & Frome and Taunton Deane (unless I’ve misread). The last being perhaps the biggest surprise – knew they’d lose it but not that badly

  29. I wonder if the Lib Dems are even more eager to see a Corbyn win than the Conservatives seem to be. If he drags Labour to the left then they must be hopeful that some of Labour’s more centrist voters will go to them, deciding that they can’t support that party anymore. It wouldn’t shock me if there were even a couple of defections from the right wing of the Labour party to the Lib Dems. Perhaps Corbyn will be the start of their rebuilding and fight back?

  30. “I wonder if the Lib Dems are even more eager to see a Corbyn win than the Conservatives seem to be.”

    Doubt it, given that Farron seems to want to return to opposing Labour from the left. He and Corbyn will be fishing for the same voters while centrist voters will trust neither and hold their nose and vote Tory.

    Also Farron has explicitly said he will never return to coalition with the Tories but is open to a future coalition with Labour. I can see the “vote Farron get Corbyn & Sturgeon” posters all over the south west already.

  31. So the Tories will likely benefit the most from a Labour Party led by Corbyn?

  32. I’d guess so yes, though as I’ve posted elsewhere they shouldn’t be too complacent given how dangerously volatile the modern electorate has become.

    The idea that Blairites will decamp to a ragbag party of oddballs led by Tim Farron is fanciful. Can you see Chukka Umunna, Tristram Hunt, Alistair Campbell and Alan Johnson in sandals and campaigning about dogshit in Newport Pagnell? No. They’ll fight from the inside and bide their time.

  33. An alternative we should not overlook is that a deluge of people will take inspiration from what happened in Scotland and bring some new party from nowhere to power in 2020.

    By the way one of the UKIP coiuncil’s first actions in Thanet has been to campaign about litter and dog mess, and they are not being criticised greatly for doing so. MPs need to be tackling big issues but that does not mean they can neglect the grassroots.

  34. “Also Farron has explicitly said he will never return to coalition with the Tories but is open to a future coalition with Labour. I can see the “vote Farron get Corbyn & Sturgeon” posters all over the south west already.”

    Quite a few LibDems are salivating at the thought of Corbyn… Farron is not fishing in the same waters as Corbyn because the goal will be to pick off the Labour Right… Farron’s focusses have already been announced as housing is number one.. while that has some overlaps with Labour it is scarcely nationalising private housing… and the electoral turkey of the Mansion Tax (in the LibDem version) was a Cleggite idea bizarrely enough..

    Vote Corbyn.. get Farron!

  35. A new party is not going to suddenly appear from nowhere without some big issue or grievance to spur their growth. Nor is it accurate to describe the SNP as coming from nowhere.

    That said, I think the disruptive effects of the Euro-referendum are likely to be much more substantial than people seem to think, and many of the factors that enabled the SNP to profit at Labour’s expense are there to allow UKIP to make progress with Tory voters.

  36. @Antiochian. The mansion tax was a Vince Cable idea actually: As popular as Vince Cable was with the public he did have a tendency to suddenly announce things to try and bounce the party which is one reason why he wan’t so popular with the party’s parliamentary party or internal bureaucracy.

  37. I think it’s clear that the only way the Libdems will ever make a comeback is if a “Black Wednesday” comes along or the Tories tear themselves apart over the EU.

    The latter may be more likely.

  38. @Killersbee

    Your comment may be prescient…

    Interesting to see the LDs on 10% with Ipsos Mori today, just one point behind UKIP. I’m not sure that’s happened for a while and maybe there are – along with there good run in council by-election – some ‘green shoots’ of a comeback. Fundamental problem, though, is they have no airtime. People obviously know that the LDs still exist, but they probably don’t know who their leader is and haven’t heard anything from them since May. As these things are determined in large part by representation in the Commons that’s unlikely to change.

  39. ‘Interesting to see the LDs on 10% with Ipsos Mori today, just one point behind UKIP. I’m not sure that’s happened for a while and maybe there are – along with there good run in council by-election – some ‘green shoots’ of a comeback. ‘

    As long as UKIP are around I don’t see the Lib Dems recovering

    This might sound an odd thing to say given that the gulf between the two parties politically is easily the largest of all mainstream parties in the UK, but the Lib Dems got more votes than they could have possibly imagined for simply not being the Tories and Labour and therefore had the luxury of not having to constrain themselves by the reality of being in government

    History shows us this always happens to minor parties following invitation into government – and now UKIP are in the position the Lib Dems were prior to 2010 – the growing amount of people disillusioned with politics as usual will be hoovered up by them

  40. I tend to agree with you. But strange things happen sometimes and I thought their best poll for some time shouldn’t go without mention. I note ComRes doesn’t find any LD bounce at all, despite the Tories falling 4 points. So maybe just an outlier.

  41. UKIP have not yet regrouped since the General Election.

    At present they will be concentrating on trying to make one or two gains in the forthcoming electiions for the Scottish Parliament.

  42. Excellent result in Eastleigh for the LDs, I think a 30 v 6 council split. Torys did really really well in 2015 but it will surely be much closer in 2020? Bad result in Cambridge though.

  43. I’d be wary about extrapolating LD local results to GEs. They also did well in Eastleigh locals in the last parliament, but then couldn’t convert at the GE. And there are places like Three Rivers where they are strong locally but have never really been in serious contention for the main parliamentary seat it covers.

  44. “Without Sir Robert I predict the LD vote will collapse in the Tories favour.” (comment on Aberdeenshire West)

    Hard to argue with that. Any feeling bad by a chunk of voters at voting out an incumbent who they may not personally dislike, has long gone after another 5 years – even mostly if the old incumbent stood again.

    We will see this effect in ex-LD seats up and down the country, outside of some places where a true Liberal-voting tradition pre-dating 1997 exists, and a very few other exceptions.

    It’s hard to argue that any of their remaining 8 except Farron’s are safe either, with the threat of further unwinding – though undoubtedly their vote will hold up better than where they’ve already been given the boot.

    The caveat underlying all this that should be made is ‘all else being equal’ and it being a ‘relatively’ normal election between the major parties. There are obviously a few unlikely scenarios where LDs could do much better.

  45. In addition to various factors harder to predict this far out from 2020, regarding the general state of play in the country, on a constituency level I think one of the best indicators of where LD retain some strength in seats they don’t hold any more – or, to put it another way, didn’t become so loathed and therefore hold some potential in 2020 – is the following:

    Seats not where the majority is the smallest but where their vote fell the least. There are eleven seats in their Top 50 target list where their vote fell 10% or less. These are no’s:

    1 2 6 8 9 13 17 29 31 38 and 41. (Sorry, this is much quicker than typing all the names).

    About half of these are in Scotland. No. 31 target is kind of interesting as it is unique on this list of being one they lost before 2015 – Montgomeryshire.

    I’m not sure what the opposite of unwind is – rewind? – maybe Montgomeryshire is undergoing further rewind for the LDs post-Opik! It does have a long Liberal tradition.

  46. Of those you list Burnley stood out as a bit surprising given the enormous swings away from the LDs in most other LAB-held 2005/2010 gains. Makes me think there may be some voters there that would otherwise vote Tory who went for Birtwistle. The Tories were historically second there up to 2005, including only missing out by 787 in 1983.

  47. BT SAYS:

    All-Wales polls tell us little about LD fortunes in target seats as 3 LD/formerLD seats are clustered in the rural areas and Labour are non-existent there. We have local elections next year which might give us an indication in Montgomeryshire. Kirsty Williams’ big win in the Welsh Assembly elections showed there is still a fair bit of LD support in Brecon & Radnorshire. LD and Tories usually only contest a small number of seats in Montgomeryshire, with the rest being Independents. It will be interesting to see if they fight more next year as the independent-run council have come in for a fair bit of criticism. Montgomeryshire will probably be split up in the boundary review.

  48. Yes, I nearly commented on Burnley as it seemed a slightly different kettle of fish to the others (eg they only won it first in 2010!), but decided to let others look at the list above and draw their own conclusions. Birtwhistle had been the candidate ever since 1992, so it would be fair to assume his devotion to Burnley couldn’t be called in question!

    They did extraordinarily well in many Scottish seats they held given the apparently near complete meltdown in 2011 Holyrood elections. No doubt this was partly due to a chunk of tactical SLAB & SCON votes, but that’s not to say they won’t get them again.

    It’s not that difficult to see them having as many seats in Scotland as England & Wales combined after the next GE – but with an equally abysmal vote share / lost deposits in many of the other Scottish seats where they are not in contention. In other words, their average vote in Scotland may be no higher than in rUK, but they may end up with a ratio 10-1 better on MPs from that vote share.

  49. @BT Says

    Completely agree with you on the LDs in Scotland. Nowhere in most seats, but where they stand a chance they can stand as effectively a ‘Unionist’ candidate, appealing to voters with first preferences for all the three main unionist parties.

    I guess Birtwistle won’t stand again as he is already 72. Have they selected anyone for Burnley as part of the selection ground their going through at the moment?

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