Liberal Democrat Defence List

These are the remaining Liberal Democrat seats ordered by the lowest percentage majorities. This does not necessarily mean that the seats at the top would be the most vulnerable Liberal Democrats seats in practice.

1. Southport Majority 1322 (3%)
2. Carshalton & Wallington Majority 1510 (3.2%)
3. Orkney & Shetland Majority 817 (3.6%)
4. Sheffield, Hallam Majority 2353 (4.2%)
5. Leeds North West Majority 2907 (6.7%)
6. Ceredigion Majority 3067 (8.2%)
7. North Norfolk Majority 4043 (8.2%)
8. Westmorland & Lonsdale Majority 8949 (18.3%)
Comments - 1,379 Responses on “Lib Dem Defence”
  1. whoops! I rate Berwick-on-Tweed as Close, But I’m Going For LD Defeat.

  2. and Chippenham should be in the Tricky, But I’m Going For An LD Hold column.
    In answer to Iain, I really cannot see any way that the LDs can survive in Argyll & Bute, whatever the result of the referendum. They could I suppose come through the middle on the back of a split Lab/SNP vote, but in practice I am certain that one or the other (most likely the SNP) will gain enough anti-Coalition votes to win.

  3. I don’t think following the euro results it’s fair to put Argyllshire as dead in the water

  4. I would certainly expect an SNP gain, with us second. But I am not ruling out a hold by any stretch of the imagination.
    I am confident Labour won’t win.

  5. I think it’s harder to predict what will happen in the Lib Dem seats where the Tories are a close second.

    I’d be more confident at taking a guess at the seats the Lib Dems gained from Labour in 2005 and 2010.

    I’d go for:

    Lib Dems toast, almost certain Labour gains:
    Burnley, Redcar, Dunbartonshire East, Cambridge, Brent Central, Norwich South, Manchester Withington, Bradford East, Hornsey & Wood Green, Cardiff Central.

    Very vulnerable to Labour, could go either way:
    Leeds NW, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Birmingham Yardley, Edinburgh West, Inverness Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.

    Without taking 10 gains from the Lib Dems I think its challening even for Labour to become the largest party in a hung parliament.

  6. I’m not quite sure why Leeds NW is seen as vulnerable. Labour needs a swing well into double figures to win it & only one of its wards tends to vote Labour (Headingley), and even that only narrowly. The LDs have continued to outpoll both other parties there during this parliament & while I agree that there is likely to be quite a large swing to Labour it seems most unlikely it’ll be enough.

  7. Simple answer, Barnaby – “one of the ten seats with the highest proportion of students in the country.” And add to them the (fairly) recently finished students still staying put. Students themselves are far less likely to vote in local elections than a GE, and this years elections took place too late in May (exams and/or gone home). Add to that, that local and European elections haven’t been as directly relevant to the question of punishing LDs for what their party voted for after all the individual ‘pledges’.

  8. Barnaby,

    Replace Leeds NW with Sheffield Hallam and Headingley with Crookes and you’d be describing an entirely different seat!

  9. No, the swing in Leeds NW is massive. It’s what, a 21% majority? That’ll be very hard to overturn, and I doubt it’ll be done. Also, Mulholland is a frequent rebel with a personal vote. I think he’ll pull through, possibly with a quite solid majority.

    Now, James Martin: Cambridge, Hornsey, and Cardiff Central are by no means almost certain for Labour. Cambridge and Hornsey, especially, are likely, but the assembly result in Cardiff, right after the tuition fees vote, was incredibly, incredibly close, and that with the Lib Dem incumbent standing down. It was below 100 votes, if memory serves. That’s not a certain gain for Labour. I tend to think Jenny Willott will survive, but either way, I’m confident of it being incredibly close.

    Also, James: You grouped Edinburgh West with those other seats, and it shouldn’t be in there. It has never been Labour (maybe once in the ’50s, actually…), and was gained from the Tories in ’97. The reason it’s as close as it is is because the Lib Dem incumbent retired last time around, and that’s why the majority went from 30% (yes, that’s not a typo) in ’05 to 8% in ’10. I honestly don’t know where people think Labour will come from there. It’s an old Tory seat with a substantial Tory vote to be squeezed down, not much in the way of natural Labour support, a strong LD presence (even in the Edinburgh Council elections, which for both local and national reasons saw the LDs get crushed, they held a few seats in there), and a first-time incumbent who resigned a government job to vote against tuition fees. I honestly think that will be a hold, and it certainly is not a probable Labour gain.

  10. That’s not all completely correct. First and least importantly, Edinburgh W was won by Labour in 1929 but so far not since WWII. More importantly, it is not the case that there are no natural Labour areas in the constituency, especially not given that this is Scotland not England. There are quite substantial council estate areas in Stenhouse (and I think Gorgie is included too), and there is IIRC a council estate presence too in S Queensferry. Some of the middle-class areas are very elegant, like Murrayfield & Corstorphine, but others such as Davidson’s Mains are a bit more standard-issue suburbs & in territory such as this in a Scottish city there is no longer an automatic lead for the LDs or the Tories over Labour. Yes much of the seat is not obvious Labour territory, but I defy you to find that much of a demographic difference between it & Edinburgh South, which has of course now been Labour for 27 years. There Labour has made the fullest possible use of a small, heavily Labour corner of the constituency, and I think it’s quite possible that it could happen here too.

  11. P.T. Richards
    Caerdydd Canalog: Two key differences from the Senedd election – 1) LD membership and activist base has been collapsing SINCE then – it was held at the same time as the AV Referendum which appeared to LDs to be closer to the ‘promised land’ of PR than LibDems had ever got before. So not only did they still have their activist base, but they were fired up and campaigning as hard as they could. 2) Very many students wouldn’t vote in a Senedd election: students generally pay vastly less attention to 2nd order elections; and in Cardiff, in particular, the very large number of students from England (I should know, I was one once) wouldn’t see the Senedd as being relevant to them (and some of the more political ones would even see it as being wrong to vote in a Senedd election where they would be leaving Wales soon).

  12. I am so happy to see my 3 posts on Sat 31 May resulted in so many comments from so many experts.

    I would be interested to know what other contributors think of my point in my first post of 31 May please:
    I can see LDs holding seats where their vote share is reduced as, where Cons are second in 2010, Cons should lose more votes to UKIP. A simple example would be LDs down 5% Cons down 9% meaning 2% Swing LD to Con in the seat. This could happen all over the country but I am especially thinking of the South West.

    Secondly like other contributors, I am inclined to think between 0 and 2 LD gains from Con at GE2015 due to local factors or due to a Con MP deciding to retire.

    It will be interesting to see who comes third in votes next year. Personally I believe LDs will recover to at least 12% and possibly 14% but I cannot see UKIP polling over 10%.

    Whereas February 74 was the election which became 3 party system as regards VOTES ONLY, next year’s election will be the election of 4 party politics in England (and 5 in Wales and Scotland).

  13. I think at least a small recovery by the LDs as the election nears is likely, but a large-scale one seems almost inconceivable now. They will however probably still attract some extremely reluctant tactical votes in certain constituencies with a particularly weak Labour presence & history. Thus a survival in, for example, Mid Dorset is not totally impossible, though I think unlikely, and N Cornwall where Labour has never in history polled over 16% is a probable hold. St Ives is tricky because there is a noticeable Labour revival in Penzance, which I think is the largest town in the constituency (though not exactly a metropolis). Eastbourne on the other hand should be held, Labour being extremely weak there for many years, though I think it’s possible the party may start to figure there in a few years’ time since certain slight similarities are starting to emerge with Hastings, and it is a more urban seat than Hastings & Rye. Berwick-on-Tweed has some potential areas for Labour improvement (Amble, Ellington, Tweedmouth) & it’s likely to be tight with Beith retiring. Who comes 3rd in terms of the popular vote is hard to say. I suspect it will be the LDs by an absolute whisker.

  14. In Berwick-upon-Tweed, Beith’s majority took quite a hit in 2010. Was it expenses related? With a fresh candidate in place it’s to be seen what happens to the Lib Dems there.

    In St Ives, it’s a question between a Labour surge in Penzance or strategically voting for one of the most rebellious and left-wing Lib Dem MPs.

    Solihull looks like it’s slipping out of Lib Dem hands though. Labour had a strong vote here a few elections ago and the Greens are doing well locally (though that might be in the Meriden wards). Whether those voters want to give their support to Lorely Burt is up in the air.

  15. In Berwick, Amble is the only real area of Labour strength, and the impression I’ve got from members of votetalk.co.uk is that it is Labour in a GE too. Porksen is on the LD left wing, so may attract tactical votes. That said, I do expect a narrow Tory gain.

    In St Ives I think Andrew George is fairly safe. Much of the swing last time was down to expenses, an issue which will figure far less this time around. And as Neil said, Labour voters in Penzance and Green voters in St Ives will probably be well disposed towards supporting this rebellious left winger.

    Much of the Green strength in Solihull is down to defection, most of which I think will return in a GE. But I would say this is a pretty certain Tory gain.

    As for vote share, I will be very surprised to see UKIP get above 10%, and shocked to see the LDs fall that low.

  16. I initially thought UKIP would be below 10% but increasingly I’m not so sure. I very much doubt the Lib Dems will be below 10% and expect they will narrowly maintain 3rd place.

  17. I think that the LIbDems probably will get above 10%, but it is far from certain. I think 3rd. place is very much up for grabs. I am inclined to think that UKIP will come third but with few if any MPs.

  18. The key difference between me and others who think the LibDems will hold more seats is, clearly, what we think will happen to the LDs in the polls in the mean time. I think a further small fall is possible: and that is from 7% on each of the latest two YouGovs. Most people on this site seem to think a recovery of at least 3% is more likely. At least Barnaby gives some rationale for his suggestion that they will recover (and doesn’t quantify the extent of recovery he expects).

  19. Their general election result will be above their poll ratings because reluctant Labour tactical voters in seats like Eastbourne are by and large not factored in yet. It is widely established that when pollsters ask how you will vote “in your own constituency” the Lib Dems always do a few percent better.

  20. Also, some of the Lib Dems popular incumbents will draw in votes that they may not have said they’d vote Lib Dem in most polls.

    And thank you to Barnaby and Ben for the info on Edinburgh West and Cardiff Central. I would still think both would be very close, and I certainly think Crockart will hold in Edinburgh, and I’m leaning toward Willott in Cardiff, but it’s obviously up in the air. Willott just strikes me as a very good campaigner, and she and Crockart were among the MPs who quit government jobs to vote against the tuition fee raise, which should really help them. (Also, tuition fees probably won’t be as big an issue in Scotland, anyway.)

  21. HH, I don’t dispute that traditionally there has been a LD rise in the run up to polling day, for reasons that include those you mention, but if the election is held against an undercurrent of commentators asking ‘how many seats will the LDs lose’ etc, I think FAR fewer voters will be willing be persuaded to get behind the LDs as reluctant tactical voters or ‘back a winner’ voters. Voters will be more inclined to question LD claims that they are well/best placed to win than they would be if the national coverage is less negative for the LDs. Meanwhile, that less positive coverage will mean, I think, that a proportion of those that start the campaign intending to vote LD will be persuaded not to (even in some cases by the sort of claims that Rennard used to specialise in – the party in 3rd place claiming one of the two above them “can’t win” – the national mood music will give it credibility in the minds of a proportion of voters who don’t know the reality of the arithmetic in their constituency).

  22. Just had a look at past YouGov polls: the 7% for the LibDems in the last two polls equals their lowest YG rating since the General Election, and that low for the first time since June/July 2012.

  23. Ben, I think you’re starting to let your desires cloud your predictive capabilities. Wanting the Lib Dems to get annihilated and it actually being plausible are two very different things. Look at what is consistently happening in local elections: the Lib Dems are winning around 14-16% (notionally). They’re getting absolutely annihilated in their weaker areas (especially old industrial areas up north), but are doing relatively well in their strongholds (Eastleigh, South Lakeland, and Sutton are the three most recent examples). I think we’ll see that trend continue to play out: in seats where the Lib Dems used to get 15-30%, especially up north, they’ll be down to single digits, barely registering at all, but where they’re usually strong, they’ll do alright. That’s why we’ll see more holds (and maybe even a few gains) than you think. Places like Bradford East and Burnley will be utter fiascos, but down in the Southwest, it probably won’t be that different from the usual, and maybe it might go better for the Lib Dems than we think due to the rise in UKIP. As rural voters who traditionally go Lib Dem return to the fold after drifting to UKIP for the Euro elections, the Tories will be the ones truly losing support (or at least, more than the Lib Dems), and people in theoretically marginal seats like Browne, Rogerson, Gilbert, and George will hold up alright in that region.

    What I think will provide some upsets is the retirement of incumbents. Berwick, Mid Dorset, Brent Central, Somerton & Frome, and Gordon are all, in my mind, likely to flip, and I’d even worry about North East Fife if I were the Lib Dems. I’d even say Bath and Hazel Grove are slightly vulnerable without their incumbents; look at the swings in places like Harrogate, Edinburgh West, and so forth last time.

  24. I wouldn’t be worried about NE Fife, but I am slightly worried about Hazel Grove

  25. I think it is unlikely that we will see any Lib Dem gains at the GE. Accept the point that will hold on to many of their fastnesses, but I see gains as very unlikely.

  26. They might “gain” Portsmouth South.

  27. Oxford West & Abingdon could be a gain considering how tight it is.

  28. There is an assumption that a rise in UKIP support will disproportionately hurt the Tories. That will be true in many areas, but not so much I think in the SW. Many LD voters in that region are much more Eurosceptic than the party is, and will be tempted by UKIP. This is, I suspect, particularly true in fishing areas. The LDs could face the twin torture in some constituencies (eg St Ives, Camborne & Redruth) of seeing as many of their voters as Tory ones switching to UKIP, while Labour gnaws away at their 2010 vote too. I do think that the LDs will probably survive in quite a lot of seats in the SW, but I feel that St Ives, N Devon & even Torbay are not in the bag yet.

  29. Others like Watford and St Albans may depend on who the candidate is in the former (Dorothy Thornhill could be a good candidate) and if they can further squeeze the Labour vote in the latter (Lab have clawed back support locally, and Kerry Pollard might help get their vote into the 20s, however).

  30. P.T. Richards – I anticipated the loss of LD support that recent polls are showing. Nobody else seems to be factoring it into their thinking, except possibly in anticipating the LDs will recover from it fairly soon. I admit, I don’t know for sure whether this is a new baseline from which LD support will move slowly over the next few months, or a temporary dip before it returns to a higher baseline. None of us do. But what amazes me is that in an unprecedented situation, everybody else ‘knows’ how LD support will change between now and GE polling day. This is the first time in the era of opinion polls that we have a coalition government. Is it not plausible enough to consider that in these different circumstances LD support will fall before the GE, even if in previous elections, as an opposition party, it has risen?

  31. It is certainly possible, Ben, but those polls, as Hemmelig pointed out not so long ago, do not take into account local factors, and those tend to benefit the LDs. Your point is valid, but…. I do think you’re mistaken on this one.

  32. OK, I won’t pretend it didn’t happen. Last night’s YouGov shows LDs on 8%. So, to some extent it confirms new lower ratings for them, but at the same time it isn’t quite as low ast the two 7% – all well within margin of error. So we still don’t know whether this is a new baseline, or a temporary blip.

    Yes, local factors tend to benefit the LDs in constituencies where they still have a strong organisation, but to a large extent they are factored in with swingometer calculations – I am not suggesting LDs will get around 10% in every constituency nationally!

    I think people have seen the past increase in LD support in opinion polls happening regularly during General Election campaigns and tried to think what explains it. Myself, I have always thought that a significant part of it was that the LDs get more coverage on TV during the campaign itself. But this time, LDs have been getting regular coverage through being in Govt, so I don’t think that boost will happen.

  33. A major obvious unknown is the debates. Given the Euro election results it will be quite untenable to include the Lib Dems and leave out UKIP; whatever the technical rules are it will look ridiculous to the public. And as Ben will no doubt remind us, it would be hard to keep the Greens out if UKIP are allowed in. After all they have an MP and beat the Lib Dems in the Euros.

    Either we’ll have a crowded debate with 4-5 leaders or one just between Miliband and Cameron, or perhaps none at all if there is a stalemate in terms of who should be invited. A few months ago Labour would have been keen to have UKIP in the debates – I’m guessing they’ll be less keen now.

  34. The current polls suggest that Labour is benefitting from what looks like a resumption of the phenomenon of UKIP disproportionately hurting the Tories (unlike many of the local election results). But Labour will still want to make sure they don’t lose any of their own seats e.g. Great Grimsby, Plymouth Moor View, even Doncaster Central) which have UKIP potential & may welcome the opportunity to draw attention to UKIP’s policies which most damage the interests of working-class voters (e.g. partial NHS privatisation, flat tax, etc.) in a debate. If this attack sticks, it could attract Labour-inclined rebels back to the fold while doing nothing to direct any UKIP voters back to the Tories, except perhaps purely tactically. Of course Farage could opt simply to drop some of the more rightist domestic policies which might blunt the attack. These are worrying days for the Tories – it’s not just that UKIP now seem to be hurting them more than Labour, but Labour’s vote in current polls seems to be back to its level of the beginning of the year, as well as its lead (the Ashcroft poll is the exception, having a particularly large UKIP vote share). If these days turn to weeks, then they really would have a serious problem.

  35. I largely agree with your analysis, though whatever Labour might want to point out in a debate with UKIP, Miliband is highly unlikely to make much debating headway against a ranting Farage.

  36. A five-way debate would be bedlam. Just watch one of the American presidential primary debates. They’re often utterly ridiculous when they’ve got six or seven candidates up on stage.

  37. I seem to remember a month ago reading of a Tory proposal for three debates:one five party, one Con/LD/Lab and one Con/Lab. From where I am it looks pretty reasonable, but I strongly suspect each of Con and Lab will put forward proposals they know will be unacceptable to the other this time; each hoping to avoid having debates, while avoiding the blame for saying ‘no’

    Did anyone see the 15 May Europe-wide debate? That was a five-way debate.

  38. One striking thing looking under the surface of the polls – Ashcroft’s are very good on detail – is that the detail confounds the idea that the remaining LDs are a hard core and they’ve hit their floor. The lower they poll, also the lower the % that say they are certain to stick with them – and it’s MUCH lower than the other 3 main parties.

    This doesn’t so much suggest to me even more annihilation of their sitting MPs, rather that the disparity between their vote change from 2010 and everywhere else will be all the greater, i.e. I continue to expect them to significantly – though in many cases, inadequately – outperform in seats they hold.

  39. I tend to think Cameron will absolutely crush Miliband in a debate. For what it’s worth.

  40. I tend to think Miliband would do fairly well actually, mainly because expectations are so low and Cameron has a tendency to talk for ages without me feeling like he’s said anything.

    Probably placings in a five way debate:

    1) Farage
    2) Miliband
    3) Cameron
    4) Bennett
    5) Clegg

  41. Clegg is very unpopular, but he is a reasonable debater, unlike Natalie Bennett who is possibly the most unimpressive party leader I have ever seen.
    And I can’t imagine Miliband doing well.

  42. Miliband has often bested Cameron at PMQs & it’s not exactly inconceivable that he might do better than Cameron in an election debate. I remain, however, to be convinced that it will actually take place.

  43. You are presuming Clegg will still be leader of the LibDems by then…

  44. True. Thing with Clegg is that while Bennett is a rubbish leader, at least there are still people prepared to listen to what she has to say.

  45. Problem with Natalie Bennett is that she waffles so much. When Caroline Lucas was leader, she could make a point clearly and succinctly.

  46. “You are presuming Clegg will still be leader of the LibDems by then”

    Which is a good presumption.

    Clegg’s enemies in the party, which appear to include yourself, totally blew their chance with the failure of the Oakeshott plot.

    Just like Brown, Clegg now has the cover to limp on to the election.

  47. @Neil,

    Agreed on Lucas and indeed many people think she still is leader so low is Natalie Bennett’s profile. Wanting this to sound as polite as possible, her voice is an issue as it is for Ed Miliband.

  48. How is it that so many of these ‘coups’ are hopelessly botched? The pantomime of the plots to unseat Brown, Clegg and even Blair simply defy belief. The Tories are the only ones who ever seem to see this kind of thing through, with IDS being efficiently despatched the last time they saw the need to act swiftly.

  49. I’m sure most of us remember only a short time ago when people actually referred to the Hon. Member for Twickenham as “St Vince”. His reputation seems to have grown after he compared the then Prime Minister to Mr Bean. The comparison wouldn’t be inapt with him now after recent events. And sainthood? Well I couldn’t possibly comment.

  50. I never know why this saintly aura still seems to hang around the Lib Dems, albeit in a much more scruffy and threadbare state these days. One of the great puzzles of modern times. A throwback I think to the days of the saintly ‘Boy’ David and the can-do-no-wrong Shirley Williams. Her aura even made the usually calm Tony Benn react with unusual sarcasm.

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