This morning reports emerged that the Labour party is briefing that it has launched a “major bid” to defeat Clegg in his Sheffield Hallam constituency at the next election, with one NEC source declaring that it is “pouring resources” into the seat.
There is a Lord Ashcroft poll from October 2010 which showed Labour trailing the Lib Dems by 2% in Sheffield Hallam, and marked shifts in the 2010 General Election voting if voters had known Clegg had gone into government with the Conservatives.
From my knowledge of the seat, I know the Lib Dems have been very active in the seat, holding their council seats in the constituency, such as the Fulwood by-election last year, when they achieved a swing from Labour, and the seat is atypical for a Northern Seat.
One of the advantages for the Lib Dems in Sheffield Hallam is that there aren’t any other nearby seats that Lib Dem activists are needed to help defend, so resources won’t be diverted from other seats.
As Lord Ashcroft also noted on the Lib Dem decapitation strategy of 2005 (see page 304 of this report)
“My polling uncovered many interesting facts, including that voters in the Liberal Democrats’ decapitation seats were less inclined to vote against the sitting Conservative MP when they were told of the decapitation motivation…Oliver Letwin clearly understood the message because when he was interviewed by Ann Treneman of the Times during the campaign, he asked her to use the word ‘decapitation’ a lot because he said it would help him to get elected”
The other negative for Labour from this is, if there is a hung parliament at the next election, and the chances that the next government after that election to be run by two MPs from South Yorkshire have probably diminished following Labour’s targeting of Nick Clegg.
Perhaps this is as Labourlist suggest, Labour’s way of saying No Thanks Nick, to his recent overtures to Labour.
I know that some Labour people from the very top of the party have no love for Nick Clegg. A few years ago, Ed Miliband said “Nick Clegg, is a betrayal of the Liberal tradition. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are texting each other like teenagers in love because they agree with each other. It’s not some forced marriage, they ideologically agree with each other.”
As a wise man once said, Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement.
There are other seats in Yorkshire that Labour should be focussing their energies upon, such as Dewsbury, Elmet & Rothwell, Calder Valley, Keighley, Pudsey & Bradford East, seats which are more likely to fall to Labour than Sheffield Hallam ,a seat Labour have been in third place since the 80s, and a seat they have never held in its 129 year history, despite being in the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire.
If you think Labour’s approach is going to work, both Paddy Power and Ladbrokes offer odds of 5/1 on Labour taking Sheffield Hallam in 2015. I won’t be backing Labour to win Sheffield Hallam.
(Who grew up in Sheffield Hallam, and since last summer has been living in seat again)