How LD stand asides could help bring about a hung parliament
At the 2001 general election the Lib Dems stood aside in the Wyre Forest seat to help an independent, Richard Taylor, in his single issue campaign of keeping Kidderminster Hospital open. Taylor over-turned a Labour majority of 7,000 and came in 18,000 ahead. There is little doubt that he was aided in this success by the Liberal Democrats’ decision.
In 2005 Taylor held onto the seat with a much reduced majority and Labour was pushed into third place. Again the Lib Dems stood aside although this time there was a candidate in the name of the old Liberal Party. Taylor’s victory last year meant that he became the first independent to be re-elected to Parliament since the Second World War.
A long post, on yesterday’s thread reported on a move by doctors in Bedford to do the same. A new political party “Save Bedford Hospital” is being registered and efforts are being established to get a campaign going. In 2001 there was a similar independent challenge on the same issue with the consultant getting nearly a thousand votes.
A strategic question that the Lib Dems in this and other seats might need to consider is whether to do another Wyre Forest and stand aside to give the hospital campaign a boost.
The electoral arithmatic is fairly similar. Bedford was a Labour gain in 1997 and the seat was held last year with a majority of 3,383 over the Tories. The Lib Dems performed well in 2005 ending up with 21.5% of the vote against 33.7% for the Tories and 41.7% for the incumbent Labour MP. If Cameron’s Conservative are to make progress next time they have to win this seat back.
But if the local Lib Dems were to “do another Wyre Forest” they could seriously damage Labour’s campaign to retain the seat and also make it very difficult for the Tories to win.
A victory for the doctor candidate would help the Lib Dems get closer to a hung parliament without helping the Tories. There’s the additional benefit that the local party would not have to fund a General Election campaign.
With the so-called “re-configuration” of the NHS taking place there are, surely, other seats where a similar situation could present itself. What should the Lib Dems do? Should they stand aside depriving local supporters of the chance to vote for their party or do they act in a way that could help deprive Labour of its majority without aiding the Tories. Watch this space.
On a personal note I fought for the Lib Dems in Bedford in 1992 – and lost.