A forecast from Robert
Let me start by saying this is not an election I have much confidence in predicting. But because that makes for an uninteresting article, I will make some forecasts.
Currently the LDs are polling about 16-17%, which is about five points down on the peak they achieved after the European elections earlier this year. I think there’s around a 40% chance that they end up in the 14-19% range at the coming elections. I reckon there’s a 25% chance they’re in the 10-13% band, and a 25% chance they’re between 19% and 23%. With a 10% possibility they either end up below the 10% or above the 23%.
This post is about the central prediction, the 14-19% one.
Let me add some other (maybe wrong, maybe right) assumptions.
Firstly, UNS still matters.
Secondly, the LDs will do better in Remainia.
Thirdly, local strength is important. The LDs need to have done well in local elections, and ideally have a base of activists to deliver leaflets and knock on doors.
Fourthly, there are more Labour to LibDem switchers than Conservative to LibDem ones. This means that the LDs will do better in seats where there is a Labour vote to squeeze.
In this scenario I think the LDs will win… all of their existing twelve seats. Norfolk North will be close, I’m sure, but I think they’ll hold it. I also think the SNP will fail to unseat Jo Swinson, or any other LibDem.
They will also make the following gains:
Richmond Park. The walk it on UNS. It’s extremely Pro-Remain. They performed very well there in the 2018 locals. The Labour vote is not yet as squeezed as it was in the late 90s. On my central prediction, I think it’s a 90+% chance of a gain.
Ceridigion. PC is a bit of a mess. There are a lot of Remainiac students. I’m not as confident as with RP, but I think they take it. 70% chance.
St Ives. The LDs ran the Conservatives close there in 2017, but it is in the fairly Brexity South West (albeit not a particularly Brexity part of the region). UNS suggests an easy take. I think it’ll be harder, but they’ll make it. 70% chance.
St Albans. UNS says yes. Remainia says yes. Local election results say yes. Big Labour vote to squeeze. I think they’ll get a majority of 5-6,000 here.
Fife NE. The SNP is doing well in Scotland. But it’s full of (not Scottish) students and the SNP is only going to get 33-36% of the vote here. I reckon the LDs squeeze Labour and take it by a few thousand votes.
Sheffield Hallam. I think the locals may have had their fill of Labour MPs for the moment. By no means a certain gain for the LDs, but (a) it’s a 65% Remain seat, and (b) the LDs have done well in local elections.
Hornsey & Wood Green. This is theoretically a bit of a stretch for the LDs. But it’s another very Remain seat where the LDs have performed well in local elections.
Leeds North West. UNS? Check. Remainia? Check. Local election results? Check. Labour to LibDem switchers? Check. My only reservation here is that Greg Mulholland is not restanding. Still, I think they take it back.
South Cambridgeshire. OK. So this is a bit of a gutsy one, because it fails on UNS (by a fair margin). But I think this is a seat that has dramatically changed in the last decade. It’s become a home for Cambridge tech company employees, and it’s got two Cambridge colleges in it. It’s also Remainiac and the LDs marmalised the Conservatives there in the 2018 (i.e pre their surge) local elections. I think the LDs take it from third with a high 30s vote share.
There are other possible gains – Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Wells, Winchester, Lewes – but I think the LDs will fall short on most of these. (And any gains there might be offset by not winning some of those predicted above.) Despite UNS, I think they’ll really struggle in the South West, because (a) the seats are quite Brexity (and Bollocks to Brexit doesn’t work as a slogan there), and (b) in most seats, there’s not that much of a Labour vote to squeeze.
I also don’t think they’ll do quite as well in inner London as they expect. Neither Chuka nor Luciana are likely to be MPs post-election.
Still, the LDs will manage to increase their MP count by about 70%. And they’ll also notch up an increasing number of second places. Their post coalition recovery will continue, albeit not at the pace they might have liked.