Monday, 16 July 2012

The Lib Dems in Scotland and Wales

So I thought I'd continue my short series looking at the Lib Dems' chances in the next General Election even without the boundary changes that look no more than a 50-50 chance at the moment. The latest news is that the Prime Minister is thinking of dropping the whole subject. Certainly the threats are coming thicker and faster that, without House of Lords reform, the Lib Dems will simply not vote for the new constituency boundaries that the Conservatives so desparately (and probably mistakenly) believe will give them the next election on a plate. It'll be painful, and it'll take Lib Dem Ministerial sackings and resignations if it comes to it, but no-one can see a way around the impasse at the moment. And remember: there'll be some Tories voting against boundary reform, too, because it will destroy some of their seats (and jobs).

Anyway, on today's Lib Dem agenda: Scotland and Wales.

In Wales, the Lib Dems hold only three seats, and one of them is as good as lost: Cardiff Central to Labour, especially given the size of its student vote. In Brecon and Radnorshire things will be closer, and Kirsty Williams, the leader of the Welsh part of the Lib Dems, did quite well here against the Conservatives in last year's Welsh Assembly Election. I think they might cling on here, and they almost certainly will in Ceredigion, given Plaid Cymru's rather watery performance in the polls.

The Lib Dems in Scotland have long held many more seats - eleven at the last count. Here I think they are in real trouble, and they're likely to lose Edinburgh West, Dunbartonshire East, (probably) Argyll and Bute and Inverness to Labour, Aberdeenshire West and Kinkardine to the Conservatives (given how far their vote will fall), Gordon and (possibly) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross to the Scottish Nationalists. There's precedent for this. The party's performance in the Scottish Parliament Elections in 2011 was abysmal, and more recent polls have seen no evidence of a recovery at all. Getting into bed with a Conservative Party that is basically now anathema to Scottish national political culture might well lead to a long, slow and lingering death for the Lib Dems north of Berwick and Carlisle, and they know it. Losing seven of their eleven seats in Scotland sounds like getting away lightly in this context.

So that's a net loss of eight seats in Wales and Scotland: five to Labour, possibly one to the Conservatives, and two to the SNP. Taken together with the losses we predicted in the South West on Friday (eleven), that already sees the party losing nineteen seats in the South West, Wales and Scotland. They only have 57 to lose, by the way.

Wales and Scotland have long been the fortresses of a muscular and dissenting liberalism - even in the Liberals' darkest days. Now they look likely to almost entirely reject the party that's represented their national hopes (without being too Nationalist with a capital 'N') for so many decades. What a doleful prospect.

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