Friday, 13 July 2012

Stopping boundary reform may not save the Lib Dems anyway



Well, I blogged yesterday about boundary reform, and the day before on House of Lords reform.

In the minds of Liberal Democrats - though not explicitly in their Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives - the two political changes are linked. Without the latter, the Tories won't get the former - not that it will help them as much as they think, but still.

Why do the Lib Dems find boundary reform difficult? Well, it's because they'll be the big losers. Not only does it look as if they'll lose many votes, but their ability to hang onto their seats will be diluted. Sitting MPs will have to take on chunks of other constituencies, loosening their ability to cling, limpet-like, to their seats. In the spring, we learned that the Lib Dems might hold only eleven seats (down from 57) on their polling then. With the Conservatives now down on where they stood then, after a series of near-comedic blunders, they might hold onto a few more. But losing two-thirds to three-quarters of your seats? It's not likely to make a new (but minority) Miliband Labour Government pick up the phone, is it?

Things might actually be a bit worse than this when we look at the House of Commons at a 'micro' level: from the ground up, as it were. Even on the old boundaries, Lib Dems might get chased out of lots of the seats that they hold. Now, the evidence is that many left-leaning voters are still willing to 'lend' Liberal Democrats their votes when the Conservatives are the only alternative in that area. But far fewer will be likely to do so in 2015, after five years of Right-leaning government, than in 2010, when the Lib Dems claimed to be a party of the Left.

Come down to my neck of the woods - the South-West of England, the party's 'fortress', which they hope to defend with some success. Even supposing that boundary reform is blocked (likely at the moment), they're defending 15 seats here.

I think they'll struggle to hang on to most of them. Mid Dorset and Poole North; Chippenham; Bristol West (though it'll be close); Somerton and Frome; Devon North; Torbay; Cornwall North; St Austell and Newquay; Taunton Deane;Wells; and St Ives: I fear they all look doomed, good as many of their Members of Parliament are.

That'll leave them with only Thornbury and Yate; Bath; and Yeovil. A dispiriting return for so many years of local effort.

That'll provide a net boost to the Conservatives of ten seats, and one for Labour, in the South-West of England alone.

So the Conservatives could be nearly as close to a majority as they are now, even if they lose seats to Labour in Wales (four, probably) and the North of England (maybe ten to fifteen).

It's a funny old game, this First Past the Post.

1 comment:

  1. It poses an interesting tactical dilemma for Labour. On the one hand, they could do with the Lib Dem vote holding up in the South West, as its erosion will simply gift those seats to the Conservatives. On the other hand, if Labour is ever going to rebuild a base in the South of England, crunching into the Lib Dem vote may be the way to do it. It's not wholly unlike the dilemma Labour would have faced in a 1914 poll.

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