All the pundits were expecting small Lib Dem losses last night, but it turned out not to be true and a small number of gains will give the party confidence to move forward under Nick Clegg's leadership. But whilst people might think it was a tale of two countries, with Lib Dems seemingly losing out to the Tories and gaining from Labour, the truth was that in the key Lib Dem seats in Tory areas that the Lib Dems have snatched at recent general elections, the Lib Dem performance was actually very good.
Take a look at some of the Lib Dem seat the Tories want to target. Southport, Cheltenham, Westmoreland and Lonsdale, Winchester, Colchester, Sheffield Hallam, and a host of others. IN all these area the Lib Dems did remarkably well, making gains from the Tories and taking the great majority of seats within those constituencies. In others too, such as Portsmouth South and Solihull for example, the Lib Dems didn't make gains, but they held the majority of seats in the constituency and halted any Tory surge.
So was does this say to people interested in elections ? Well it tells us that the old Lib Dem adage, "Where we work, we win", is very true, and it also highlight the age old difficulty that the Tories (and Labour) have had over the years in unseating Lib Dem MP's when they get in, particularly if they get in and work their constituencies properly. What is shows, in laymans terms, is that uniform swings mean absolutely nothing in Lib Dem seats. A senior Tory and election night TV pundit once said to me "If the Lib Dems were on 5% in the opinion polls they would still win 40 seats and we could probably name the seats already".
So in general terms, the night said a lot about the Lib Dems chances of holding seats against a Tory surge in two years time.
But what of Labour.
Personally I thought it was about as bad as it gets for them and more worryingly the number of seats they lost in what are supposed to be solid Labour seats, particularly those gained since 1992, tell us that Labour's organisation is shot to pieces in some constituencies and they will lose some MP's next time who appear, on paper to be safe. Look at the losses in Southampton, Portsmouth North, Exeter and Birmingham for good examples of seats Labour won in order to take power but where they, unlike the Lib Dems, have never managed to truly build an organisation that can sustain them in thinner times.
In the cold light of day Labour must feel really distressed. It was a great night for the Tories, a decent one for the Lib Dems, but a sign of impending defeat for Labour.