For the Lib Dems a better night than expected and actually even better than that

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.


Paul said...

I'm flabbergasted!

Since the local elections I've been to the Norwich South lib dem website and the Norfolk Blogger. Someone point me in the right direction if there is any honest lib dem appraisal of what happened to the lib dems in Norwich South.

The Norwich South website quite frankly is rubbish. Simon's blurb, where he completely ignores the reality of what happened to the lib dems, is breathtakingly stupid. My feeling is that a little honesty and humility can go a long way - as I have found out myself when put on the spot by EDP journalists regarding some of my outrageous attacks on other councillors for no apparent reason!

Everyone knows the lib dems in Norwich went from 30 councillors in 2003 to 6 now so why not be up front and clever about it rather than pretending that it's still a 'two house race' between Labour and the lib dems. How I hated that strapline - always wanted to have some other form of words!!

Norfolk Blogger said...

I've not commented on Norwich South so I am unsure as to why you are glabbergasted.

If you are Paul Mcalenan (excuse the spelling) then you know why things have fallen back in Norwich.

I told Nelson Ward Lib Dems in 1998 and 1999 to start squeezing the Green vote ASAP. Their response was "But they take votes fro Labour". I argued that as soon as the Greens were in second place they woul take votes from the Lib Dems, and I was ignored.

I am not at fault for the problem si nNorwich South. I don't live there. It is perhaps up to those who were one of those 30 councillors to get out there and do the ground waork to put things right.

Paul said...

ok Nich,

I posted a reply to your reply to my comment on Saturday.

Did you receive it or are you censoring me?

Norfolk Blogger said...

I have not received anytng from you since the comment which was published.

I was going to add to what I wrote last time and make the point that despite Nowih having 30 councillors 5 years ago, I have always been absolutely shocked by the complacent manner that Norwich Lib Dems campaigned in the past.

Leaflets I saw for candidates in the old St Stephens Ward were like something from the 1980's whilst the Mancroft Leaflets were akin to late 1960's leaflets.

When I went to help in Thorpe Hamlet in 2001 I was told that they didn't ever "knock up" or man polling stations.

If you want to debate why Norwich Lib Dems fell back from the highs you have to assess just what weak foundations those successes were built on.

Compared to the comprehensive all year round campaigning we were doing in North Norfolk, cutting edge leaflets, target leattes, petitions, spot colour, squeeze letters, letters to target groups, definiate and probable pre-kcok-ups, using the phone, full polling day operations, and the list goes on, there was no comparison.

Too many Norwich Lib Dems got themselves elected and forgot to campaign in their wards and failed to rcruit new activists, leafletters and deliverers.

Simon Wright has had to come in and complete oerhaul what is happening. naturally there is going to be some re-alignment, but Lakenham showed that the corner could be turned if "best practice" was followed. Hopefully the Lib Dems will be able to do this more in the future, but they will need those Lib Dems in Norwich who have experience to take part in this.

As for me, I don't do politics any more apart from my blog. I've burned myself out and have no enthusiasm for anything other than my wife, my young son and football.

Perhaps in the future I will have that urge again

Paul said...


So here's the comment that I left which you obviously didn't receive...

Nich, Apologies that your blog became the victim of my comment re Norwich South - it was in no way intended to be a comment on you necessarily.

After having tried & failed to find some honest appraisal of Norwich South online I decided to visit your blog again to see if you might have something to say. After all, no disrespect to those that do not live in Norwich, it is a significant place in Norfolk and I hoped, expected almost, that you might have something to say. Despite your reply to my comment I am disappointed that your comment appears not to show that you're not concerned with Norwich. Surely... the lib dems had control of the council, I was one of 30 in 2003. This could only have helped with campaigning in the rest of the County.

I have my own ideas about the lib dems demise in Norwich but I'm no political geek (unlike my friend Billy - greatest respect to him) and so don't believe that my views can be seen as terribly insightful.

I just wanted take issue with you regarding your comments on Nelson. 1998 / 99 was a decade ago and I'm now into my fifth decade so perhaps my memory isn't so great anymore. But in 1998 the Greens were an insignificance. Adrian Ramsey wasn't on the scene then. I went to a Green Party meeting with a view to re-joining the Greens but it seemed that many were just interested in being coneheads. So I made contact with the lib dems and Billy and the rest is history.

In 1998 Lynda Jennings was standing down and we had Billy as the candidate. Labour were on a roll - they had 2 city and 1 county - and we had an uphill task. Billy took the seat and I became candidate for 1999. For a few years it was Labour who were the co-strongest force in Nelson. Once we un-seated Garret at county Labour in Nelson fell apart if they hadn't done already. I very happy to discuss my role in Nelson and the lib dems demise there (I was self-employed and work was getting busy and I had a young family). But in my opinion it was the fact that Henderson, for whatever reason, had been neglected by the lib dems. Labour were about to fail there and the Greens under the ambitious Ramsey targeted that ward and it fell. They also had a general green tide of public opinion that helped them which we in Nelson genuinely exploited. Can that be said of other lib dem wards? Then came the boundary changes - even I saw the writing on the wall - Nelson was a sitting duck. In the year up to my second election (not 1998 / 99) the Greens targeted Nelson because their very survival as a political force depended on taking Nelson. It's no secret that in the run up to my second election in 2003 I did little - but my excuse is that my work had to come first by then.

Despite being targeted by the Greens I still won by 100. Yes I should have lost but I believe that it was the Nelson team's reputation for being green that carried me through. How that was to change when all out elections took place.

So Nick :) please don't just blame us in Nelson.

Paul said...


I wasn't privy to the selection process that led to Simon's selection but what I do know is that it pissed off a lot of people the way Andrew Dunthorne was 'sidelined'.

I believe that the party did themselves no favours by 'dumping' Andrew and selecting Simon. Once Andrew was elbowed out it was inevitable that Simon was going to be selected.

I know that many political geeks (sorry best word I could think of) historically of all parties have gone on the become MPs but that is not automatic - it takes more to make an MP that just being some political assistant as I'm sure you'll agree.

Simon has got a huge task ahead of him. The green party copied the lib dem style of local campaigning, improved it and implemented it ruthlessly in a way that Norwich South is going to find very hard indeed to match. Well that's my view anyway.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I wouldn't disagree with much of what you say. However, there is not getting away with the fact that Norwich South has not campaigned properly since probably 1983 and it says as much about the other party's problems that the Lib Dems did well there on the back of so much ropey campaigning.

The Greens might have their time, but given some power people will see them for what they are. A political party. they campaign on the basis that they are "none of the above", but should they fall in to that category, they will soon decline.