South West Lib Dem strongholds ‘under seige’
The Independent this morning has a feature article on the Conservatives targeting Liberal Democrat seats in the south-west. It makes pretty grim reading but also nonetheless is designed to create a media impression that we are on the run. It is replete with rather assumptive and arrogant commentary from Eric Pickles:
“There comes a time in the electoral cycle when people want a significant change. That change is likely to occur in May next year. The Liberals are a side show.”
I think that would prove significant motivation for anybody to do their utmost to prove Pickles wrong. However, the article does sum-up in some ways the dilemmathat we find ourselves in as a party; battling to hold onto traditional strongholds while fighting to make advances against a weakened Labour Party. If we are honest then it is how this contradiction plays out that will determine just how many seats we end-up with when the votes are counted at the next election. Vote share is important but it really diminishes in significance next to the amount of seats we have in the final shakedown. Whether Nick Clegg thinks his new found ‘aspirations’ will bridge that contradiction in policy terms is debatable but I doubt they will and if he does he is misguided because reducing the priority of things like tuition fees and elderly care hardly demonstrates we are a progressive party committed to protecting the vulnerable.
Jeremy Browne comments on the resources gap:
“They’re pouring money at it,” said Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat MP protecting a minuscule majority of 500 votes in the Somerset seat of Taunton. “They spend more in advertising in the local paper than I spend in campaigning in its entirety over the year. Compared to the Tories our resources are tiny.”
This gap is also going to be a key determinant of our electoral fortunes and will enforce priorities on us and tough choices.