Roundabouts, swings and squeezes…..
Iain Dale has this piece on the Liberal Democrats prospects at the 2010 General Election. As it goes it is a fairly balanced piece which basically concludes that electorally we will stand still (though Iain thinks we will end-up with 7 less net seats). He points out that in our top-30 target seats only 11 are actually held by Labour, however it is worth pointing out that 8 of the top 15 belong to Labour thus it would be possible to make more gains than Iain forecasts while accepting his point that it is unlikely we will take any Conservative targets in the bottom half of the list. Meanwhile, in the list of vulnerable seats only 4 of the top 15 are vulnerable to Labour and therefore ‘safer’ so it is converse we could lose more than Iain projects.
If we are still intending to the use the 50 key-seat strategy (and who knows given our numerous policy contortions) then this indicates that most of them will be development seats. They will be seats where we will have to build an infrastructure and build with a future challenge in mind; this presupposes that we have to be clear about what our long-term orientation is. Gone should be the days where our main raison d etrere is to supplant whichever of the two main parties happens to be out of fashion in the current electoral cycle. In that sense Nick Clegg’s tub-thumping ‘we are the progressives’ line is the correct one, at least it gives us some foundation to build on as it is clear that the space opening up in the ‘political market’ is for a centre-left oppositional party to Cameron’s Conservatives.
The thing that the Liberal Democrats lack, as opposed to the two main parties, is in my eyes a ‘core vote’; a social grouping that is typically loyal come hell and high water. This is both a plus and a minus but on balance it presents us with a somewhat unique opportunity to build a social electoral coalition. Whether we will be able to take that opportunity however remains to be seen….