Tories struggling in Lib Dem marginals

New figures suggest Lib Dems will hold on to almost all of the seats the Tories need to win.

The headline figures from the latest opinion polls may be fascinating but they are a poor guide to the likely outcome of the election. For a better understanding, we need to look at what is happening in the key Lib Dem-Tory marginals.

Thankfully, PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson has published a subset of data from the latest Angus Reid poll which goes some way to enabling this. The figures show that in the 62 seats currently held by Nick Clegg's party, the Lib Dems are on 44 per cent, the Tories on 23 per cent and Labour on 19 per cent.

A lead of this size suggests, as Smithson writes, that the Lib Dems will keep almost all of the seats they won in 2005. This finding correlates with one from last week's Crosby/Textor poll for the Telegraph (carried out before Cleggmania) which found that that the Conservatives would fail to win any of the 20 key Lib Dem-Tory marginals.

It's all bad news for David Cameron. Of the 117 seats his party needs to gain for a majority of one, 23 are currently held by the Lib Dems.

The performance of Clegg's party is all the more impressive given the huge funding disadvantage suffered by the Lib Dems. New figures published by the Electoral Commission show that the Tories received £1.46m in donations in the first week of the campaign, with Labour receiving nearly £800,000 and the Lib Dems just £20,000.

It looks as if fears that Lord Ashcroft's millions would scoop up the marginals for the Tories were overstated.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.