Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
7 April 2011

The Lib Dem retreat

The party will fight fewer seats on 5 May than in 2007 after struggling to find candidates.

By George Eaton

Nick Clegg (who was interviewed by Jemima Khan for this week’s issue) might be able to shrug off his party’s terrible poll ratings (10 per cent in the latest YouGov poll) and insist that “there’s only one poll that counts and that’s the election”. But he’ll have more trouble explaining away the news that the Lib Dems will be fighting fewer seats in next month’s local elections than they did in the 2007.

Today’s Financial Times reports that the party is expected to field candidates in about 58-60 per cent of seats, against 64 per cent four years ago. The party’s chief executive, Chris Fox, insists that the Lib Dems are simply concentrating resources on those seats where they are well placed to win.

He says: “This shows no trend whatsoever. We are contesting as many of the seats that matter as we ever had. Whether there are as many paper candidates – or less likely to win candidates – I don’t know.”

But the ConservativeHome editor, Tim Montgomerie, reveals: “We have been hearing from Conservative councillors that the Liberal Democrats are finding it incredibly hard to find candidates.” In Warrington, for instance, where the party has been part of the coalition running the council for the past five years, the Lib Dems are not fielding any candidates in two wards.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

The party also plans to leave uncontested wards in East Dorset, East Devon, Hambleton and Waverley. It might be time to recycle some of those “winning here” posters.