Yesterday afternoon, whilst I was working in Cambridge, a Lord Ashcroft poll revealed that the Green Party had pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place-a day I had been anticipating for months.
Crucially, we Greens are now polling at 8% nationally-our joint-highest ever in a general election poll in the UK-whilst the Liberal Democrats are only polling 7% (they have pretty much reached their nadir, given the state of recent polls which never show the Lib Dems polling lower than 6-7%, the worst ratings for the Liberals/LDs in nearly 40 years).
The Guardian also released a report of 12 seats we could either win outright or at least have enough potential to win in the future. Although I believe that Caroline Lucas will retain Brighton Pavilion on our behalf, if narrowly in a very tight fight with Labour's Purma Sen, and that we could win Norwich South via Lesley Grahame, we will need to do a lot of work to win the other 10 seats in question, especially when many of them will be well contested by two or more of the three major parties. Given what is happening in the 12 seats mentioned, and our past and present performance locally (I believe each seat in the next general election will have its own story to tell, especially if we contest all UK Parliamentary seats in the end rather than just 75-80% of them), here is how I believe we will do next year in those tempting twelve:
Brighton Pavilion: Green hold, despite the issues on Brighton and Hove council. Caroline Lucas' personal vote and hard work will see her through in 2015 in my opinion, although we must be vigilant against any tricks Labour might have in Brighton Pavilion. The Conservatives will fall back somewhat (despite the fact that a Green seat means poor UKIP potential) and we will absorb a substantial amount of the collapsing Liberal Democrat vote (the same will help us in neighbouring Hove)
Norwich South: Could be either Labour gain or Green gain-the Liberal Democrats have basically no chance of holding it (odds 20/1 or worse). I hope our exposure of Labour's failures in Norwich locally will help us, as will our alternative vision in an academic seat like this one. If we do not win this seat in 2015 we will almost certainly win it in 2020, given that Labour under Ed Miliband in 2015-2020 will if history is anything to go by perform even worse than the ConDems economically and socially.
Bristol West: Liberal Democrat hold (just about) with a small but nonetheless notable chance of a Green gain. My fellow Greens in Bristol came top of the poll locally in the wards of Bristol West, even though the middle-class nature of Bristol West generally lends itself well to the Liberal Democrats (and in fact has done for several decades now). Labour will find it difficult to win Bristol West due to the size of Stephen Williams' majority, and the Conservatives, who held this seat for 112 years before Labour won it from third place, are now far behind. Incidentally, this is one of a handful of British seats that has always had an Ecology Party/Green Party candidate on the ballot in every general election since 1979.
St Ives: Tricky to call this one-I think we will have to wait until 2020 to win it at least, even though we will try our best. Andrew George stands to lose St Ives, much of whose electorate appears to be of a progressive liberal type overall, and therefore a large swathe of natural Lib Dem voters could come to us, despite Andrew's rebellious nature by Lib Dem standards. Strangely for a seat with good Green potential, strong UKIP potential also exists-they saved their deposit in 2010 when they only saved 99 deposits out of 558 nationally (though they found it easier to pass the 5% threshold in the South West region).
Sheffield Central: Labour hold for now-we can get it in 2020 if we push hard enough to win over student voters, however. The Liberal Democrats came so close to winning this otherwise safely Labour seat in 2010, but the 'Nick Clegg' effect will see a particularly strong collapse in the Liberal Democrats' vote-possibly even in Sheffield Hallam. We have done well before, so we should make a considerable advance.
Liverpool Riverside: Labour hold-difficult for us to win due to the high core Labour vote in this part of Liverpool, and also due to this seat's poor turnout. Liverpool Wavertree, however, might become viable for us if the former Liberal Democrat vote goes our way and not Labour's way, given that we are the official opposition on Liverpool council.
Oxford East: Labour hold-but we can win this in 2020 if we push hard enough and absorb enough ex-Lib Dem votes. Given our activity in Oxford, I am surprised we have never performed well enough in Oxford East to save our deposit (by getting more than 5% of the votes cast) despite having stood a candidate continuously since 1987 (and since 1983 in Oxford West & Abingdon's case, possibly 1979 if you include the independent ecologist who stood in Oxford, which was not split until the 1983 boundary changes). We are once again on the up in Oxford, though, despite Labour's efforts to stymie us (e.g. by calling local by-elections before the students have come back from their holidays!)
Solihull: Likely Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat due to the small majority Lorely Burt has. However, whichever way this seat goes in 2015, there is at least some chance we can win Solihull in 2020, as we are now the official opposition on Solihull Council and we have notably gained several ex-Lib Dem councillors. One of them, Howard Allen, is our PPC in Solihull. Meanwhile, Labour never have been competitive in Solihull and are even less in play now.
Reading East: Conservative hold-unfortunately, this is the most difficult seat of the 12 for us to win. The student electorate of Reading is not as friendly towards us Greens as that of Oxford or Cambridge, and despite the ex-LD potential we can draw on we are in the long haul for this seat-this should not deter us from trying our best,h owever, particularly given long-serving councillor Rob White has been reselected.
York Central: Labour hold for now-but we have more potential here than in the old City of York seat that existed prior to the 2010 general election. The old City of York seat also had more potential for the Conservatives, who won it on some occasions (1950-66 and 1983-92). We are winning significant numbers of ex-Labour votes as well as ex-LD votes, so I believe we might win York Central in 2020, if we can keep building locally in York UA's elections. Incidentally, our PPC for York Central, Jonathan Tyler, is one of our 'original ecologists' (he stood for Birmingham Edgbaston in 1979).
Holborn & St Pancras: With long-serving Labour MP Frank Dobson retiring, and with our leader Natalie Bennett standing here, a Green win is plausible, but Labour will put up a strong fight to hold this seat (I still do not know who their PPC is at this time of writing). This seat has very strong Green potential anyway, and inner London secured us some of our best results locally, with us finishing second overall on aggregate vote share in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Lewisham earlier this year.
Cambridge: Tricky to call this one-a Green win outright is possible for us next year, but both Labour and the Liberal Democrats still remain competitive in this fundamentally academic seat. If Rupert Read, our PPC, can take the right approach, I believe he can push through whilst Labour and the Lib Dems are at each other throughout the campaign. We may have had some problems in Cambridge locally, but we are still performing well.