Friday, 3 April 2015

My predictions for currently-held Liberal Democrat seats for this election

In light of the fact that Ashcroft polls have been released covering marginal Liberal Democrat seats (the seats covered in the polls will mostly be lost by the Liberal Democrats on that basis, except Cambridge and St Ives), and debate how many seats the Liberal Democrats might save in this general election, I believe it is time to make a prediction of what will happen in the 57 currently held Lib Dem seats.

Solihull: With a strong Green advance, and at least some Labour recovery likely here, this seat will almost certainly fall to the Conservatives even though their vote share will be hit as well, and Solihull will probably still remain marginal. Dead cert Conservative gain.

Mid Dorset & North Poole: The Green Party will take a significant number of Lib Dem votes in South West seats, and this is no exception. Even with vote-splitting between the Conservatives and UKIP, the Lib Dems have no realistic chance of holding this seat (in my last prediction, I believed they did due to the weak Labour base and UKIP's high potential). Dead cert Conservative gain.

Norwich South: The Green Party is in a better position to win Norwich South than six months ago, although Labour will still try hard to win this seat back. Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Green Party.

Bradford East: Not only is there a small majority, but David Ward has not done himself any favours in his tenure as this seat's MP. Even if David fares better than some other Lib Dem MPs who had won their seats from Labour, he will almost certainly lose due to the fact the Lib Dems will be hit hardest in urban seats like this one. Dead cert Labour gain.

Wells: UKIP has been having local problems here recently, which could dampen their chances of splitting the Conservative vote, which is Tessa Munt's only realistic chance of holding her seat in a place where the Lib Dem vote will suffer a substantial decline. Likely Conservative gain.

St Austell & Newquay: Tricky to call-the Lib Dems are holding up well in some parts of Cornwall, but Dick Cole, leader of Mebyon Kernow, has a strong personal vote and he could very well play a decisive role in the outcome of this seat. UKIP is poised to win over both Liberal Democrat and Conservatives alike and could potentially turn this seat into a 3-way marginal, even if they do not win this time. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Brent Central: With Sarah Teather standing down (the only reason the Liberal Democrats ever gained its predecessor seat, Brent East, in the first place), and with the Lib Dem vote about to collapse in many urban seats where they had made some headway, a Labour win is pretty much a foregone conclusion. It has in fact gone from bad to worse for the Lib Dems here after their previous PPC, Ibrahim Taguri, withdrew his candidacy last month after having accepted an illegal donation. Dead cert Labour gain.

Somerton & Frome: David Heath is standing down and David Rendel is not likely to replace him, especially given his particular Liberal Democrat stance. The Conservative vote share will be hit significantly by UKIP, but in all likelihood not enough to prevent them recapturing this seat. Likely Conservative gain.

Sutton & Cheam: The Liberal Democrats have proved surprisingly resilient in Sutton-UKIP efforts have undermined Conservative efforts to regain lost ground both locally and nationally, and will actually help the Lib Dems retain Sutton & Cheam (and similar seats elsewhere like Hazel Grove and Eastleigh where in spite of the Lib Dem strength the Green Party does not have good potential). Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

St Ives: This is one of the best seats in terms of long-term potential for the Green Party-St Ives has been rather progressive in terms of demographics for years. However, Andrew George's somewhat rebellious nature as a Lib Dem MP gives him a fighting chance. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

Manchester Withington: Out of all the Liberal Democrat seats, the biggest collapse in the Lib Dem vote will happen here-possibly even to the point where the Green Party wins second place or at least third place (this seat's demographics are very Green-friendly as well as once Lib Dem-friendly) in the poll. As has often been repeated, the bell tolls for John Leech. Dead cert Labour gain.

Burnley: Like Rochdale and other northern areas where the Lib Dems have made a strong advance in recent years, there will be a substantial Lib Dem collapse here, even if not to the same extent as Rochdale, and enough of it will return to Labour, even with UKIP on their tail. Dead cert Labour gain.

East Dunbartonshire: This seat is marginal but the Liberal Democrats are pouring resources from their Scottish branch here because of (in their minds) the potential of Jo Swinson. Nevertheless, it looks pretty certain she will lose-the SNP have high chances but it is by no means certain that they will come out on top instead of Labour. Dead cert Lib Dem loss-either to Labour or the SNP.

Chippenham: Michelle Donelan, the Conservative candidate here, is a relatively strong campaigner, and with the Greens contesting this seat, Duncan Hames is likely to lose despite the potential for UKIP, as Labour's vote will recover at least somewhat. Likely Conservative gain.

Cheadle: Even though this suburban seat will see some recovery in the Labour vote (and more so than in rural Lib Dem-held seats), the high local strength the Liberal Democrats have in Cheadle will probably be enough to stop a strong Conservative challenge; UKIP's potential may only be average here at best but that will cause a significant split in the Conservative vote. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

North Cornwall: This is rather tight-although as more Lib Dem votes will be lost than Conservative votes, I believe a Conservative gain is at least probable despite the strong UKIP potential. The Greens and Mebyon Kernow will also make notable inroads into the Liberal Democrat and (to a lesser extent) the weak Labour vote. Probable Conservative gain.

Eastbourne: The Liberal Democrats have strengthened their position here since Stephen Lloyd won it in 2010, and UKIP's popularity amongst elderly voters (there are substantial numbers of older voters living in Eastbourne) will mean they will split the Conservative vote substantially, meaning the Lib Dems will likely hold Eastbourne even with a Green candidate in place. Meanwhile, Labour will get nowhere in Eastbourne. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Taunton Deane: With Jeremy Browne stepping down, and with eight PPCs contesting for votes so far instead of just four (there were only four candidates here in 2010), Rachel Gilmour appears unlikely to be able to hold Taunton Deane on the Lib Dems' behalf. Good UKIP potential in Somerset means that the Liberal Democrats are not out of the race yet, however, and on another note, a lost Labour deposit is possible with a Green candidate and a TUSC candidate also contesting this seat (since Labour only just saved their deposit here in 2010).  Likely Conservative gain.

Berwick-upon-Tweed: The Conservative candidate here, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, achieved a strong swing to the Conservatives in 2010, and Alan Beith is retiring. A Conservative gain is likely as the Liberal Democrat vote share will be hit harder in seats where the incumbent is standing down. Likely Conservative gain.

Eastleigh: This will be keenly contested once again between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, but the extensive local strength of the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh, combined with UKIP taking many Conservative votes (and some Lib Dem votes) means that a Lib Dem hold is likely in practice. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Birmingham Yardley: John Hemming is a very good campaigner for the Liberal Democrats, and despite the seat's marginality I believe he will hold due to a split in the Labour vote coming from not only the fact there is a TUSC candidate here but also from there being a Respect candidate. UKIP will also undermine both the Conservative and the Labour vote. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Argyll & Bute: This may look like a four-way marginal on paper, but the reality is that it will be a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP due to Labour's poor local base, and the Conservatives not showing a recovery anywhere in Scotland. The SNP has always had latent strength in this area, and in the highlands they can win over many Liberal Democrat voters in addition to Labour voters, and will crash through easily in 2015 on current polling. Dead cert SNP gain.

Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine: Sir Robert Smith appears to be doomed as the Lib Dems are not faring well even in previously strong areas for them. The question is, without much of a Labour vote to squeeze, can the Conservatives still convince enough voters to prevent an SNP victory? Let us see. Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-either to the Conservatives or the SNP.

Edinburgh West: This is the most prosperous of Edinburgh's seats, although boundary changes in 2005 have made this more competitive than in previous years. It will also be quite tightly fought, particularly with Cameron Day standing again for Labour (he managed an 11.4% swing from the Lib Dems to Labour in 2010) although the Conservatives' best hope is to finish second in spite of speculation from other political commentators. There is only an outside chance of Mike Crockart holding on, but who will he lose it to? Likely Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the SNP.

Torbay:  Adrian Sanders has performed respectably in holding off Conservative challenges ever since he won this seat by 12 votes in 1997, but this time his luck may just run out. The Green surge, a rise in UKIP's vote in an area where they have already polled relatively well, and some recovery in Labour's vote share, will all be important factors as to whether Mr Sanders retains his seat or loses it to Conservative PPC Kevin Foster. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Cheltenham: Similar to Torbay in terms of psephological possibilities and notable factors except for the fact that the Liberal Democrats have a better chance, and UKIP's potential is lower. Also, the Liberal Democrats have held this since 1992, not 1997, and therefore have a stronger base. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Brecon & Radnorshire: A crucial point here is that the Liberal Democrats held the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat, in spite of their woes in 2011-and it was the only single-member Welsh Assembly seat they won that year. Roger Williams has defeated strong Conservative challenges before in this marginal seat, and there is a good chance he could do so again even though both Plaid Cymru and the Greens will have a good vote share rise. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

North Devon: This will certainly be an interesting contest-the Liberal Democrat vote stands to be split by both UKIP and the Green Party, and UKIP's PPC is Steve Crowther, chair of UKIP and one of only four UKIP candidates to finish third in 2010. However, Nick Harvey has been MP here for 23 years, and this might count for enough despite the fact that experienced journalist Peter Heaton-Jones is the Conservative candidate. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Carshalton & Wallington: As with Sutton & Cheam, UKIP will split the Conservative vote and the Lib Dem vote will remain resilient, and the Lib Dems have a larger majority in Carshalton and Wallington. The Green potential is better but Tom Brake's campaigning experience in the constituency will likely see him through nonetheless. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk: The Liberal Democrats are faring particularly badly in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens could win over vital votes. Also, John Lamont, Conservative MSP, is standing once again against Michael Moore, and a split ticket (both Labour and the SNP stand to win over some ex-Lib Dem voters, although neither of them can realistically win this seat themselves) could possibly lead to a tight Conservative gain. Probable Conservative gain.

Redcar: With Ian Swales standing down, and the Liberal Democrats losing support heavily in the north, a Labour regain with a large swing is basically a foregone conclusion. Dead cert Labour gain.

Hornsey & Wood Green: Even though defending MP Lynne Featherstone has proven herself a remarkable campaigner over the years, the demographic nature of Hornsey & Wood Green means that the Liberal Democrats will likely lose a lot of votes to Labour and the Green Party, and Labour only needs a 6.3% swing to them here. Likely Labour gain.

Portsmouth South: It has been confirmed that disgraced ex-Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, the only non-Conservative MP to have ever represented this seat, will stand as an Independent against replacement Lib Dem candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson (former leader of Portsmouth Council), which will substantially increase the chance of a Conservative gain in Portsmouth South by splitting the Lib Dem vote. Whoever wins the poll in this constituency could end up with below 30% of the votes cast. Likely Conservative gain.

Cardiff Central: This is one of the few Welsh constituencies where the Greens can perform well if they tried, due to Plaid Cymru not having much support in Cardiff except in Cardiff West. This constituency has the highest number of student voters in any UK constituency, meaning that Jenny Willott will likely be voted out next month even when she voted against a tuition fee rise in December 2010 when many other Lib Dem MPs did not. Dead cert Labour gain.

Kingston & Surbiton: Although the Lib Dems lost Kingston & Surbiton council last year to the Conservatives, the affluent, suburban nature of this seat means the Lib Dem vote will hold up better than most, even though the fact Ed Davey has been Energy Secretary for the past few years and has failed to oppose such things as fracking or proper control over the 'Big Six' energy companies can spark a good swing from Lib Dem to Green. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Cambridge: Among Lib Dem MPs, Julian Huppert has proven himself diligent and occasionally rebellious-but lately he has just sided with other Lib Dem MPs on important issues, such as the 'Gag Law'. Despite a recent Ashcroft poll in his favour, I believe that the Lib Dems have a good chance of losing this seat, because I believe Green candidate Rupert Read has at least a small chance of winning outright. Probable Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Greens.

Southport: The Liberal Democrats have maintained themselves well locally (their PPC for 1983, Iain Brodie-Browne, is still a Southport councillor, as is former MP Ronnie Fearn), and in genteel seaside towns like Southport, UKIP will split the Conservative vote considerably and their PPC is once again Terry Durrance, who in 2010 trebled the UKIP vote of 2005. We Greens are standing in Southport for the first time since 1992 but the Lib Dem vote is resilient enough. Likely Liberal Democrat hold. 

Gordon: Sir Malcolm Bruce, the only reason the Liberals/Liberal Democrats hold this seat in the first place, is stepping down after 32 years as an MP. More importantly, Alex Salmond himself is the SNP candidate here, and the SNP managed a good second place without him in 2010-at this point, his return to Parliament is practically assured. Dead cert SNP gain.

Thornbury & Yate: I believe Steve Webb will hold up well here as he has done before (in this seat's predecessor of Northavon), even with a Green candidate in place here. Labour's vote will probably not recover too much and UKIP stands to do well. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Colchester: As with Southport and some other urban areas, the Lib Dems have held up well locally, and Sir Bob Russell appears likely to hold even though I believe Colchester will experience a strong rise in the Green vote by Essex standards, and even though Labour stands to make a better recovery than most. Sir Bob's majority is rather good, and UKIP will undermine the Conservative vote at least somewhat. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Hazel Grove: This has a much better Labour vote than neighbouring Cheadle, but the Lib Dem majority is higher. Sir Andrew Stunell is standing down but Lisa Smart will find it relatively easy to defend Hazel Grove, especially with the good potential for UKIP (surprisingly) in this suburban seat. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.
Lewes: Labour are nowhere in Lewes (and in fact have not finished higher than third since February 1974), and UKIP will do particularly well in rural/semi-urban seats like this one. Norman Baker's majority is also reasonably strong, and without a substantial student population, he will not face as much of a drop in vote share as many of his colleagues. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross: Viscount Thurso (aka John Sinclair, grandson of former Liberal Party leader Archibald Sinclair, who once represented this seat), has generally been a respected MP, and in rural areas like the Highlands of Scotland, personal votes matter more than average. However, with the SNP surge relatively strong in this area, the SNP's latent strength might finally push them through in May-it will be an interesting contest. Likely SNP gain.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey: This seat's predecessors have been particularly competitive in the past-former Lib Dem MP Russell Johnston still holds the record for lowest winning percentage in any seat at a general election (26%) which occurred here in 1992. Highland Council leader Drew Hendry is SNP's PPC here, and he will surely win against Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who will be the highest-ranked casualty of this year's general election, particularly with the Greens nipping at the Lib Dem vote share. Dead cert SNP gain.

Bermondsey & Old Southwark: Labour only needs a 10% swing to capture this seat, and the Green Party will win over many Lib Dem votes in inner London seats like this one. However, Simon Hughes' experience and groundwork could be enough to save him when he is in danger of losing this seat for the first time since 1987 (when his majority was cut to 7.7%). Probable Liberal Democrat hold, but watch for a surprise.

Twickenham: Despite the notoriety Vince Cable has received in his capacity as Business Secretary, Twickenham's affluent electors have been strongly supportive of him (and the Lib Dems in general) these past 18 years. With a 20% majority, he appears certain to hold for now, if with a much reduced majority. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Bristol West: Because the Green surge has been particularly noticeable in Bristol, Darren Hall has relatively good odds to win this seat outright from fourth place. The large student vote means that Stephen Williams will find it difficult to retain this seat despite his five-figure majority, and Labour is making a strong challenge as well. Likely Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Greens.

Leeds North West: The split opposition in Leeds North West means that Greg Mulholland is almost certain to hold on, as it will be the Greens rather than Labour more likely to win over the substantial student vote. I believe also that Conservative voters may tactically support Greg to keep Labour out. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Ceredigion: Even though I have heard that Mark Williams is a reasonably popular MP in Ceredigion despite not having Welsh as his first language, the substantial student vote will turn against him and is likely to support not only the Greens, but also Plaid Cymru. Plaid Cymru can also win over some Labour voters given Leanne Wood's anti-austerity stance, so if they try they can win this seat. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Plaid Cymru gain.

North East Fife: Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell is standing down after 28 years as an MP, and the Lib Dem vote will surely collapse here (particularly in the university town of St Andrews where the Greens will make an advance amongst the student electorate) as it will in most of Scotland. Labour can win over some of the Lib Dem vote, but they themselves will be scorched by an SNP surge (even though this has historically been poor territory for the SNP) in turn, making an SNP victory almost certain this year. Dead cert SNP gain.

Yeovil: The Liberal Democrats are securely there in Yeovil locally and nationally, and despite the expenses scandal David Laws faced, his Orange Book views suit the constituency well (Paddy Ashdown was not exactly on the left of the Lib Dems either). His majority is also strong enough not to be worried about the Green surge that will take place in many rural/semi-rural South West seats like this, even if UKIP can win over Lib Dem votes as well as Conservative votes. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

North Norfolk: Norman Lamb has built up a very strong majority in this seat, and UKIP's advance will only make it harder than ever before for the Conservatives to gain it-and rural Norfolk has potentially high yields for UKIP. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Westmorland & Lonsdale: The Liberal Democrats are firmly bolted down to Westmorland & Lonsdale now due to the efforts of Tim Farron-South Lakeland, whose council area covers most of this constituency, was the only council area in the whole of England where the Liberal Democrats topped the poll in European elections last year, and the Lib Dem majorities in Kendal and Windermere are practically unassailable. I believe that as long as Tim Farron remains MP for this seat, the Lib Dems will hold it. On a point of interest, will Tim Farron challenge Nick Clegg for the Lib Dems' leadership after this election? Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Bath: Even though Don Foster, who famously won this seat in 1992 from former Conservative chairman Chris Patten, is standing down, Steve Bradley should have no trouble defending Bath this year largely due to the sheer size of the Lib Dem majority (25.2% over the Conservatives). The Greens stand to perform very well indeed in Bath this year (I believe they could possibly come third, ahead of Labour and UKIP) which will be useful in the long term. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Sheffield Hallam: Whilst this is on paper the third safest Liberal Democrat seat, Nick Clegg's notoriety and Labour candidate Oliver Coppard's challenge might possibly mean that Nick Clegg could become the first leader of a major party in the UK to lose his own seat since 1945 (when Archibald Sinclair, grandfather of defending Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross MP Viscount Thurso, lost Caithness & Sutherland very narrowly). However, Sheffield Hallam has maintained a good Lib Dem vote even without the benefit of the student vote locally, and since Nick Clegg has been Deputy Prime Minister, he may be able to persuade enough Conservative voters to tactically support him and prevent Oliver from becoming the first ever Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

Ross, Skye & Lochaber: Some have said that Charles Kennedy, the only remaining SDP MP from 1983, and former leader of the Lib Dems, might suffer a shock loss this year-but his personal vote and experience means that this is unlikely in practice. However, this is a Highland constituency where the SNP have strong potential, so it will not be plain sailing for Mr Kennedy. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Orkney & Shetland: The safest Liberal Democrat constituency by far, and it has been continuously held by them since 1950 (even when the Conservatives put up a candidate in the 1950s when they did not do so in other Liberal-held seats), and this will definitely continue in spite of all the Lib Dems' woes. On another note, increased potential for the SNP, and for UKIP to a lesser extent, means that this might possibly be the first constituency to record a lost deposit for both Conservative and Labour, which has never happened before in the history of British politics. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Due to the volatility of this election, I have only predicted seven 'dead cert holds' for the Liberal Democrats out of 57, and only 14 'likely holds'-which means that they could end up with as few seats as they had back in 1983 (the SDP-Liberal alliance, which became the Liberal Democrats in 1988, won 23 seats then). I also believe that even if they are lucky enough to gain Watford, the most seats the Lib Dems will end up with after May 2015 is 43, 3 fewer than their 1997 effort when they won many previously safely Conservative seats during the Conservative meltdown (which in many other areas benefitted Labour, of course).


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