Tom Newton Dunn at The Sun, in conjunction with Peter Kellner from YouGov, has come up with a fairly painful dig at the Liberal Democrats and their chances in the next election, off the back of the latest YouGov opinion poll. The alarming claim (if you’re a Lib Dem, anyway) made by the article is that the party might lose all but seven of their MPs in the next election.
Uniformly applying a decline from the 2010 election result of 23% to the YouGov poll result of 10% (which is a bit on the low side even by the recent basement standards of the party) across all constituencies (admittedly a really poor way of doing psephology) indicates that the Lib Dems would retain 28 of their 57 seats.
What I suspect is leading to the much lower estimate provided by the Sun/YouGov are the likely effects of a Liberal>Labour swing (28% of those who say they voted Lib Dem in 2010 say they will vote Labour in the next election) on Liberal/Labour marginal seats (which there are lots of), and the loss of favour outside of the Liberals’ traditional strongholds in the south (whilst they retain 16% favour in the south, they’ve dropped to a dismal 6% in Scotland). It seems very likely that what YouGov are suggesting will happen is that, although the Lib Dem vote could hold up at the 10-15% mark, a large part of this vote will be contained in Liberal safe seats in the South West.
Still, there are signs of hope (for the Liberals). The Liberal opinion rating has had some peaks in the last year, particularly after Cameron had his Europhobe moment. The potential for an enormous defection of lefty-liberal types to Labour could be slightly muted by the ongoing mediocrity of the Miliband/Balls message on the economy, which seems to be something like “we don’t like these nasty Tory boys, and we’d be so much nicer to you all. Somehow.” Finally, the YouGov poll is hardly conclusive data. A sample of roughly 1500, whilst about standard for OPs, is hardly foolproof, and their estimates do seem at the low end of the spectrum. They also report that, between them, the BNP and UKIP might take 8% of the 2010 Liberal Democrat vote, which is just beyond bizarre.
We also have Tim Montgomerie’s tweet from this morning;
Sun’s poll is fun but Clegg won’t lose nearly all of his seats. Incumbent effects will prob mean he’ll keep 30 to 40 conho.me/HVNeug
— Tim Montgomerie (@TimMontgomerie) April 16, 2012
I’m not entirely sure what he means by “incumbent effects” – I’d only previously encountered this term used to describe the easier financial situation presented by being the incumbent when fighting an election in some polities. That would be an odd claim, as it’s pretty irrelevant to the UK’s political system. Its other potential meaning would be that people are simply more likely to vote for the person who’s already there on familiarity grounds – I’m very sceptical that this would be enough to offset a meaningful backlash against the Lib Dems. Keeping 40 of their seats with their current poll ratings would be nothing short of a miracle.