Lots of buzz about the Lib Dems taking control of the momentum in the UK election, since Nick Clegg’s debate performance last week.? Another debate happens tonight.? Nick Clegg is now coming under withering Tory attack, and in the most telling bit, Labour came to Clegg’s defense.
But Labour’s Lord Mandelson said the stories were “cheap” and “squalid”.
Yes, that’s Peter Mandelson, the architect of Tony Blair’s New Labour, getting the Lib Dems back.? What does that mean? Funny you should ask.
I went to the BBC’s constituency map to refresh my memory on how the Lib Dems did in the region where I served as Labour Party Visits Coordinator in 1997, 2001, and 2005 – the East Midlands.? The East Mids are like Ohio – they are the key seats, swing seats, bellwether, pick your cliche – these are the seats that decide a general election in the UK.? Labour needed a visits coordinator in the East Mids, i.e. me, because so many ministers criss cross the area all day every day during the campaign, this staff position inevitably ends up stepping on toes.? Lots of changes in schedules, people get left hangin, might as well have some Yank do the thankless job, at least he leaves the country afterward.? I digress.
Anyway, I looked at the seats we (Labour) targeted in those three elections, and unless there is a political earthquake of previously unthinkable magnitude, it is very unlikely that any of the targeted seats in the East Mids from the previous 3 electoral cycles will go Liberal Democrat.? By and large, the Tories take a seat in the East Mids if Labour doesn’t….not the Lib Dems.
Lib Dems hold one seat in the East Mids, Chesterfield, which they won in 2001.? Derbyshire Northeast, Labour held, has 21% Lib Dem, and borders Chesterfield. Potentially vulnerable is High Peak (in the Derbyshire Peak District) – the Lib Dems got almost 20% there in 2005, and it’s rural, which means very Lib Dem friendly.? The Lib Dems have 25% in Derby North, so they could challenge if there is massive swing, but the local Labour MP, Bob Laxton, isn’t particularly vulnerable.? These three would be the first to go Lib Dem if an earthquake happened.
The remainder of the targeted marginal seats in the East Mids feature an average Lib Dem vote of between 10% and 15%, with the Tories & Labour at around 40% each.? Take Gedling, for example, a Nottingham suburban seat, possibly the most marginal seat in the East Mids.? Since 1997, it’s been held by Labour MP Vernon Coaker, who I consider a friend.? Vernon has been one of the most hard working MPs in the region, and pensioners (read – seniors) love him.? The Lib Dems in the aftermath of Clegg’s debate victory have jumped out to say that they have a shot at Gedling, despite pulling only 14% in 2005.
Mrs Bateman, who lives in Kettering and works in London, said: “I’m here to offer an alternative. We already have former Labour Party members in Gedling who are now working for my campaign,” Mrs Bateman said.
I admire the pluck, but please.? To go from 14% to taking the seat from a local, when you don’t even live in it, is fantasy.? One political change Labour really cemented into East Mids politics since 1997 is running candidates who actually live in the constituency (believe it or not, this isn’t as common as you’d expect).? Vernon Coaker is a local boy.? Some Lib Dem from Kettering, more than an hour south, which narrowly went Tory last election, with a Lib Dem total of 12%,? isn’t going to take out Vernon Coaker because Nick Clegg won a debate.
Two seats went from Labour to Tory in 2005 in the East Mids.? Kettering and Wellingborough went Tory in 2005 by very slim margins, driven by anti-Labour tactical voting.? If the Lib Dem vote goes up substantially in either seat, it will go back to Labour.
That’s why Peter Mandelson is defending Clegg.? Opposition to Labour in East Mids marginals does not equal support for the Tories.? If Clegg’s new Lib Dem poll numbers hold up in the East Mids, the Tory vote in those marginals will suffer dramatically to the benefit of the Lib Dems.? In that event, it is quite likely that both East Mids seats which in 2005 went from Labour to Tory in the East Midlands will go back to Labour in 2010.
Translate that East Mids result nationally, and that means every seat that went Tory from Labour in 2005 will go back to Labour in 2010.? Every single one.? And that will mean a Labour victory outright.