Sunday, November 12, 2006

How much trouble are the Lib Dems in?

The Tories are going to be selecting a candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon on Monday. I don't know how typical this seat is of Lib/Tory marginals, but it is often referred to as a Lib Dem safe seat. If this is really the case, then the Lib Dems are in more trouble at the next general election than I'd thought.

The Lib Dem majority is just over 7,000, a result of a ruthless squeeze of Labour voters and some stunningly inept Tory campaigning over the years (comedy Tory candidate Ed Matts stood here in 2001 before moving on to fail to win Labour's most marginal seat in 2005). Next year their councillors in the council which makes up a large part of the constituency will be defeated when the Tories take back control of the council, and the boundaries change at the next election in a way which is unfavourable to the Lib Dems. And whereas Michael Howard's 'dog whistle' campaign, let alone William Hague, could almost have been designed to put off potential swing voters here, Dave Cameron is likely to be much more congenial to people who switched from Tory to Lib Dem in 1997.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have somehow to keep the votes both of people who will support them tactically because they want to keep a Labour government, and the people who are sick of a Labour government and want a change.

All of which means that if the Tories select an effective candidate and get their activists from the surrounding safe Tory seats to help out, this is a constituency which starts to look very bad for the Lib Dems, in what is theoretically one of their safer seats.

Of course, given the choice between the Tories and the Lib Dems, I hope they both lose.

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