politics

'Lib Dems beating Tories where Labour can't is what Keir Starmer badly needs'


Don’t get too excited. We’ve seen the Lib Dems pull off an amazing by-election win in a true-blue seat before, only for the Conservatives to take it off them again at the next general election.

Take Eastbourne. Back in the autumn of 1990, it produced a shock result that helped seal right-wing legend, Maggie Thatcher’s fate.

But it duly turned Tory again less than two years later when, in the spring of 1992, her successor, John Major, dashed Neil Kinnock’s hopes of forming a Labour government.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should write off what’s just happened in Chesham and Amersham as a blip – a future footnote in political history we can put down to protest voting, in this case against HS2 and new planning laws.

That’s because – potentially at least – the Lib Dems remain a force to be reckoned with in parts of the South of England which Labour stands no chance of winning but which it badly needs the Conservatives to lose if Keir Starmer is ever to make it to Downing Street.

Ed Davey’s party used to do well in the South West but nowadays it’s better placed to pick up seats in the central southern and south eastern England.



Boris Johnson today, after his party's historic defeat
Boris Johnson today, after his party’s historic defeat

In the so-called ‘home counties’ (and in a few other places) there are 29 seats that the Lib Dems could reasonably claim to be reasonably well-positioned to win. And in 23 of them they are the main challenger to the Conservatives, with every other party a distant third.

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Proverbially ‘leafy’ Surrey could be especially fertile territory if Boris Johnson continues to ignore what some are calling the ‘Blue Wall’ in favour of his ‘Red Wall’ further north. Boundary changes permitting, obvious targets include Carshalton, Esher, Guilford, and Woking.

There’s been some talk recently of the threat posed to the Conservatives by the Greens, and Labour understandably tried to make the most of some scattered local election successes, such as the West of England mayoralty, Cambridgeshire and Worthing.

Make no mistake, though. If the Tories do run into trouble, then in the South, outside London at least, it’s the Lib Dems who pose the biggest threat to Boris Johnson’s majority at the next election.

Of course, that majority is a pretty comfortable one – but it may feel a little less comfortable today than it used to.





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