The Lib Dem year in the north by numbers

In the first of a series of posts on the fortunes of the three main parties across northern England in 2012, Ed Jacobs looks at the Liberal Democrats’ year in numbers.

The words ‘It’s been a tough year for the Lib Dems’ are ones which could have been used last Christmas and the Christmas before, and will likely be appropriate next year and the year after that as well.

As 2012 draws to an end, we find the party seeking to outline a distinct identity within the coalition over the Leveson Report and the green agenda, and trying to portray itself as the conscience of a Government which, without the Lib Dem presence would be doing many, many, unspecified, ‘nasty’ things.

The reality is, that when we look at the Liberal Democrat year in numbers, it has not been one to remember. Seldom have the words to the carol In the bleak midwinter been so appropriate for a political party.

Here then is a rundown of the key numbers:

6.1 is the average percentage of support for the Lib Dems in northern England has measured by the Guardian‘s regular polling by ICM Research. To put that into perspective, the final prediction by ICM for the Guardian in May 2010 before the General Election put the Lib Dems in the north on 16%.

Three is the number of northern parliamentary seats which the Lib Dems would have lost had May’s local elections been a general election – over a quarter of the party’s 11 seats in the three northern regions. Third is also where the Lib Dems found themselves at the Middlesbrough by-election, behind UKIP. At the General Election the party came second with 19.9% of the vote. This time round they managed 9.9%.

Fourth is the position the Lib Dems came in the shock victory of George Galloway in the Bradford West by-election. In 2010, the party came third with 11.7% of the votes cast. In the by-election they achieved just 4.59% of the vote.

Second was a rare electoral bright spot as the party was runner-up in the Manchester Central by-election, a chink of light in its fight to avoid political irrelevance in the north. But the party won only 9.4% of the votes cast compared with 26.6% at the 2010 election.

Eighth was by far the most dismal performance by the Lib Dems this year as they limped home in the Rotherham by-election with just 2.1%. Ahead of them were Labour, UKIP, the BNP, Respect, Conservatives, English Democrats and an independent candidate. In 2010 the party was third with 16%.

Nil was the number of successful Lib Dems in November’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections, not only in the north but over the country as a whole.

It is perhaps a sign of the times that it is taken as a given that the Lib Dem’s electoral prospects as things currently stand have all the potential of a chocolate fire guard.

What will the party will do and, more importantly, when they will do it, to get themselves out of the electoral collapse they have seen across the north this year? Ideas welcome. And check out the views of the Lib Dem MP for Redcar Ian Swales in a companion Guardian Northerner post to this piece.

Ed Jacobs is a political consultant at the Leeds based Public Affairs Company and devolution correspondent for the centre-left political and policy blog, Left Foot Forward. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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