Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Target Seats were Based on Evidence at the Time Irfan

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Irfan Ahmed (who no longer deserves links for stupidity) is today asking 'Who Picked the Lib Dem Target Seats?'. Why? Because leading Tory blogger Iain Dale is questioning the decision.

Now I don't have my scrawlings on me from 6-8 May 2005 from when I started to see which seats we were strong in after the last General Election. Nor have I been too up on the change to boundaries in England, with Scotland pretty settled for Westminster this time, I've been more concerned with council and now Scottish Parliamentary boundary changes. However, I'm sure I’m not the only Lib Dem anorak who drew up an order of attack of winnable seats.

It must be remembered, although I doubt Irfan looked at it like that, that in 2005 the Tories made little inroad into Labour after making none at all in 2001. They had pretty much at that time flat-lined. Of course Labour have since gone into freefall which somehow in our two party focused media makes no idea’s Tories the team to push rather than the brimming with ideas Lib Dems.

Also the reason that most of the targets were Tories is that we lost a few of our seats narrowly to the Conservatives in 2005. They were places of strength that we could fight to win back. A lot of our gains were also in Labour seats. So by winning in Labour seats and losing to Tories a policy of equidistance to both parties obviously leads to the conclusion that I, other and the campaign team did of which were the most winnable seats next time out.

Or course electoral calculus is a constantly shifty art as opinion polls can rise and fall like the spring tide. But to set out to win a seat is a task of years Of course there are also the few surprises each time based on local conditions, remember Manchester Whittingham, did any Lib Dem see that coming? The fact is the list is split 16-14 Conservative to Labour is based purely on swing required to win, of course there are others on the list of target that Mr Dale hasn't even listed.

Irfan before you put all your faith in Conservatives talk of targeting seats look at a few object lessons. Personally I present Edinburgh South. In 2005 two of their held wards (under the old single councillor boundaries) moved into the Scottish seat. They were still only third in number of held wards in the seat but they said they were going to win. They missed by about 4,000 votes the Lib Dems missed by 405. They still consider it a target seat but across the Scottish seat they trail the Lib Dems by 6,000 votes now as opposed to 5,000 in 2003 dropping to 4th in the process, and that was a bad night for us. Of course the Tories want to talk up their chances against us as much as possible, we are in election year after all. Not everything that the party of 'honesty' has been saying recently should be taken at face value it is loaded to the core.

So object lesson before you start to question based on opposition propaganda best to look at the facts from the time decisions were made. Look at how poorly the people spreading the propaganda also get things wrong.


Bernard Salmon said...

I was going to leave a similar comment on Irfan's blog, pointing out that Iain Dale is not the most reliable guide to Lib Dem targetting strategy, and that the figures in his post would have been based on the results last time, but Irfan's blog doesn't allow me to leave comments.

Unknown said...

I'm delighted that our target seats strategy is developed by people who have a whole lot more campaigning nous than Irfan.

Anonymous said...

Granted, I didn't see Withington coming last GE, being as it wasn't even a blip on my radar. On the other hand, neither was Cambridge which I called correctly and picked up a fair amount of winnings from at the bookie's the following day.

As you know the list that Iain has is, of course, just the raw numbers, and of those top 30 or so seats there will be plenty that not even the most Panglossian of Lib Dem activists will be expecting to bag. However take a look at some of the ones outside Iain's list. Burnley, Bradford East, Sheffield Central and St Albans all look like premier target seats - much more so than the likes of Leicester South or Totnes - regardless of not having been flagged up as such in too many places, and much of it is down to slow but steady building of a Lib Dem base in all four constituencies, with good well-known local PPCs. That local factor can make a colossal difference, and of course can cut both ways.

By the way a fuller and more accurate list of required swings can be found at Anthony Wells's site here.

Liberal Neil said...

Stephen is quite right that a lot more goes into deciding the target seats than Irfan's silly blog post suggests.

Over the years there have been a number of seats that have been 'surprise' victories in General Elections - Northavon in '97, Solihull and Withington in '05 - but they have all been seats that had been in the target seats programme and received substantial support from the Campaigns Department.

burkesworks is quite right that there a number of seats that are being strongly supported this time that are not in the Top 30 in terms of swing to win, and quite a few Tory held seats that are quite close on paper that we are not targeting seriously.

The vast majority of seats the party is targeting for this election are Labour held seats, and in some cases they have sizeable majorities. But as we have shown in Withington, Cambridge and other seats we didn't quite win last time (Ox East, Watford) we are able to achieve very big swings against Labour when we put the campaigning in.

Morus said...

Burke'sworks - an excellent post, but I'd take issue with describing Anthony Wells' list of required swings as 'more accurate' than Rallings & Thrasher.

They use similar-but-not-quite-the-same methodologies to calculate Notional Results, which explains the slight differences. A person might prefer one method or the other, but I don't think there is any sense in which either could be described as more or less 'accurate', because that supposes that there is a 'real' notional swing independent of both methodologies that both are trying to pin down to a greater or lesser degree of accuracy, and there isn't.

Harry Cole said...

care to throw down a friendly pint on Edinburgh South?

the yellow fella's are dangerously close to going "all in" on that seat and yet look set to be humiliated...

There are far more winnable seats for the "liberals" in Scotland, so why the ridiculous obsession with ES just because it is in the capital?

Will happily buy you a pint, nae drinks for an evening if the tories don't win...

Come one, go north, you might have a chance. Neil Hudson will be an excellent MP.


J said...

no idea’s Tories the team to push rather than the brimming with ideas Lib Dems.


If the Lib Dems had spent the time from 1994 to 2003 as anything other than Blair's arse-lickers then you might be in a position to at least challenge for second place. But no.

Stephen Glenn said...


In Edinburgh South we hold the bulk of the seat in Westminster. The Tory votes from 2007 in the parts that come in for Westminster are nowhere near enough to overcome the difference.

J, I'm missing just where you think we were Blair's arse-lickers for the period 1994-2003. Yes we were in coalition in Holyrood, but we managed to get Labour to do things that we wanted in all that. Besides there are areas we have agreed with Labour on and with the Tories or SNP. There are some issues there just cannot be more than two positions on, besides from 1994-2003 Labour where in many areas progressive, of course the same is not true after that point.

Holyrood Patter said...

ah good old tory arrogance
TBs even comments as the editor on other blogs.
having said that, hes right, tories have ES wrapped up


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