Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


Layla Moran now becomes favourite to become next LD leader

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

The LD MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Laylan Moran, made a point at PMQs this lunchtime that I’m surprised hasn’t been taken up by other remainers – the pro-Brexit comments by Putin.

This comes as her betting price on Betfair has tightened and the last price recorded by Betfair as I write rates her as a 42% chance.

There’s isn’t, of course, a vacancy but Vince Cable has indicated that he’ll go before the next election. My guess is that if she stood Moran would win a membership ballot. She has a powerful media presence and has taken a very strong role on Brexit. It has been noticeable how her media appearances are increasing. My only caution is that I’m not sure she would stand.

The other possibles are Jo Swinson and Ed Davey.

Mike Smithson


Paddy Ashdown (1941-2018) RIP

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

It was announced about an hour ago that Paddy Ashdown, the first leader of Lib Dems has died at the age of 77. Two months ago he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Normally we don’t run obits on PB but I’m making an exception with Paddy who is someone I knew and had great respect for. He was the leader of the LDs from its formation in 1987 and saw the parliamentary party move from 22 seats to 46 providing the foundation for its growth to 62 seat at GE2005

He actually led the party at the 1992 and 1997 general elections. In the former I was a candidate for Bedford which happened to be the place where he had gone to school. This connection meant that there were a number of times when we were in contact and I remember chauffeuring him around on more than one occasion.

He had courage and a charisma that enabled the third party to make a mark and be heard. I can remember dozens of occasions on the doorstep when reminding voters that our leader was Paddy was enough to shift the vote.

His background as an officer in the special services and later on as a diplomat gave him a breadth of experience that made him unique amongst party leaders.

He will be sadly missed.

Mike Smithson


NEW PB / Polling Matters podcast: Where do the Lib Dems go from here?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Keiran Pedley is joined by Mark Pack of the Lib Dem Newswire to discuss this week’s Lib Dem conference. Keiran and Mark discuss how the conference went and where the party goes from here and Mark gives everyone an outside tip on who the next Lib Dem leader might be when Vince Cable steps down.

Listen to the latest episode here:

Follow this week’s guests:


If you’re betting on the next Lib Dem leader the field could be about to get rather large

Friday, September 7th, 2018



After just a year in the job Cable comes under pressure

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Could he be the first party leader out?

I have no idea whether the Mail story linked to in the tweet above is correct but there’s little doubt that Cable’s failure to participate in one of the key Commons votes of this Parliament has raised a few eyebrows something that’s been exacerbated by the narrowness of outcome.

But is the report right that there is a plot to replace him with the woman of Palestinian descent who took Oxford West and Abingdon back from the Tories at the last election?

There’s little doubt that when the Lib Dems do choose a successor to Cable that Moran together with the former minister, Jo Swinson appear to be the strong favourites.

The problem for the Lib Dems is that since dropping to just 8 seats at the 2015 General Election they’ve simply been ruled out of political discourse. At the last election that seat total was increased to 12 and at the local elections in May they gained control the four councils which compares with labour’s net total of zero.

My guess is that Moran or Swinson would be able to command more media attention and that is something that is urgently needed by the yellow team.

As to the first leader out betting Theresa May remains the strong odds on favourite.

Mike Smithson


With just about all the LE2018 results now in the clear winners were the LDs gaining most seats and councils

Friday, May 4th, 2018

BBC News

One of the things that generally happens on local election nights is that the media narrative is determined by what happens in the first few hours of results. So the big coverage was of Lab’s failure to take its key targets in London and of course the antisemitism element of the result from Barnet.

But now that we’ve got just about all the results in we seen clearly that the big winners were the Lib Dems who have clawed a fair bit back from the abyss that they entered following the decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. This is their best set of local elections since then. It also fits into the big trend that we have seen in council by-elections.

Unfortunately for them in terms of the media coverage most of the big action has happened during the daytime rather than last night when the major success was restricted to just one Richmond upon Thames. Today has seen them take the London Borough of Kingston with some huge gains, Three rivers in Hertfordshire as well as South Cambs.

Clearly all these were strong remain areas and were not places where in recent times where LAB has had much presence.

What the yellow team desperately need are some parliamentary by elections which have been somewhat scarce. It is now expected that we could see two being called pretty quickly – Lewisham East and Barnsley Central. Both have wapping LAB majorities but Cable’s team ought to be making them a key target now. They have the skilled activists and the expertise and they should go for it while the two main parties are both going problems periods.

Mike Smithson


The LDs need a good day in next week’s locals just to show that they are still in the game

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Can they take councils and increase their council seats?

We are now three years on from the end of the Coalition and it is 8 years since tuition fees were a big issue. For the Lib Dems next week’s local elections are an opportunity to show that they are starting to recover at least at local level.

Because the elections up on May the 3rd include all the London boroughs there will be much greater mainstream media interest than is normal on the first Thursday in May. That in one way is fortunate for the yellow team because London is a region of the UK that really is separate and operates totally differently from the rest of the nation. It was also strongly for Remain in the referendum two years ago and surely, here, Cable’s party should be able to make some inroads.

There are three London boroughs in the southwest of the capital of where they have most hopes and this is reflected in the betting.

At Kingston which they used to control Ed Davey took back the main parliamentary seat at GE17 and when Ladbrokes opened its local elections markets last month it had the LDs at 1/10. That’s now edged out to 1/4 but that is still very tight. The Tories opened at 6/1 to hold on and are now 3/1 with no overall control moving from 16/1 to 8/1.

The neighbouring Borough of Richmond saw Vince Cable win back Twickenham in the General Election but the party lost their 2016 by-election gain of Richmond Park by a whisker. Ladbrokes now make it 10/11 on both the LDs and the Tories to win a Council majority.

When the market was opened the LDs were at 4/6 with the Tories at 11/10. No overall control has moved from 16/1 to 8/1.

The Tories had hopes of regaining the one London Borough that the LDs retained four years ago Sutton. When betting opened the Tories were 4/5 favourites. That’s now moved out to 3/1 with the LDs moving from 5/4 to 1/3.

Also up is one of the two elected mayoralties that the party has – Watford. Here the four times winner and now LD peer, Dorothy Thornhill, is stepping aside so the party won’t have a personal incumbency advantage. Ladbrokes make it 1/4 that it will remain in yellow hands

Nationally the Lib Dems need to see a big increase in the overall projected national vote share as well as seats.

Mike Smithson


Chris Rennard’s “Winning Here” – the requiem for the battered Lib Dems or the handbook for another revival?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

A review of Chris Rennard’s newly published “Winning Here”

    “ Paddy’s personal ratings were shown to be very high in our poll, even at the outset of the by- election campaign. This helped to persuade him of the validity of the other poll findings.”

Thus Chris Renard then the LD director of campaigns and elections coaxed Paddy Ashdown into accepting his formula for winning the 1993 Newbury by-election. The humour and shrewdness about people’s motivation mark this first volume of his political memoirs (just published by Biteback): it never becomes a mere boastful catalogue of Rennard’s election trophies.

Lord Rennard has measured out his life in by-elections. This book revisits a varied series of by-elections from Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979 to Dunfermline in 2006. He had learned early on how much the U.K’s third party needs the boost from by-election success to improve its tally of seats in general elections. And, as the apostle of targeting seats for general elections, he in effect simulated by-elections in those seats which gave full scope for Lib Dem campaign techniques.

His first chapter “An Unusual Introduction to Politics in Liverpool” describes his immersion in the community politics developed by the Liverpool Liberal councillors, year-round leafleting, canvassing and campaigning. These continue to characterise the party’s approach to elections.

Without self-pity he writes about his loving but straitened upbringing. It was a Liberal Councillor who had helped Rennard’s disabled mother to get her widowed mothers’ allowance. Orphaned when nearly 17, Rennard then showed abnormal self-reliance in getting through sixth form and university. This he combined with a massive workload for the local Liberals. His heroic labours take on a Victorian resonance, an example of self-help straight out of Samuel Smiles.

When the Edge Hill by-election was called shortly before the 1979 General Election, the Liberals nationally stood at 5% in opinion polls, damaged by the Lib-Lab Pact and the impending trial of former party leader. Jeremy Thorpe, for conspiracy to murder. The Liverpool Liberals were in good campaigning shape with Rennard already a seasoned and trusted part of the machine.

The victory of David Alton at Edge Hill meant the saving of the then Liberal Party. They moved up in the polls and held eleven of their fourteen seats in the General Election that followed immediately: a lesson not lost on Rennard. During the Alliance years he became Alton’s agent and helped him win the new seat of Mossley Hill from third place. He then became the East Midlands organiser, in charge of the West Derbyshire by- election in 1986 when the Liberals failed to take the seat by 100 votes.

In 1990 by which time Rennard had become the LD Director of Campaigns and Elections the IRA murdered Ian Gow – CON M.P for Eastbourne. Paddy Ashdown was reluctant to put forward a candidate for the ensuing by-election since he did not wish the party to be seen to benefit from terrorism. This caused Rennard to send Ashdown an irate memo setting out reasons to stand:“.. It will not be seen to be bold and courageous to recommend not fighting- it will make you a laughing stock in Walworth Road, Downing Street and eventually in the quality press that you threw away this chance.”

The LD victory in the subsequent by-election made it clear that the LDs were back in business: “a safe seat had been lost to a party that Mrs Thatcher herself had recently branded as a ” dead parrot” Six weeks later she resigned as Prime Minister.”

Successes in Ribble Valley and Kincardine and Deeside followed, strengthening the LDs in the run-up to GE1992 but the hoped-for big increase in LD seats failed to materialise. Rennard argues that speculation about a hung parliament and proportional representation, which he himself had wanted to avoid, was promoted by Ashdown in the last days of the 1992 – and this deterred Conservative voters whom the Lib Dems had hoped to win over.

    Rennard’s attitude towards Ashdown rather resembled that of a kindly school master trying to make sure that a gifted pupil bored with the syllabus does himself justice in the exams.

This pattern repeats itself in Rennard’s account of the LD revival which began with the Newbury by-election in 1993 where Rennard shows himself to have been a sceptic about Ashdown’s preoccupation with Lib-Lab cooperation, believing that careless talk about coalition would cost votes. Based on his Liverpool experience the Rennard approach in any election campaign was to find out the issues on voters’ minds and to deal with those issues rather than go on about constitutional reform which polling suggested was only of interest to a minute fraction of voters,

Rennard’s strategy at GE1997 delivered 46 LD seats, the largest third party contingent since 1929 a number which had increased to 62 at GE2005. By then Charles Kennedy had become the Liberal Democrat leader and Rennard writes sensitively about the alcoholism which was to cost Kennedy the leadership. Ever practical, however he saw the Dunfermline by-election of 2006 as a means to give the party a boost after Kennedy’s downfall.

Throughout the book Rennard refers – never at great length – to his health problems of depression and diabetes-, problems not eased by his long irregular hours and it was these problems which caused him to step down as the Paty’s chief executive.

Certainly this book is generous to colleagues and friends, and suggests he is loyal and considerate in his personal dealings.

Steve Lawson