Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour

A decision by Nick Clegg to join forces with David Cameron would provide an opportunity for a major electoral revival by Labour at a second election in 2010.

Our guest writer is Tim Horton, research director of the Fabian Society

A briefing paper published today by the Fabian Society shows that a decision by Nick Clegg to join forces with David Cameron would provide an opportunity for a major electoral revival by Labour at a second election in 2010. It would also place many Lib Dem MPs in danger of being unseated.

If the Lib Dems team up with the Tories it would be a betrayal of the expectations of many progressive voters who voted Lib Dem last Thursday. Many supported the Lib Dems in the belief that they were a progressive, liberal party of the centre-left. Many more will have voted Lib Dem as a way to keep the Tories out.

For example, a YouGov poll just before the election showed:

• 43% of Lib Dem voters described themselves as centre-left or left, compared to 29% who described themselves as centrist and just 9% who described themselves as centre-right or right.

• 39% of Lib Dem voters described the Liberal Democrat party as being centre-left or left, compared to 33% of Lib Dem voters who described the party as being centrist and just 5% who described the party as being centre-right or right.

This suggests that somewhere between a third and a half of Lib Dem voters could find themselves alienated if Clegg teams up with the Tories. Our analysis shows that this alienation of progressive Liberal Democrat voters from a Liberal-Tory pact would suddenly put scores of seats into play for the Labour Party at a second election in 2010.

As the table shows, there are 15 Lib Dem seats that would fall to Labour if just one-in-five of their voters switched to Labour. These would include all five gains that the Lib Dems made from Labour on Thursday night – Norwich South, Bradford East, Brent Central, Burnley and Redcar. Several Lib Dem MPs, including frontbenchers Sarah Teather and Jo Swinson, are even more vulnerable, falling if just one-in-ten Lib Dem voters defects to Labour in protest.

What is more, the analysis shows that in many other constituencies Labour could take a large number of seats back off the Conservatives with relatively modest defections from the Lib Dems to Labour.

At a national level, the Lib Dems have positioned themselves as opponents of the Tories for the last two decades. A Lib-Tory pact would make Labour the sole source of opposition to the Conservatives in many seats, allowing Labour to persuade many former Lib Dem voters to switch to them.

There are 25 seats that would swing back from the Conservatives to Labour if just one-in-five Lib Dem voters in these seats switches to Labour. These would include many seats in the South and the Midlands that Labour lost at the General Election, such as Hendon, Thurrock, Broxtowe, Bedford and Hove, as well as the Tories’ prized gain in the North East, Stockton South.

Fifty-five seats would swing back to Labour if one-in-two Lib Dem voters in these seats switched to Labour. Though a tall order, along with seats taken off the Lib Dems, this could be enough for Labour to regain a majority at a possible second election in 2010.

Finally, our briefing points out there are also many seats, especially in the South and South-West, where Labour is in third place and could leapfrog the Lib Dems into second place, to provide a platform for future electoral gains. In many seats around the country, both Labour supporters and non-aligned progressives voted for the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out. They will now be scratching their heads if the Lib Dems form a pact with the Tories.

So a Lib-Tory pact would provide a huge opportunity for Labour to re-establish itself as the opposition to the Tories in these seats. Indeed, the need for action here is urgent: according to the website UK Polling Report, whereas after the 2005 election Labour was in first or second place in 499 seats, after the 2010 election, Labour is in first or second in just 418 seats, a fall of 81.

While an objective of moving into second place in more constituencies will not deliver any extra seats for Labour at the next election, it is essential for rebuilding Labour’s base in the south of England over several electoral cycles. If revival in the south of England is only considered one-election-at-a-time, it means the only strategy available is a fight over a segment of Conservative swing voters in those seats where Labour are second.

Important though it is to regain the support of these voters, a more ambitious approach will ultimately be needed, one where Labour fundamentally reshapes its identity in the south of England to become the source of popular opposition to the Conservatives in a way that it has surrendered to the Liberal Democrats over the last few decades.

Of course, a Labour recovery will require hard work to recapture those voters who turned to the Tories last Thursday night. But it is important also to note that a Lib-Tory pact would offer the prospect of significant electoral recovery for Labour even before it gets back a single Tory voter, by allowing it to eat into the Lib Dem vote in many constituencies.

It is an opportunity Labour should seek to grasp ahead of a possible second election in 2010.

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164 Responses to “Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour”

  1. berniefolan

    Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour: http://twurl.nl/iu14jx #ukelection

  2. gretnabarman

    RT @berniefolan: Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour: http://twurl.nl/iu14jx #ukelection

  3. Sarah McKeeve

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji

  4. Sam Korn

    RT @leftfoodfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji << Cambridge could go Labour

  5. Jack Hopkins

    How many of these seats will still exist if the Tory plan to reduce the number of seats comes off?
    Will they not just jump into bed with the Lib Dems to eliminate a dozen labour seats and then go back to the country for another go?

  6. Man in Westminster

    RT @wdjstraw: RT @leftfootfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji << Great analysis by …

  7. A Clegg-Cam deal could consign the Lib Dems to history | The Young Fabians Blog

    […] reasearch shows that 18 of the Lib Dems’ 57 seats are prey to a Labour suge were just one in four Lib […]

  8. Elaine

    John McGowan’s points merit further discussion. I, too, have read the Nation article and others which suggest there will be more scope for manoeuvre and dicretion. Quite simply, I do not know how to assess some of these competing analyses.
    The hype of UK=Greece and the more rabid fear-mongering over the deficit has fed into the Tory (and Liberal Democrat) narrative of ‘economic shambles’ and broke(n) Britain and advantages them in lowering expectations in preparation for savage cuts.
    When we look at the decisions of Conservative and Con/Lib councils, we see how they chose to adapt to and implement cuts.
    Some analyses please……

  9. Jay

    Easy solution: Tories stand aside in Lib-Lab marginals as a condition of the coalition. That would give the Liberals a healthy increase in seats.

  10. Sanya Preston

    RT @thirtysix RT: Interesting argument: @leftfootfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji

  11. Chris Paul

    RT @David_Singleton: Very interesting piece on @leftfootfwd stating that Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji

  12. Jacquie Martin

    For all those headscratchers, this is a lesson in voting with your heart versus tactical voting.

    Also, for LibDem heirarchy – if they sell out on anything, and simply aligning with the Tories probably ranks as that – they will learn another lesson: decide your values. Those things that define you and which people recognise as being an intrinsic part of you. Betray them and they will come back to haunt you. Labour found that out when it widened the equality gap.

  13. Helen Barrett

    RT @David_Singleton: Very interesting piece on @leftfootfwd stating that Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour: http://bit.ly/cBblji

  14. LIVE: ‘Progress made’ as coalition talks break | We-found-it

    […] Tim Horton, the investigate administrator for the Fabian Society, has cursive a post for Left Foot Forward locution that a Tory/Lib Dem accord would be a heritage to Labour. Somewhere between a ordinal and […]

  15. Could a Lib-Con alliance split the party? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Conservative politicians have involved serious splits taking place in the Liberal Party, along with major damage to its […]

  16. RupertRead

    http://bit.ly/9k5dSV LDs should be part of a progressive majority 'rainbow' govt- along with Nats http://bit.ly/934fAp ,Greens,SDLP,Alliance

  17. Arnie

    How very appropriate “Lib Con!

  18. Press Futurist

    This post from Tim Horton pretty much sums up my position on why a LibDem-Tory coalition might not be bad for Labour: http://bit.ly/cptopp

  19. Sean Sayer

    http://tinyurl.com/36muqg9 – Why a Lib-Tory coalition is good for the Labour Party #ukelection

  20. Sean Sayer

    http://tinyurl.com/36muqg9 – Why a Lib-Tory coalition is good for the #Labour Party #ukelection #condem

  21. Liz McShane

    Anon – I thought you still supported the Labour Party but it was just GB that you had a major issue with….?

  22. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Told you he’d cost us the election. I voted Independent and ironically Labour won!

    I just think that in view of the drubbing Labour just got it’s time for a realistic approach to the future. Labour should lose the Ed Balls types in any future shadow cabinet and rebuild the party from the grass roots…

    Who did you canvas for btw?

  23. Barry Ewart

    If Lib Dems sign deal with Tories will be THE SHORTEST SUICIDE NOTE IN HISTORY! I support Progressive Alliance,Labour needs to protect ordinary working people and the vulnerable. Next time we need more local w class grassroots Labour candidates. Bye Bye New Labour, welcome Progressive Labour! All power to the Progressive Alliance!

  24. Liz McShane

    Well it wasn’t quite the 1997 (reversed) outcome for the Tories… hardly a ringing endorsement considering where they were at one stage in the polls, the relentless anti Labour/GB media (with the sole exception of The Mirror), the global financial crisis, MPs expenses, etc etc….

    I canvassed for Labour – mostly in Islington (although I live in Tottenham) and I am very glad to say the both Labour MPs increased the share of their vote and Labour won back control of the council from the very un-progressive Islington Lib Dems.

    I know just today of 4 people who voted LD tactically (switch from Lab) and they are sick at the prospect that that was a proxy Tory vote.

  25. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I myself was very surprised at the Labour vote being so high.

    People need to get real here though the Labour Party can hardly be described as “progressive” and if anyone believes the Lib-Dem’s would prop up control freaks like the last Labour bunch is delusional – that would really be the shortest suicide note in history.

    There will be things that the Cons and Libs share – ridding the country of ID cards and the third runway at Heathrow for example – but to describe Labour as progressive *really* stretches credibility.

    Brown should get some dignity and resign NOW. For Labour it’s over and only irrelevance awaits them…

  26. negare la negazione

    Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour http://bit.ly/dmEY3V #p2

  27. Liz McShane

    Anon – i think if the Lib Dems get together with The Tories that will be even quicker suicide as they are totally against electoral form and that is the holy grail for the Lib Dems and progressives in general. As I said before lots of people didn’t vote Clegg to get Cameron to get Mugabe!

    Labour did really well in terms of council seats at least in London so I think your view of their eminent demise is a bit premature. I understand that you have a vitriolic hate for GB and to a lesser extent towards the party. I am sure GB will do the honorable thing when the time comes.

    As far as being irrelevant – tell that to the 8 mn people who voted for them abnd those other voters who switched to LD as anti-Tory vote.

    I didn’t hear many people on the council estates of Islington and elsewhere describe Labour as irrelevant – in fact it was quite the opposite – honest!! and sometimes I must say that I was surprised by the fairly positive response on the doorstep given the hostile media context.

  28. Liz McShane

    Anon – p.s. re progressive I think Civil Partnerships was a good bit of progressive social policy & legislation – something that the Tories still have trouble accepting.

  29. Liz McShane

    Anon – an update . Looks like GB is doing the honourable thing an has announced that he will resign before party conference – that should make you happy anyway.

  30. links for 2010-05-10 « Embololalia

    […] Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour | Left Foot Forward As the table shows, there are 15 Lib Dem seats that would fall to Labour if just one-in-five of their voters switched to Labour. These would include all five gains that the Lib Dems made from Labour on Thursday night – Norwich South, Bradford East, Brent Central, Burnley and Redcar. Several Lib Dem MPs, including frontbenchers Sarah Teather and Jo Swinson, are even more vulnerable, falling if just one-in-ten Lib Dem voters defects to Labour in protest. (tags: 2010election libdems labour.party tories coalition.politics) […]

  31. Tam

    Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour: http://bit.ly/cptopp

  32. Greens on board for a progressive government | Left Foot Forward

    […] this blog has been reporting, most voters and members see the Lib Dems as left-of-centre party so a progressive majority […]

  33. paulwmk

    interesting the 39% of voters felt the Libs were left centre-left, with 5% saying they were on the right centre-right http://bit.ly/9k5dSV

  34. Arun Sundar C

    "Lib-Con coalition would be an “electoral gift” to Labour" and related posts http://ow.ly/17kpgd

  35. Kevin Somerton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour http://bit.ly/cBblji

  36. Will Tisdale

    RT @leftfootfwd: Lib-Con coalition would be an "electoral gift" to Labour http://bit.ly/cBblji

  37. Tish Nadesan

    Feel funny about holdalls being spotted outside number 10, but Labour's long game may be well served by it http://bit.ly/cptopp #Lib-Con

  38. Ben Studd

    Haven't seen much of Sarah Teather for a while – 3.5% swing to labour next time and she's out http://bit.ly/cptopp

  39. Eddie Robson

    @gracedent This makes interesting reading: http://bit.ly/9k5dSV

  40. Live blog: Deal done, Brown to go? | Westminster Blog | FT.com

    […] 6.19pm: On the point of what a Lib-Con coalition would do for Labour votes (see 6pm and comments below), Left Foot Forward broke down the numbers yesterday. […]

  41. Lady J

    Anon, please do us all a favour and go and join the Rats, oops I mean the Tories. Thats where your heart really is.

  42. Lady J

    Tim, I agree with your analyses but you do did not take a couple of factors into account;
    1. Progressives are not disciplined.
    2. Progressives have tendencies to be disloyal.
    3. The media is now wholesale more rightwing; even the editor of Mirror did not have the courage to speak up for the party they support.
    Until progressives deal with these weaknesses, we will continue to struggle in and out of office.

  43. Oxymoron Government « 2me2you

    […] take away from my surprise at what is a coalition between Clegg and Cameron. I, along with LeftFootForward explored the prospect that a LibCon government may have on strengthening Labour support. Sporadic […]

  44. Holt Fasner

    good bit of analysis RT @ridjb @holtfasner http://short.to/2hjn9 interesting article

  45. Stephen Champney

    Lets hope that this Con-Dem pact does turn out to be an "electoral gift" to Labour. http://twurl.nl/iu14jx

  46. David McMenemy

    RT @timjhorton: ComRes for IoS have 34% of Lib Dems saying the party has sold out its principles. For electoral possibilities here see: http://bit.ly/cptopp

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