Lib Dems – the existential threat
Just to clarify something I said on the programme tonight: the Lib Dems lost 44 per cent of seats they were defending in 2011 local elections. They are expected to do worse than that – losing 50 per cent of seats they are defending – this year.
If they carry on at a 50 per cent attrition rate, bearing in mind different numbers of seats come up at different elections, a friendly number cruncher of mine has calculated that by 2020 they could be struggling to get more than 1000 councillors nationwide. It would effectively eviscerate them as a force in local government – hundreds not thousands of them, across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland.
Of course, this looks a bit apocalyptic. But it’s something psephologists and Lib Dems mutter about: the existential trajectory. It should be mentioned that nothing is pre-determined and most pollsters seem to expect the Lib Dems to out-perform in tomorrow’s elections their grimmest national opinion poll predictions.
It should also be mentioned that the Lib Dems could become permanent fixtures on the Westminster political scene, vindicating Nick Clegg’s strategy, a third party of real power in perpetuity, suffering but not destroyed in the 2015 General Election. Enougj voters by 2015 may feel the Lib Dems have answered the eternal question – “what are they for?” – by giving the answer: “the Lib Dems moderate others in power.”
They could forsake their protest vote roots that helped to build up local strength for a regular slice of power at the centre.
But that’s not what some will be thinking as they wake up Friday morning.