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Is the UKIP trouncing of the Lib Dems in Corby actually a good result for the Lib Dems?

Corby has elected a Labour MP. It isn’t the biggest shock in the world lets put it that way. Corby is a clear swing seat with people who are not entrenched into their positions. It is proper floating voter territory and lets be honest – any by-election in a seat like this should be won – and won big by a party of opposition but that isn’t the story that I am going to concentrate on. The story Lib Dems care about is how we did and we didn’t do well but this is not a story – well it shouldn’t be one anyway…

Here are the top four results:

LAB 17267
CON 9476
UKIP 5108
LD 1770

The fact UKIP got 3x the LD vote has caused a proper stir. I have seen tweets from many Labour folk who have basically said that this proves the Lib Dems are now a non-entity and are not worthy of their time. They seem to forget that the Lib Dems are still a party of government but of course that isn’t something they are willing to acknowledge. Nor is the fact that the Lib Dems didn’t lose any council seats yesterday but won five across the county and held three. Again not something you’ll see a lot of prose about over the next 24 hours.

So should the Lib Dems be either worried or surprised that UKIP did so well here? Of course we shouldn’t. What a stupid notion. People that think that clearly are not people who study by-elections too closely. What do we know about close by-elections? That parties of government in bad times do really really badly. How about when we have a coalition government? Then both parties do really badly. How about when one of those two parties is traditionally the protest vote in these instances but can’t be because they are a party of government? Then boom goes the dynamite.

Look Louise Mensch really did screw over the Conservative Party here and the defeat can be laid squarely at her feet. Had she stayed and fought the election in 2015 when it isn’t a protest vote but more of an election then it would have been close once more. The UKIP vote soared because they became the party for the protest vote and they took a lot of the Tory vote because a lot of Tory voters were pissed off with both the government and Louise Mensch.

The Lib Dem vote dropped by around 70% but again that was to be fully expected. They are a party of government, the squeeze was very much on, they aren’t a protest vote. Put all that together and you have a huge fall in votes and that doesn’t even get into the fact that the Lib Dems are truly far more unpopular among floating voters than they were in 2010.

I fully expected the Lib Dems to be well beaten into fourth place. UKIP will say this gives them legitimacy and that they are now the third party in British politics. Well when they have the third number of MPs and third number of councillors across the country then come back to me. Until that point though they are still a protest party with very little to actually speak of. Heck even the Respect Party has an MP so UKIP have a long way to go.

We’ll see how they do in 2015 and lets put it this way…I suspect UKIP will still be way behind the Lib Dems in terms of MPs and it wouldn’t stun me if UKIP still had none. UKIP are basically Tories and they are taking the Tory vote and not the Lib Dem vote. If UKIP have a great national presence in 2015 then it would actually help Lib Dems in many Lib Dem/Conservative marginals in the south so this is not a bad result for the Lib Dems. If I’m being really forward thinking then it might even be an encouraging one…

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  1. art art

    Totally take your point that the so-caled uniform swing is irrelevant to the LDs. But, first, there are the LD-Labour marginals – where we can expect to lose about 10 seats (and certainly not pick up any). Then there are the places where the local Tory will be able to campaign against a Lib Dem who has been a government minister. I don’t think we’re in throat-slitting territory and I certainly don’t buy the argument that we’ll be down to 20 MPs, but losing 20 MPs seems a real possibility. And then we have the intriguing situation of actually getting a similar number of MPs to the proportion of our vote nationally. A sort of self-inflicted PR!

  2. art art

    Neil – just namechecking Nate Silver repeatedly doesn’t make you right.

    There are two forces at work: one is the rise of UKIP, stealing votes from the Tories. The other is the collapse in the Lib Dem vote. For Lib Dems to benefit from the UKIP-Tory phenomenon two things would have to happen – i) UKIP’s vote steal has to outweigh the existing Lib Dem collapse so that LDs end up with a net gain; ii) UKIP will be able to continue to steal votes from the Tories in the general election, even as the Tories’ increasingly extreme anti-Europe rhetoric means that UKIP and the Tories are basically saying the same thing about Europe.

    So, am I missing anything here, or is this what the numbers behind the numbers are telling us?

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Art what you are missing is there is a distinct difference between the Lib Dems nationally and in individual wards/constituencies. The Lib Dems are now not seen as a national protest vote and the LD vote (and therefore the national share of the vote) will go down drastically in 2015. However that doesn’t mean that this swing will be uniform. We have consistently seen in the 2011 and 2012 local elections that where the Lib Dems have traditionally done well their vote share hasn’t gone down as dramatically as where the Lib Dems never did too well anyway.

      The 2015 General Election should be the most micro-managed and micro-targeted election yet and if so then it should mean the Lib Dems don’t go down to 10-20 MPs which is what a uniform swing would probably do. Just because a national opinion poll puts the parties on x, y and z percentage it doesn’t mean it will be the same all over the country. We all know this but people seem to believe that the Lib Dems will fall to a uniform swing in 2015 but the council election results do not directly lead to that. For example all the Eastleigh seats in 2012 went Lib Dem, all the Sheffield Hallam seats went Lib Dem (this is despite everyone thinking the people of Sheffield Hallam hate Nick Clegg and will kick him out in 2015 – yet the Libs took over 50% of all votes in the 2012 council elections across that constituency), the Lib Dems made gains in places like Portsmouth again.

      It would be better for the Lib Dems to ignore certain places and go for a much more targeted approach. The Lib Dems will struggle to win any LD/Lab battles unless the local Labour candidate or MP is really disliked locally (i.e. expenses or something) so the Lib Dems will have to concentrate on LD/Con battles where they can say they are managing the extreme right-wing tendencies of the Tories and in these situations if UKIP (or the BNP) put up candidates then they would take more votes from the Tories than they would the Lib Dems. So a national UKIP campaign would help the Lib Dems more than it would harm then due to the Tory links in UKIP.

      I’m not saying that things are all sweetness and light but I am saying that if you dig deeper and deeper at the numbers then you’ll find reasons not to slit your throat if you are a Lib Dem.

  3. This result may or may not be encouraging for LibDems,for the reasons given, but it is certainly encouraging for EU-sceptic Liberals, who would no more vote for EU-fanatic LibDems these days than fly to the moon.

    I hope LibDems will find that it is their collective blinkered pro-EU, pro-Euro stance, ingrained in the SDP intake and now that they are in government continually more obvious to voters, that will sink them in the end, unless they change that stance.

  4. […] Is the UKIP trouncing of the Lib Dems in Corby actually a good result for the Lib Dems? by Neil Monnery on The Rambles of Neil Monnery. “UKIP are basically Tories and they are […]

  5. malc malc

    “The LD strategy for 2015 will clearly be much more focused than it was in 2010 and whilst that national vote will certainly drop – easily by 8-10% the share of MPs might not drop by that much”

    Losing 10% of the national vote would be a disaster. Unfortunately, if we go into an election with this leadership it could be much worse. The fallout from the student fee’s lie is still killing our party. Until Clegg leaves we won’t be able to draw a line under it.

  6. Chris Chris

    “Look I clearly said the raw numbers were bad – and I said it was fully expected but I am a sabermetrics guy in baseball and Nate Silver successfully translated that into politics recently. There are numbers behind the numbers. Raw numbers are not everything any more.”

    I think the lesson I’d draw from the US presidential election is that conning yourself into believing things will turn out better than the polls indicate can be very dangerous.

  7. Richiedaw Richiedaw

    Well Neil I agree with your analysis . Lib Dems should pray that UKIP keep up the progress they are making as that mainly damages the Tory vote in the seats we hold and deflects Tory attention money and resources ! It will force the Tories to the right and away from the centre ground.It also continues the destruction of the Two party system.The only downside for us is it will make Coalition Management more difficult as the Tories try to out UKIP UKIP.

  8. g g

    neilmonnery, perhaps it would be best if you criticised my post as it is, rather than make irrelevant and unsubstantiated accusations.

    The Lib Dems got fewer votes than UKIP, and UKIP are not a credible party. That should send a chill shiver through your party strategists. Pretending it’s not a problem will make disaster inevitable, not just likely.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      I do wonder if anyone noticed the question mark in the blog title or if they actually read the blog post…

      Look I clearly said the raw numbers were bad – and I said it was fully expected but I am a sabermetrics guy in baseball and Nate Silver successfully translated that into politics recently. There are numbers behind the numbers. Raw numbers are not everything any more. What I said is that the Lib Dems shouldn’t overly worry and in fact if this UKIP vote held up in a General Election in Lib Dem target seats (against the Tories) then it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.

      I think we all know the LD vote will drop significantly nationally – however in target seats it may well not as in council elections in these places the vote has been solid. The LD strategy for 2015 will clearly be much more focused than it was in 2010 and whilst that national vote will certainly drop – easily by 8-10% the share of MPs might not drop by that much if UKIP hold strong against Tories in what are considered Lib Dem/Tory seats where Labour are not going to make significant inroads or attack too vigorously knowing they’ll be targeting Lab/Con and Lab/LD contests.

      It actually makes sense but people only want to look at today and the raw numbers and don’t want to project as to how that vote came about and how it would stand up in areas where the LDs have at least a semblance of a chance of winning.

  9. Chris Chris

    Surely the fact that a bad result wasn’t unexpected doesn’t mean that it was a good result?

    As to whether the party will recover in 2015, it’s worth noting that its poll rating has been remarkably stable for about two years now. The longer it stays in exactly the same place, the less likely it seems to me that it’s miraculously going to double (or similar) before the next election.

    It may be that something needs to change for that to happen. If so, relentlessly looking on the bright side and putting a brave face on things may not be the best strategy.

  10. P Benson P Benson

    “Did you know that more Lib Dem manifesto promises have become been enabled than Tory ones?”

    Most of what you have achieved,in the public’s eye is nothing compared to handing over the Welfare State post war agreement and the NHS to the Tories.

    This is why,people are attacking the LibDems.I once thought you a decent humane party,but unless you stop the attack on the poor.Leave the coalition,You will continue to get hammered.

    A lot of people do not bother to vote in local elections,and you know it.

  11. malc malc

    When the actions of a government are so unpopular is it really going to help us by saying most of these actions were Lib/Dem ideas? A dreadful night for the party.

  12. g g

    Desperate stuff. How about this for an alternative analysis:

    The Nick Clegg led lib dems lost their support because they abandoned their manifesto promises to enter coalition with the Tories. This resulted in a general loss of trust in them from the voter, as well as ensuring the enmity of left wing previous supporters who vote to keep the tories out.

    What’s the strategy to establish trust and appeal beyond the core centre-right vote?

    Denial is not going to work.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Did you know that more Lib Dem manifesto promises have become been enabled than Tory ones?

      No. No you didn’t.

      Also pretty sure you didn’t read the blog but just read the title and then anonymously commented. Stay classy ‘g’

  13. Julia Julia

    Losing your deposit is a good result? I guess it confirms that the party I used to have such hopes for really has no idea which way it’s going.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      You have to look at numbers in a different way these days. Obviously on paper it is an horrific result but if the UKIP vote actually held up in a General Election then it wouldn’t be the Lib Dems who suffered – it would be the Tories. The Lib Dems and Tories are in more marginals than Lib Dem/Labour so if UKIP were to take 15-20% of the vote in the GE in these marginal seats then they would pick up more of those votes from the Tories than the Lib Dems.

      Haven’t we learnt anything in the past few year and certainly weeks *cough* Nate Silver *cough* that numbers are far deeper than what they seem.

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