Well what do we have here? The most pro EU area of the country has been a rather dramatic change in polling as the Lib Dems polled in the YouGov London sub-section yesterday at 23%, which I think we’d all agree is worthy of a second glance.
For a long time I have held the belief that London would be the most ripe part of the country for the #LibDemFightback to gain serious momentum. The Richmond Park result was huge as overturning a 23,015 majority in under 18 months isn’t exactly chopped liver. I will admit that this by-election had some very localised issues involved and Zac Goldsmith didn’t have the might of the Conservative party machine behind him but he was a relatively popular constituency MP and he went down.
If the party can overturn a 23,015 majority running on essentially a sole ‘Pro fighting Brexit’ ticket then why can’t they do that elsewhere in the capital? Plenty of seats are suddenly in play due to the fact the whole shape of politics is changing. The electorate aren’t stupid and they can see that the Labour party aren’t exactly sure where they stand on Brexit. They have two constituencies, the pro Brexit lobby in the midlands and north and the anti Brexit lobby in the capital and other big cities. They can’t be all things to all people so they will either damage one by going one way or both by standing in the middle with their fingers in their ears.
The party that will pick up those votes – certainly in the capital are the Lib Dems. The membership of the party is growing considerably and at a vast rate of knots in London. Plenty of seats therefore become winnable – far more than anyone could ever have predicted a year ago. As an example I’m looking at Vauxhall. A seat that has only ever had a Labour MP but their current MP is Kate Hoey, who is vehemently anti-EU but she represents an extremely pro EU constituency. A large part of Lambeth is in this Westminster constituency and that area voted 79% to Remain in the EU. When an MP is so out of step on Brexit with their constituents then all bets are off.
If you’d asked me a year ago how many seats do I think the Lib Dems would win in 2020, I’d have put the number at around 20. The stigma of tuition fees would have been diluted somewhat by time and seats such as Cambridge, Lewes and Eastleigh would swiftly return back to the yellow column. Add a few good local campaigns and that 20 mark seemed like a good guesstimate.
Now though with Brexit being the Lib Dems back into the picture as having a strong voice on a matter, add with the fact the Labour party do not have a strong leader nor a strong voice on Brexit and even though we are over three years out and plenty could change, suddenly 40-50 seats isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
Remember since the party was formed, the Lib Dems have done best in years where the winner of the General Election was generally well known going into polling day. When this happens people aren’t necessarily voting for who they want to be Prime Minister but are thinking much more locally about who they want to represent them.
Back to London though, this could be the start of the new politics that many people think could happen as we start to identify ourselves as Remainers and Leavers and not as Labour, Tory, UKIP, Lib Dem etc… if the party can build on the momentum we have both at local and at national level then a rebirth some the lows of 2015 could happen far earlier than any of us expected.
London isn’t the golden goose but it can certainly be a springboard. 23% of a small sub-section of one poll is statistically insignificant but it is a guide to what could happen. To see the Labour polling number collapsing in the capital and when you add in that for every 2015 voter Labour have lost to UKIP nationally, they’ve lost five to the Lib Dems, then the door might be opening for a big change not only against the Tories in south and south western seats but also against Labour in the big cities.
Everything is to play for…
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