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On the Lib Dem chances in Chelmsford…

Back in the day (well 2017) I actually got paid to write columns about constituency betting. Due to contractual reasons I can’t do that anymore but I can of course muse some thoughts on this old here blog and I will do so as/when I feel like it over the next few weeks. I’ll start off with a bet I placed when the market opened up – Chelmsford.

To the untrained eye (or person putting together the odds) the Lib Dems wouldn’t be in play in the Essex town. Despite getting within 5,000 or so votes at the height of Cleggmania, the party fell back to Earth and finished 4th in 2015 to go along with a 3rd place finish two years ago. Both times the party polled 12% when you take basic rounding into account.

With the Tories clearing 50% in both past General Elections then it was a no doubt Conservative banker if you looked at very recent Parliamentary elections. The thing is doing such a thing is stupid and anyone who looks at 2015 or 2017 numbers as a basis of predicting 2019 results really doesn’t understand the state of politics at the moment.

Just this past local election cycle, Chelmsford City Council held all up elections and the Lib Dems went from five councillors to 31 and majority control. Not only that but where they won was in the built up area of Chelmsford itself, which coincidentally is where the House of Commons constituency boundaries are.

At the 2016 EU Referendum, Leave won 53:47 but that takes into account the council boundaries and not the parliamentary ones. There are no numbers that are published to say what votes went where but you can read between the lines looking at the council results that if the Lib Dems did extremely well in the built-up areas, then it is likely that the House of Commons constituency area voted to Remain – and possibly at a decent lick.

These are the types of areas the Lib Dems are evidently targeting in this General Election. Had the Brexit Party stood then you could easily argue that the Lib Dems should be the favourites in this seat but now a lot comes down to the Labour squeeze. Labour do not have a single councillor in Chelmsford and received near as makes no difference, one sixth of the votes that the Lib Dems did at the locals. Labour came fifth at the Euros only just beating out ChangeUK and UKIP. They are not a factor in winning this parliamentary seat.

So it comes down to whether those 15% of Labour voters who are probably ready to cast their ballot for Jeremy Corbyn’s party follow through with voting for who they deep down want or take the pragmatic approach. I’ve seen some serious data from polling services showing that if Labour supporters are convinced they are out of it then they will lend their vote to the Lib Dems.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this seat not just because I’ve got a fiver on it at 66/1 (which was the insane opening price) but also because it is exactly the type of seat that the Lib Dems need to win if they are going to have a good night. Remain, soft Conservative and with a strong ground game. Since taking control of the council, the party seem to have been relatively popular. This isn’t the be all and end all for a national vote but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The current price is around 9/2 (it got as short as 15/8 at one point) but the stagnant Lib Dem polling and the pulling out by Nigel Farage has shored up the Conservative price. If the Lib Dems stay at around 15-16% in the polls then I’d say that price is about right but would still be tempting. Where the Lib Dems are attacking, they are doing ok even if a lot of floating voters in non-target seats are starting to look elsewhere.

Unite to Remain are backing the Lib Dems and the Green Party have stood down. The Tory incumbent was only elected two years ago so won’t have the depths of personal vote that others will no doubt have. If the Lib Dems can actually get some momentum and creep up to the 20% mark in national polling then this is a seat that should go yellow, marking it down as the new Lib Dem beacon in Essex following Colchester’s demise as a Lid Dem seat.

A fortnight ago I was super confident that the 66/1 bet was coming in. Now I’m decidedly less so. If there were only two parties on the ballot then the Lib Dems eke it out but Labour will make it interesting. Labour votes in Con/LD seats will decide this election and that should be the focus of a whole lot of polling data analysis over the coming three weeks but they’ll be twists and turns yet…

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