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On the possibility Jo Swinson loses her East Dunbartonshire seat next week…

When the General Election campaign kicked off there was some general enthusiasm for the notion that Boris Johnson could actually lose his seat in parliament to the Labour Party. Heck some even thought Jeremy Corbyn’s seat was in some jeopardy to the Lib Dems as the Remain wave swept over London. Some even thought Ian Blackford could lose his seat as the Lib Dems. None of these things are likely to pass but one other party leader that no-one is really talking about is actually in real danger of losing their seat and that is the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.

The more I look at the seat from a betting angle the more the SNP at 9/4 is a real play. The Nationalists will be looking to bounceback from a surprisingly disappointing 2017 performance by pointing out that Brexit is a fucking disaster and the quicker they are removed from the shackles of Westminster, the better for the country of Scotland. Considering what is going on down in the House of Commons then you can see it as a winning strategy.

Jo Swinson has of course lost this seat before to the SNP in 2015, when the independence referendum was still firmly on everyone’s minds and the Lib Dems were in a deeply unpopular coalition government. Even in this scenario, she only lost by just over 2,000 votes and came back to win by 5,339 two years ago, so why could she potentially be in trouble this time?

Well there are 7,500 odd Labour voters out there who can be squeezed. They’ll squeeze towards the SNP because Labour voters hate the Lib Dems more than ice hates fire but also because the SNP have clearly stated they would support Labour in the House of Commons should deals need to be done.

Add to that independence is back on the agenda so those whose primary goal is to get away from the rest of the UK as fast as possible will see that it is tantalisingly close. This should harden up the SNP vote.

Around 7,500 voters last time voted for the Tories and they will probably improve on that number with lots of the older generation who may well like and respect Jo Swinson departing the Lib Dems to vote for the party most likely to deliver Brexit. These numbers won’t be massive but they’ll have some impact.

The Scottish Greens have chosen to put up a candidate with the hopes of stealing 1,000 odd votes that would without them skew more Lib Dem than elsewhere.

East Dunbartonshire voted 71% to Remain in the European Union, which in England would probably mean Jo Swinson would be incredibly safe. In Scotland with another party who could very well be more likely to help keep Scotland in the EU being in play however, that is not the case here.

I don’t think anyone can say with their hand on heart that this election campaign has been a raging success for the Lib Dems. Maybe not even a success. Maybe not even good. Maybe not even adequate. Oh wait is that a clusterfuck I see on the horizon or is the 2019 Lib Dem General Election campaign I see on the horizon? To be honest it is hard to tell them apart.

With eight days to go before people go to the polls, the expectations for the Lib Dems are rapidly diminishing by the day. What better symbol for the disaster that is impending but for the woman who stated very confidently that she could be the next Prime Minister to herself lose her seat?

At the start of the campaign the Lib Dems had a tonne of momentum and good will. That soured early when Swinson stated she could be the next PM and people scoffed at the very notion. It wasn’t as big of a punch to the gut as Tim Farron’s pondering about what God would think about gay people having sex but it set the wheels in motion for what history will no doubt regard as a pretty bad campaign. I am all for being ambitious but that was a ludicrous notion and had the party set a realistic target that they could help Stop Boris winning an outright majority and therefore do whatever he liked, it would’ve played a whole lot better.

A month ago I thought Jo Swinson would hold on to her seat without too much of a fuss. Now I see it as a toss-up. Dominic Raab must be hoping that the Lib Dem leader goes down because that might well be the scalp of the night and he might be able to escape the Portillo ridicule moment.

Who would’ve thought a week or so out from Election Day that the Lib Dems would be in serious trouble to lose their leader? Well here we are and from the outside with absolutely no constituency polling data this is a very real possibility.

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2 Comments

  1. Ross McLean Ross McLean

    Neil, you are making quite a lot of assumptions about Scottish politics which make me wonder how steeped you actually are in the political scene up here.
    For one thing, the Scottish Tories had a really good result in 2017 but have been going down in the polls since Boris Johnson arrived and Ruth Davidson left, so I think the assumption their vote will go up in seats like this is hard to back up.
    Another point is that, in Scotland, the Green party’s most prominent policy is to be pro-independence, so I don’t think they’ll be taking too many votes from the LibDems who are avowedly unionist.
    Third, its a big mistake to think Scottish Labour hate the LibDems more than they hate the SNP. Corbyn may have committed himself to indyref but that went down like a lead balloon with the Scottish Labour party, who have spent the last 20 years in an intense hatred of the SNP. In any case we are talking here about voters, not activists, and with Scottish Labour at rock bottom I think the voter trend is more likely from Lab to LD – both for Brexit reasons and also because they probably think Jo is preferable to the SNP. I suspect the talk of the seat being close is moving both Tory and Labour votes Jo’s way.
    I’m not saying the seat isn’t close, and you are certainly right that the LD campaign has been poor, but I know for a fact the LDs are pouring resources into the seat and their ground game is good. I know someone there who has been counting the leaflets and says they’ve had 13 LD leaflets since September, 4 SNP and 1 Labour. That’s all. They’ve been phoned twice by LDs too, no-one else.
    So, we’ll see. But I’m afraid a lot of your assumptions are things that would work fine in England but not here.

  2. John.M John.M

    I get the feeling that part of the scoffing is the rather misogynistic establishment (including some female journalists) on how dare a 39 year old woman, especially who looks younger than her years, presume she could be PM!

    The problem is revoke – like Tim’s religion conundrum last time, it doesn’t fit the party’s character! It could have been played differently but the party lacks the edge spinning the media.

    A Citizens’ Assembly to decide upon Brexit’s progress, in a spirit of truth and reconciliation, with expert witnesses and impact statements and, if they decide, a second referendum by sensitive democracy (preference voting and pros & cons prospectus for the chosen questions) now that would be a better fit!

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