Tim Farron’s party has a history of campaign surges, but on 8th June it could lose more seats than it gains. Here’s whyby Peter Kellner / May 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
Read More: Tim Farron—now is the time to fight for open, liberal thinking
Unless their fortunes change over the next week or so, the Liberal Democrats face a disappointing, and possibly terrible, election night. When Theresa May called the general election, Tim Farron’s party was averaging 11 per cent in the polls, three points up on the 8 per cent it secured two years ago. There was talk of their building on that, and recovering some of the seats they lost last time. After all, campaign surges by the Lib Dems (and, before them, the Liberals) have happened a number of times: in February 1974, 1983, 1997 and 2001 they gained at least five points during the election campaigns. A month ago, it seemed reasonable for the party to hope for around 15 per cent on election day and 20, perhaps even 30, MPs in the new parliament (compared with eight in 2015).
That looks like a pipedream now. Far from adding to its support, the party has slipped back to just 8 per cent. Past surges have been well under way by this stage of the campaign; there is no sign of one this time. The party currently looks set to make just a few gains, and could even lose more seats than it gains. What has gone wrong?
Here are five reasons why the Lib Dems have failed to cut through.
They misjudged their ability to win over anti-Brexit voters. True, 48 per cent voted “Remain,” but few of them say that their attitude to the EU is the biggest reason for casting their ballot. ICM’s latest poll for the Sun on Sunday finds that just 17 per cent of voters say Brexit is the most important issue determining their vote. Worse still, most of that 17 per cent wants the UK out of the EU. The proportion of voters who (a) voted Remain, and (b) say that this is their top vote-determining issue is just 7 per cent. The Lib Dems have both misjudged the impact of their demand for a second referendum, and failed to raise the saliency of the issue. They are fishing for votes in a smaller poll than they thought, and have been unable to enlarge it.
The rules for broadcasters used…