A question to all my Liberal Democrat readers – do you want the good news first, or the bad news?
Bad news you say? The Lib Dems hold just one constituency seat from the most recent Welsh plebiscite.
And the good news? There are 39 seats just waiting to be won! And where are these fields of delight located? Hold onto your hats…
At the National Assembly the Lib Dems already hold: Brecon & Radnorshire. Surely that means that the top 10 will be crammed full of fantastic opportunities for the Lib Dems to make advances?
Sadly for the Lib Dems, the computer says no.
Because a toss-up for 10th place in this listing is between Gower and Preseli Pembrokeshire. And in the best-placed of those constituencies (Preseli Pembrokeshire), they’re nearly 35% behind the first-placed party. Let’s press ahead regardless with our top 10, seats of best potential first:
- Cardiff Central
- Swansea West
- Newport East
- Clwyd South
- Preseli Pembrokeshire
Once again, we can ground-truth this assessment using the UK election results. And once again, it’s spot on – the Lib Dems already hold Cardiff Central and Ceredigion at Westminster, and Lebmit Opik used to hold Montgomeryshire for them until some cheeky fun put paid to that former Lib Dem stronghold.
But as for target seats – all the indications are that the 2015 election is going to be ‘challenging’ for the Lib Dems. No matter how many two horse races there are, in all probability the party’s going to be left looking at two Welsh MPs next time round. So this list of top 10 is a fantasy for Freedom Central. If they manage to hold onto all their current stock of MPs they’ll have pulled off a stunning electoral surprise.
I’ve already commented that Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central has a heck of a fight on her hands to retain the seat. How do things look for Mark Williams in Ceredigion? Well, he’s defending an 8,300 majority, or 22%. That would seem to put him firmly in control of the seat for 2015, unless he plays his cards stupendously badly over the next 23 months, or unless the Liberal Democrat party actually implodes. I think he’ll hang on, albeit with a substantially reduced majority.
Now I know that this series of posts is supposed to be about ambition and striving for the stars. But the Lib Dems are in a bit of a state in Wales. There are only 11 constituencies where they garnered more than 10% of the vote last time round. And to rub salt into their wounds, they scooped up less than 5% of the vote in 17 constituencies. Lost deposits in Wales alone cost them £8,500 in 2011.
Just for the record, the Lib Dems have no chance of regaining Montgomeryshire. Glyn Davies is a shrewd media operator and outspoken. So in those senses a bit like Lembit, except shrewd (I’m sure Glyn’ll be delighted with the accolade!). Glyn will extend his majority of a shade over 1,000 quite considerably. And if they stand no chance in Montgomeryshire, there’s no hope in any of the remaining top 10. In seat number 4 (Swansea West), for example, they’re 29% behind the incumbent.
Finally, I’ve mentioned the effect of UKIP on the Conservative vote already. But BlogMenai has surmised what it might mean for the Lib Dems in the next Assembly elections. His conclusion? “The Assembly would be a very lonely place for Kirsty Williams”.