6 May 2011

A massive political misjudgement by the Lib Dems

A bit more on that north-south divide we’ve been seeing all day in the results.

We’ve asked Lewis Baston, the psephologist, to cast his eye over councils north and south to see the differential performance. It’s a first stab and there will be authorititative figures over time, but here’s what he came up with.

We aggregated some northern English urban councils (Manchester, Leeds, Stockport, Sheffield and Liverpool) and some councils in the south east (Medway, Harlow, Basildon, Reading, Dartford) and these are the different movements in share of the vote you get:

Northern cities
Con: -1%
Lab:  +17%
Lib Dem: -13%

South-east councils
Con: +2%
Lab: +7%
Lib Dem: -5%

All sorts of caveats come with this. But you get a flavour of differential performance. When Nick Clegg came out of his front door this morning and blamed his party’s misfortunes on lingering hatred for Thatcherite policies in the north of England and Scotland, he wasn’t necessarily that far off the mark.

It’s a big component in all this – I’m just hearing of a 22 per cent swing from the Lib Dems to Labour in Newcastle. But talk to Lib Dem Cabinet ministers and they talk about the massive political misjudgment of policy over the student tuition fees.

Looking at the referendum turnout, it does seem that the AV referendum increased Tory turnout. Choosing the 5 May date is something that Nick Clegg had to fight for in government – he thought the Scots and Welsh coming out in greater strength to elect their parliament and assembly would push things his way because they were used to different voting systems.

I get the impression most Lib Dem senior figures dipped their hands in the blood of that decision so there’s not much room for recriminations… but that might stop everyone from indulging in some.

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