The trials and tribulations of a Lib Dem incumbent

24 October, 2007

There is a perception that once a Lib Dem has got into a seat they are hard to shift. Unfortunately this perception is not entirely undeserved but I want to take a closer look at what common features of Lib Dem incumbency happen across seats when they make a gain from an opponant.

The theory behind it is that the MP who the lib dem defeated would have had a personal vote which is now lost and the new lib dem incumbent has time to build up a personal vote. Therefore in the second election of the sample (2001) in which the Lib Dem MP stands for they generally increase their share of the vote.

These seats have not been selected at random. They are all ones that the Lib Dems took from the Conservatives in 1997. Labour wasn’t exactly loosing seats at the time if you recall so it is solely Con-Lib Dem seats. The Lib Dem incumbent has remained continous throughout. In a few seats we have seen the Lib Dem MP change and I have excluded these seats  you can’t judge the effects of incumbency with a changing incumbent. I have also excluded Winchester because of the by election in 1997.

The national picture for the Lib Dems from 1997-2005 has been one of progress with an increased national share of the vote in both 2001 and 2005. Below are the seats with the size of the Lib Dem vote in 1997 and the percentage share.

Constituency

1997 GE

% of vote

Lewes

21250

43.2

Carshalton and Wallington

18490

38.2

Sutton and Cheam

19919

42.3

Twickenham

26237

45.1

Kingston and Surburiton

20411

36.7

St Ives

23966

44.5

Portsmouth South

20421

39.5

Oxford West and Abingdon

26268

42.9

Somerton and Frome

22684

39.5

Colchester

17886

34.4

Torbay

21094

39.6

Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine

17742

41.1

Hazel Grove

26883

54.5

Northavon

26500

42.4

Harrogate and Knaresborough

24558

51.5

Hereford

25198

47.9

Isle of Wight

31274

42.7

Taunton

26064

42.7

Guildford

20358

42.6

Weston Super Mare

21407

40.1

Newbury

29887

52.9

Below are the same seats in 2001 as you can see from the swing column the average gain is just over 4% with 71% of the Lib Dem seats seeing their share of the vote increase.

Constituency

2001 GE

% of Vote

Swing %

Lewes

25588

56.3

13.1

Carshalton and Wallington

18289

45

6.8

Sutton and Cheam

19382

48.8

6.5

Twickenham

24344

48.8

3.7

Kingston and Surburiton

29542

60.2

23.5

St Ives

25413

51.6

7.1

Portsmouth South

17490

44.6

5.1

Oxford West and Abingdon

24670

47.8

4.9

Somerton and Frome

22983

43.6

4.1

Colchester

18627

42.6

8.2

Torbay

24015

50.5

10.9

Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine

16507

43.5

2.4

Hazel Grove

20020

52

-2.5

Northavon

29217

52.4

10

Harrogate and Knaresborough

23445

55.6

4.1

Hereford

18244

40.9

-7

Isle of Wight

22397

35.3

-7.4

Taunton

22798

41.3

-1.4

Guildford

22248

43.1

0.05

Weston Super Mare

18424

39.5

-0.6

Newbury

24507

48.2

-4.7

Average

4.14

Now here comes the important bit and remember this is at a time when the national picture for the Lib Dems is positive with an increased national share of the vote. What we see is that 61% of Lib Dem incumbents see their share of the vote fall. As time passes the law of diminishing returns effects the benefits of incumbency and after they have won two elections they think they can afford to get a bit complacent. Now the effect is not universal and is not massive but it is worth bearing in mind for close election contests against a Lib Dem opponent.

What we don’t know is whether the same  pattern will be followd in the seats that the Lib Dems took off Labour in 2005 but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a Labour PPC is less of a challenge to a Lib Dem who has the benefits of incumbency rather than the reverse. Therefore it is important for the party to concentrate resources  in the seats they gained from us last time where in many cases we have a decent chance of retaking them.

Constituency

2005

 Share of vote %

Swing %

Lewes

24376

52.4

-3.9

Carshalton and Wallington

17357

40.3

-4.7

Sutton and Cheam

19768

47.1

-1.7

Twickenham

26696

51.6

2.8

Kingston and Surburiton

25397

51

-9.2

St Ives

25577

50.7

0.9

Portsmouth South

17047

42.2

-2.4

Oxford West and Abingdon

24336

46.3

-1.5

Somerton and Frome

23759

44.1

0.5

Colchester

21145

47.1

4.5

Torbay

19317

40.8

-9.7

Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine

19285

46.3

2.8

Hazel Grove

19355

49.5

-2.5

Northavon

30872

52.3

-0.1

Harrogate and Knaresborough

24113

56.3

0.7

Hereford

20285

43.3

2.4

Weston Super Mare

17725

36.1

-3.4

Newbury

23311

42.6

-5.6

Average

-1.672222222

Advertisements

2 Responses to “The trials and tribulations of a Lib Dem incumbent”

  1. marc said

    Hi, just wondering where did the data come from.

    Thanks

  2. parburypolitica said

    Hi Marc, the election figures come off the guardian website. This also contains a list of lib dem MP’s which account for most of the seats above. The rest come from http://www.election.demon.co.uk/ although it does have down Gordon as a lib dem gain in 1997 but I excluded it as it was a previous seat witht the same MP and some major boundary changes

    W

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: