This weekend, the Liberal Democrats announced that they are mounting a ‘blue wall’ offensive, a campaign aimed at affluent voters in Tory-held seats located in the south of England. The theme of this campaign will be the Tories’ handling of the NHS, which the Lib Dems have done local polling on and discovered might be a vote winner in these areas. ‘Might be’ is key here because if you look at nationwide polling, you have to wonder how many seats the Lib Dems are actually capable of winning, even if the Conservatives do fall apart before the next general election.
Rishi Sunak hasn’t turned the polls around for the Tories – at least, not yet. The Prime Minister’s party appears to be stuck somewhere in the mid-20s, with Labour polling in the high-40s, even cracking 50 per cent on occasion. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat numbers stubbornly refuse to budge from their miserly position. The party hasn’t polled above 13 per cent since early September and is regularly between 8 and 10 per cent in nationwide polls. It’s worth asking, given the sharp swing in the polls against the Tories over the last year or so, why the Lib Dems aren’t doing better.
Part of it is a result of their strategy. Since Ed Davey became leader, the Lib Dems appear to have consciously aimed to be seen as a sort of ‘none of the above’ party. This is a move away from their identity as the anti-Brexit bunch. To some extent this is understandable. While there is still a lot of anti-Brexit sentiment around, and the party would have been in a strong position to exploit this, these voters are spread thinly across the country. Under first past the post, this is no good. You need to figure out where you can find concentrated clumps of voters who might vote for you.