A Poll for Liberal Democrat Activists to Cheer...
No, Im afraid I don't bring news of a post conference poll that shows us ahead of the Labour party, all in good time...
I am referring to the publication of a fascinating marginals poll, unique in that it has a sample size of 34,000.
The headline news from the poll is that the Conservatives are on course for 146 seat majority and that Labour's support in the marginals has totally collapsed.
On surface value, the forecast that the Lib Dems are on course to lose 19 seats does not make for pleasant reading and would seem to be at odds with my title. However, the real story of this poll from a Liberal Democrat perspective is that a combination of the 'incumbency factor' and tactical voting will ensure that many of our MP's are in a strong position to defy the national Conservative tide.
The poll clearly shows that the party benefits hugely from our ability to convince Labour leaning voters to switch to the Lib Dems in constituencies where we are either the incumbents or the main challengers to the Conservatives. The third party squeeze is a message that we have perfected over the years; it is not something that can be delivered from on high, but can only be mastered by constantly reminding the local electorate that regardless of the national situation, the battle in their constituency is a 'two horse race'. As Lib Dems across the nation know, this message is constantly driven home in the form of focus leaflets and targeted mailing. Without this local campaigning edge, our squeeze message would never work. It is a testament to Liberal Democrats across the country that we are so effective at this practice.
As this poll makes clear, the Liberal Democrats are far ahead of either Labour or the Conservative party at applying this squeeze message and it has been particularly successful in the South West, where we have been relentlessly targeting the Labour vote since the mid 1990's.
The poll also shows that there is room for improvement, in honing our squeeze message in many of the new Lab/LD marginals. Our national advance in 2005 created marginals between us and the government that would have previously been considered safe Labour seats.
The task now is for campaigners in places such as Liverpool Wavertree, Hampstead and Kilburn and the City of Durham to convince the local electorate that the Liberal Democrats are the only viable challengers to Labour in these seats. If the local activists in these areas can fashion local campaigns similar to those in the South West (albeit with different opponents) then I am convinced that we can secure sizeable local swings and win a string of seats from this discredited, tired and directionless Labour government.
Bring on the election and bring out the bar charts, 'only the Lib Dems can win here!'