Wednesday, 10 August 2011
I've just asked Nick Clegg how many seats he wants to win at the next election. Here's his answer.
Today was a 'meet the leader' session for London members of the Lib Dems at the National Liberal Club. A packed room heard Nick take questions for over an hour and I'll be blogging plenty of them. But first - here's what I asked.
"Nick, when you were elected leader, you said you had a target of doubling the number of Lib Dem MP's by the election after next. Is that target still the same?'
Nick's answer was (with a chuckle...)
'Yes, let's stick with it'.
So that's as straight an answer as you're ever likely to get. To save everyone looking it up, this means we should be aiming to win 126 seats in 2015. Nick didn't reference the fact that electoral reform means The Commons should be reducing from 650 to 600 MP's at the next election, but as the question before hand was about exactly that subject he hadn't forgotten this. So...
Everyone got that? I know targets aren't everyone's cup of tea, but in this case, I like having something to aim at.
Nick then made a more important point (which I'll paraphrase).
At the last election, while we ended up in Government, we had a net loss of 8 seats. While there were specific reasons why we lost some existing seats (I'm guessing that was a dig at Lembit, who was in the audience - Lembit at a London event, weird isn't it?), the real question was "why didn't we win more 'new seats'?".
Polling in May 2010 indicated with a week to go that we'd win 12 seats off Labour in the North - tremendously important if we are to be seen as a national party, not a party with strengths in pockets of the country but no overall appeal. We ended up winning just 2 of them (Burnley and Redcar).
What went wrong?
It seems that very consistently, thousands of people who liked our manifesto, liked Nick in the debates, and thought we were the fairest party, all decided at the last minute that they couldn't quite bring themselves to do it. They questioned if we were a serious choice, their heart said Lib Dem but their head said something else. They couldn't imagine us governing.
They can now. We are now a serious party. A party of government. A party that gets things done.
And as we differentiate ourselves more and more from the Tories over the next 4 years, we will be in a better place to be seen as a serious and credible candidate for more peoples votes.
That's the plan, anyway.
2015. 126 seats.
Posted by Richard Morris at 15:03