...By Larry John for TDPel Media.
The Liberal Democrats are targeting Tory MPs in the Home Counties in the upcoming local elections, with party leader Sir Ed Davey hoping that the contests will provide a “springboard” for an assault on Conservative heartlands.
Sir Ed believes that disillusioned former Tories and left-leaning voters moving out of London are among the underlying trends that could pose a long-term threat to Conservative strongholds.
The Lib Dems won approximately 700 seats in the 2019 local elections and expect to gain more this time around, with key targets including Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton seat, as well as Eastbourne, Wokingham, Guildford, Stockport, Cheadle, and Hazel Grove.
Lib Dems Optimistic About Prospects of Success
Sir Ed is optimistic about the Lib Dems’ prospects of success, with the party expected to make significant gains in areas where the Tories are their opponents, known as the “Blue Wall”.
The party also hopes to make gains in traditional Tory areas, such as affluent Home Counties constituencies.
Sir Ed highlighted the “Surrey shufflers”, voters who have left London for the “halo” around the capital, as key to the party’s success.
Parallel with Southwest London
Sir Ed suggested that there is a parallel between the party’s strategy in the Home Counties and its approach in south-west London.
Seats such as Richmond Park, Twickenham, and Sir Ed’s own Kingston and Surbiton had previously been “solid Tory” but are now Lib Dem following inroads made initially in council elections.
Sir Ed believes that the party can replicate this success in the Home Counties.
Focus on Defeating Conservatives
Despite facing some battles with Labour in the upcoming elections, Sir Ed is focused on defeating the Conservatives and is playing down talks of an alliance with Sir Keir Starmer’s party.
He believes that voters “feel they need to be listened to” and do not want to hear about deals.
Sir Ed has also ruled out thinking about what happens after a general election, stating that such thinking has not served the party well in the past.
The Liberal Democrats’ strategy of targeting Tory MPs in the Home Counties could potentially be a game-changer in the upcoming local elections.
The party’s focus on disillusioned former Tories and left-leaning voters moving out of London appears to be a smart move, and their optimism about prospects of success is not unfounded.
However, while the party may be making gains in council elections, it remains to be seen whether they can replicate this success in parliamentary elections.
The Lib Dems’ previous coalition with the Conservatives led to a significant backlash and reduced the party to just eight MPs in 2015.
Nevertheless, Sir Ed’s emphasis on not thinking about what happens after a general election could be a sign that the party is focused on the short-term rather than the long-term.