Liberal Democrat conference: Swinson could be sole survivor of endangered species


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Indy Politics

Unlike Conservative or Labour MPs, Lib Dem MPs are all white and always have been (with the notable exception of Parmjit Singh Gill, MP for Leicester South for less than a year in 2004-05). Next year, they could also be all male.

The evidence comes from a detailed poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, which has been the talk of the Glasgow conference. The pollsters went into six of the seven seats currently held by female Lib Dem MPs, and predicted that they would lose three to the Conservatives, and three to Labour.

The blogger Mark Pack suggests that superior organisation on the ground may save Lynne Featherstone, in Hornsey and Wood Green, but the poll predicts a comfortable win for Labour. That leaves Jo Swinson, in East Dunbartonshire, as the female Lib Dem with the best chance of holding on, but even her majority was whittled down by Labour last time to only 2,184.

The party organisation has tried assiduously to get women candidates selected in Lib Dem constituencies, such as Berwick, where incumbent male MPs are retiring, but these seats could also be vulnerable when the Lib Dems lose the advantage of incumbency.

But on the plus side, if Swinson survives, she will be a serious contender to be the next Lib Dem leader. Imagine the rumble that would come from John Knox’s grave if yet another Scottish woman took over as a party leader.

Lembit who?

The Lib Dems are also hoping that Jane Dodds, who featured prominently at the conference, might retake Montgomeryshire, which they narrowly lost to the Tories in 2010. The local party’s website notes that “Montgomeryshire elected its first Liberal MP in 1880 and since then we have been represented by many great Liberals such as Clement Davies, Emlyn Hooson, and Alex Carlile. In May 2015, we hope that Jane Dodds will be added to that list...”

But hang on, they seem to have forgotten that for 13 years, the seat was held by that well known Lib Dem, Lembit Opik. Has poor old Lembit become such an embarrassment that they are pretending he was never there?

I’d like a party with an atmosphere

For an insight into the atmosphere at the Glasgow conference, there was this tweet from Norman Smith, the BBC’s assistant political editor: “Oh dear. Just been told I can’t watch Lib Dem conference from balcony seats. Pity, cos I was only person there. #empty.”

Politics: the new extreme sport

During Saturday evening’s rally, Nick Clegg vowed that his party would take a stand against the “extremes” of right and left in politics. The next day, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he castigated the Tories for being “economically extreme”. And yesterday, an email from the party press office declared: “Liberal Democrats lead the fight against extreme weather.” They really don’t like extremes, these Lib Dems.