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Lib Dems shift focus to target Labour seats... again

Clegg-looking-back The Times reports today that "the Liberal Democrats are to focus their general election campaign on Labour seats in an historic shift that could help David Cameron."

Their leader, Nick Clegg has written this piece in the paper in which he makes the somewhat implausible claim that the "real choice" at the next election will be "between yellow and blue".

It all coincides with the publication by Demos of a 92-page volume by Clegg called The Liberal Moment (which you can download here here should you be interested),

But I got a sense of déjà vu when reading about this targeting of Labour seats: indeed, back in July 2008 (when I was still at the Telegraph) I wrote this blog post about how Clegg had instructed the party to "step up our campaigns in the 50 seats where we’re best placed to beat Labour".

I suspect that they will win some of the Labour seats on their target list (and I listed the top 50 in that blog post last summer), but I'm not convinced that there will be that many: their position on Iraq marked them out from the other two parties at the last election, leading them to the high water mark they reached - but Iraq will not be an issue next year and it is hard to see which message they could put out which would resonate with voters in the same way.

Furthermore, the forthcoming general election is far more likely than the last two to end up with the third party being squeezed as the country faces a fundamental choice between Labour and the Conservatives as to who should form the Government.

So whatever, Clegg has written, I don't think Tory candidates in Lib Dem seats should be thinking their task has somehow got easier overnight as I sense that the Lib Dems' first priority is still going to have to be to defend the seats they already have - most of which feature the Conservatives as their principle principal challengers, as the Times's Sam Coates points out in this commentary this morning.

But that said, as I have blogged before here, there is every reason to believe that with a lot of hard work, those Lib Dem held seats are attainable:

"One of the key arguments which I expect Tory candidates to be deploying in those Lib Dem-held seats will be that if you want to turf out this Labour Government, the only alternative administration on offer is a Conservative one. In other words, voting for the sitting Lib Dem MP rather than the Conservative candidate will only serve to lessen the chances of a new Government being formed by David Cameron. (And remember, many of those who have been voting Lib Dem in those seats for the last decade are former Tory voters who deserted the party in 1997, but who would surely find the prospect of Prime Minister Cameron an attractive one)"

> Peter Franklin recently considered in this CentreRight post the Labour/Lib Dem battle on the Centre-Left.

Jonathan Isaby


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