One aspect of the debate in the Liberal Democrats about how much the party’s messaging should rest on Brexit is the question of south west England. It’s a region that in the past has elected many Lib Dem MPs and councils, yet also one with strong areas of support for Brexit.Across the region as a whole, the Remain vote at the 2016 referendum was the third highest for any English region, making the south west rather less Brexity than people sometimes assume.
The south west is, though, a big area. What about the specific seats the Lib Dems might hope to win again, especially down in Devon and Cornwall? The relevance of that question is why I asked Best for Britain if they could dig into this using their recent massive national polling exercise.
Here’s what they found:
Anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain has exclusively released detailed data modelling on Brexit and the Lib Dems. This modelling, combines a very large poll with detailed census information and data from the Office for National Statistics.
We examined five seats the Lib Dems could win from the Conservatives at the next election: North Cornwall; St Ives; Torbay; North Devon and St Austell & Newquay.
This poll indicates that opposing Brexit could win the Lib Dems a lot of votes. If there was a referendum today then 56% of Labour voters in these constituencies would vote Remain, as well as 34% of Conservative voters. At the last election in 2017 all of these seats were relatively close – so with substantial switching of Labour and Conservative Remain voters, these could swing.
For me, that Labour figure is crucial as squeezing the third party in a constituency is a key part of building the local coalition of core Lib Dem voters, those won over by the local campaigning and candidate and then also tactical voters. That there is also a significant chunk of Conservative Remain voters (and of course in a Conservative-Lib Dem contest winning over one of them counts double as it’s both one down the Conservatives and one up for the Lib Dems), shows that there is a route to victory which doesn’t require the party to lose its anti-Brexit message.