Throughout this parliament, we’ve heard a lot about Labour’s 35% strategy. This mostly involves picking off ex-Lib Dems and getting them to vote Labour. I can see why this was appealing to them. Only problem is, the psephology of it doesn’t quite work out.
The Lib Dems have 56 seats at present (they had 57 after the 2010 general election. It is minus one as a result of the whip being withdrawn from Mike Hancock). 11 of these seats are in Scotland. Now once upon a time, Labour stood to gain several of these. No longer. Any Lib Dem losses in Scotland on May 7th look almost certain to go to the SNP.
The Lib Dems currently hold 3 seats in Wales. One is Tory facing, the other has Plaid in second place, and one is Labour facing. So two nations down, Labour are one seat up if the Lib Dems completely collapse.
The rest, comprising 42 seats, are in England. Of these, 10 are Labour facing, the rest have the Tories in second, usually with Labour having no hope whatsoever. So if the Lib Dems were to collapse, the Tories would be the net beneficiaries, whatever anyone tells you. In fact, a Lib Dem collapse is the only possible way I could see the Tories getting a majority in May. The 35% strategy, on the other hand appears to offer Labour a grand total of 11 seats if all goes perfectly to plan.
Imagine that: Labour having spent all parliament ranting against the Lib Dems, only for it to result at the end of it in a Tory majority. This is an apocalyptic scenario, I’ll admit, but not a totally impossible one.
So let’s say the Labour Party wakes up to the very real possibility of this reality materialising – what can they do about it? Not much at this stage. Other than to stop talking about beheading Clegg in Sheffield Hallam and realise they face the fight of their lives on two fronts, neither of them involving the Liberal Democrats: in England versus the Tories, where how Labour do in Lab-Tory marginals will decide who is prime minister; in Scotland versus the SNP, where the very future of their party is at stake. Now, I don’t particularly care what the Labour Party does to try and save its own skin. But they probably should.