This piece was first published on 19th November 2019
Although relatively high on the Lib Dem target list, this is another Cornwall seat that will be very hard to pick up. The constituency voted 60% in favour of Leave in 2016 and the Tory majority is more than the entire Labour vote. Moreover, they will have to do without former MP Dan Rogerson, who surely built up a personal vote when serving as MP from 2005 to 2015.
If the Lib Dems don’t take Winchester, it will be a bad night. This was a seat they held comfortably during the New Labour years and only lost narrowly despite a humiliating scandal engulfing their MP, Mark Oaten. Although the Tories have won it twice comfortably since, they suffered a 6.5% swing against them in 2017 in the wake of the referendum. This wealthy, highly educated constituency is one of the strongest pro-Remain areas (60%) outside of London.
Brecon and Radnorshire
This Welsh seat voted 52-48 for Leave in 2016 and should be a good indicator of wider trends and battles concerning the Lib Dems and Tories. The challengers took it in a by-election at the height of Theresa May’s troubles, compounded by local Tory MP Chris Davies being embroiled in an expenses scandal. Given the Brexit Party took 10% on that occasion, 39% was a decent return for the Tories and they must therefore start favourite.
Thornbury and Yate
Another 52-48 Leave constituency and therefore something of a bellweather. The Lib Dems held this until 2015 but their success may have owed more to the popularity of a hardworking local MP than party. Steve Webb served as a minister during the coalition and performed respectably with 37% in 2015, amidst a terrible national performance. With a different candidate in 2017, they suffered a negative 10% swing against the Tories.
Sutton and Cheam
Another stronghold back in the Lib Dem heyday, before the coalition years destroyed their brand. Numerically, regaining Sutton and Cheam against an incumbent Tory MP who significantly increased his majority to nearly 13,000 second time around, looks a very tough ask. There are fewer than 11,000 Labour voters to squeeze and this is a 51% Leave seat. On the plus side, the Lib Dems have always been strong in West London.