Considering the Lib Dems are polling at twice the total they achieved in 2017, failure to win this top target would be catastrophic. Richmond Park is a wealthy constituency on the edges of West London that voted by 71/29 for Remain in 2016. It has transferred between Conservatives and Lib Dems for decades, with Zac Goldsmith reclaiming it by just 45 votes in 2017 following a by-election defeat in the aftermath of the referendum. The former Mayoral candidate will resume hostilities with Sarah Olney.
More than the big-two parties, Lib Dem success often hinges on the popularity of the local candidate. Andrew George has run in every General Election here since 1992, winning four times between 1997 and 2010. The personal vote built during that period has enabled them to stay competitive and outperform national trends during the dark years after the coalition. Despite this being a 55-45 Leave seat, George starts only 312 votes behind.
Martin Horwood held this for the Lib Dems until 2010 and, having lost it badly in 2015, stormed right back to within 3,000 votes in 2017. Horwood isn’t standing this time around, whereas the Tory Alex Chalk may have built his own personal following during two terms. Nevertheless, this is a very good opportunity for the same reasons behind the 2017 swing – Cheltenham voted 57-43 to Remain in 2016 and the party is always very strong at council level.
Lib Dems are established across the South-West as the non-Tory alternative, given Labour’s weakness in the region. This constituency was reliably yellow until the post-coalition meltdown in 2015, with Nick Harvey winning every election from 1992 to 2010. Less Europhile than his colleagues, Harvey isn’t standing this time in a seat that voted for Brexit by 57/43. Consequently, there are much likelier targets further down the list.
Cheadle represents a golden opportunity to regain a seat lost in the 2015 wipeout. This relatively wealthy suburb of Manchester voted 57/43 to Remain and that sparked a 2% Con-LD swing in 2017, in stark contrast to national trends. Critically here there is no argument about which party is best placed to beat the Tories. Expect the 19% Labour vote share to be squeezed, as was the norm prior to the coalition.