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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

General Election 2005: The second contest

One of the things that I think will be quite interesting about this election is that there are really two separate competitions going on. One, the main one, is between Labour and the Tories. This is the same competition that has gone on for most (though not quite all) of the last century. The second on is far older, and is between the Tories and the modern-day descendants of the Whigs - the Lib Dems. I suppose technically there is a third competition between the Lib Dems and Labour, but it is really small fry compared to the other two.

An illustration, according to the BBC Swingometer within a 3% swing of the vote either way of the 2001 result there are 33 Con-Lab seats, 21 Con-LD, while only 4 Lab-LD.

This is because the Tories and LibDems find themselves scrapping together in rural areas where Labour is a distant third - most notably in the South West. This pits them against each other. In contrast, the Lib Dems and Labour don't really have many places where they are indisputably the top two parties. Most English seats are two-way races, and most of those races are Con-Lab affairs.

However, because it is my local situation the Con-LD competition interests me more than the Con-Lab one. It will be intersting if only because they are likely to be truly local campaigns, while the national parties of both fire off their broadsides more at Labour. This BBC article gives a reasonable overview of Somerset.

Why is this contest important: because it will determine if the current Lib Dem numbers are sustainable, or merely the result of anti-Tory feeling occasioned by the long spell in government that existed in the 1997 and 2001 elections. This is one of the most important questions for the long and medium term political landscape, and in some respects is far more important than who wins this election.

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