There has been plenty of speculation that this election will not only benefit the Conservatives, but also the Liberal Democrats. Painful memories of the 2015 election are still fresh in the minds of most Lib Dems, from Nick Clegg’s tearful resignation, to Paddy Ashdown’s denial on live television that the exit polls could possibly be correct. The party will appreciate the opportunity to get back on the horse, and with signs of recovery in the polls over the last year, they can expect to do better than last time.
The challenge for the Lib Dems will be not to get carried away. The strategy should be to focus on 20-25 important and winnable seats, rather than trying to win everywhere and spreading resources too thin. Furthermore, they will need to spend a significant amount of time making sure that their existing nine MPs stay in. There is no such thing as a Lib Dem safe seat anymore, and quite a few yellow constituencies are at risk of turning blue. John Pugh is standing down in Southport, so the Lib Dems will lose the incumbency bias there; Norman Lamb and Tom Brake are in Brexit voting areas and are likely to face a backlash over the Party’s staunchly “Remain” stance, and poster girl Sarah Olney will have to go up against an official Conservative candidate in Richmond Park this time round, rather than the Independent Zac Goldsmith. That’s 4 out of 9 facing a potentially uphill battle. The Party will need to remember to defend as well as attack.
As has been the case since the referendum last June, the biggest Lib Dem issue by a country mile will be Brexit. Labour’s division on the issue means that the Lib Dems can continue to market themselves as the only Party that fully represents the 48% of Brits who voted Remain. If they stick to this message, and make the case to the right audiences, this election can be a solid improvement for the Yellow Team.