At the Liberal Democrat’s party conference back in September, there was breathless excitement amongst the party faithful that they could win as many as 100 seats in an upcoming General Election. New leader Jo Swinson was seen as a fresh face, who activists thought would make an attractive contrast to the older male alternatives. However as the General Election campaign reaches its fourth week, the ‘presidential’ style campaign the Liberal Democrats have been running, largely focused around their new leader, has not been as successful as they might have hoped. Worse still, Swinson’s constituency of East Dunbartonshire is now being considered a winnable seat by her SNP rivals.
Part of the reason candidate Amy Callaghan and her SNP colleagues will be licking their lips in anticipation is they have seen it happen before in their own party. At the 2017 General Election, SNP leader Alex Salmond and big beast Angus Robertson both lost their seats to Conservative interlopers. It’s not hard to see why this sounds so plausible, for they’ve beaten Swinson here before in the 2015 landslide. The SNP currently hold both of the overlapping Scottish Parliament constituencies, whilst in May’s European elections the SNP outpolled the Lib Dems by 35% to 25% in the East Dunbartonshire Council area.
It remains to be seen which way the seat will go. Swinson starts with a 10% lead over the SNP from 2017, and she may also benefit from the traditional bonus from voters who like the idea of being represented by a party leader. But given Liberal Democrat sources have already admitted that “this election has not gone as planned,” the SNP may be in with a chance.