Back The Lib Dems In The Brecon and Radnorshire By-Election
Britain has a new Prime Minister and after Boris Johnson's radical Cabinet reshuffle, the best political betting sites expect an imminent General Election. At 6/5, only one firm are offering better than evens about an election occurring before the end of 2019. Before that, there is the small matter of the Brecon and Radnorshire By Election - which could reduce Johnson’s majority to just 1.
Recall petition leaves Tories very vulnerable
This by-election was called after the Tory MP Chris Davies faced a recall petition over a false expenses claim. Davies is standing again but the betting signals are grim - the Lib Dems’ Jane Dodd is rated 1/20 to win with 888Sport, compared to 10/1 with bet365 about the Tory.
No surprise, given that a recent NumbersCrunchers poll recorded the Lib Dems on 43% - 15% ahead of the Tories with the Brexit Party third on 20%. This rural Welsh seat was a Lib Dem stronghold from 1987 to 2015 and, if they are to recover the national position held prior to that historic low, this is a must win.
The national significance should not be understated. It is not only Johnson’s first electoral test but also new Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson. An expected thrashing for Labour, polling at 8%, will pile further pressure Jeremy Corbyn. Moreover, the result will be measured in terms of what it says about Brexit. For this constituency voted perfectly in line with the nation in 2016 - 52-48 to Leave.
Indeed the dynamics of this Welsh battle will play out again all over rural and suburban England in a General Election. A Tory-held marginal where the Lib Dems are the only danger, and poised to sweep the Remainer vote. The heavier the defeat, the more risky that general election plan becomes.
National poll bounce offers Tories hope
On the other hand, weekend polls showed a marked Boris-boost. New leaders usually get a bounce so it would be wrong to draw deep longer term conclusions, but clearly the Tories are in a better place today than they were when the NCP poll was taken.
That 15% deficit has probably shrunk a bit and I expect the Brexit Party’s poll share to further disintegrate over the coming weeks now there is an avowed no deal PM in place. Unless or until he fails to deliver his Brexit promises, most of these voters will give Johnson a chance.
Given that the Brexit Party polled at 20%, there is every chance that the Tories win this seat at a general election later this year, following an electoral pact between the two parties. This week, however, their vote will be split, handing the Lib Dems an easy win as the odds suggest.
That the Tory candidate is damaged by scandal surely takes an upset out of the equation.
Lib Dems sure to monopolize Remainer vote
We saw at the Euros how Remainer opinion coalesced late around the Lib Dems, once these voters properly considered tactics and implications. It is already factored into the Brecon dynamics because the party is already strong there and 40% really isn't a big ask. I reckon Remainer voters will be better motivated to turnout, offering a further edge. 50% is just about within range but the overwhelmingly likelihood is somewhere in the forties. 11/10 offered with Ladbrokes about 40-50% is a solid bet.
A big Lib Dem win could have a profound impact on events over the coming months. When successful historically, mid-term by-election upsets were their currency. A rare opportunity to be heard - to be the headline and not an afterthought. This is a chance for Swinson to immediately assume national importance and to put their anti-Brexit brand brand on display.
I have big expectations for Swinson. There has never been a better time to become Lib Dem leader, as Tories and Labour abandon the centre ground. They are becoming successfully defined as the Remain Party. A young, liberal woman is the perfect contrast to Johnson and Corbyn. It would not surprise me if they are soon polling around 25%.
If so, there are many more gains to be made across the Tory heartlands. The Brexit dynamics of Brecon will play out again in dozens of seats with similar demographics and electoral history. Con-LD marginals will be the key battleground in determining whether the Tories can win an overall majority. This result will help frame the narrative for any looming national election or referendum and will shape the political betting odds going forward. The stakes have rarely felt higher for a by-election.
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