Lib Dem threat to Tory recovery

ALTHOUGH the Conservatives are edging ahead of Labour in opinion polls, the party's progress is being hampered by a degree of resilience from the Liberal Democrats.

ALTHOUGH the Conservatives are edging ahead of Labour in opinion polls, the party's progress is being hampered by a degree of resilience from the Liberal Democrats.

In last week's local authority by-elections, the Tories easily saw off the Lib Dem challenge in the Westmoreland and Lonsdale constituency held at Westminster by Shadow Transport Secretary Tim Collins – and took a seat from Labour in the London borough of Redbridge.

While the 7.9% swing to the Tories up in Cumbria was certainly impressive – little short of a disaster for the Lib Dems in what is one of their target seats – the defeat of the Tory candidate in a Guildford borough contest is not such good news for Conservative Central Office strategists. Guildford was the one result at the 2001 General Election that more than any other showed to what depths the Conservative Party had sunk – one of the richest towns in Britain sent the Tories packing.

The Surrey constituency – and scores like it in the Home Counties – should be solidly Tory, but the Liberal Democrats have been making inroads in the London commuting belt which show no sign of being rebuffed.

You may also want to watch:

Given that the Tories are 3% ahead of Labour in the latest YouGov on-line opinion poll, the last thing Iain Duncan Smith needs in a General Election campaign is to spend inordinate time and resources fending off the Lib Dems in seats which historically would elect anyone wearing a blue rosette.

It would be ironic – but on current polling evidence a highly plausible scenario – for the Tories to win back around 100 seats from Labour, but fail to grab some of the 40 which they lost to the Lib Dems in the last two elections.

Most Read

MICHAEL Foot may have celebrated his 90th birthday last week, but his brain is still as sharp as ever. Last week he branded George Bush's administration as the worst US government for years and warned it was "very bad" for the world.

The former Labour leader described the war in Iraq a "terrible mistake" and called on the Tony Blair and the British Government to help rebuild the United Nations.

While there are many across the political spectrum who would agree with Mr Foot's doubts over British involvement in the war, there were wry smiles at his branding the Bush government "very bad."

Twenty years ago, Michael Foot was in charge of the Labour Party which, if elected, would certainly have turned out to be "very bad" for the UK. Labour would have pulled out of the European Community, junked our nuclear deterrent, and returned us into a high tax nation. The Labour manifesto, published under his name, was described as "the longest suicide note in history" and led to the near disintegration of the party.

On a less churlish note, a collection of his essays* published during the Elizabethan era has just been published to mark his 90th birthday – and demonstrates just much better a writer he was than a politician.

I will send a copy to the first person to e-mail me at with their details.

*The Uncollected Michael Foot: Essays Old and New 1953-2003, published by Politico's, price £20

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter