Monday, 20 April 2015

My analysis of and thoughts on the recent Finnish general election

The 20th of April 2015 marks quite a few things to me. Today is my brother's birthday, today was the deadline for voter registration for the 2015 general election, and in the early hours of today the final results of the 2015 Finnish general election.

As was widely predicted, the agrarian, semi-liberal Centre Party topped the poll, increasing its seat total from 35 to 49 and receiving 21.1% of the vote; however, this meant they did not recover all of the 16 seats they lost in 2011. In particular, they experienced their greatest increases in the north and other rural districts, where they had in 2011 lost much support to the True Finns (now the Finns Party). Only one other party in Finland increased its intake of MPs-the Green League, thankfully. I believe this is due to both parties supporting a Basic Income, an initiative we Greens often speak of and which is supported by a majority of Finns-65% according to recent news. The Pirate Party also got more support but could not win any seats at all, partly due to its lack of support outside urban areas (the opposite problem to that faced by the Centre Party, who in Helsinki experienced a vote share increase considerably less than in rural districts like Central Finland and Lapland). One downside is that despite the fact the Left Alliance also advocated Basic Income and withdrew from the previous coalition, it actually lost two seats when it was widely predicted to gain at least two. They did not lose votes in all districts, though-their vote share actually increased in Varsinias-Suomi.

The former governing parties, meanwhile, lost out, but not to the extent predicted. Overall, the National Coalition Party (Finland's answer to the Conservatives) lost seven seats, the Social Democrats lost eight, and the Finns Party lost just one; the Finns Party finished with one more seat than the National Coalition Party despite receiving slightly fewer votes. The National Coalition Party is more reliant on (generally affluent) urban support than the Finns Party, and it lost substantial numbers of votes in key Finnish urban areas (such as Usimaa and Helsinki, which together form the Greater Helsinki area); the Finns Party was more fortunate in this regard.

As the three parties who openly supported a Basic Income-Centre, Green League, and Left Alliance-do not have enough seats in total to form a majority (the three aforementioned parties only have a total of 76 seats, when 101 are needed for a majority in the Eduskunta, the name for Finland's Parliament)-will it be passed in the end, or will it end up watered down too much or lost altogether? It is certain that Juha Spila will be the next Finnish Prime Minister, but the exact coalition that is formed remains to be seen.

Alan.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

My thoughts on election hustings

Readers, as the Green Party candidate for Hemel Hempstead, I had the pleasure of taking part in two hustings for that constituency so far. One was in Hemel Hempstead, the other was in nearby Kings Langley.

So far, with one week having gone since nominations closed for the general election in UK constituencies, here are my thoughts on elections hustings and debates

All validly nominated candidates should be invited to election hustings, whichever banner they are standing under.

Although last night's election hustings in Kings Langley was inclusive, having invited all candidates including myself and independent candidate Brian Hall, many other general election hustings unfairly excluded candidates from 'minor parties' and also independent candidates. The Churches Together hustings in Witney, where Prime Minister David Cameron is defending his seat, was particularly unfair and undemocratic-minor candidates were not even permitted to attend these particular hustings, let alone be on the panel, as was prominently reported by Wessex Regionalist leader Colin Bex; press photographers were also excluded from these hustings for reasons unknown. 'Lack of time' should never be an excuse for excluding any candidate from a hustings panel-time should be made so that all candidates who managed to get themselves nominated on ballot papers can have their views heard, for democracy's sake.

Just because candidates wear identical rosettes does not mean they are identical.

Even though parties have national policies and manifestos, you will find if you come to an election hustings in different constituencies that not all candidates from the same party necessarily agree on important issues (e.g. on the issues of HS2 and Trident replacement). Candidates are people as well, and each person is unique in at least one way.

Playing the 'blame game' does not solve any problems or address real issues.

The main point of election debates is to explain to voters why people should vote for a political party or candidate-not for candidates to blame each other's parties for past mistakes. In these times, local and national priorities need to come first.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

My thoughts about the 2015 general election: The Good, The Bad, and The Rather Interesting

Readers, with most councils having published their statement of persons nominated (a few have not for some reason even though they should have by now as per the Representation of the People Act 1983), here is my rundown of the good, bad, and interesting facts about the 2015 UK general election and the corresponding local elections:

The Good:

1. More than nine-tenths of all constituencies in England and Wales will be able to vote Green this year (537 out of 573), including those living in Buckingham, where Speaker John Bercow is seeking re-election. In addition, there are 31 Scottish Green Party candidates and 5 Northern Irish Green Party candidates-the highest ever.

2. The BNP has virtually disappeared-it is only standing 8 candidates this time compared to the 338 it fielded in 2010. There are also few other far-right candidates either-only five NF candidates and the English Democrats are contesting less than half the seats they contested in 2010. In fact, there are only a few more English Democrats parliamentary candidates than there are Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol parliamentary candidates-possibly an indication of the way the wind may blow in May 2015.

3. Locally, there are more Green Party candidates than ever before-and more full slates. In a considerable number of wards in rural areas we are the only candidates opposing the Conservatives (also true in two wards of East Herts, where I live)

4. Voter turnout is likely to increase given the wider choice of candidates locally and nationally, and the unpredictability of this election.

5. We are holding up well in terms of poll ratings, and should be able to save more deposits than the Liberal Democrats in my opinion.

The Bad:

1. Some seats will not have the chance to vote Green, particularly in Northern Ireland and Scotland. A significant minority of seats will only be able to choose between the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, or UKIP (e.g. Hertsmere, Basildon & Billericay).

2. Applications for job-sharing MPs were rejected in Weston-Super-Mare and Basingstoke by Returning Officers.

3. There are fewer candidates overall than in 2010.

4. Some councils still have at least a few uncontested seats-a key example is Eden Council (the most sparsely populated council area in the whole of Britain), where more council seats are going uncontested than in 2011!

5. In some seats we are facing a slightly split vote from the Animal Welfare Party, and the fact that the Socialists (Left Unity and TUSC) are not allying with us could hinder our progress in some inner-city seats.

The Rather Interesting:

1. The seat with the highest number of candidates this time is Uxbridge & South Ruislip, where Boris Johnson is standing. 13 candidates have been nominated here, and for the first time in years, the 'loony vote' is being split as Howling Laud Hope, OMRLP leader and ex-OMRLP candidate, Lord Toby Jug, are both contesting this seat. Ten other constituencies (Witney, Bethnal Green & Bow, Camberwell & Peckham, Hackney South & Shoreditch, South Thanet, Bridgend, North Down, Sheffield Central, Lewisham Deptford & Vauxhall) also have at least 10 candidates.

2. The Speaker's seat of Buckingham has only three nominated candidates (UKIP, the Greens, and the Speaker himself)-the lowest in a seat represented by the Speaker since 1997, and it also represents the largest drop in candidate numbers for an individual constituency (there were 11 candidates in Buckingham in 2010) ever recorded.

3. Many candidates who have not stood in an election in many years (e.g. Kailash Trivedi, David Wedgwood) have put themselves forward.

4. There are some very interesting descriptions on ballot papers, such as World Peace Through Song, Children of the Atom, and Give Me Back Elmo, which I found rather amusing ;)

5. New parties for this election (which are not one-person bands) include the National Health Action Party, Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol (the largest of these new parties), All People's Party, Northern Party, North East Party, Yorkshire First, Vapers in Power, Ubuntu Party, Class War, Independence From Europe, The Above and Beyond Party, The Whig Party, Liberty GB, Patria, the Patriotic Socialist Party, The Reality Party, Justice for Men and Boys, Lewisham People Before Profit, Party for a United Thanet, Something New, Red Flag Anti-Corruption, and the Young People's Party. In addition, the Roman Party Ave, having only stood in European elections and local elections before, is fielding Phillip West in Reading West (not Jean-Louis Pascal for some reason). Left Unity, meanwhile, is allying with TUSC, meaning that there are 138 'left alliance' parliamentary candidates this year.

6. 172 independent candidates in total will be standing this year across parliamentary constituencies.

Regards, Alan.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Good luck to all Green Party candidates in 2015

Readers, I will first of all officially confirm that I am the validly nominated Green Party candidate for Hemel Hempstead (in case you are not already aware).

Please view and like my campaign page (if you have Facebook) to see why you should vote me on 7th May if you live in the Hemel Hempstead constituency. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alan-Borgars-Hemel-Hempstead/645396582258758?ref=hl

I am also very pleased to say that across the UK, there will be 575 Green Party candidates altogether from the UK's Green Parties, meaning almost nine seats out of every ten in the UK have the chance to vote Green in the 2015 general election-the highest ever :)

Our current poll ratings of 5% are also the highest the Green Party has seen shortly prior to a general election. I wish all Green candidates standing locally and/or parliamentarily the best of luck and I positively believe the Green Party can win more seats, and give the people an honest voice in Parliament.

Regards, Alan.

Friday, 3 April 2015

My predictions for currently-held Liberal Democrat seats for this election

In light of the fact that Ashcroft polls have been released covering marginal Liberal Democrat seats (the seats covered in the polls will mostly be lost by the Liberal Democrats on that basis, except Cambridge and St Ives), and debate how many seats the Liberal Democrats might save in this general election, I believe it is time to make a prediction of what will happen in the 57 currently held Lib Dem seats.

Solihull: With a strong Green advance, and at least some Labour recovery likely here, this seat will almost certainly fall to the Conservatives even though their vote share will be hit as well, and Solihull will probably still remain marginal. Dead cert Conservative gain.

Mid Dorset & North Poole: The Green Party will take a significant number of Lib Dem votes in South West seats, and this is no exception. Even with vote-splitting between the Conservatives and UKIP, the Lib Dems have no realistic chance of holding this seat (in my last prediction, I believed they did due to the weak Labour base and UKIP's high potential). Dead cert Conservative gain.

Norwich South: The Green Party is in a better position to win Norwich South than six months ago, although Labour will still try hard to win this seat back. Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Green Party.

Bradford East: Not only is there a small majority, but David Ward has not done himself any favours in his tenure as this seat's MP. Even if David fares better than some other Lib Dem MPs who had won their seats from Labour, he will almost certainly lose due to the fact the Lib Dems will be hit hardest in urban seats like this one. Dead cert Labour gain.

Wells: UKIP has been having local problems here recently, which could dampen their chances of splitting the Conservative vote, which is Tessa Munt's only realistic chance of holding her seat in a place where the Lib Dem vote will suffer a substantial decline. Likely Conservative gain.

St Austell & Newquay: Tricky to call-the Lib Dems are holding up well in some parts of Cornwall, but Dick Cole, leader of Mebyon Kernow, has a strong personal vote and he could very well play a decisive role in the outcome of this seat. UKIP is poised to win over both Liberal Democrat and Conservatives alike and could potentially turn this seat into a 3-way marginal, even if they do not win this time. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Brent Central: With Sarah Teather standing down (the only reason the Liberal Democrats ever gained its predecessor seat, Brent East, in the first place), and with the Lib Dem vote about to collapse in many urban seats where they had made some headway, a Labour win is pretty much a foregone conclusion. It has in fact gone from bad to worse for the Lib Dems here after their previous PPC, Ibrahim Taguri, withdrew his candidacy last month after having accepted an illegal donation. Dead cert Labour gain.

Somerton & Frome: David Heath is standing down and David Rendel is not likely to replace him, especially given his particular Liberal Democrat stance. The Conservative vote share will be hit significantly by UKIP, but in all likelihood not enough to prevent them recapturing this seat. Likely Conservative gain.


Sutton & Cheam: The Liberal Democrats have proved surprisingly resilient in Sutton-UKIP efforts have undermined Conservative efforts to regain lost ground both locally and nationally, and will actually help the Lib Dems retain Sutton & Cheam (and similar seats elsewhere like Hazel Grove and Eastleigh where in spite of the Lib Dem strength the Green Party does not have good potential). Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

St Ives: This is one of the best seats in terms of long-term potential for the Green Party-St Ives has been rather progressive in terms of demographics for years. However, Andrew George's somewhat rebellious nature as a Lib Dem MP gives him a fighting chance. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

Manchester Withington: Out of all the Liberal Democrat seats, the biggest collapse in the Lib Dem vote will happen here-possibly even to the point where the Green Party wins second place or at least third place (this seat's demographics are very Green-friendly as well as once Lib Dem-friendly) in the poll. As has often been repeated, the bell tolls for John Leech. Dead cert Labour gain.

Burnley: Like Rochdale and other northern areas where the Lib Dems have made a strong advance in recent years, there will be a substantial Lib Dem collapse here, even if not to the same extent as Rochdale, and enough of it will return to Labour, even with UKIP on their tail. Dead cert Labour gain.

East Dunbartonshire: This seat is marginal but the Liberal Democrats are pouring resources from their Scottish branch here because of (in their minds) the potential of Jo Swinson. Nevertheless, it looks pretty certain she will lose-the SNP have high chances but it is by no means certain that they will come out on top instead of Labour. Dead cert Lib Dem loss-either to Labour or the SNP.


Chippenham: Michelle Donelan, the Conservative candidate here, is a relatively strong campaigner, and with the Greens contesting this seat, Duncan Hames is likely to lose despite the potential for UKIP, as Labour's vote will recover at least somewhat. Likely Conservative gain.


Cheadle: Even though this suburban seat will see some recovery in the Labour vote (and more so than in rural Lib Dem-held seats), the high local strength the Liberal Democrats have in Cheadle will probably be enough to stop a strong Conservative challenge; UKIP's potential may only be average here at best but that will cause a significant split in the Conservative vote. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

North Cornwall: This is rather tight-although as more Lib Dem votes will be lost than Conservative votes, I believe a Conservative gain is at least probable despite the strong UKIP potential. The Greens and Mebyon Kernow will also make notable inroads into the Liberal Democrat and (to a lesser extent) the weak Labour vote. Probable Conservative gain.

Eastbourne: The Liberal Democrats have strengthened their position here since Stephen Lloyd won it in 2010, and UKIP's popularity amongst elderly voters (there are substantial numbers of older voters living in Eastbourne) will mean they will split the Conservative vote substantially, meaning the Lib Dems will likely hold Eastbourne even with a Green candidate in place. Meanwhile, Labour will get nowhere in Eastbourne. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Taunton Deane: With Jeremy Browne stepping down, and with eight PPCs contesting for votes so far instead of just four (there were only four candidates here in 2010), Rachel Gilmour appears unlikely to be able to hold Taunton Deane on the Lib Dems' behalf. Good UKIP potential in Somerset means that the Liberal Democrats are not out of the race yet, however, and on another note, a lost Labour deposit is possible with a Green candidate and a TUSC candidate also contesting this seat (since Labour only just saved their deposit here in 2010).  Likely Conservative gain.

Berwick-upon-Tweed: The Conservative candidate here, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, achieved a strong swing to the Conservatives in 2010, and Alan Beith is retiring. A Conservative gain is likely as the Liberal Democrat vote share will be hit harder in seats where the incumbent is standing down. Likely Conservative gain.

Eastleigh: This will be keenly contested once again between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, but the extensive local strength of the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh, combined with UKIP taking many Conservative votes (and some Lib Dem votes) means that a Lib Dem hold is likely in practice. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Birmingham Yardley: John Hemming is a very good campaigner for the Liberal Democrats, and despite the seat's marginality I believe he will hold due to a split in the Labour vote coming from not only the fact there is a TUSC candidate here but also from there being a Respect candidate. UKIP will also undermine both the Conservative and the Labour vote. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Argyll & Bute: This may look like a four-way marginal on paper, but the reality is that it will be a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP due to Labour's poor local base, and the Conservatives not showing a recovery anywhere in Scotland. The SNP has always had latent strength in this area, and in the highlands they can win over many Liberal Democrat voters in addition to Labour voters, and will crash through easily in 2015 on current polling. Dead cert SNP gain.

Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine: Sir Robert Smith appears to be doomed as the Lib Dems are not faring well even in previously strong areas for them. The question is, without much of a Labour vote to squeeze, can the Conservatives still convince enough voters to prevent an SNP victory? Let us see. Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-either to the Conservatives or the SNP.

Edinburgh West: This is the most prosperous of Edinburgh's seats, although boundary changes in 2005 have made this more competitive than in previous years. It will also be quite tightly fought, particularly with Cameron Day standing again for Labour (he managed an 11.4% swing from the Lib Dems to Labour in 2010) although the Conservatives' best hope is to finish second in spite of speculation from other political commentators. There is only an outside chance of Mike Crockart holding on, but who will he lose it to? Likely Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the SNP.

Torbay:  Adrian Sanders has performed respectably in holding off Conservative challenges ever since he won this seat by 12 votes in 1997, but this time his luck may just run out. The Green surge, a rise in UKIP's vote in an area where they have already polled relatively well, and some recovery in Labour's vote share, will all be important factors as to whether Mr Sanders retains his seat or loses it to Conservative PPC Kevin Foster. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Cheltenham: Similar to Torbay in terms of psephological possibilities and notable factors except for the fact that the Liberal Democrats have a better chance, and UKIP's potential is lower. Also, the Liberal Democrats have held this since 1992, not 1997, and therefore have a stronger base. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Brecon & Radnorshire: A crucial point here is that the Liberal Democrats held the equivalent Welsh Assembly seat, in spite of their woes in 2011-and it was the only single-member Welsh Assembly seat they won that year. Roger Williams has defeated strong Conservative challenges before in this marginal seat, and there is a good chance he could do so again even though both Plaid Cymru and the Greens will have a good vote share rise. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

North Devon: This will certainly be an interesting contest-the Liberal Democrat vote stands to be split by both UKIP and the Green Party, and UKIP's PPC is Steve Crowther, chair of UKIP and one of only four UKIP candidates to finish third in 2010. However, Nick Harvey has been MP here for 23 years, and this might count for enough despite the fact that experienced journalist Peter Heaton-Jones is the Conservative candidate. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

Carshalton & Wallington: As with Sutton & Cheam, UKIP will split the Conservative vote and the Lib Dem vote will remain resilient, and the Lib Dems have a larger majority in Carshalton and Wallington. The Green potential is better but Tom Brake's campaigning experience in the constituency will likely see him through nonetheless. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk: The Liberal Democrats are faring particularly badly in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens could win over vital votes. Also, John Lamont, Conservative MSP, is standing once again against Michael Moore, and a split ticket (both Labour and the SNP stand to win over some ex-Lib Dem voters, although neither of them can realistically win this seat themselves) could possibly lead to a tight Conservative gain. Probable Conservative gain.

Redcar: With Ian Swales standing down, and the Liberal Democrats losing support heavily in the north, a Labour regain with a large swing is basically a foregone conclusion. Dead cert Labour gain.


Hornsey & Wood Green: Even though defending MP Lynne Featherstone has proven herself a remarkable campaigner over the years, the demographic nature of Hornsey & Wood Green means that the Liberal Democrats will likely lose a lot of votes to Labour and the Green Party, and Labour only needs a 6.3% swing to them here. Likely Labour gain.

Portsmouth South: It has been confirmed that disgraced ex-Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock, the only non-Conservative MP to have ever represented this seat, will stand as an Independent against replacement Lib Dem candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson (former leader of Portsmouth Council), which will substantially increase the chance of a Conservative gain in Portsmouth South by splitting the Lib Dem vote. Whoever wins the poll in this constituency could end up with below 30% of the votes cast. Likely Conservative gain.

Cardiff Central: This is one of the few Welsh constituencies where the Greens can perform well if they tried, due to Plaid Cymru not having much support in Cardiff except in Cardiff West. This constituency has the highest number of student voters in any UK constituency, meaning that Jenny Willott will likely be voted out next month even when she voted against a tuition fee rise in December 2010 when many other Lib Dem MPs did not. Dead cert Labour gain.

Kingston & Surbiton: Although the Lib Dems lost Kingston & Surbiton council last year to the Conservatives, the affluent, suburban nature of this seat means the Lib Dem vote will hold up better than most, even though the fact Ed Davey has been Energy Secretary for the past few years and has failed to oppose such things as fracking or proper control over the 'Big Six' energy companies can spark a good swing from Lib Dem to Green. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Cambridge: Among Lib Dem MPs, Julian Huppert has proven himself diligent and occasionally rebellious-but lately he has just sided with other Lib Dem MPs on important issues, such as the 'Gag Law'. Despite a recent Ashcroft poll in his favour, I believe that the Lib Dems have a good chance of losing this seat, because I believe Green candidate Rupert Read has at least a small chance of winning outright. Probable Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Greens.


Southport: The Liberal Democrats have maintained themselves well locally (their PPC for 1983, Iain Brodie-Browne, is still a Southport councillor, as is former MP Ronnie Fearn), and in genteel seaside towns like Southport, UKIP will split the Conservative vote considerably and their PPC is once again Terry Durrance, who in 2010 trebled the UKIP vote of 2005. We Greens are standing in Southport for the first time since 1992 but the Lib Dem vote is resilient enough. Likely Liberal Democrat hold. 

Gordon: Sir Malcolm Bruce, the only reason the Liberals/Liberal Democrats hold this seat in the first place, is stepping down after 32 years as an MP. More importantly, Alex Salmond himself is the SNP candidate here, and the SNP managed a good second place without him in 2010-at this point, his return to Parliament is practically assured. Dead cert SNP gain.

Thornbury & Yate: I believe Steve Webb will hold up well here as he has done before (in this seat's predecessor of Northavon), even with a Green candidate in place here. Labour's vote will probably not recover too much and UKIP stands to do well. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Colchester: As with Southport and some other urban areas, the Lib Dems have held up well locally, and Sir Bob Russell appears likely to hold even though I believe Colchester will experience a strong rise in the Green vote by Essex standards, and even though Labour stands to make a better recovery than most. Sir Bob's majority is rather good, and UKIP will undermine the Conservative vote at least somewhat. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Hazel Grove: This has a much better Labour vote than neighbouring Cheadle, but the Lib Dem majority is higher. Sir Andrew Stunell is standing down but Lisa Smart will find it relatively easy to defend Hazel Grove, especially with the good potential for UKIP (surprisingly) in this suburban seat. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.
 
Lewes: Labour are nowhere in Lewes (and in fact have not finished higher than third since February 1974), and UKIP will do particularly well in rural/semi-urban seats like this one. Norman Baker's majority is also reasonably strong, and without a substantial student population, he will not face as much of a drop in vote share as many of his colleagues. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross: Viscount Thurso (aka John Sinclair, grandson of former Liberal Party leader Archibald Sinclair, who once represented this seat), has generally been a respected MP, and in rural areas like the Highlands of Scotland, personal votes matter more than average. However, with the SNP surge relatively strong in this area, the SNP's latent strength might finally push them through in May-it will be an interesting contest. Likely SNP gain.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey: This seat's predecessors have been particularly competitive in the past-former Lib Dem MP Russell Johnston still holds the record for lowest winning percentage in any seat at a general election (26%) which occurred here in 1992. Highland Council leader Drew Hendry is SNP's PPC here, and he will surely win against Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who will be the highest-ranked casualty of this year's general election, particularly with the Greens nipping at the Lib Dem vote share. Dead cert SNP gain.

Bermondsey & Old Southwark: Labour only needs a 10% swing to capture this seat, and the Green Party will win over many Lib Dem votes in inner London seats like this one. However, Simon Hughes' experience and groundwork could be enough to save him when he is in danger of losing this seat for the first time since 1987 (when his majority was cut to 7.7%). Probable Liberal Democrat hold, but watch for a surprise.

Twickenham: Despite the notoriety Vince Cable has received in his capacity as Business Secretary, Twickenham's affluent electors have been strongly supportive of him (and the Lib Dems in general) these past 18 years. With a 20% majority, he appears certain to hold for now, if with a much reduced majority. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Bristol West: Because the Green surge has been particularly noticeable in Bristol, Darren Hall has relatively good odds to win this seat outright from fourth place. The large student vote means that Stephen Williams will find it difficult to retain this seat despite his five-figure majority, and Labour is making a strong challenge as well. Likely Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the Greens.

Leeds North West: The split opposition in Leeds North West means that Greg Mulholland is almost certain to hold on, as it will be the Greens rather than Labour more likely to win over the substantial student vote. I believe also that Conservative voters may tactically support Greg to keep Labour out. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Ceredigion: Even though I have heard that Mark Williams is a reasonably popular MP in Ceredigion despite not having Welsh as his first language, the substantial student vote will turn against him and is likely to support not only the Greens, but also Plaid Cymru. Plaid Cymru can also win over some Labour voters given Leanne Wood's anti-austerity stance, so if they try they can win this seat. 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Plaid Cymru gain.

North East Fife: Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell is standing down after 28 years as an MP, and the Lib Dem vote will surely collapse here (particularly in the university town of St Andrews where the Greens will make an advance amongst the student electorate) as it will in most of Scotland. Labour can win over some of the Lib Dem vote, but they themselves will be scorched by an SNP surge (even though this has historically been poor territory for the SNP) in turn, making an SNP victory almost certain this year. Dead cert SNP gain.

Yeovil: The Liberal Democrats are securely there in Yeovil locally and nationally, and despite the expenses scandal David Laws faced, his Orange Book views suit the constituency well (Paddy Ashdown was not exactly on the left of the Lib Dems either). His majority is also strong enough not to be worried about the Green surge that will take place in many rural/semi-rural South West seats like this, even if UKIP can win over Lib Dem votes as well as Conservative votes. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

North Norfolk: Norman Lamb has built up a very strong majority in this seat, and UKIP's advance will only make it harder than ever before for the Conservatives to gain it-and rural Norfolk has potentially high yields for UKIP. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Westmorland & Lonsdale: The Liberal Democrats are firmly bolted down to Westmorland & Lonsdale now due to the efforts of Tim Farron-South Lakeland, whose council area covers most of this constituency, was the only council area in the whole of England where the Liberal Democrats topped the poll in European elections last year, and the Lib Dem majorities in Kendal and Windermere are practically unassailable. I believe that as long as Tim Farron remains MP for this seat, the Lib Dems will hold it. On a point of interest, will Tim Farron challenge Nick Clegg for the Lib Dems' leadership after this election? Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Bath: Even though Don Foster, who famously won this seat in 1992 from former Conservative chairman Chris Patten, is standing down, Steve Bradley should have no trouble defending Bath this year largely due to the sheer size of the Lib Dem majority (25.2% over the Conservatives). The Greens stand to perform very well indeed in Bath this year (I believe they could possibly come third, ahead of Labour and UKIP) which will be useful in the long term. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Sheffield Hallam: Whilst this is on paper the third safest Liberal Democrat seat, Nick Clegg's notoriety and Labour candidate Oliver Coppard's challenge might possibly mean that Nick Clegg could become the first leader of a major party in the UK to lose his own seat since 1945 (when Archibald Sinclair, grandfather of defending Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross MP Viscount Thurso, lost Caithness & Sutherland very narrowly). However, Sheffield Hallam has maintained a good Lib Dem vote even without the benefit of the student vote locally, and since Nick Clegg has been Deputy Prime Minister, he may be able to persuade enough Conservative voters to tactically support him and prevent Oliver from becoming the first ever Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam. Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

Ross, Skye & Lochaber: Some have said that Charles Kennedy, the only remaining SDP MP from 1983, and former leader of the Lib Dems, might suffer a shock loss this year-but his personal vote and experience means that this is unlikely in practice. However, this is a Highland constituency where the SNP have strong potential, so it will not be plain sailing for Mr Kennedy. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Orkney & Shetland: The safest Liberal Democrat constituency by far, and it has been continuously held by them since 1950 (even when the Conservatives put up a candidate in the 1950s when they did not do so in other Liberal-held seats), and this will definitely continue in spite of all the Lib Dems' woes. On another note, increased potential for the SNP, and for UKIP to a lesser extent, means that this might possibly be the first constituency to record a lost deposit for both Conservative and Labour, which has never happened before in the history of British politics. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Due to the volatility of this election, I have only predicted seven 'dead cert holds' for the Liberal Democrats out of 57, and only 14 'likely holds'-which means that they could end up with as few seats as they had back in 1983 (the SDP-Liberal alliance, which became the Liberal Democrats in 1988, won 23 seats then). I also believe that even if they are lucky enough to gain Watford, the most seats the Lib Dems will end up with after May 2015 is 43, 3 fewer than their 1997 effort when they won many previously safely Conservative seats during the Conservative meltdown (which in many other areas benefitted Labour, of course).

Alan.