‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Thursday, 8 November 2012

LibDems to be ‘annihilated’ or ‘decimated’ in 2015?

Professor Patrick Dunleavy speaking on PM on Radio 4 on 7 November 2012 suggested that the Liberal Democrats could be ‘annihilated’ at the next election. The Independent on 31 August 2012 suggested that the Lib Dem 'poll ratings are abysmal and threaten to decimate them as a parliamentary party'.  Are these predictions realistic? 

One is, the other is not. Which is which?

If we cut through the hyperbole and look at the definitions of these terms, we find that:

Decimate means ‘to kill every tenth person’
Annihilate means ‘to cause to cease to exist’.

One general election could not annihilate a party. In the case of the Liberal Democrats, this would have to involve its losing all its 57 seats at Westminster, all its 2,670 local councillors, all its 12 MEPs, 91 members of the House of Lords, its 65,000 members and its five members each of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.  However bad the result in 2015, one Westminster election could not result in all this.  
However, the likelihood that the parliamentary party might be decimated at the 2015 election is a distinct possibility – a reduction from 57 to 51 seats would have the party performing above the position suggested by its current opinion polling ratings (although in 1997 under Paddy Ashdown's leadership the Lib Dems' share of the vote fell from 17.8% to 16.8%, but their number of seats more than doubled from 20 to 46). 

The Liberals have been decimated before – in 1924, 1945, 1950, 1951 and in 1970. The Conservatives were decimated in 1923, 1945, 1964 and in 1997 and the Labour Party has had its share of decimations – 1931, 1970, 1979, 1983 and even in 2010. They all lived to tell the tale!

1 comment:

  1. So it was a bit more than decimation, and much closer to annihilation, after all.

    In terms of definitions of terms or phrases, I wonder if you could help to define the phrase "self delusion" for your readers.