General election latest: Sunak ‘not worried’ about grim polls for Tories – as Starmer reveals ‘anger’ over hospital visit | Politics News

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By Matthew Thompson, news correspondent

On the surface, today’s YouGov poll for Sky News shouldn’t make pretty reading for Liberal Democrats. 

It has them static on a mere 9%, trailing even Reform UK, who sit on 12%.

Compare that to the heady heights of 2010, when the Lib Dems were regularly polling above 25%, and you’d think it would be of some concern.

But when I asked party leader Ed Davey about it this morning, he seemed very relaxed, telling me: “It’s the elections that matter.”

Allow me to offer an explanation for this sang-froid. 

In 2019, the Lib Dems ran a disastrous campaign, promoting then-leader Jo Swinson as the next prime minister. They won a mere 11 seats.

This time the strategy is different.

They aren’t exactly ignoring the national picture, but for a few years now they have been building their strength in a few key areas: largely Tory-facing seats in the South of England, and SNP seats in Scotland. 

It’s what psephologists call “efficiency”: getting the most out of each vote by concentrating them in certain constituencies. 

That’s what explains the fact we can see Reform UK out-polling the Lib Dems, and yet predict they will win many fewer seats. 

Reform’s support is more thinly spread – a significant disadvantage in a first past the post election.

National polls, while not insignificant, are therefore less important to Ed Davey’s fortunes than the ruthless mechanics of our voting system.

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