I have spent a bit of time crunching the numbers from the recent general election with a specific focus on the Lib Dem performance. There were certain things that I was interested in looking at regarding the progress made by the party.
Despite the fact that the overall vote share increased from 22.1% in 2005 to 23.0% (and increased in absolute numbers by 14%) in 2010 the number of seats we held dropped from 62 (as per the 2005 General Election, an extra one was won in a by-election during the parliament) to 57. It is interesting to note that according to my calculations the notional result for 2005 on the 2010 boundaries would however have been 61 so it looks like it was notionally a loss of 4 seats.
The thing I was most interested in looking at was in how many seats we are now second placed. I think this is a useful indication of progress as when we are trying to ultimately win a seat we often have to come from third (or worse) placed to second before we can then have a decent shot at taking the seat in a subsequent election. On the 2010 boundaries, in 2005 we were notionally in second place in 188 seats. In 2010 we were second placed in 242 seats. This is a pretty big leap in my view, an increase of 54 seats or more than 28%. If you combine the 2010 winning seat total with the number of second places you get to 299 so that is more than 47% of seats where we are now first or second placed (based on the 632 mainland seats so excluding Northern Ireland). This compares to 249 (on the notional 2010 boundaries) in the 2005 parliament which would have been less than 40% of seats where we were first or second placed. I think this is real, noteworthy progress. I guess it is not so surprising though when you consider that our absolute vote and vote share went up and yet our seat numbers went down. These extra votes had to go somewhere and it appears that they have bolstered our second placed positions considerably.
Something else that I was interested in is how many marginal seats we now have to go at compared to last time. Again using the 2010 notional boundaries, in 2005 there were 8 seats where the Lib Dems were second placed and the majority was less than or equal to 1,000. In 2010 there are 12 seats in this position. If you make the threshold 2,000 then in 2005 there were 10 seats but in 2010 there were 17.
I am sure there will be all sorts of analyses done on the figures in the coming weeks and months but I think that the details above show that once you get beyond the headline figures about loss of seats (and of course we should still have a proper inquest into what happened there) there is ample evidence that the Lib Dem performance in the 2010 election was better than it may seem.
I suspect candidates for the party in 2015 will be very grateful for this as it may have just made some of their tasks a bit more achievable.