Author Archives: Stephen Tall

Stephen has been Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice since 2007. He edited the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He writes a fortnightly column for ConservativeHome and 'The Underdog' column for Total Politics magazine. He also writes at his personal website, and is a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum. He was awarded the inaugural Lib Dem ‘Blogger of the Year’ prize in 2006, was a councillor for eight years in Oxford, including a year as Deputy Lord Mayor, and appears frequently in the media in person, in print and online. Stephen combines his political interests with his professional life as Development Director for the Education Endowment Foundation, though writes here in a personal capacity.

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 11

Congratulations to Jon Featonby, who continues to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 11, having amassed a whopping 675 points. Not far behind is George Murray (663), then Sam Bowman (659).

A bit of a gap has opened up between the top three and the chasing pack: fourth-placed Andrew Wiseman is 34 points back. However, just 69 points separates the top whole of the top 10, a gap that can easily be closed. After all, where we work we win, right?

For information only, the bottom placed team has 205 points, dangerously close to a lost deposit.

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Lib Dem Party Committee election results

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderThe Lib Dems have this evening announced the results of the elections to its Party Committees as voted for by conference representatives. Congratulations to all elected; commiserations to those who weren’t.

The lists of those elected (and not), ordered by first preference votes, follows…

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Rochester & Strood by-election: Ukip win, Lib Dems lose 11th deposit

Mark Reckless won his bid to be re-elected an MP under the UKIP banner last night, following his eve-of-conference defection from the Conservatives. That this wasn’t at all a surprise — the swing from the Tories to UKIP was 28% — says something about the febrile dynamics of politics at the moment. Support for Labour in a seat they held until 2010 also slumped. Geoff Juby for the Lib Dems trailed in fifth place behind the Greens, having shed some nine-tenths of the party’s May 2010 vote. This was Lib Dems’ 11th lost deposit of the parliament.

Here are the votes:

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged , , , , , , , and | 99 Comments

What the YouGov profiler says about Lib Dems

YouGov-Profiles-launchMarket research firm YouGov poll a lot of people about a lot of things. As a result they have a data trove which they’ve turned into a visualisation tool which can profile a typical customer for any given brand… including if that ‘brand’ is the Lib Dems.

Before I get to the fascinating screenshots, and you all shout back “But that’s just not true”, here’s what YouGov says about what the data show:

This app does not show the *typical* fan or customer. If it did, most groups would look very similar, and you wouldn’t learn a lot about the specifics of particular thing.

It shows what is *particularly true* about a group. We compare the group to their natural ‘comparison set’ (for example, fans of Downton Abbey compared to anyone who has rated any TV shows) and see which of the thousands of datapoints most overscore in our target group.

Posted in News | Tagged | 35 Comments

Why the ideal candidate is a local GP (who preferably left school at 18)

There’s an interesting article in Political Studies journal by Rosie Campbell and Philip Cowley which attempts to find out ‘What Voters Want’. Published last year, it looks specifically what they want in terms of the characteristics of their candidates.

The core of the study consisted of six split-sample internet surveys. Each survey involved respondents reading two short profiles about hypothetical candidates, and then answering four questions about those candidates. Following Kira Sanbonmatsu, our research design included profiles of two candidates (Sanbonmatsu, 2002), whom we (initially) called John and George:


John Burns is 48 years old, and was born and brought up in your area, before going to university to study for a degree in physics. After university John trained as an accountant, and set up a company ten years ago; it now employs seven people. John has interests in the health service, the environment, and pensions, and is married with three children.

George Mountford is 45 years old; he lives in the constituency and studied business at university.He is a solicitor and runs a busy local practice. George is passionate about education, with two children in local schools and a wife who is a primary school teacher.

Posted in What do the academics say? | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Two pieces of good Lib Dem news from Cambridge

Here’s the first piece of good news… Viki Sanders gained a seat from Labour in a crucial city council by-election last night (comparison with 2012 result):

    Viki Sanders (Liberal Democrats): 933 votes (36%, +1%)
    Labour: 790 votes (31%, -9%)
    Conservatives: 614 votes (24%, +5%)
    Green: 222 votes (9%, +3%)

cambridge lib dems

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Iain Dale to host political fundraiser for Lynne Featherstone

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsIain Dale, former Conservative candidate and blogger turned LBC Radio broadcaster, made the shock revelation this morning on his ConservativeHome diary:

Next week, shock horror, I’m doing another political fundraiser. Brace yourselves. It’s for Lynne Featherstone – yes, the Liberal Democrat MP. She’s a mate and did sterling work on equal marriage, so I’ve decided to do it – and hang the consequences. All I need now is to do one for a Labour and UKIP MP or candidate, and I will truly

Posted in News | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Labour’s Mili-madness is over. Now what?

Labour’s moment of Mili-madness is over: Ed will lead his party into the next election. Alan Johnson’s re-re-re-confirmation that he has no appetite for the job has thwarted any chances that he might be drafted into the post as caretaker leader to see his party through the remainder of the season.

It was a plan borne of desperation. Alan Johnson is admirable in many ways — he’s had a life before politics, he speaks human — but he has ruled himself out too often, too categorically, to be a credible potential Prime Minister. His is not the modest, aw-shucks-if-I-must reluctance of an ambitious politician who knows better than to look too ambitious: it is genuine. That many in Labour have been so keen to promote a man unwilling to be promoted says much about the incumbent.

Posted in News | Tagged | 47 Comments

European Arrest Warrant: I’m a sceptic (but not a Eurosceptic)

As I write, the House of Commons is debating the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Well, sort of. In fact, the Speaker, John Bercow, has already pointed out that “there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European arrest warrant”. But Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling say there will. In the Tories’ Alice in Wonderland world, when they use the word vote it means just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

As with any debate involving Europe, there is a danger of it being used as …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , and | 13 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 10

Congratulations to Jon Featonby, whose team “What bitey racist?” continues to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 10, having amassed 601 points. Hot on his heels are George Murray (589) and Sam Bowman (584). There’s then a gap of 25 points separating fourth-placed Andrew Wiseman. Still, there only just over 50 points between the top 10 and three-quarters of the season left to play.

Posted in Fantasy Football | Tagged | Leave a comment

Six months from 7th May 2015: how the polls are looking and what to look for

There are three key things about opinion polls.

The first is what matters are trends, not individual poll fluctuations.

The second is they’re snapshots, not forecasts. (A point made by Lord Ashcroft, to his credit, every time he publishes his latest poll finding.)

The third is the next general election won’t be decided by national party vote shares but by who wins in 650 individual seats. (A point often made by PoliticalBetting’s Mike Smithson.)

Here are the trends…

Here’s a graph which focuses solely on the first of these. It shows the result of every single opinion poll – courtesy Mark Pack’s invaluable spreadsheet – in the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014 (incl.):

poll trends 2014

Posted in Polls | Tagged , , , , and | 69 Comments

The 3 Lib Dem party president candidates on what they’d do in my “It’s 8th May 2015″ scenario

libby on the wall3A couple of weeks ago I asked all three candidates for the Lib Dem party presidency a deliberately provocative question:

It’s 8th May, 2015. The Lib Dems have lost some MPs but are still a force to be reckoned with in the House of Commons. Nick Clegg announces he will step aside to let a new leader take over. No single party has an overall majority. What will you do in the next 7 days to maximise Lib Dem influence and keep the party united?

As I wrote then:

My guess is all three will be reluctant to be drawn by the premise of the question (Lib Dems losing MPs, Nick quitting). Fair enough, that’s how politics works. You’re not allowed publicly to think through the Plans B, C and D you need to be thinking through, or the media will tear you to shreds. So I’m not necessarily expecting their real answer.

The reason I’m asking it to them is simple. That scenario, above, is the most likely one to play out in six months’ time, and I really want them to be thinking now about how they handle it. Their response will likely determine not only the success of their time as party president, but also how the party handles it.

To their credit, all three answered. Quick snippets from each below, but well worth reading in full what they said, I think.

Posted in Party Presidency | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Lib Dem membership up for 15th consecutive month

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKIt’s over a year since we first reported that Lib Dem membership, which plummeted in the aftermath of the formation of the Coalition, had started rising again. That meant the party finished 2013 with more members than it began the year.

Well, the upward trend is continuing, as an email to members tonight notes:

Liberal Democrat membership has once again increased in the previous quarter, which means we’ve now grown continuously for the past 15 months. Membership now stands at

Posted in News | Tagged | 14 Comments

“Lib Dems have made majority Conservative rule in Britain less likely for perhaps a generation”

Rafael-BehrRafael Behr, formerly of the New Statesman now at The Guardian, is my favourite political columnist. A brilliant writer, he is also dispassionately shrewd. So it is today, when he analyses the impact of the Lib Dems in Coalition.

It’s inspired by Norman Baker’s resignation – which, he rightly observes “says more about the Home Office than it does about the coalition more widely” – and examines how the Conservatives being forced to share power with the Lib Dems in Coalition has squeezed out what remains of liberal Conservatism:

It is true that the Lib Dems have inflicted serious damage on the Tories, but not in the way many of them seem to think.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 41 Comments

Norman Baker – one of the most popular Lib Dem ministers among party members

LibDemVoice has been surveying party members throughout the Coalition to find out how well-rated (or otherwise) Lib Dem ministers are. All these results, together with our regular Coalition tracker series, are available online here.

Here’s how Norman Baker has performed in these surveys in the four-and-a-half years he’s been a minister, first at Transport, latterly at the Home Office. The figures below are the net satisfaction ratings (ie, those very/quite satisfied minus those very/quite dissatisfied):

ldv - norman baker ratings

Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged and | 5 Comments

How – or will – Nick Clegg replace Norman Baker in the home office?

jenny willottNorman Baker’s decision to quit as Lib Dem home office minister — citing significant differences with his boss at the department, the Tories’ Theresa May — means a vacancy has opened up. How will Nick Clegg fill it? We’re unlikely to have long to wait, but here are what I see as his options…

Nick could simply promote a current MP. If he does so, then the obvious choice would be Jenny Willott. She covered Jo Swinson’s maternity leave at the business department, earning good reviews along the way. A promotion …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , and | 26 Comments

++ Norman Baker quits as Home Office minister

Norman BakerNorman Baker, appointed Lib Dem home office minister just over a year ago, is to quit his government post and “launch a stinging attack on Theresa May”, according to the Independent:

Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, is stepping down after a year of internal battles within the Home Office with his Conservative boss.

In a scathing verdict on Ms May’s leadership, Mr Baker warned that support for “rational evidence-based policy” was in short supply at the top of her department.

The Lib Dem has publicly clashed with Ms May on issues including drugs policy and immigration.

He told The Independent yesterday that the experience of working at the Home Office had been like “walking through mud” as he found his plans thwarted by the Home Secretary and her advisers.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 29 Comments

Immigration: are you more clued-up than the British public?

immigrationHere’s your starter for three:

People sometimes talk about ‘net immigration’, meaning the difference between the number of people coming to Britain each year to live, and the number leaving Britain to live in another country. What do you think is the current level of net immigration into Britain? If you are not sure, please give your best guess.

More than two million a year
Between one and two million a year
Between 500,000 and one million a year
Between 400,000 and 500,000 a year
Between 300,000 and 400,000 a year
Between 200,000 and 300,000 a year
Between 100,000 and 200,000 a year
Between 50,000 and 100,000 a year
Less than 50,000 a year

Posted in Polls | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 9

Congratulations to Jon Featonby, who continues to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 9, having amassed 525 points so far – an average of 58 points each week. His nearest rival, just 7 points behind, continues to be George Murray. In third place, on 513 points, is a very familiar Lib Dem name: Andrew Wiseman, current chair of the Federal Conference Committee. With just 42 points separating the top 10, there is of course all still to play for.

LDV FANTASY FOOTBALL_9

There are 152 players in total and you can …

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

UK decision to stop migrant rescue operations attacked by Teather (“unethical”) and Ashdown (“inhuman”), defended by Clegg (“Italian decision”)

Conservative home office minister James Brokenshire defended the Government’s decision to withdraw support – along with all other EU member states – for future search-and-rescue operations for migrants in the Mediterranean. The BBC reports:

James Brokenshire told MPs the change would “save lives rather than putting them in peril.” About 3,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. That is out of an estimated total of 150,000 to have made the trip by boat across to Europe. Mr Brokenshire said operations to rescue migrants encouraged more people to make the “perilous journey” across the Mediterranean in the hope of being granted asylum. He said the “despicable work” of human traffickers had made the problem much worse, and must be tackled. On the new approach, he added it was “inconceivable to suggest that if a boat were in peril, that support would not be provided”.

Italian officials have made clear they intend to scale down their government’s current operation, known as Mare Nostrum, as the EU introduces a new operation known as Triton. Triton will focus more on border control – tasks such as vetting asylum seekers once they are ashore, and coastal patrols – rather than search and rescue in international waters. Mr Brokenshire said that 28 EU member states had “unanimously agreed” to the new proposals, and criticised those attacking the policy for seeking to “politicise” the issue.

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was not impressed by the minister’s defence:

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged , , , , , and | 32 Comments

Half of current Green supporters voted Lib Dem in 2010

“As Ukip is to the Tories, so can the Green party be to the Lib Dems.” That’s a sentence I wrote 7 years ago, November 2007. So I was interested to see this post by YouGov’s Peter Kellner – ‘Ukip, the Greens and the new politics of protest’ – which looks at his firm’s polling data to find out more about the current spike in support for the Greens.

In it, he aggregates three weeks’ polling data to create a sample size large enough to find out who these new Green voters are. One finding probably won’t surprise many of us: half current Green supporters voted Lib Dem in May 2010:

yougov - green vote

Here’s how Peter Kellner analyses it:

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 77 Comments

Nick Clegg: I’m not voting in this Thursday’s PCC by-election

Police helmetThere’s a by-election taking place this Thursday. The good news is the Lib Dems won’t lose our deposit.

The reason is the party’s not standing a candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner by-election triggered by the resignation of former PCC Shaun Wright over the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.

Here’s how Nick Clegg explained the decision to the BBC earlier this month:

“Having looked at the experiment of police and crime commissioners, I’ve come to the conclusion it just doesn’t work. Look what happened in South Yorkshire and across the whole of the north of England; it’s all re-hashed, re-tread Labour politicians and, guess what, the public don’t like it and they don’t bother to vote for it at all.”

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

What Lib Dem members think about devolution – and what their local priorities would be

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members responded to this set of questions – thank you – in a supplementary poll ran just before the party conference.

Majorities say Education and NHS should be governed at local/regional level

Which of the following should be decided mainly at a local/regional level?

Posted in LDV Members poll | 10 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 8

Congratulations to Jon Featonby, who leads the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 8, with a whopping 484 points. However, not far behind are George Murray (472) and 2013 Liberal Voice of the Year, Sam Bowman (470). However, as just 39 points separate the top 10, it’s fair to say it’s still very much anyone’s season.

For the record, I’m only 82 points off the lead, biding my time, ready for my Premiership-winning push. Like Arsenal. And I suspect I have about as much chance of winning as the Gunners do.

And not that it matters in the least, but the …

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Alex Salmond to make Westminster comeback – threat to Lib Dem seat of Gordon?

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshFormer Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has hinted he might make a comeback at Westminster, as the BBC reports:

Alex Salmond has said he has not made up his mind whether or not to stand for a Westminster seat at the next general election. The outgoing Scottish first minister was asked on the BBC’s Question Time programme if he would consider becoming an MP again. Mr Salmond said he had “absolutely decisively” not made up his mind, but agreed that the door was not closed.

Alex Salmond made his name at Westminster, as MP for Banff and Buchan for 23 years (1987-2010). However, two factors will be in his mind.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 24 Comments

Voting for the next Lib Dem party president starts a week today

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderA week today, Wednesday, 29th October, ballot papers will be sent to all c.44,000 Lib Dem members enabling us to vote for the next Party President in succession to Tim Farron, who’s held the post for the past four years. Other than the party leader, the presidency is currently the only other post in the Lib Dems determined by a vote of all its members.

Three candidates successfully secured nomination — click on their names to follow the links to their campaign websites:

Posted in Party Presidency | Tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

Is this the front page of the next Lib Dem manifesto?

Ryan Coetzee, recently appointed the Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy, was snapped today clutching papers which look like they might reveal the party’s top four priorities for the 2015 manifesto.

The four priorities read:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 90 Comments

How you can take part in LibDemVoice’s exclusive party member surveys

libdemvoiceLibDemVoice’s surveys of party members signed-up to our discussion forum have been running for over six years now. (I posted yesterday the final set of figures from our most recent poll.)

Our surveys are a way of testing members’ views on a variety of hot topics. And as they’ve been running throughout the four-and-a-half years of the Coalition they’re also an interesting record of changing views on how the Coalition is regarded within the party.

If you would like to take part in the LibDemVoice surveys, there are simply two steps you …

Posted in LDV Members poll | Leave a comment

10 Years on from The Orange Book: What should authentic liberalism look like?

Orange_Book“10 Years on from The Orange Book: what should authentic liberalism look like?” That was the title of a Lib Dem conference fringe meeting in Glasgow, organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), at which I was speaking alongside MPs Tim Farron and Jeremy Browne, Orange Book co-editor Paul Marshall, the IEA’s Ryan Bourne and ComRes pollster Tom Mludzinski. Here’s what I said…

I often describe myself as an Orange Booker. Like most labels it’s a short-hand. To me it simply means I’m a Lib Dem at ease with the role of a competitive market and who believes also in social justice. To many others in our party, though, Orange Booker is a term of abuse – Orange Bookers are thrusting, smart-suited, neoliberal Thatcherities, never happier than when mixing with red-blooded free-marketeers like the IEA.

What I want to do briefly is make a pitch for something that’s become quite unpopular among the party ranks: I’m going to make a pitch that the Lib Dems should be a party that’s unabashedly of the liberal centre.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , , , , , and | 75 Comments

Economic liberals or social liberals? Pragmatists or ideologues? How Lib Dem members describe their own political identity

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members responded to this set of questions – thank you – in a supplementary poll ran just before the party conference.

How do Lib Dem members think of their own political identity? I asked this question in April 2011, when the Coalition was less than a year old. With less than a year of the Coalition left, I thought it was time to revisit it.

60% social liberals,

Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged , and | 35 Comments
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    The use of the term "Marxist" in some of the comments in this thread is childish and silly. I had intended to avoid any further...
  • User AvatarGeoff Crocker 22nd Nov - 8:14am
    I agree with Jayne Mansfield, David Evans and David Allen. It's (relatively) unusual and (possibly) interesting to see flags flown like this. The house owner...
  • User AvatarJohn Penson 22nd Nov - 8:07am
    I was expecting to read more serious matters this week, of all weeks, Stephen
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  • User AvatarJohnTilley 22nd Nov - 7:51am
    Tony Dawson asks two good questions. I think I am right in remembering that the elected members of committees are not necessarily the only members...
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    Personally when I see a white van, I brace myself for the inevitable barrage of sexist catcalling and requests to perform sexual acts on the...