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.

Exclusive survey results: What Lib Dem members think of the Coalition so far

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. 747 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Members back Coalition with Conservatives by 79% to 18%

Do you support or oppose the Lib Dems being in the Coalition Government with the Conservatives? (Changes since last time question asked, September 2014).

Posted in LDV Members poll | 31 Comments

Five vie to succeed Jeremy Browne as Lib Dem candidate for Taunton Deane

There’s a short-list of five to take over from Jeremy Browne as the Lib Dem candidate for Taunton Deane, according to the BBC:

The successful candidate will be defending a majority of 3,993 over the Conservatives.

Posted in Selection news | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Latest Ashcroft polls of Lib Dem seats: MP incumbency protects party in 10 out of 13 constituencies

Michael AshcroftThe Conservative peer and pollster Lord Ashcroft has released the results of his latest polling of key seats for the next general election, including 13 seats currently held by the Lib Dems and one (Watford) which the party is actively targeting. These seats are ones with bigger majorities than those he’s previously surveyed, and include MPs who commentators have speculated are under threat, such as Ed Davey in Kingston and Surbiton.

Across all Lib Dem / Conservative battleground seats, 11 of the 13, the standard voting intention question (“If there were a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”) shows the Lib Dems trailing the Conservatives significantly: Con 33%, Lib Dem 22%, Ukip 20%, Lab 17%. Based on this, the Lib Dems would lose all the seats polled.

However, as is his tradition, Ashcroft has also asked the really important voting intention question: “And thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next general election and the candidates who are likely to stand for election to Westminster there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency?”

This produces a very different result: Lib Dem 36%, Con 27%, Ukip 17%, Lab 13%. On this basis, the Lib Dems hold 10 of the 13 seats surveyed:

Posted in Polls | Tagged | 27 Comments

40% of the British public wants the Lib Dems to poll higher than now at the general election, YouGov finds

Here’s an interesting survey finding via YouGov. The pollster asked the following (slightly awkwardly worded) question:

The Lib Dems are currently between 6% to 11% in the opinion polls. At the next general election, might the Lib Dems get closer to their previous several elections? Their average for the past five elections is around 19%. AND, do you personally wnat them to do better than where they are now, or not?

You can see the full spread of results below. But bundled up here are the two key findings…

First, 78% of the public thinks the Lib Dems will poll around either …

Posted in Polls | Tagged | 31 Comments

Election for Lib Dem Party President: who will win, according to our exclusive survey

libby on the wall3Lib 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. The survey closed at 10am today. 747 party members responded – thank you – and we’ll be publishing the full results here.

Tim Farron’s four-year stint as Lib Dem Party President finishes at the end of this year. The contest to succeed him was a three-way election between three female candidates: Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, and Liz Lynne.

We asked a series of questions about the party presidency in our survey…

91% in our survey say they will vote! (That won’t be the turnout.)

Three candidates are standing for the post of Party President, an election which is being decided by a ballot of all party members. Do you plan to vote in this election?

Posted in LDV Members poll and Party Presidency | Tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

The ‘nowcast’ for May 2015 which gives the Lib Dems 28 MPs

Over at the polling website May2015 (part of the New Statesman stable) Matt Singh has asked the straightforward question, ‘How are the Lib Dems polling and will they survive in May 2015?’ Except it isn’t all that straightforward…

First, there’s the issue that the different polling companies don’t agree on what the current Lib Dem rating actually is. In the last fortnight, the party’s been rated as low as 5% (Opinium) and as high as 11% (ICM): that’s a difference outside the margin of error you might expect.

Posted in Polls | Tagged , , , and | 77 Comments

Alex Folkes: Cornwall Council and its chief executive have serious questions to answer

Many Lib Dems will know Alex Folkes. He’s a Lib Dem councillor on Cornwall Council, and was a member of its cabinet until earlier this month, when he stood down to “deal with a personal issue”. I noticed it at the time, hoped it was nothing too bad, thought no more of it.

Then on Thursday night I read Alex’s 1,500-word blog-post, ‘The truth about why I resigned and the claims being made against me’.

It is an extraordinary account which, if shown to be true, must surely lead to the resignation of Cornwall Council’s chief executive, Andrew Kerr. It was Mr Kerr who has asked Alex to resign from the council over claims he poses a “potential risk” to children. Last week, without giving Alex any advance notice, the council wrote to all schools and youth clubs in his ward about him and issued a press release to say they had done so. Why? Here’s how Alex tells it:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 25 Comments

New LDV members’ survey now live: your views on

imageThe new LDV members’ survey is now live. So if you are one of the 1,500+ registered members of the Liberal Democrat Voice forum — and any paid-up party member is welcome to join — then you now have the opportunity to make your views known.

Questions we’re asking this month include:

  • do you support the broadcasters’ proposal for the televised leaders’ debates;
Posted in LDV Members poll | 2 Comments

How Lib Dems should talk about immigration

british future immigrationThis week saw the publication of an important report from the think-tank British Future called ‘How to talk about immigration’.

Its central thrust is that the majority of the British public’s views about immigration are more moderate, pragmatic and nuanced than the polarising debate often allows:

How to talk about immigration challenges both the pro and anti-migration voices to respond to the public’s desire for a sensible conversation about immigration.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 23 Comments

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 | 4 Comments

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 | 36 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 | 144 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 | 27 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
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAmalric 29th Nov - 3:27am
    @ Richard Dean The immigrants have money to spend here because they are mostly in work. If there were 3.2 million more children in the...
  • User AvatarAmalric 29th Nov - 2:30am
    It is very disappointing to see that 49% of the party is satisfied with Nick Clegg as leader and 56% say the party is on...
  • User AvatarAmalric 29th Nov - 1:46am
    The government has been informed that in England (only) there are 1.8 million households on the local authority waiting lists. It was expected that in...
  • User AvatarHywel 29th Nov - 12:45am
    Errrrm: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3463/Support-for-EU-membership-highest-for-23-years-even-as-UKIP-rises-in-the-polls.aspx
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 29th Nov - 12:18am
    All this argument about whether net inward migration is good for the economy, whether people really resent it all that badly, and whether or not...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 29th Nov - 12:07am
    The question is does Nick have the courage to bite the bullet and take us out of the coalition on this issue now? If he...