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.

Phone hacking trial: Coulson found guilty, Cameron apologises

andy-coulsonThe long-awaited trial of David Cameron’s former director of communications, Andy Coulson, concluded today, with the jury finding him guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails as part of the phone-hacking scandal. All Coulson’s co-defendants, including former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, were all found not guilty of various conspiracy charges.

It’s just over 7 years since Cameron appointed Coulson as the Conservatives’ communications director – we noted in May 2007 his connection to what became known as the phone hacking scandal but which back …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 9 Comments

Ashcroft battlegrounds poll: both Tories and Lib Dems down on 2010, but it’s the Tories who’d make gains

lib toryLord Aschroft, the Tory peer and pollster, has published the results of a large survey of 17 Lib Dem / Conservative battleground seats. Six are Tory-held seats where the Lib Dems were runners-up in 2010; 11 are Lib Dem-held seats where the Tories were runners-up.

Across those seats the voting intention (compared with the 2010 general election) is: Con 33% (-8%), Lib Dem 28% (-15%), Labour 14% (+5%), Ukip 18% (+14%). However, that conceals a lot of individual seat-by-seat variation. Here’s the constituency overview. The headlines are that:

Posted in News and Polls | Tagged | 64 Comments

Principle and Realpolitik: why the Lib Dems should back an EU in/out referendum

EU Flag at the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Photo credit: Some rights reserved by European ParliamentMy co-editor Caron Lindsay has asked the following question, amid reports senior Lib Dems want the party to commit to an in/out EU referendum in the next parliament: “What do you think? Stay as we are or shift our position?”

My own view is the party has nothing to lose by offering a referendum in the 2015 manifesto. As I’ve pointed out before, the Lib Dem line on an EU referendum has been remarkably consistent over the last few years - far more so than the Tories (remember David Cameron’s cast-iron guarantee?) or Labour (remember 2004 EU referendum U-turn prior to their 2008 U-turn?).

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 42 Comments

ICM poll: No revival for two-party politics, even as Lib Dems drop to 10%

State of the parties, 17 June 2014.The Guardian has published its latest ICM poll, the ‘gold standard’ survey most eagerly awaited alike by political junkies (because ICM has the best track record) and Lib Dems (because it tends to give the party higher ratings). It shows Labour on 32%, a nose ahead of the Tories (31%), with Ukip (16%) and the Lib Dems (10%) trailing in third and fourth.

Two points stand out. First, the combined Labour/Conservative shares, at 63%, are the lowest ever recorded by ICM using the phone method. No sign of a reversion to two-party politics.

Secondly, the Lib Dem share of 10% is also the lowest ever recorded by ICM using the phone method. As Anthony Wells notes, “ICM were responsible for the Lib Dems lowest ever score of 3% back in 1989, but this is the lowest ICM have ever shown for them since they switched to phone polling in the 1990s”.

Posted in Polls | Tagged , , and | 47 Comments

Lib Dem opposition to mandatory jail terms for second knife offences show our principles are intact

The Court House - Warwick - Coat of ArmsThe Lib Dems have sold our soul, abandoning all principle, since going into Coalition – so goes up the cry from the party’s detractors, both internal and the very many beyond.

That trite claim doesn’t sit very comfortably with the party’s actions today, voting against Labour and Conservative MPs’ united support of mandatory jail terms for any adult convicted in England or Wales of a second offence involving a knife. As the BBC reports:

Conservative MP Nick de Bois championed the policy, which won

photo by: ell brown
Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged , , , and | 18 Comments

Why a Lib Dem leadership election doesn’t look likely

lib dem conf votingThere are two formal mechanisms in the Lib Dems for getting rid of the party leader. First, a vote of no confidence by the party’s MPs. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen. The second option is for enough local Lib Dem parties to request a leadership election:

the receipt by the President of a requisition submitted by at least 75 Local Parties (including for this purpose, the Specified Associated Organisation or Organisations representing youth and/or students) following the decision of a quorate general meeting;

This option is currently being pursued …

Posted in News | 131 Comments

UPDATED: Full list of Lib Dems standing in our held seats and top 50 targets

We’re less than 11 months away from the May 2015 election so here’s my latest running check on how candidate selection is going in our held and key target seats…

Lib Dems winning hereI published a first draft of this list at the start of October, and asked readers to help me update it. Many thanks to those of you who have helped me keep it updated, including the party’s Candidates Services Office. Here’s the latest version of the list of (re-)selections in our held seats and the top 50 targets for the party.

It’s a snapshot of how the party’s doing in getting people in place in the battleground seats that will determine the extent of Lib Dem influence in the next parliament:

Posted in Selection news | Tagged | 26 Comments

Should the identity of sex crime suspects be kept secret before charges are laid? 73% of Lib Dem members say yes

Publish IdentityLib 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. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

photo by: Gideon Burton
Posted in LDV Members poll | 23 Comments

Clegg’s “Parental Guarantee”: calls for all schools to employ qualified teachers and teach ‘core curriculum’

Teacher In Classroom“We are and always will be the party of education and I’ll be saying more about that in the near future,” promised Nick Clegg in his Bloomburg speech on Monday. Today we saw the start, with the Lib Dem leader setting out the party’s Parental Guarantee that “every parent can be confident that their child will be taught a core curriculum by a properly qualified teacher”.

This isn’t actually a new policy. The ‘parental guarantee’ was first announced last October. And the policy it’s based on was …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 29 Comments

“The Lib Dems are setting out plans as if they may have to deliver them”. Giles Wilkes on Clegg’s economic plans

Tighten Your Belt - AusterityGiles Wilkes was, until recently, special advisor to Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable. He was the SpAd who famously slapped down News International’s advances when they were looking to lobby in favour of their proposed takeover of BSkyB. Before that, he was the chief economist at liberal think-tank CenteForum, where he was author of the award-winning pamphlet, ‘A balancing act: fair solutions to a modern debt crisis’, about which he wrote on LDV.

His Free-thinking Economist blog is a must-read, especially today as Giles covers …

photo by: kenteegardin
Posted in LibLink and News | Tagged and | 31 Comments

“What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?” – What I told Policy Exchange…

stephen tall px edu
I was one of the speakers at this weekend’s Policy Exchange conference which posed the question, ‘What should the political parties promise on education in 2015?’

Though I work in the education sector, I was there in a personal capacity to offer a Lib Dem perspective; very kindly Policy Exchange had invited Michael Gove and Tristram Hunt as warm-up acts for my seven minutes. You can watch what I had to say in the video at the foot of this post, starting at 2 mins in, or just read on… (If you check against delivery you’ll see I’ve tidied up some of my sentences, such as self-censoring my request to the

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 12 Comments

Nick Clegg’s speech shows we’re still a party of the liberal centre (just don’t call us anchors)

Clegg Speech 7The Lib Dems have a new slogan, judging from Nick Clegg’s Bloomberg speech today: ‘Opportunity for Everyone’. That, at least, was the title. The mantra ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’ (a slogan unloved by Lib Dem activists as smacking of split-the-difference centrism) was mentioned, but very much in the past tense:

We’ve talked a lot about building a stronger economy. We’ve talked a lot about creating a fairer society. But maybe we haven’t talked enough about why those things matter. They matter because they are the only way we can enable everyone to get on in life – or as I’m calling it today, quite simply, Opportunity for Everyone.

It’s an optimistic and inclusive pitch, albeit one that will be utterly indistinguishable in the slogan line-up at the next election. But, then again, they always are. Another new feature was Nick’s emphasis on the party’s

Posted in News | 36 Comments

82% of Lib Dems back giving terminally ill adults the option of assisted dying

Sunset at Kabini RiverLib 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. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Caron Lindsay wrote an excellent, balanced piece about the current assisted dying legislation here yesterday. Here are the results of our recent members’ survey on the subject.

82% back Assisted Dying Bill

photo by: VinothChandar
Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged and | 55 Comments

Newark by-election: what I told BBC’s Daily Politics

imageI got a call from the BBC’s Daily Politics this morning asking if I’d be willing to pitch up this lunchtime to discuss the Lib Dem performance, as the party wasn’t willing to put up anyone official. (Labour didn’t either.) I duly did so and you can see what I said below. If you want to skip Grant Shapps and Roger Helmer, I pop up briefly at the 12 minute mark. As ever, you only really get to string together a couple of sentences: I blogged my fuller views on Newark …

Posted in Parliamentary by-elections and YouTube | Tagged , and | 106 Comments

Newark by-election: Tories win well, Ukip falls short, Labour dips, Lib Dems collapse

Phot @bbcalexforsyth newark by-electionA lot of politics is about momentum. At the moment it’s the Tories who have it. Not quite the Big Mo, but a Moderate Mo that’s growing.

Here are the results of last night’s Newark by-election:

    Robert Jenrick (Con) 17,431 (45.03%, -8.82%)
    Roger Helmer (UKIP) 10,028 (25.91%, +22.09%)
    Michael Payne (Lab) 6,842 (17.68%, -4.65%)
    Paul Baggaley (Ind) 1,891 (4.89%)
    David Kirwan (Green) 1,057 (2.73%)
    David Watts (LD) 1,004 (2.59%, -17.41%)
Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged , and | 217 Comments

In praise of 5-year fixed-term parliaments

Houses of Parliament and Westminster BridgeConventional wisdom is that one area where the Lib Dem influence in Coalition has been weakest is political reform. The party’s “four step” manifesto plan to “hardwire fairness into British society” included the pledge “to clean up politics”. Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister famously promised the “biggest shake-up of our democracy” since 1832. That claim has come to seem hollow since first electoral reform, then later an elected House of Lords and the constituency boundary review, all went down in flames.

Yet one …

photo by: [Duncan]
Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Was the LibDemVoice poll on Nick Clegg’s leadership a fix? #QTWTAIN

Nick Clegg Q&A 8(#QTWTAIN = Question To Which The Answer Is No, an abbreviation made famous by the Independent’s John Rentoul)

I decided weeks ago that, come what may, LibDemVoice needed to carry out a survey of party members immediately after the local and European election results were declared asking what people thought about Nick Clegg’s leadership.

I reckoned the election results wouldn’t be pretty and that there was a good chance the result of our members’ survey could be deeply unhelpful to the leadership. But I thought it important members were given a say sooner rather than later. So, as the Euro results came in, I drafted some questions, circulated them to the team for comment, revised them – and at 1am on Mon 26th May the emails started being sent out.

A handful of people who want Nick Clegg to stay thought I was being reckless and told me so. A handful of people who want Nick Clegg to go thought the survey was a fix to shore up his position and told me so. It was neither.

Posted in LDV Members poll | 44 Comments

Mark Pack’s verdict on those ICM polls: “not sensible figures for anyone to draw a conclusion from”

Mark PackMy former co-editor here at LibDemVoice, Mark Pack, has been taking a detailed look in his latest Liberal Democrat Newswire at those ICM constituency polls commissioned by Lord Oakeshott. Here’s his take on them:

It’s not only the attempted anonymous funding of the polls that’s questionable. So too is the way they were worded. Even reputable pollsters such as ICM given their clients some discretion over question wording, and in this case it was a matter of misleading by omission rather than an outrageously worded question in its own right.


Posted in News | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

EXCLUSIVE POLL: 54% of Lib Dem members want Nick Clegg to stay as leader

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think about the performance of the Lib Dems and party leader Nick Clegg at the most recent set of local and European elections. 992 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results today.

Here’s the summary – full results below – of what our survey of Lib Dem members thinks:

  • 54% want Nick Clegg to stay as leader; 39% want him to stand down
  • Among the 39% who want Nick Clegg to stand down opinion is divided whether he should stay as Deputy Prime Minister (34%); whether his successor should become Deputy Prime Minister (35%); or whether the Lib Dems should withdraw from Coalition (27%)
  • 51% are satisfied with Nick Clegg’s performance as party leader; 48% are dissatisfied
  • By 81% to 16% Lib Dem members support the Lib Dems being in Coalition with the Conservatives
  • Almost one-half (48%) think the Lib Dems European election campaign “was the right message, but communicated poorly”
  • Tim Farron is the first choice of leader in the event of a vacancy

Personal commentary from Stephen Tall:

Posted in LDV Members poll | 125 Comments

Ouch. My first thoughts on the European election results for the four main parties

The results are all but in (Scotland will formal declare later today) and the scores on the doors make depressing reading for the Lib Dems – here’s the BBC’s breakdown:

euro elections 2014

Here are 5 quick points:

1) A good night for Ukip

Fair do’s to Farage: he inverted the usual expectations management game by vowing Ukip would top the poll, and they did. Their share of the vote, 27.5%, means they become the first party since 1906 to beat both the Conservatives and Labour. They’ve gained at least 10 MEPs, and may …

Posted in Op-eds | 62 Comments

Special post-election LDV members’ survey now live

imageThe new LDV members’ survey is now live. So if you are one of the 1,600+ 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.

This is a brief survey, focused on the performance of the Lib Dems and party leader Nick Clegg at the most recent set of local and European elections. It should take no longer than 5-10 minutes minutes to fill in. All registered members of …

Posted in LDV Members poll | 25 Comments

About that Ukip earthquake… Farage party’s national vote-share DOWN on 2013

The BBC has published its estimate of the national vote-shares for this year’s local elections. They show Labour out in front, on 31%, the Tories just behind on 29% – with Ukip in third place on 17% and the Lib Dems in fourth on 13%. Compared to the 2013 results*, this means Ukip is the only one of the four main parties to have lost votes in the last year.

Here’s the graph showing results over the last four years, 2010-14:

Posted in News | 43 Comments

What the Euro polls say: Will Ukip come first? Will the Lib Dems avoid a 5th-placed wipeout?

A staggering 25 opinion polls have been published in May for the European elections. I say staggering because, if past form is any guide, two-thirds of the public won’t turn out to vote today. Nor do many people expect the result today to have much bearing on the general election in a year’s time. Still, here are all 25:

euro polls may 2015

Posted in News | 32 Comments

The two Orange Bookers who’ve won over the Lib Dem membership

Orange_BookIt’s 10 years since The Orange Book was published. Edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall it was widely regarded as an attempt by economic liberals within the Lib Dems to wrest back control of the party from social liberals.

Both Laws and Marshall would argue their attempt at ‘reclaiming liberalism’ (the book’s sub-title) was more about re-balancing liberalism as practised by the Lib Dems — that the party had grown intellectually lazy, happiest with simply saying ‘tax more, spend more’ as the answer to every public policy problem without thinking …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , , , , and | 70 Comments

What Lib Dem members think about the way the Coalition is cutting spending to reduce the deficit

Cut costsLib 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. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

The economy is recovering but cuts to public spending are going to be with us for some time no matter who’s in government. I wanted to test attitudes among Lib Dems to how the cuts are being handled. The questions below mirror those which have been asked by YouGov since summer 2010 (you can access the results here, from page 27). This is the second time we’ve asked these questions, so responses are compared with the previous results (in brackets) from December 2013.

Thinking about the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the government’s deficit, do you think this is…

Good or bad for the economy?

photo by: HowardLake
Posted in LDV Members poll | 12 Comments

Strong backing for Steve Webb’s pension reforms: 78% of Lib Dems support abolishing annuity requirement

WebbLib 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. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Do you support or oppose abolishing the requirement for people to buy an annuity with their pension fund, and making it easier for pensioners to take part of their pension pot as a lump sum?

    Support – 78%
    Oppose – 9%
    Don’t know – 13%

Steve Webb is …

Posted in LDV Members poll | 8 Comments

MP recall: 73% of Lib Dem members approve of voters’ right to sack their representatives

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLib 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. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

73% of Lib Dem members approve of MP recall; 19% disapprove

The government has said that voters should have a means to ‘sack’ MPs who are guilty of ‘serious wrongdoing’. It proposes to allow voters in individual constituencies

Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Lib Dem MP on post-22 May leadership speculation: “Ashdown would cut my balls off if I criticised Clegg”

Paddy Ashdown talks on "The global power shift" in Brussels March 1st 2012 -  Some rights reserved by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE Lib Dems are braced for a tricky week. This Thursday will see the first UK-wide election since 2010, with voters choosing who represents them in the European Parliament. Many voters across England will also get to decide who runs their local council.

Votes for the local elections will be counted on that night and throughout Friday. If this year follows the pattern of the previous three years, the Lib Dems could …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 67 Comments

Ed Balls is as unpopular as the Conservative Party with Lib Dem members.

Ed Balls MP, Denton - (Labour Leadership Campaign) - 2010Lib 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. More than 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

95% of Lib Dem members view Ukip unfavourably, compared to 85% for Tories, 71% for Labour and 37% for the Greens

I’m a fan of the polling company ComRes’s ‘Favourability Index’, which asks the public whether they view the …

photo by: Harry Potts
Posted in LDV Members poll | 13 Comments

WATCH: Nigel Farage comes a cropper at the hands of LBC’s James O’Brien

Nigel Farage was interviewed by LBC Radio’s James O’Brien today: it didn’t go well for the Ukip leader. Watch here as he’s asked about the racist comments of elected Ukip representatives, the extremist views of its far-right European allies, its mis-use of dodgy stats to whip-up immigration fears, and its refusal to sign up for an audit of its MEPs’ expenses…

Posted in YouTube | Tagged , and | 53 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRichard Dean 31st Jul - 5:39pm
    I think this whole affair shows how LibDems have changed, from a party of principle that it once was, to a party that will say...
  • User AvatarHelen Dudden 31st Jul - 5:38pm
    GF. I totally agree with you. That was the reason Don Foster did stand against fracking. I remember it well. Was that not the case...
  • User AvatarPeter Hayes 31st Jul - 5:25pm
    There are other creditable narratives. A council doing the right thing and gaining seats from Tories or independents and a LibDem MP with a reasonable...
  • User Avatarjohn barnett 31st Jul - 5:21pm
    @TJ Yes the EU parliament can make "requests" to the commission but that is not the same as actually making laws It is certainly not...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 31st Jul - 5:10pm
    “I’ll vote for (Stephen Lloyd),” says Dee, a young health club worker. “But I’ve lost all interest in them as a party.” ... "Liz, a...
  • User AvatarJames Brough 31st Jul - 5:01pm
    Richard Dean - "Nothing liberal or democratic," says the man who demands that people resign for disagreeing with him.