Author Archives: Stephen Tall

Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from May 2007 to Jan 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall. He writes a fortnightly column for ConservativeHome and 'The Underdog' column for Total Politics magazine. He edited the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead, 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.

LDVideo: Crosstalk with Jeremy Thorpe (BBC1, 24 March 1974)

With thanks to Ed Stradling, here’s a 40 minute interview between Jeremy Thorpe and Richard Crossman, originally broadcast on BBC1 on 24th March 1974.

Posted in YouTube | Tagged and | 12 Comments

And it’s good-bye from me as LibDemVoice Co-Editor…

Today marks the countdown to my final day as Co-Editor of LibDemVoice. I guess I could say the past seven years and seven months have flown by, but actually it seems like a long, long time since I started here. Tony Blair was prime minister, Ming Campbell was Lib Dem leader, and I was still a councillor.

I think I officially took over as Editor (from the site’s co-founder Rob Fenwick) on 31st May, 2007, though I’d started the Golden Dozen round-up of the best of the Lib Dem blogs a few months earlier.

A couple of years later, …

Posted in News and Site news | Tagged , , and | 42 Comments

Former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe dies

jeremy thorpe_2The party website records the passing of former Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, who died today aged 85:

Mr Thorpe died today (4 December) at his home in London. He had battled with Parkinson’s Disease for more than 35 years. He was elected as Liberal MP for North Devon in the 1959 General Election and held the seat for 20 years. Following the retirement of Jo Grimond, he was elected as leader of the Liberal Party in 1967. He was a fervent supporter of Britain’s membership of the the EU

Posted in Obituaries | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

“This is not a snub. I thought it would be a nice change to get out of the Westminster bubble”: Clegg on his Autumn Statement absence

clegg on levesonNick Clegg has taken my advice.*

Back in July, I offered the Lib Dem leader five unsolicited pieces of advice. Most he’s ridden roughshod over: Vince Cable wasn’t appointed the party’s shadow chancellor for the next election, Jo Swinson wasn’t promoted to the cabinet, and (as far as I know) Nick continues to rule out options other than a full coalition in the event of a hung parliament.

But item number 4 was this:

Posted in News, Parliament and PMQs | Tagged , and | 46 Comments

The graph which shows why the Lib Dem policy of raising the personal allowance is the wrong priority

Here’s a graph which should make Lib Dems who continue to advocate increasing the personal allowance as an effective way to help low- and middle-income earners sit up and pay attention.

It’s from the Resolution Foundation’s report, Missing the target: tax cuts and low to middle income Britain, published yesterday.

What it shows is which households gain from the party’s policy to increase the threshold at which income tax is payable to £12,500 over the course of the next parliament. As you can see, those households which benefit most are at the wealthier end of the spectrum; the poorest 20% benefit least.

res fdn tax cuts lib dem graph 1

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 46 Comments

That LibDemVoice survey on the party presidency (which, ahem, called it wrong): 8 thoughts from me

What happened there, then? I refer to the LibDemVoice survey of party members reported here on Wednesday which showed Daisy Cooper with a clear lead over Sal Brinton in the contest for party president; when actual votes were counted the result was reversed. Is this moment to the LDV surveys what the 1992 election was to the pollsters? In haste, here are a few initial thoughts from me…

1. The sample itself is drawn from the 1,500+ current Lib Dems signed up to our members-only forum. This is therefore self-selecting; as is who chooses to respond. It isn’t the …

Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged | 37 Comments

A chance to say thank you to Tim Farron

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterThe Lib Dems now have a President-elect: yesterday it was announced that Sal Brinton had won the only post other than that of party leader subject to an all-member ballot. Congratulations to her; and a big thanks to runner-up Daisy Cooper as well as Liz Lynne for ensuring a healthy debate.

However, this post isn’t about them, it’s about the current President (until 31st December, when the second of his two-year terms expire), Tim Farron.

Tim might not have been party president. Initially he stood for election as the Deputy Leader in June 2010, following Vince Cable’s decision to quit that post when he entered the cabinet. He lost out to Simon Hughes, himself a former president. So when a few months later, Baroness (Ros) Scott unexpectedly decided not to stand for a second term as party president, Tim threw his hat into the ring, and beat off tough competition from Susan Kramer to win. He was elected unopposed for a second term in 2012.

Posted in News and Party Presidency | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Devo-max for Scotland: what Lib Dem members think

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.

On Thursday, the Smith Commission published its recommendations on how to take forward the promise made by all three party leaders to deliver extensive powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote.

As my co-editor Caron noted then: “Federalism was never going to come out of this. It couldn’t, given that you need the co-operation of the rest of the UK to do that. We need to keep campaigning for a proper UK wide constitutional convention after the election.”

Before Lord Smith had reported, though, we tested the water in our survey. How happy were Lib Dem members, most of whom are English, about the priority being afford to the Scots?

Posted in LDV Members poll and Scotland | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 12

Congratulations (again) to Jon Featonby, continuing to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 12, having amassed a Chelsea-esque 729 points. That’s enough to put John in the top 0.05% of the 3.5m global players of the league. Not bad.

He’s put a little space between himself and nearest rivals George Murray (709) and Sam Bowman (700). Just 84 points separates 10th and 1st places, though, so it’s far from over.

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

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 | 40 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 | 4 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 | 38 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 | 12 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 | 79 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

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 4th Oct - 4:00pm
    I don't agree with all of "the west's" foreign policy that was meant to say. Sorry, predictive text.
  • User AvatarTonyJ 4th Oct - 3:57pm
    Jeez. You can never beat our Paddy when it comes to an anecdote about someone, can you??! :)
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 4th Oct - 3:56pm
    Good speech. I particularly like the part about willingness to act with partial information. Once the important facts have been established then in an emergency...
  • User AvatarTony Dawson 4th Oct - 3:42pm
    "There is a school of thought in this party that puts our atrocious result down to the Tory’s scaremongering about the SNP and Labour in...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 4th Oct - 3:25pm
    @ John Marriott, Perhaps the General Public understand rather more than you think about coalitions. a) First past the posts not a appropriate system for...
  • User AvatarSueS 4th Oct - 3:04pm
    I was going to say I agree with Tony Hill and then, darn it , he said he agreed with Simon Shaw! I do wish...