Comeback Clegg – the Times’ reasons to be cheerful about the Lib Dems

There’s a great article in today’s Times [£] praising the Liberal Democrats and fancying the party’s prospects between now and 2015.

Rachel Sylvester writes that although the received wisdom says coalition government has ruined the Lib Dems’ chances, it’s too early to write them off:

The Liberal Democrats could end up doing a lot better than most people currently think.

She cites encouraging signs in the polls:

A huge number of people still have no idea how they are going to vote and although only 12 per cent say that they would support Mr Clegg’s party if there were an election tomorrow, 21 per cent say that they would “seriously think about” voting Lib Dem when the country next goes to the polls. There is, by contrast, almost no gap between these two sets of figures for either Labour or the Conservatives. The swing voters who propelled Tony Blair to victory and, before that, kept Margaret Thatcher in No 10 are open to Mr Clegg. For from being squished to oblivion, the Lib Dems could end up as the party of the centre ground.

And the reason for this renewed confidence in the party?

The Lib Dems have done one crucial thing by joining the coalition — they have proved that they can be a serious party of government. This removes the single biggest reason why people did not vote for them in previous elections — the idea that putting an X in the Lib Dem box was a wasted vote. If economic credibility is an essential precondition for electoral success, then Mr Clegg is in a far better position than Mr Miliband right now.

The party is praised for learning the “importance of party discipline and political consistency,” reflected in the words of a “senior party figure”:

The party is becoming more grown-up. We’ve gone from adolescence to adulthood in months, not years.

Read the full piece in the Times [£].

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25 Comments

  • Richard Shaw 17th Jan '12 - 5:32pm

    The Lib Dems have done one crucial thing by joining the coalition — they have proved that they can be a serious party of government. This removes the single biggest reason why people did not vote for them in previous elections — the idea that putting an X in the Lib Dem box was a wasted vote.

    I agree very much with this point as I have often heard in the past that while the LibDems were capable of being part of local government they had no record when it came to national government. There was a feeling that they would not be up to the job. I think that the time spent in the Coalition will show, whatever the successes or failures of individual policies, that the Lib Dems are every bit as capable of being in national government as Labour or the Conservatives.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Jan '12 - 7:36pm

    @jedibeeftrix

    “they have proved that they can be a serious party of government. ””

    Proving that we are not as frivolous as the Tories and the Labour Party who have aped them for 13 of the past 15 years might not be too hard. Proving it to the 0.005 per cent of the population to whom this concept has the remotest interest, that is. Why do political geeks act as if the population of this land are political geeks?

  • The thing about adults is that they tend to be judged on their behaviour, not on the mere fact that they’re…adults.

  • Or, if you need more evidence the last “Leadership” Poll where Clegg was on 33%, ahead of Milliband.

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 18th Jan '12 - 12:31am

    Re people on the doorstep who have said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for us as we wouldn’t have any influence on government – I’d wager heavily that the vast majority of those people are now saying that they wouldn’t vote for us precisely because of the things they believe we’re doing now that we ARE in government.

    People are very good at giving reasons for why they don’t do something. Often the disappearance of one reason/excuse is just replaced by another.

    Simply being in government is not enough to secure someone’s support. It’s what they see you do when you’re there, and how it affects them, that counts.

  • “A huge number of people still have no idea how they are going to vote and although only 12 per cent say that they would support Mr Clegg’s party if there were an election tomorrow, 21 per cent say that they would “seriously think about” voting Lib Dem when the country next goes to the polls.”

    What was this figure 4 years ago though? It is a different question to (put probes similar thinking) to the “would you vote Lib Dem if you thought they could win” questions which was 49% before the 2010 election.

    This type of thinking is incredibly dangerous if people start to believe that we are doing OK

  • Julian Tisi 18th Jan '12 - 8:14am

    There is another reason people previously never voted Liberal Democrat – indeed, the reason that our poll ratings tumbled in the days leading up to the general election, namely “Coalition is to be feared and avoided”.

    The script previously was that coalition necessarily meant weak government, indecision and permanent squabbling. The received wisdom was that the country could not afford such a government in a time of national crisis.

    You can say a lot about the coalition but the idea that it’s weak, indecisive and permanently tearing itself apart has been shown up as utterly wrong. And this is all down to our responsibility in government – putting on a united front in the early days when the markets might have spooked if they saw anything else. For this reason, people will fear a coalition less going forward, which can only be a good thing.

  • david thorpe 18th Jan '12 - 12:50pm

    being in government the only way a party canprove that its a serious plarer. The party commisioned research immediately after the 2010 gENEREAL ELECTION, WHEN OF COURSE WE LOST SEATS, asking people why they didnt vote our way, especially in light of the performance in the leaders debates…..
    the overwhelming response was that while they liked the Lib Dems, they didnt view us as serious players.
    It didnt matter that we have (at least( four people capable of being at the very top of governemnt, clegg cable laws and huhne would be around the leadership[ of any party they chose to join, but the only way to prove you are a swerious player is to take the field.
    Being in government is not a cure for all Ill’s but its a start.

  • david thorpe 18th Jan '12 - 12:52pm

    and of course the notion we are doing ok would be dangerous nonsense, but people have to look at what the problem is and diagnose it correctly beofre it can be fixed

  • Richard Tutin 18th Jan '12 - 1:55pm

    “If economic credibility is an essential precondition for electoral success, then Mr Clegg is in a far better position than Mr Miliband right now.” Depending upon whether you support the views of the freshwater economists or the saltwater economists. I think it’s dangerous to peddle the Daily Mail view as though it were unquestionable truth. That smacks of arrogance, which will not endear us to those of the electorate who question and consider. And aren’t those the very people with whom we need to engage? Let’s stop the Labour-bashing; it’s not helpful.

  • Fernando North 18th Jan '12 - 2:43pm

    I have been door knocking in areas which are not traditionally Lib Dem in London and although the Tuition Fees debacle is still haunting us, voters have at last come to realise that we are in Government and doing a relative good job in pulling the country out our financial quick sand.
    Sure, we are not as lefty as some of our voters thought but they are also getting that we are being fairer than the Tories would ever have been on their own.
    They also appreciate that Labour ‘NO, NO, NO there is no alternative to denying everything’ is also an untenable position.
    Liberal Democrats may not be loved as the party of protest anymore but we are respected by the non partisan, swing voter as being a party of government, fairness and of economic credibility.
    Our Leader’s standing in the EU, Eurozone and Scotland is higher than Cameron’s. In fact Cameron will throw a tantrum, get the headline and then Clegg will go and sort out the mess and put the toys back in box.
    We are respected, not loved but respected for having the political instinct to know that the Country needed us more during the last 2 years than in the last 60 years.
    We came into Government because we knew a Coalition was the only thing that would stabilise the UK.
    The voters know that and they will not forget come the GE ballot box.
    Our job as activists, councillors and general thorns in politics is never to forget why we did what we did and why the UK will be a better place because we were in Government. If we don’t believe it, we do not deserve another chance.

  • Surely we have to admit that we represented a moderate, sensible often radical and innovative alternative to the disctedited alternatives. We(our leadership) threw that away with the Tuition Fees debacle. We stand correctly identified as a Party which sacrificed its integrity, not by failing to deliver a manifesto promise but by renaging on signed personal pledges. An Observer letter writer described it as destroying 50 years credibility as the now ‘nasty party’ Great, thanks Nick!

  • Patrick Smith 18th Jan '12 - 7:22pm

    History has shown that there has been a bigger success in `Coalition Government’ than the media will have us believe .What springs to mind is clearly the ability of David Lloyd-George to work together in the same Cabinet as WS Churchill but agreeing to differ on so much.But when securing agreement they represented the most unlikely friendship and formidable `fighting force’ duo in British politics.

    Our current `Coalition Governmnet’ L/D top table Cabinet team members are probably the most talented and gifted of our time and it is only right that they have the chance in government beset with the massive task of navigating out of the largest national deficit tidal wave, seen in a century.

  • Kevin Colwill 18th Jan '12 - 11:22pm

    OK guys. I’ll give you Labour doesn’t look like being a significant force anytime soon but don’t whoop and holler quite yet. Labour supporters have no where to go (accept stay home) and the old “us or the tories” bar chart tactics might be rather less effective in Lib Dem/Tory marginals next time around.
    The big threat, however, is the Tories themselves. Remember the “EU veto”- whatever the rights or wrongs of the case Cameron put the needs of the Tory party front and centre, got the approval of the popular press and had the Clegg looking sidelined and arguing for an unpopular policy. I think that will be happening really rather a lot as we move closer to the election.

  • “We are respected, not loved but respected …”

    Actually, I’d say not loved or respected, just feared a bit. Just a little bit.

  • Iain Sharpe 19th Jan '12 - 1:47pm

    @ Patrick Smith

    Lloyd George and Churchill is not a good example. They served together in a Liberal government between 1905 and 1915. When Churchill held office in the Lloyd George coalition he was still a Liberal. They never served in government together while belonging to different parties.

  • Neville Austin 20th Jan '12 - 8:33pm

    Before anyone becomes too bouncy, you might like to know that in a local council by-election not only have we just lost the seat but Labour achieved a clear absolute majority of the vote (against us + con + green) and with a decent turnout.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Jan '12 - 5:41pm

    Somewhat different from the Times, Saturday 21st Jan. A very nasty leader comment AND a go at Huhne, front page, Helen. The games they play.

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