Hung parliament – 63% of Lib Dem members back equidistance from Labour and Tories

Ah, the question the media loves, and Lib Dems hate: just who would the party back if there were a hung parliament?

Now we’ve asked this question before in an attempt to get the media to understand the position of Lib Dem members (despite the wilful attempts of BBC2’s The Daily Politics to mislead viewers with flawed polls). But we’re going to try it again to see if this time the media will listen to what LDV’s sample of Lib Dem members actually think about what the party should do in the event of a hung parliament.

Some 200 members of LDV’s private discussion forum (open to all Lib Dem members) answered the following question:

If the result of the next general election is that the Lib Dems hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, what do you think should be the party’s response if Labour/Conservatives offer some form of deal which satisfies at least some of the party’s manifesto commitments, including the promise of a referendum on electoral reform?

And here’s what they said:

  • 23% – Steer well clear of any form of negotiations or coalition with Labour or Conservatives
  • 6% – Be ready to negotiate only with Labour on that basis
  • 5% – Be ready to negotiate only with the Conservatives on that basis
  • 63% – Be equally ready to negotiate with either Labour or the Conservatives on that basis
  • 3% – Don’t know / No opinion

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results are almost identical to the results we received the last time LDV asked the hung parliament question – back in September, 61% of party members who responded said the party should be ready to negotiate equally with either Labour or Tories so long as key elements of the party manifesto were satisfied. Today the figure is 63%.

Just 11% of party members believe the party should enter into any form of negotiations exclusively with only one of the two other main parties – exactly the same proportion as in September – while almost one-quarter continue to believe we should avoid both of them like the plague.

It’s a clear message: the ball is not in the Lib Dems’ court in the event of a hung parliament – it is up to Labour and the Tories to say clearly where they are prepared to compromise if they want to secure Lib Dem support in the event of a hung parliament.

Perhaps the media will now start asking that question of Gordon Brown and David Cameron as much as they ask the hung parliament question of Nick Clegg?

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10 Comments

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Feb '10 - 1:07pm

    As so often, the questions seem to have been phrased in such a way as to make the results almost meaningless.

    “Any form of negotiations or coalition” could mean almost anything. An agreement not actually to bring down a minority government for a stipulated period, but otherwise to judge each issue on its merits, would be a world away from a coalition complete with Lib Dem bums on cabinet seats.

  • Equidistance in a seat-by-seat setting, ie Lib Dem supporters voting Lib Dem, is fair enough where they are first, second or a close third. But elsewhere it is tantamount to washing their hands of a decision and asking for the other c80% of the electorate to impose an outcome on them. In these seats they should be voting Tory where the Tories are ahead or within 6 points of Labour to deprive Brown of his Commons majority, and voting Labour where the Tories are more than 10 points back to block a Cameron/Osborne majority. Otherwise this hung parliament stuff is just irrelevant and the Lib Dems will have no influence.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th Feb '10 - 2:10pm

    Another visit from “Hugh”, noted Tory campaigner. Bit desperate for votes there?

  • Labour, Tories or none of the above: None of the above.

    I asked Nick long before he became party leader where he stood on the issue and he assured me he was opposed to coalition. He was asked during the leadership election and again he reaffirmed his opposition to coalition. I will (hopefully not alone) feel personally betrayed if he reneges on that now if there’s a hung parliament: if will do us no favours (go look at what happened to out vote share in Scotland after our experience of coalition with Labour) and will rob the British polity the prospect of a genuine new era; a minority government would have to make it’s case for legislation to the representatives of the people rather than relying on the whip system. You know; what Parliament was supposed to be for before the growth of the party system.

  • Hugh – why? As a Lib Dem in a safe Labour seat (Gordon Brown’s) I’ll be voting Lib Dem, not anyone else.

    Duncan – a coalition will allow Liberal Democrat policies to be enacted. Look at the record of the Lib Dem / Labour Executive – some 60% + of the policies enacted came from the Lib Dem manifesto. Our share of the vote in the 2005 General Election left us in second place in more seats than the SNP. Obviously the best way to get Lib Dem policies implemented is a Lib Dem Govt, but getting into a position of influence where we can make a difference is the next best thing.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Feb '10 - 5:43pm

    “I asked Nick long before he became party leader where he stood on the issue and he assured me he was opposed to coalition. He was asked during the leadership election and again he reaffirmed his opposition to coalition. I will (hopefully not alone) feel personally betrayed if he reneges on that now if there’s a hung parliament …”

    Indeed. I’m sure the numbers would have been very different if the questions had been phrased:
    “Refuse to negotiate a coalition with …
    Be ready to negotiate a coalition with …”

  • A hung parliament with no coalition would be disastrous for Britain to my mind. The Lib dems need to enter into coalition as a first choice with whoever gets the most seats in parliament. Talk to them both, sure, but if the mood of the country is to get rid of Brown and Labour the Lib Dems won’t win many friends if they put Labour back in again. They’ll be on the back foot before the game even starts.

    More to the point – these are not normal times. The UK is running a GBP200 billion fiscal deficit. This is currently being funded by the Bank of England printing up pounds. The bank of England can’t keep up the QE but it can’t stop either. The Government can’t continue to spend 200 billion beyond its means but it can’t stop either without sending the UK back into recession.

    More of the same and crossing of fingers and hoping for a miracle recovery isn’t an option. Whatever party forms a govt is going to have to increase taxes and cut spending. A majority of Lab/Lib Dem on the back bench is a recipe for gridlock. Sky high interest rates and a falling pound would only complicate matters further.

  • Philip Baker 29th Apr '10 - 2:09pm

    After the last TV debate, YouGov asked: “How would you vote on May 6 if you thought the Liberal Democrats had a significant chance of winning the election”. The responses: Lib Dem 49%, Conservative 25%, Labour 19%. If this actually happened there would be 548 Lib Dem MPs, 41 Labour MPs and just 25 Tories.

    The message here seems to be, vote for what you really want to happen, and it will.

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