Hung Parliament: what Lib Dem members think will happen… and what you want to happen

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. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

76% of Lib Dem members predict another hung parliament in 2015

What do you believe is the likeliest outcome of the next general election?

    8% – A Conservative minority government

    6% – An overall majority for the Conservatives

    2% – A Conservative-led coalition with parties other than Labour or the Lib Dems

    14% – A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition

    25% – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition

    3% – A Labour-led coalition with parties other than the Conservatives or the Lib Dems

    24% – A minority Labour government

    7% – An overall majority for Labour

    0% – A “grand coalition” between Labour and Conservatives

    11% – Don’t know

As I’ve done before, I deliberately offered multiple, mirroring choices to capture the full span of opinion on this. Let’s now group the data together to help us understand what it’s saying:

  • More than three-quarters of Lib Dem members (76%) think a hung parliament is the most likely outcome of the 2015 general election. Just 13% think either Labour (7%) or the Tories (6%) will win outright.
  • 39% of Lib Dems expect the party will be back in government in a coalition – two-thirds (25%) of this group expect it to be with Labour and just one-third (14%) a second coalition with the Tories.
  • A clear majority (59%) think Ed Miliband’s Labour party will be in government, either on their own account or with backing from other parties. Almost a third (30%) expect the Tories to be in government again after 2015.
  • So that’s what our sample of Lib Dem members think will happen. Now let’s find out what we want to happen if there’s another hung parliament…

    By 54% to 21%, Lib Dem members prefer post-2015 alliance with Labour to continuing pact with Tories

    Assuming the Lib Dems do not form a majority/minority government after the next election, which would be your most preferred outcome:

      3% – A Labour majority government with the Lib Dems in opposition

      7% – A minority Labour government with the Lib Dems in opposition

      15% – A Labour-Lib Dem ‘confidence and supply’ agreement (ie, no coalition deal so free to vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but agreeing not to bring down the government or vote against its Budget)

      39% – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)

      15% – A second Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)

      6% – A Conservative-Lib Dem ‘confidence and supply’ agreement (ie, no coalition deal so free to vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but agreeing not to bring down the government or vote against its Budget)

      3% – A minority Conservative government with the Lib Dems in opposition

      2% – A Conservative majority with the Lib Dems in opposition

      3% – Other

      5% – Don’t know

    Again, let’s group some of these individual choices together:

  • More than half (54%) Lib Dem members want to see some form of arrangement with Labour: either a formal coalition (39%) or a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement (15%).
  • By comparison, 1-in-5 (21%) want to see a continuing arrangement with the Conservatives, either a second coalition (15%) or a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement (6%).
  • In total, therefore, three-quarters of Lib Dem members (75%) want to see the Lib Dems continuing to play an active role in government: 54% within coalition, 21% through a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement. Just 15% of Lib Dem members want to see the party return to opposition.
  • 5 quick points:

    1) Lib Dems want to be in government: 75% of party members are committed to being in government. However, we don’t know yet (can’t know) if those 3-in-4 members are equally happy for the party to be in coalition irrespective of whether it’s Labour or the Conservatives who are our partners.

    2) Lib Dems prefer Labour as our partners by 2:1: you can interpret this in a couple of different ways (not mutually exclusive). Perhaps Lib Dems are more comfortable with a centre-left coalition. Or perhaps Lib Dems feel the current coalition with the Conservatives has more or less run its course. Or perhaps Lib Dems want to assert our equidistance, showing to the public we’re equally comfortable working with either Tories but also Labour.

    3) Coalition is preferred to confidence and supply by 5:2: I’ve made no secret that I’m no fan of ‘confidence and supply’, by which the Lib Dems would lend support to either Labour or the Tories on budget and confidence motions but otherwise vote on an issue-by-issue basis. It seems to me a way of getting all the pain of coalition with little of the gain of being in government.

    4) This is at least as big an issue for Labour and the Tories as for the Lib Dems: as Mark Pack points out here, there is a big choice journalists need to put to David Cameron and Ed Miliband in the lead-up to the 2015 general election: “do you want minority government or coalition if there is a hung Parliament?”

    5) “More lib Dem MPs means more Lib Dem policies”: we’ve used this mantra for years, but it is never more true than during a hung parliament. It will make a huge difference not only to our party, but also to the next government, if the Lib Dems retain our 57 MPs in 2015 (and perhaps even add to them). If the number falls to 30 or 40 then those MPs will still fight the liberal fight: but their position will be significantly weaker when it comes to negotiating – whether we’re in coalition or not.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 696 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 11th and 13th September.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    77 Comments

    • paul barker 15th Sep '13 - 3:42pm

      I would add that more votes also mean more influence, even if you live a long way from the nearest Libdem MP theres no such thing as a wasted Libdem vote.

    • One problem is that if Nick Clegg forces the Liberal Democrats to run as part of the current coalition, running on its record (such as it is) then he could be seen as limiting himself to preferring coalition with the Conservatives over all other alternatives — even if the Conservatives do less well than Labour, in terms of either votes or seats. In any case, were Labour to win a narrow minority of seats which could only form a government with Liberal Democrat support, they would certainly not do a deal with Nick Clegg — first, because he they see him as an untrustworthy character who is basically a Tory in disguise; second, because they are going to want to have tit-for-tat revenge for the political manœuvring by which Clegg forced Gordon Brown to resign his leadership. But if Clegg does do a deal with the Conservatives in the face of a Labour plurality, nobody, outside or inside the Liberal Democrats, is going to believe in his neutrality ever again.

    • Malcolm Todd 15th Sep '13 - 4:00pm

      paul barker
      For consistency, presumably you’ll be advising Labour voters in Tory/LD marginals and Tory supporters in Labour/LD marginals not to vote Lib Dem, then?

    • Peter Watson 15th Sep '13 - 4:02pm

      Much as I would love to know what the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties would do in the event of any electoral result in 2015, it is not going to happen. Each party will say they are campaigning for a majority. Evading clarification is much harder for Lib Dems: the poll above suggests none see a majority or minority Lib Dem government as a likely outcome, so the party will have to have a standard non-committal answer, just like 2010. But what if two coalitions are options next time? Which of our policies would be the deal-breakers for choosing between Labour and Conservative partners?

    • @paul barker
      For me, it seems that a Lib Dem vote would be a wasted one because the Lib Dems in government are championing things like austerity which are against economic growth. Why are they doing this when the rank and file would seem to want to work with Labour (39%)?

    • I would like to see some Lib Dems speaking up about the need to identify red lines for any future coalition negotiation. People thought that tution fees would be one such item, given the pledge.

    • Well now that the LDs have done another uturn and become a pro-nuclear party just like tory and labour and also support fracking as well as having introduced taxes on the poor such as the appalling bedroom tax and ended the 50% tax on the rich etc etc plus of course joined in with the tories in attacking trade unions not to mention teir disgraceful record in hit disabled and sick over benefit cuts and cut benefits for the poor and unemployed i.e. making the poor pay for the failure of the banks (who have been rubbing their greedy hands in the last three years); I could go one but the only choice people who care for the poor, disabled, underprivileged and who care for the ecology of the UK and safety of our country plus those against intervening in other countries (another of the many Lib Dem uturns) not to mention civil liberties and human rights – you only have one party to support i.e. the Greens!

      Since being in power to what have the LibDems kept true? nothing!

    • I do not think that it would be a simple tit for tat situation, whereby Labour would demand the removal of Clegg, as party leader, in the event of a future coalition between the two parties.
      As Brown had lost legitimacy ,so would Clegg. John Rentoul, in the Independent, puts it well. “Not only do Labour regard Clegg as a cryptic Tory, his survival in office would look as if a permanent politicial elite had defied the verdict of the people.”

    • Crypto Tory, not cryptic ! I misread the quote.

    • Clegg and the leading LibDems in the coalition government are not cryto Tories – they are Tories. Notice how Clegg and Browne dismiss Milliband but not Cameron. Labour are pretty right wing but in a choice between them and the Tories according to the Independent on Sunday most grassroots LDs much prefer Labour to Tories. Remember the Liberals have never been in the Centre but on the Left – on the side of the poor and underpriveliged – It was the great Jo Grimond who wanted a realignment of the Left not soggy centre.

    • Martin Caffrey 15th Sep '13 - 6:11pm

      How many are members? Is it 76% of a hundred, a thousand or a hundred thousand?

      Oh, and does Mr Clegg ‘do the slip’?

    • Given that large numbers of “left-leaning” 2010 Lib Dem voters like myself have already left the party I am genuinely surprised that the remaining members would so clearly prefer to work with Labour rather than the Tories after the next election.

    • Richard Heathcote 15th Sep '13 - 9:13pm

      @ Simon Shaw
      ” I believe that even another coalition with the Conservatives would be preferable to one with Labour.”

      You do seem to come across as very right wing not just this but a lot of your posts on LDV.

    • Steve Griffiths 15th Sep '13 - 9:17pm

      Simon Shaw

      “The problem is that most Lib Dems have not been a member/activist for at least 36 years, as I have”.

      Strange comment. I joined the Liberals in 1970 and left over the Tuition Fees broken promise in 2010: I make that 40 years as activist/member/councillor/agent etc. I have not joined another party and remain in the wider Liberal Movement outside the Lib Dems. I certainly do not agree with your analysis.

    • @ Simon Shaw
      I don’t longevity has much to do with it – I first joined in 1978 and was active for many, many years. Although I left more than 3 years ago I am still very pleased that your view that working with Labour would be the worst outcome in 2015 is a distinctly minority view within the remaining membership..

    • @Simon Shaw

      I am actually quite glad that you have said this. It certainly puts thing into perspective for me, as in knowing what direction you are coming from from now on.

      I do not mean that rudely either at all.

      But now I know that no matter what Labour say’s or does or any comments from left leaning voters, you will instinctively disagree with it.

      It’s good to have that clarity 😉

    • @Simon Shaw

      Just for clarity

      What is your preference between
      (i) another coalition with Conservatives
      (ii) A Conservative-Lib Dem ‘confidence and supply’ agreement
      (iii) A minority Conservative government with the Lib Dems in opposition

    • Steve Griffiths 15th Sep '13 - 10:19pm

      Simon Shaw

      Yes I do recall the Lib Lab pact. In early 1978 inflation, which had peaked at almost 27% in 1975, fell below 10% for the first time in four years. Unemployment also started to drop after four years of continuous rises. The average Briton’s real disposable income, which had shrunk alarmingly in 1975 and 1976, started to grow again in late 1977. And by mid-1978 the number of working days lost to strike action in Britain was less than a quarter of what it had been in the final, disastrous months of the 1970-4 Conservative administration led by Edward Heath.

    • @Simon Shaw

      “I answered the survey myself and went for the top (not very popular, at 3%) option of “A Labour majority government with the Lib Dems in opposition”

      Wow, Simon, I have to say it, you get curious and curiouser. I don’t think I am going to sleep comfortably tonight lol 😉

    • Another Tory/Lib Dem coalition will mean that the Liberal Democrats will split, the Tory-aligned part (which will probably keep the name) will end up being absorbed into the Conservative Party like the National Liberals before them, and a smaller Liberal or Social Liberal party will hang on to six to eight seats, looking ahead to a dubious future. I don’t see how that’s preferable to an option that would at least allow the Liberal Democrats to retain their unity and identity.

    • Steve Griffiths 15th Sep '13 - 10:34pm

      Simon Shaw

      “Good. And the effect on the Liberal Party electorally was …… ?”

      About the same as the current one will be to the Lib Dems.

      I objected to the current coalition on this very website and several of those that disagreed with me said that the coalition was in the national interest, not the self serving party interest.

    • I’d rather that the LDs formed a coalition with the Tories in 2015, if circumstances permit, than see the Unionists or (?) UKIP do so. That latter possibility is my biggest fear.

    • “You need to recall what happened in March 1977 (i.e 36 years ago).”

      Oh gosh, I keep declaring my joining date, 1981, as a confession of decrepitude. Now I read this thread, it is actually a badge of youth!

      Well, my family came from Ulster, where the slogan is “Remember 1690”.

      My response is – Flipping well forget 1690, and forget March 1977, etcetera. Harking back to the distant past and a totally different cast of characters is a dreadful way to tackle present day politics.

    • I Have to agree with David Allen. I don’t really understand why something that happened nearly 40 years ago should still have a profound effect on some people.

      The parties have moved on since then, politics has moved on since then, We are in a whole different century as well.

      Besides I always thought it was the Tories who where the natural enemies of the Liberal Democrats, though I must admit I do not know what the reason for this was either.

    • We should form a coalition with whomever can command a majority in Parliament and on the basis of a negotiated 5-year programme of government.

      That said the Labour Party have been trying to kill us off since 1906 and I don’t see any change in their current position.

    • matt – “Besides I always thought it was the Tories who where the natural enemies of the Liberal Democrats, though I must admit I do not know what the reason for this was either.”

      Indeed, that is the case. But before you can take on the opposition you have to eliminate the competition. That has been Labour’s philosophy since we (foolishly) did a deal with them in 1906. And it very nearly succeeded.

    • The thread is very revealing today. I agree with many of you and many of your individual posts would gain my support if I could be clear on the implications. However, we are missing one point, which cannot be available to us yet – we don’t have the revised principles and policies spelled out ready for the election – not from any party including our own. So I cannot possibly ally myself to any other party – and not quite sure what the Lib Dems are going to stand for either.
      One other issue which is similar to not revealing your hand to other players in a game of cards. Lib Dems would become more canny keeping the strategy of play up their sleeves because the game would change dramatically if the other players knew our hand and could finesse us. [Apologies to purists, I’m not suggesting government is a game – oh, maybe I should re-think that too]

    • I think that the most likely outcome of the next GE will be another Con/LD coalition.

      Not something I want to see, so I may follow the late Peter Cook’s approach and put a bet on it (at least I’ll have a reason to be cheerful whatever happens).

      @David – I thought that the LDs would split, but I don’t believe it will happen now, since those inclined to break with the LDs over a coalition with the Conservatives have already gone (as individuals rather than an organisation). The people who remain will, I believe, stay within the LD fold and follow the leadership pretty much regardless. This is party loyalty in action.

      For those of us who have left the question is what do we do now and who do we vote for?

      For myself I have a toss – up between voting Green, spoiling my ballot paper, or (nose firmly held) voting Labour.

      At least I won’t have to spend the next parliament beating myself up about having been duped into effectively voting Tory (which is how I feel about my Lib Dem vote at the last election).

    • @Simon Shaw

      Sorry, I did not follow your reasoning.

      Can you please explain why a LD/Labour coalition would bring about the end of the LDs? And why you don’t think the same of a LD/Con coalition?

    • What would (perhaps) be more interesting than the argument above about what the Lib Dems should do in a hung parliament (when they are unlikely to have a choice of coalition partner) is the question of why more than three quarters of respondents think a hung parliament is likely, when this expectation is contrary to both polling evidence and historical precedent.

    • Matt (Bristol) 16th Sep '13 - 12:23pm

      Obviously I am not in the backroom right now eavesdropping with Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, but of the Labour-led possibilities, I don’t think a coalition looks feasible or would have any credibility with the public in term of the perception of stability / ‘hypocrisy’. I feel it isn’t going to happen however much I as an LD voter might want that coalition, and I do.

      This is because I don’t think the Labour leadership has the will, the policy clarity or the party discipline to make it happen. The Tories only just got their rank and file to accept coalition because of the lust for power and the sense of being locked out of their ‘right’ to govern for much too long. Labour doesn’t have yet that cynical ‘do anything’ hunger that I can see (maybe we should be glad!), and there is a sense of betrayal/open wounds among the Labour voters, members, and press that the LDs went with the Tories after over a decade of seeing a Lib-Lab coalition as a fallback option. So the LD leadership need to rebuild trust with Labour if they want a Lab-LibDem coalition. I can’t see Clegg as able to do this, even if he wanted to.

      Yes, confidence and supply may be flawed, but it may be the best left-leaning LD voters and members who want theoir party to have influence apart from the Tories can hope for.

    • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '13 - 12:53pm

      Of course, if the party, after five years in government, loses one-third of its vote and one-quarter of its seats (and let’s not anyone pretend that isn’t a pretty optimistic scenario), and especially if the country votes for the Opposition over the major government party, then some might feel that keeping this party in government was of questionable democratic legitimacy.

    • @Chris – for my part it is because I see the Labour lead as pretty soft, but not a great deal of enthusiasm for the Tories (only person generating enthusiasm at the moment seems to be Nigel Farrage), so I suspect once the dust has settled it will be pretty much “as you were”.

    • “for my part it is because I see the Labour lead as pretty soft, but not a great deal of enthusiasm for the Tories (only person generating enthusiasm at the moment seems to be Nigel Farrage), so I suspect once the dust has settled it will be pretty much “as you were”.”

      Thanks for replying, but surely you don’t mean you expect the state of the parties to be as it was in 2010?

    • Matt (Bristol) 16th Sep '13 - 1:36pm

      Malcolm Todd, I agree with you. But, even if, if the numbers of MPs and % of the vote stack up to a government that has legitimacy, in terms of practical day-to-day, not-punching-people-in-the-face politics can the LDs now make coalition with Labour w ork as well as they have made coalition with the Tories work (and we know that’s not all too well). And what if Nationalist and/or Green support is needed too? It would be a very wobbly coalition. Of course, if the Scottish Refereendum is actually ‘Yes’ to independence, all bets are off.

      For me, the question is: I live in a Labour constituency. I do not think longterm coalition with the Tories or longterm Tory government in any form is healthy for the nation, even though I was prepared to swallow a short period of Tory-led coalition in the face of a collapse in the Labour vote and the Labour leadership’s integrity and sense of direction. Should I vote Lib Dem, potentially taking a seat off Labour, or abstain? If I vote LD to take a seat off of Labour, will other people vote LibeDem enough elsewhere that I can be reasonably confident I am not making the outcome I don’t want more likely?

      Had any changes at all been made to voting process under this government, including the Tory redistribution of seats proposal, I would maybe not have this conumdrum, as I would feel there was a blank sheet of paper. One of the reasons I’m popping up on here a lot right now is that I’m on a quest for reasons to believein the LDs again.

    • paul barker 16th Sep '13 - 1:54pm

      I find myself disagreeing with almost everyone else on the likely course of the next 18 months.
      I see Labour as having only a 50/50 chance of reaching The general Election in one piece. The Reforms that Milliband has set in course will destroy his authority if he loses & cut Labours income if he wins, its a lose/lose situation.
      Labour face a “perfect storm” of division, financial problems & losing the thing that defines them.
      I dont expect much to happen at their Conference as its so stage-managed ( but you never know) I expect the worst problems will come when the results of next Mays Elections are announced.

    • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '13 - 1:57pm

      Matt, all fair questions. Living in a supersafe Tory seat myself, I at least don’t have to worry about what effect my vote will have on the make-up of parliament (precisely none); so I can vote for the party of my choice as if it makes a difference how many votes each party gets. If only I can work out who that would be. I don’t think it really makes much odds once the negotiations start — vote tactically, would be my advice.

    • I think the recent mood music accepting that a coalition with either of the larger parties is slightly reassuring. My view is that if I felt that the Lib Dems will only deal with one Party, be that Labour or the Conservatives, they will not get my vote.

    • Simon Shaw: i sort of see your point. The better outcome for the Lib Dems in 2010 would have been a small Tory majority. Lib Dems do better during a swing away from Conservatives. 2015 or 2014 would have been likey to produce increased support for Lib Dems and many more seats (though a change to parliamentary boundaries would have created an unknown). It would also have been easier to nail down Labour on electoral reform.

      All this is, of course, idle speculation. Lib Dems can only work with what happens. In which case, what would you prefer if Labour is the largest party, but there is no overall majority? A coalition with Lib Dem ministers or a looser, more ad hoc, arrangement with no Lib Dem ministers? It seems to me there are dangers either way, though I think I incline to the latter.

    • Simon Shaw : “Given that large numbers of “left-leaning” 2010 Lib Dem voters like myself have already left the party I am genuinely surprised that the remaining members would so clearly prefer to work with Labour rather than the Tories after the next election…I think the problem is that Lib Dem members haven’t thought this through properly. In my view the worst possible outcome (at least from the point of view of the Lib Dems) of the 2015 General Election is that we end up in coalition with Labour. We would be much better not being in coalition with anyone, and I believe that even another coalition with the Conservatives would be preferable to one with Labour.

      Sadly Simon the coalition with the Tories has led to an awful lot of members leaving the Party plus people who voted for the Libs. in 2010 swearing they will not support the LDs next time. Liberal voters and members are naturally more on the Left than Right; more in favour of a fairer society than the Tories and more international in outlook than the Tories and against military involvement

      Most Lib voters and members take a centre left view (you might be unhappy about this fact but it remains true and in the tradition of the Liberal Party). The Liberal Party in the 20th Century was a coalition of radical, social liberal and left wing idealists. In the 1960s Jo Grimond made the statement that their need be a total realignment of the Left and that the Liberals were naturally central to that transition of politics (not replacing or competing with the Tories on the Right!). Traditionally Liberals have fought and argued against the values of the Tory Party and were fundamentally on the progressive side of politics. The Liberal Yellow Book was a radical challenge to the status quo of accepting the laissez-faire of the 1920s/30s: manes such as JM Keynes; Lloyd George and Beveridge were part of that radical thinking to change Britain for the better and create a true welfare mixed economy state (begun by the radical Liberal Government of 1906-1914 – before war stopped its reforms in their track). The Labour Party was never really committed to fundamental political radical reform of the sort Liberals envisaged or so determined to uphold civil liberties/human rights issues by putting them as a spearhead belief. However Liberals and Labour were close on social reform front and opposed by Tories.

      Today we have Tories moving increasingly to the Right on welfare, social reform, political reform and civil liberties. Labour have hada poorer record on civil liberties recently although basically closer to the Libs in philosophy than the Tories are to Liberals. Let’s take these issues and think which party would Liberals work closer on:
      1. Europe
      2. Welfare State inc. NHS
      3. Fairer tax (inc. 50p tax for welathy and mansion tax
      4. Lords reform
      5. et el

      Most Tories hate the LibDems/Liberals with a vengeance in the constituencies and in the Commons (and vice versa).

      On the issue of the EU the Libs and Lab are much much closer; the Libs and Labour both really believe in less austerity and a fairer system that will re-balance our society away from the rich to the poor.

      One thing you can say about the Tories is that basically they are a heartless party whereas basically Liberals are the opposite and to them credit so are Labour – they are the more natural allies for the Lib Dems and a coalition with them will be the only way to lead to a realignment of the Left in british politics

      One must also note that despite being in coalition with the Tories most of their MPs have lost no opportunity to denigrate the Lib Dem members over issue after issue – to take a few – electoral reform (which Milliband supports); Lords reform (which Labour support); the EU!!; and so on – the LibDems would be so much more at home in a Centre Left Coalition rather than in this aberration which fundamentally goes against the beliefs and cherished beliefs of most if not all Liberals/LibDems.

    • Martin Lowe 16th Sep '13 - 9:50pm

      Whilst I believe that Labour will win the next election but within a hung Parliament, I don’t think that Labour would be able to enter into formal coalition with the Lib Dems – because there are too many tribalists in their Party.

      This is why I think that confidence and supply would be more likely, because it would be more palatable to them if they do have a minority government.

      What would be best, I think, is if there were some form of ‘confidence & supply plus’, where there was joint consultation on certain policy areas behind closed doors before making their way through the House. But that’s just the optimist in me, which still naively hopes that some Labourites could for once put the country’s interests at heart rather than their love of tribalism and infighting.

    • @Simon Shaw

      Am I right in thinking that you would prefer that if Liberal Democrats could not win an election outright, your preference would be that Liberal Democrats always remain in opposition?

    • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '13 - 11:07pm

      david orr
      “Most Tories hate the LibDems/Liberals with a vengeance.”

      Have you heard the way Labour talk about us?

    • Matthew Huntbach 16th Sep '13 - 11:18pm

      The big rise in the Liberal Party vote in the 1974 general elections, and the establishment at that time of the Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Conservatives in large parts of the country, ended the assumption that Britain was a purely two-party system with any MPs from other parties just rare curiosities. The third party vote since then has risen and fallen, but always remained significant. Yet it took ten general elections before we had a Parliament without a majority for either of the main two parties. Everyone seems to be talking as if non-majority Parliaments will now be the norm, but I don’t see any particular reason why there should not be another ten general elections before this situation arises again. There was no special and permanent change that happened in 2010, it was just a bit of a fluky result arising from the closeness of the votes for the two main parties. The distortion of the electoral system we have mostly manages to ensure this doesn’t happen. The presence of around 50 or so Liberal Democrat MPs in the last couple of elections, whereas similar Liberal Democrat and Liberal/SDP shares of the vote had returned fewer MPs in the past was a contributory factor to making a coalition situation more likely. However that depended on the third party vote being concentrated in certain areas due to enthusiastic activist work in those areas, rather than coming from people attracted by its national image. The contempt the present leadership has shown for party activists, and its determination to make the Liberal Democrats a party whose vote comes from the tiny number of people in this country who like the national image of a party which supports right-wing economics without the conservative sentimentalism of the main right-wing party, seems to me to make quite sure we will not be in that position again.

    • @ Simon Shaw

      Thanks for that, I was a little confused.

      Why do you think that Liberal Democrats should be in opposition after the 2015 election?

    • Malcolm – “david orr
      “Most Tories hate the LibDems/Liberals with a vengeance.”
      Have you heard the way Labour talk about us?”

      I read Paddy’s autobiography over the summer and it was informative on the subject of the “realignment of the left” around May 1997. Basically, the best opportunity was following Blair’s landslide, but the tribal forces in Labour’s cabinet (Prescott, Straw and others) kyboshed it.

      There are huge tribal elements in both the Tories and Labour that hate us with a vengeance. I’ve always thought that with the Tories, they hate us and we hate them – so you know where you stand. The same is true with Labour (from their side), but I sometimes think many of our activists are a little like the ingenue who keeps going back for more bad treatement. Lets just accept that Labour hate us (and ultimately it doesn’t matter – we can still do business if/when required) rather than constantly being disappointed when we think they like us and they shaft us again.

    • Simon Shaw – I think the circumstances of 2010 were such that we could argue that a coalition would provide satbility in the markets that was badly needed and it was incumbent upon us not to screw that up.

      Its impossible to say what the conditions will be in 2015, but we must first and foremost make it about respecting what the electorate delivers, and restating that we will work to implement parts of our programme with whomever the electoral maths makes that a possibility. We must also point out that there are other options that do not involve us at all, and that ultimately its in the hands of whomever has the largest parliamentary presence to seek to govern in the manner that they see fit with the hand they are dealt.

    • Simon Shaw: surely, though not good for the country as a whole, in narrow party advantage terms, a Tory majority would be best outcome. Such an outcome would be likely to place the advantages of Lib Dems in coalition in sharp relief.

      A Labour majority might lead to an increase in disaffected voters from the left, but history shows this to translate poorly into Lib Dem or Liberal seats.

    • jedibeeftrix 18th Sep '13 - 1:01pm

      “If the Lib Dems join Milliband, they’re dead”

      Agreed, you think a minority party that see’s itself as centre left has trouble differentiating itself to the electorate now, imagine what it will be like if there is a lib-lab coalition in 2015?

      This will be compounded by a general sense that the Lib-Dem’s are willing to follow power where it can be found, without reference to a guiding set of principles that people can adhere to!

      Thinking that the British electorate will happily accept such vaccilation is a ludicrous fantasy based on the ideal that British politics is of the consensual european type:

      http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2012/02/nick-clegg-and-liberal-democrats

      ” I still think Mr Clegg has a problem, which can be summarised like this: he is British, not Dutch. If Mr Clegg were a Dutch politician, he would be operating in a system of proportional representation and permanent coalition government. In such a system, it is perfectly possible to prosper by offering a set of liberal beliefs held by between 15% and 20% of voters (in a good year). At election time in countries such as the Netherlands, liberal voters turn out in order to inject a dose of their minority ideology in the final coalition mix.

      In the British system, we do not just have first-past-the-post electoral rules, we also have first-past-the-post politics. Instead of seeking 15% of the vote everywhere, Lib Dems have to come first in a series of target seats, and—given their views—can often only achieve this through a mixture of hyper-local campaigning and appeals to tactical voting. That has left the party wedded to all-things-to-all-voters opportunism.”

    • Peter Edwards 18th Sep '13 - 2:55pm

      All this polling is very nice I am sure, but the important question for the voting public is this:

      “Why should I vote Liberal Democrat next election, if the Lib Dems are going to get into bed with either of the parties that I did NOT vote for.”

      Personally speaking, I voted Lib Dem last time around, because I was aware that the party had the most sensible policies, and had the best grasp of the needs of the people. As a working class fellow, who has witnessed the errosion of the welfare state by successive governments, the widening gap between rich and poor, and various other totally unpleasant effects of poor governance, I felt totally betrayed by the decision on the part of the upper echelons of the Lib Dems, to jump into bed with the tories. My personal feeling is, that if the Liberal Democrats are not going to promise never to water down thier ideals by uniting with either the cancerous muck that is the Tory party, or the lie that is the “Labour” party (whose members are uniformly loaded and clueless) then do they really deserve my vote?

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 2:58pm

      After the last election Libdems didn’t want to consider a coalition with Labour with Gordon Brown continuing as an unpopular leader who had lost an election and because it had lost about a sixth of its vote from the previous election which signalled the verdict of the electorate.

      Accordingly, the logic for Labour should it become the largest party is that it only enter into coalition with the LibDems, rather than say operate as a minority administration if the LibDems get more than 18.9% (I know how you Lib Dems like numerical accuracy) of the total vote (not even in your wildest dreams) and if Nick Clegg is removed as your leader. Labour of course would of course reserve the right to play you off against any other alternatives so as to get the best deal possible.

      Or does this logic only apply to those LibDems who believe in their divine right to manipulate the electorate to their advantage.

    • jedibeeftrix 18th Sep '13 - 3:04pm

      “After the last election Libdems didn’t want to consider a coalition with Labour”

      to be fair, the reverse was very much true too!

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 3:14pm

      More seriously if the polls before the General Election point to the possibility of a hung parliament I would expect each party likely to be a potential partner in the coalition to set out their negotiating lines with regard to their own and other parties policies before rather than after the election. It is a little thing called democracy and treating the electorate with respect – and something for which I suspect the LibDems and its leaders will pay a price at the next election. Hollow apologies after the event will cut little ice with the electorate. Just imagine what might have happened last time if the LibDems had said their commitment to Keynesian economics, and in particular not cutting the deficit until growth was embedded, and against student fees were all matters that they would be prepared to sacrifice in coalition negotiations?

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 3:20pm

      Simon

      What I actually think is that Clegg is desperate to enter a coalition with the Tories since he knows that otherwise he has no political future whatsoever. LibDem members have made it pretty clear what there preference is – probably because they know which party has the better fit with their beliefs rather than their leaders preferences.

    • Simon Shaw

      Perhaps the LD parliamentarey party want this but that would be a ve’courageous’ decision on their part, with a view on the enthusiasm that Clegg showed for the Tories in 2010.

      If there is anything that would place you as a Tory prop then that would be it. I think you would like it personally but lots of your voters – remember them? – won’t

      The best option for a LD Party post -2015 is a Labour majority. Anything else would cause severe problems I think.

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 3:25pm

      “After the last election Libdems didn’t want to consider a coalition with Labour”

      to be fair, the reverse was very much true too!

      Labour may have been unprepared and not very prepared for the talks – but since coalition with the LibDems was very much the only show in town offering some chance of continuing power (I do agree with Simon to some extent – just not with his naïve view about the purity of the LibDem leadership) it really was the only option available – and it was pursued seriously by people like Adonis and Mandleson.

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 6:05pm

      “The “better fit” argument is essentially the reason why a Lib Dem-Labour coalition could potentially be disastrous for the Lib Dems in terms of retaining a separate identity”

      Really depends as to what you see as being more important in politics achieving policies with which you agree or your own party’s identity. Might I suggest that the last 3 years have not been that successful with regard to either objective – but lets see what the electorates verdict is on that. I do know however that if the LibDems end up taking a position that is more partisan to the Tories, as is favoured by Clegg, Laws and Alexander, and were to been seen frustrating Labour from forming a workable coalition having almost fallen over themselves to do the Tories bidding at times then I would experience little difficulty in arguing the nature of the LibDems identity on the doorstep.

    • toryboysnevergrowup 18th Sep '13 - 6:08pm

      I should also add if you do not think the LibDems have sufficient creativity to put forward positive policy suggestions while working with a Labour Govt then it is probably time you lost your identity. Do you really believe that Labour supporters and members are less open minded than your current allies?

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