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 600 party members responded to this set of questions – thank you – in a supplementary poll run last Thursday and Friday.
(All figures below are compared with the last time we asked this question, a year ago, in September 2013.)
68% of Lib Dem members predict another hung parliament in 2015
What do you believe is the likeliest outcome of the next general election?
13% (+5%) – A minority Conservative government
6% (=) – An overall majority for the Conservatives
6% (+4%) – A Conservative-led coalition with parties other than Labour or the Lib Dems
6% (-8%) – A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition
17% (-8%) – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition
3% (=) – A Labour-led coalition with parties other than the Conservatives or the Lib Dems
22% (-2%) – A minority Labour government
12% (+5%) – An overall majority for Labour
1% (+1%) – A “grand coalition” between Labour and Conservatives
13% (+2%) – 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:
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 51% to 18%, 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:
6% (+3%) – A Labour majority government with the Lib Dems in opposition
11% (+4%) – A minority Labour government with the Lib Dems in opposition
18% (+3%) – 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)
33% (-6%) – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)
14% (-1%) – A second Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)
4% (-2%) – 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)
4% (+1%) – A minority Conservative government with the Lib Dems in opposition
4% (+2%) – A Conservative majority with the Lib Dems in opposition
4% (+1%) – Other
4% (-1%) – Don’t know
Again, let’s group some of these individual choices together:
5 quick points:
1) Lib Dems want to be in government: 69% of party members are committed to being in government. However, we don’t know yet (can’t know) if those 7-in-10 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 3:1: you can interpret this in a couple of different ways (not mutually exclusive). Perhaps Lib Dems are more comfortable with a liberal-left coalition. Or perhaps Lib Dems feel the current coalition with the Conservatives has basically 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 2:1: in the past, 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’s seemed to me a way of getting all the pain of coalition with little of the gain of being in government. However, it may be the case that after May 2015 the Lib Dems and the bigger party (whether Labour or Tories) combined do not have enough MPs for a secure majority. Let’s say we have 30-40 MPs and Labour/Tories has 275: together, that would not be a working majority. In that situation, maybe ‘confidence and supply’ would be more feasible. It may also be a recipe for government paralysis, of course.
4) This is at least as big an issue for Labour and the Tories as for the Lib Dems: as Mark Pack has pointed out before, 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 most of our 57 MPs in 2015. If the number falls below 30 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.
* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.