LDV poll: 34% of Lib Dem members say Nick Clegg should stand down before 2015

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. Some 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

LDV asked: Following this year’s poor local election results for the Lib Dems, it was suggested by Lembit Opik that Nick Clegg should set a timetable for his departure as party leader by the end of this year while continuing to serve as Deputy Prime Minister until 2015. Would you like to see Nick Clegg remain as Liberal Democrat leader to fight the 2015 general election, or should he be replaced before then?

    59% – Nick Clegg should stay as leader of the Liberal Democrats
    34% – Nick Clegg should be replaced as leader of the Liberal Democrats
    8% – Don’t know / No opinion

More than 1-in-3 Lib Dem members in our survey believe Nick Clegg should stand down as party leader before the general election due in 2015, with just 59% saying he should definitely stay to fight. In one sense, I’m not surprised: Brand Clegg has taken a huge hit since the formation of the Coalition, most notably over the U-turn on tuition fees (although the policy’s architect Vince Cable has more or less successfully shrugged off that unpopular decision). It’s clear that Nick’s enthusiastic embrace of Coalition politics has created a serious rift between his leadership and a significant minority of Lib Dem members, who seemingly agree with Tim Montgomerie’s analysis here on LDV three months ago:

… you need to change party leader. Not now. Not, I suggest, until 2014. But you can’t go into the next election with Nick Clegg at the top of your ticket. I can see it now – Clegg in the televised debates looking into the camera and looking for another Manchester moment. After he’s delivered his lines the debate anchor will turn to the Labour leader (it might be Ed Miliband but I wouldn’t like to bet on it) and ask for a reaction. All the Labour leader has to say is “tuition fees”. “No student, no parent, no voter will ever believe a promise you make, Mr Clegg, after you promised to scrap tuition fees and then increased them dramatically.” To recover left-leaning voters you also need a new leader who voters might think could happily form a coalition with Labour. For once Lembit Opik is right (although I think I got there first). Clegg should carry on as Deputy PM until the end of the parliament but he should resign as party leader with 12 to 18 months to go before the election. A new leader can then start the process of establishing a distinctive Lib Dem pitch for 2015.

While it’s an understandable viewpoint, I think it’s entirely wrong-headed.

First, because I think that one of the commonly held criticisms of the Lib Dems is we’re “a bit flaky”, nice guys who are out of our depth when it comes to the serious rough-and-tumble of grown-up politics, that we’ll run at the first sniff of unpopularity. Defenestrating another leader — the first one in 80 years to lead the party into government — would be taken as a further sign that Lib Dems can’t stand the heat in the kitchen. And of course we should take Tim’s advice with a pinch of salt: it’s clearly in the Conservatives’ favour for the Lib Dems to be pushed away from the centre-ground — which is where most voters place our party and Nick Clegg personally — towards the left, ceding ground for others to occupy.

Secondly, I don’t think it makes sense because it assumes Nick’s successor would prove more popular. However, as I’ve pointed out before it’s not Nick Clegg who’s the current problem for the Lib Dems: it’s that the economy is in dire shape, the government is unpopular, and our party is identified with both those drags. I don’t see that situation changing just because the face at the top does. In fact, though Nick’s currently the least popular party leader, he is also the only leader to out-poll his own party’s standing in the polls.

What the poll does show is that there’s much work to be done in re-connecting Nick with the party membership, as pioneered a few weeks ago with the ‘Clegginar’ conversation between the leader and members. When a third of your party starts agreeing with Lembit Opik, then it’s a clear sign that all isn’t well!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th May and 1st June.
  • 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 accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    76 Comments

    • Tuition Fees.
      Breaking up the NHS
      Welfare reform.

      Three issues, endorsed by Nick and voted for by the parliamentary party that go against impressions created by your 2010 election campaign.

      I think the voters realise that the state of the economy is mostly the fault of Osborne and the Tories, as nobody seriously thinks Danny Alexander has much say in anything. But all of the above is going to be laid at your door by anyone who voted Lib Dem as a means of keeping the tories out, and even if the economy improves it’s likely to make little difference to your prospects under Clegg.

      How are you polling these days?

    • I agree that the Lembit Opik bit of the question is irrelevant (It probably depressed the number of people agreeing with the statement.) In my local Party I would say probably more than 50% agree with the statement.The fact is until someone apoligises for the tuition fees fiasco we will never be trusted again and Nick can’t make that apology.(it may seem irrational but every time a young person sees the deduction for their tuition fees or their parants visualise the size of their childrens debts whether they pay them back or not It will be a fixed reason not to vote Lib Dem)

    • Karlia Lykourgou 6th Jun '12 - 8:27am

      Your maths are wrong: 59 + 34 + 8 = 101%

    • I agree that we should start to realise that being in government at this moment is going to be hard and being unpopular really is hard. We need to use our voices to shout about who we are, why we are and most importantly we need to stop using our voices to play into labours hands. I may not agree with everything that has happened in government but we are just 57 among them and we’ve achieved significant amounts. As someone who just successfully fought a hard election campaign I never once apologised for being a LibDem and never will. Whilst we sit and discuss why the smaller stat shows that people are unhappy with Nick (incidentally ignoring the larger majority who aren’t) we are not out talking to other people outside the party if we are to win back the electorate we need to speak to people. We need to have action on the streets and stop apologising or looking for an excuse. Its hard ,it will get better, we are still LibDems and we can and DO work in government.

    • And, of course, dare I suggest, the Lembit Opik link may have been put in for the purpose of reducing the anti NC storm? As I have pointed out before, there is a need in these surveys (I almost put inverted commas around this, I feel so strongly) to ensure questions are not leading. I am sorry, it will not help just to get answers that some people may want, all it will do is tend to throw up smokescreens around facts, and lead to poorer future decision making. I feel rather sorry for Lembit, as he has been painted in the media as rather mad (and some of his actions have not always helped his public image, except in terms of his being one of the best known Lib Dem MPs!) He also has a very good brain, and is very dynamic.

    • Grammar Police 6th Jun '12 - 9:13am

      @ Peter: the irony being of course, that that deduction will be for less each month (and quite possibly less overall) than it would have been under the old system.

      I agree with the posters above that the questions should not be angled to get a particular result – although Lembit is the most high profile person to express these views, and the facts in the question are accurate. The disadvantage to the way it was worded is that it allows those opposed to Clegg’s leadership to simply claim that this isn’t the “real” result. All I would say is that the three posters above managed to avoid the “bias” in the question such as it was; why do you think the other people signed up to receive these surveys will be any less able?

    • Tim136th Jun ’12 – 8:37am…………..And, of course, dare I suggest, the Lembit Opik link may have been put in for the purpose of reducing the anti NC storm?……………

      My first thought was it smacked of linking ‘Herod’ to a survey on child care.

    • Reading Stephen’s post a little more carefully, I note he rejects Tim Montgomerie’s view from what became a pre-leadership Cleggite stance, ie that it was important for the Lib Dems to be seen as “centrist”, and “to the right of Labour”. I, like most posters here, hold very little brief for Montgomerie, aside from regarding him as a canny and right of centre, populist Tory. However, if, as Stephen says, the Lib Dems are running behind even NC in the polls, it is a political problem, and one that implementation of the 34%’s wishes here is unlikely to solve on its own. Bearing in mind the popular “in bed with the Tories” jibe, and the fact that many people even before Coalition were saying that “the three main parties” are fighting for the same bit of political turf, is it not a bit perverse for Stephen to argue, that we must continue that stance?

      I keep coming back to the argument for ” a new politics”, and a need to oppose “the old parties”. When it is seen that in Government we espouse key aspects of the old, surely it is no surprise that people feel let down, “betrayed” even? The argument that NC and others at the top of the LDs have made “that is political campaigning, and in Government we don’t do what we say, necessarily” seems unlikely to sway very many voters who have felt let down! It seems much more likely that they will become even more cynical about politics and its practitioners.

    • GP – we have commented because we have seen the bias. In my case, I have been alerted to it through having seen similar before. How do you think tabloid headlines work? Usually by confirming prejudices. Then the unsuspecting, having his / her prejudices confirmed, or linked to other things the writer wishes to persuade readers of,may be persuaded on these other matters As we know from canvassing, we are unlikely to persuade someone to a directly opposite position of a strong view they hold, but we can easily have an effect on those with less strong views.

    • I don’t think that changing the LibDems’ leader before the next election is likely to affect the outcome of that election. I believe that the voting public regard the LibDems’ parliamentary behaviour since the last election as having been very “un-LibDem-like”. Whether it is student fees, support for the Conservative’s economic policies, the NHS Bill (and support for the Risk Assessment “secrecy”), Benefit cuts and so on, the LibDems in government are percieved as being very ‘Conservative’. And it has been almost all the parliamentary LibDems who now appear as enthusiastic State-Cutters – and not NickClegg in isolation. We have yet to see the ‘New Politics’ or more ‘Open government’. I disagree with the premise that the dire state of the economy is the big problem for the LibDems; the economy had little or no bearing on the LibDems’ support for Conservative policies in the areas I have mentioned above. For example, I believe that most, if not all LibDem voters would have expected the LibDems to vigorously oppose (i.e. reject) the massive NHS changes (privatisation?) as a matter of principle, and not for reasons of economics. Mr Clegg had the support of his MPs and Peers in support of Lansley. So I believe that voters and LibDem party members have, unfortunately, lost trust in the LibDem party as a whole – and not just in Nick Clegg.

    • Stephen Tall….I’ve pointed out before it’s not Nick Clegg who’s the current problem for the Lib Dems……..

      You wrote the ‘link’ on the 1st of May. If memory serves there was something we didn’t do to well in, a couple of days later?
      The other thing about this poll is the mention of Lembit Opik’s ‘timetable’ and the idea that Nick could be the most senior LibDem in the coalition whilst not being the most senior LibDem. A new leader to be identified and installed in less than 6 months? As impracticable as his position as deputy PM would be untenable.

    • In interpreting these results it’s also worth bearing in mind that – on the basis of the membership figures just released – party membership has fallen by about 25% since Clegg became leader.

      If the survey had included those who have left in the past four years I suspect there would have been a clear majority in favour of Nick Clegg standing down.

    • Bill le Breton 6th Jun '12 - 10:39am

      First of all, let’s examine this from the viewpoint of what is best for the country.

      For all kinds of reasons the country faces an existential challenge.

      No exaggeration.

      The last Great Depression saw massive changes in the liberties of millions, from Stalin’s hegemony in the USSR and eventually Eastern Europe, from Hitler, Mussolini and Franco and the imperial ambitions of Japan.

      At the helm of this country we have people who have shown themselves in the last two years not to have the capacity to lead our country in these truly dark times.

      This is not actually a party political point: all three party leaders are being rejected by the country. And the three of them have qualities that might make them good leaders later in life, with more life experience and in less demanding times.

      We cannot do anything about others, but we can do something about who we put forward into the role of leadership and cabinet responsibility that follows from our parliamentary representation. (Which is why the Lembit option is entirely wrong).

      Our responsibility is to place in the position of Deputy Prime Minister the best candidate from our Party.

      This is not Nick Clegg. He does not have the capacity or the perspective or the judgement for the job. On top of which he has a reputation (I don’t say deserved or not) as someone who cannot be trusted.

      You cannot be part of the leadership of this country in these calamitous times if you cannot carry the trust of people across the political divides. You can only be part of the problem.

      Our simple duty to our country is to make that change.

    • Tony Dawson 6th Jun '12 - 10:41am

      The association of Lembit O with this proposal is clearly one of those ‘broken clock’ co-incidences. I could not see why his name was even mentioned in the question regarding the proposal which has been put by many long before Lembit spoke on the matter.

    • Peter Watson 6th Jun '12 - 11:07am

      I think that as Lib Dems we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, a rock and a hard place, etc.

      I don’t see the results as a vote of confidence in Nick Clegg: 34% may want NC to go before 2015 but I expect that many of the rest want/expect him to go immediately after. It would be interesting to see a survey of how many LDs would like to see NC leading us into the 2020 general election.

      I think that the results of the next general election are still too hard to call, despite our terrible polling. In a general election, on a seat-by-seat basis, we may still be seen as an alternative to the conservatives and labour by those whose votes are determined tactically or by whom they dislike least. Alternatively, independent candidates or an untarnished third parties might replace us in England, Wales and Scotland.

      My view is that NC should definitely go: I detest the way he and those close to him have handled being in in coalition. But for sake of the future of the party, the timing and manner of his departure is very tactical. If we expect to be decimated at the next election maybe we should keep him and rebuild afterwards. If we expect to outperform our national polling by picking up tactical votes and still holding the balance of power, maybe we should replace him before the election to campaign under a new leader, less associated with the coalition years, to give the impression that we are moving forwards with a leader who could comfortably go into coalition with either of the two other parties, spinning it as either building upon or escaping from our years in government. Or maybe we expect coalition policies on economy, health and education to bring huge benefits over the next three years and want to campaign with NC as our leader for the long-term.

      Personally, I do not know whether NC should lead us in 2015 despite me no longer liking or supporting him, so I think that your survey is interesting but so difficult to interpret.

    • “In fact, though Nick’s currently the least popular party leader, he is also the only leader to out-poll his own party’s standing in the polls. “

      I don’t know where this comes from. It’s certainly not borne out by the figures in your previous article that you linked to. As you yourself pointed out in that article, Clegg is actually less popular than the party:
      “Nick Clegg:
      I like the Liberal Democrat Party but not Nick Clegg 19%; I like Nick Clegg but not the Liberal Democrat Party 12%.
      Net Clegg brand: -7% ”
      http://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-poll-ratings-ed-miliband-28315.html

    • The question seems poorly worded, for example would anyone supporting the union accept the question” would you like, as Mrs Thatcher has suggested, Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom”. We all know that Thatcher manages to polarise opinion even 22 years after the Tories forced her from office. Lembit is a less dramatic example but still has that Marmite quality…

      The question is probably being asked too soon, and before anyone knows whether Clegg’s reputation can be salvaged among voters (assuming members can be counted on to vote LD, it is non-members who matter in this decision from an electoral perspective). I also think it is too late for an apology over fees, the time for that to make any difference apart from to disgruntled members (who as above will still probably vote LD) has probably passed.

    • Toby MacDonnell 6th Jun '12 - 11:45am

      In truth, I think there’s a serious media-gap between what is reported about Nick Clegg and what people actually think about Nick Clegg. On the BBC News Quiz, on Mock the Week and Russel Howard’s Good News, Clegg being an impotent flip-flopper is an easy punch-line: the same goes for the Guardian, and Channel 4′s 10 O’Clock Live seems to have no other joke. But in the Telegraph, the Mail, and The Sun, if Clegg isn’t treated as a dangerous anarcho-socialist threat, then he is occassionally praised for making a tough decision.

      But the actual people I speak to about politics over in the Midlands seem to be pretty comfortable with Clegg. They like that he’s on board with the Tory’s plan for fiscal creditability, and they like he appears to look at the bottom line of how services might be affected. The people who have real trouble with Nick are either young people, students, or hardcore left-winger adults I meet largely in the South. Given that we are in a first past the post system, perhaps a bit more nuance should be given over to Nick’s local ratings.

    • There is no point Nick Clegg going after the election as if we carry on at this rate there will be nothing to leave…only someone like Tim Farron might give us a chance of distancing ourselves from some of the awful tactical mistakes we have made and being ‘Conservatives Light’.I also agree with David Pollard…. It is tuition fees that are the huge barrier to us getting back support…Apologising for this decision is not apoligising for being a Liberal Democrat which I would never do…. but for behaving in a way our supporters thought we never would….ie lying to them

    • Toby MacDonnel, electoral performance is usually a good guide to popularity – regardless of what people may think of Clegg personally, under his leadership the party has performed extraordinarily badly in many places. In Scotland they face being wiped out altogether. If any other party leader had presided over such a dramatic slump they would be facing open calls for resignation.

    • “… the actual people I speak to about politics over in the Midlands seem to be pretty comfortable with Clegg. ”

      Anecdotal evidence is all very well, but it should be put into the context of opinion poll findings. Yougov’s latest is that 73% think Nick Clegg is doing badly, as against 18% who think he’s doing well.

      On the extremes, only 1% think he’s doing _very_ well, while 41% think he’s doing _very_ badly. Your definition of “hardcore left-wingers” must be a very wide one!

    • The current voting intention polling for the Lib Dems would leave you with ~23 seats at the next election. The real problem for you, however, is that those polls aren’t just current, they’ve been exactly the same for the last 18 months (Yes, you did better at the local elections than the general election voting intention polls suggest, but that has always been the case for the Lib Dems). The tuition fees debacle had a profound and polarising effect on the Lib Dem voting intention that nothing since has had any effect on (NHS bill, etc) whatsoever. The flat-lining in voting intention suggests that people have already firmly decided, one way or another, whether they’re going to vote Lib Dem or not.

      If you’re happy with ~23 seats, then keep Clegg. If you’re not, then you might as well risk getting rid of him . Things won’t get any worse, but they may get better – something the polls show isn’t likely to happen if you continue with the current strategy.

    • For the first time we have a coalition government. We are also having to deal with an extremely difficult EU economic situation, a crisis in banking and huge national debts. Those who call on Nick Clegg to go obviously do not like being in government and would much prefer to be the nice party who never have to make difficult decisions. The liberal democrats will never be a major political party and supporters should welcome being in government and having some say in policy and decision making. If Nick Clegg had to resign, this would do untold damage to the party’s credibility. He is actually a very good politician, a likeable personality and very sincere. Could someone suggest who should take over? There is no one in the parliamentary party who matches Nick Clegg. Contrary to all the polling (no one ever asks me) he attracts votes as he is seen as genuine. Further, he has the interests of the country at heart.

      I still like coalition government.

    • A Labour person 6th Jun '12 - 12:52pm

      Possibly not much of my business but there are two things here: do you think you will be forgiven the tuition fees fiasco if you dump Nick Clegg and do you think the best way to win an election is to distance yourself from your record in office? I think the answer to both of these questions is no.

      The Lib Dems have spent the last year pretending that the government was someone else and/or they only do the nice things and all the nasty things are done elsewhere. In fact, of course, nothing much happens without Lib Dem agreement. Better to own it all and argue the case I think.

      The Lib Dem hope should be that the next election looks like a choice between ‘extreme’ single-party government and coalition. You cannot hope to win that if you spend all your time moaning about how awful coalition government is or spending your time in that coalition stopping it from doing things.

      As for the tuition fees stuff you just have to suck it up. No apology is going to make it go away.

    • Peter Watson 6th Jun '12 - 1:47pm

      @Jane
      I think you raise some important issues which sum up the quandary for Lib Dems. Who would replace him, and would losing him make matters even worse? However, I think that when you say “He is actually a very good politician, a likeable personality and very sincere” and “he attracts votes as he is seen as genuine” you highlight the problem the party faces. Those were certainly popular perceptions before May 2010 when everybody wanted to agree with Nick, but that is no longer the case. You only have to look at the No campaign in the AV referendum for whom Nick Clegg was a poster child or the ease with which comedians make him a political joke to realise that he is an electoral liability at the moment.

      The dilemma the LDs face is a simple one: can Nick Clegg turn things around for himself and the party, and if not, then when should he go? It is the answer to this that I struggle with.

    • Jane Why will the Lib Dems “never be a major political party”?

    • What Alex Marsh said. I think Stephen is interpreting the results of the survey too narrowly. I for one answered don’t know to the question.

    • “Contrary to all the polling (no one ever asks me) he attracts votes as he is seen as genuine. ”

      Evidence?

    • Foregone Conclusion 6th Jun '12 - 2:29pm

      Referring to the Lembit proposal was a (perhaps deliberate?) distraction.

      I disagree with Lembit that Nick should go now and that we should effectively have a dual leadership/DPM for three years. That would be madness. I do think it might be best for him to go as leader perhaps six months before the election, however. I can’t remember whether I chose the yes or no option in the end.

    • Charles Beaumont 6th Jun '12 - 2:36pm

      Surely what this survey shows is that, if we do go into the next election with NC as leader (and you can make a good case for, and as good a case against) we need a really different, distinctive, high impact message that does not sound like the other parties and does not look like a few lines we’ve rehearsed before looking around for the best offer for another coalition. This is why all the talk of coalition with Labour next time leaves me really worried. We risk becoming the ‘easy lay’ party – we’ll jump into bed with whoever will have us. But actually none of our fundamental changes (localism, electoral reform, defence cuts) are getting taken seriously by the coalition partners.

    • @Karlia Lykourgou – presumably this is as a result of rounding, e.g. the results may have been 58.6%, 33.6% and 7.8%, which adds up perfectly to 100%, but which would be expressed in round numbers as 59, 34 & 8.

    • Jane6th Jun ’12 – 12:49pm…………….Those who call on Nick Clegg to go obviously do not like being in government and would much prefer to be the nice party who never have to make difficult decisions.
      A very patronising remark. I’d just like us to make a ‘real’ attempt at implementing pre-2010 promises and for Nick/Danny to be less enthusiastic about Tory policies which are outside the terms of the coalition agreement.

      ………..The liberal democrats will never be a major political party and supporters should welcome being in government and having some say in policy and decision making………..
      So our future role is to enable our coalition masters (Tory/Labour) to enact their more extreme policies providing they “throw us the odd bone now and again”?

      ………………….If Nick Clegg had to resign, this would do untold damage to the party’s credibility. He is actually a very good politician, a likeable personality and very sincere…………….
      Nick Clegg’s continuing leadership is doing untold damage to our credibility. Your final sentence is just plain wrong!

    • Bill le Breton 6th Jun '12 - 3:45pm

      Jane it is because many Liberal Democrats are serious about Government that Clegg must go. He is too error prone – his biggest error was the strategic decision over the style of relationship he chose with Cameron. A more experienced politician would not have been swept by the moment and his advisers into it.

      But he was also the person who effectively sacked Rennard and replaced him with Stark, a tactical blunder that cost us forty or fifty seats. Rennard and others would not have capitulated as Stark’s campaign did after break through at the Manchester debate.

      The commitment to raising student fees, support for the Health Bill and the economics of the madhouse – expansionary deficit reduction – which destroyed confidenece in recovery at a vital moment are evidence of poor judgment. As a country we cannot afford someone like that in the Quad – who are the new constitutional ‘first among equals.

      The evidence is also there that you are wrong about the public’s perception of our present Leader.

      Here are Nick’s latest figures from You Gov’s latest June polling:
      Do you think Nick Clegg is doing well or badly as leader of the Liberal Democrats?
      Very Well 1%
      Fairly Well 17%
      Fairly badly 34%
      Very badly 39%
      That is total Well 18%, Total badly 73 %
      For Cameron, total well 34%, total badly 60%
      For Miliband, total well 30%, total badly 58%

      It is vital that we re-establish ourselves within this Coalition, which requires a significant change to economic policy – which may well be brought about by a second serious credit crunch resulting from events in Europe. That alone requires a new Leader as Deputy Prime MInister given his commitment to accelrated deficit reduction and ‘aggressive cuts’.

      So far, Alex, Liberal Democrats who have resigned from office have been replaced by Liberal Democrats in the same posts. That is how Coalition agreements work.

    • Tony Dawson 6th Jun '12 - 4:08pm

      @Jane 6th :

      “Those who call on Nick Clegg to go obviously do not like being in government and would much prefer to be the nice party who never have to make difficult decisions.”

      Anyone can make difficult decisions. Not everyone, however, can take the necessary difficult options in that decision-making rather than the easier (wrong) ones. Anyone who thinks the leadership issue is in any way connected to the coalition issue needs some severe reality-orientation.

      “If Nick Clegg had to resign, this would do untold damage to the party’s credibility”.

      How do you define ‘credibility’? It must be a unique definition. The ‘untold damage’ has been done over the past two years.

      “Contrary to all the polling (no one ever asks me) he attracts votes as he is seen as genuine.”

      By you and your next door neighbour, perhaps. And by a number of lib Dem members. But the consistent output of all polls is completely the opposite. So, are we to say that every single polling organisation, consistently over more than a year is in some grand conspiracy to misrepresent the electorate’s view of the Lib Dem leader? Blaming the electorate is only any use when you are half way through your second bottle of Merlot. Political Parties cannot afford to be in a state of total denial.

    • Liberal Neil 6th Jun '12 - 5:04pm

      @ Bill le Breton – I wouldn’t seriously dispute that Nick is currently seen to be doing a bad job.

      And he is clearly seen to be doing a worse job than the other two main party leaders.

      However it is noticeable that the leader of the opposition’s ratings are also pretty poor, despite not being in Government.

      So I wonder if any Lib Dem would be faring that much better. Which Lib Dem MPs do you think would be doing better, given that they need to be a) senior enough, b) competent enough, c) not responsible for any of the key decisions that have hit our popularity and d) currently scandal free?

      I have my differences with the current leadership, but I’m not sure anyone else, of those available, would do that much better just now.

    • Charles Beaumont 6th Jun '12 - 5:25pm

      I think there is a lot about NC’s problems which comes down to him being rather like David Cameron. You know, young, posh, family man etc. It means that he’s just seen as a mini-me – a Tory leader without even a serious party behind him. It’s a totally, outrageously unfair way of seeing Nick Clegg (whom I regard highly), but it’s also inevitable in the coalition environment.

      So, in this specific context it’s probably fair to conclude that a range of characters would make better party leaders, including the usual suspects (Cable, Huhne, Hughes, etc.).

    • It doesn’t matter a jot, what the ‘members-only forum’ thinks. It only matters what voters think. Nick Clegg should go,… end of…..
      As far as rebuilding voter confidence is concerned :

      If you want to land men on the moon, you do NOT aim the rocket ship at the moon. You aim the rocket at the position the moon will be at, in 3 days ( ie. the rendezvous point after the 3 day journey.)

      If you want to turn this ‘God awful’ LibDem, voter mistrust around, you must aim policy at the position that the economy and Europe will be at, in 2015.

    • “Which Lib Dem MPs do you think would be doing better, given that they need to be a) senior enough, b) competent enough, c) not responsible for any of the key decisions that have hit our popularity and d) currently scandal free?”

      The obvious answer is Charles Kennedy. But not as the leader of the Lib Dems in coalition, as he didn’t support the policy of coalition. And how right he was.

    • Bill le Breton 6th Jun '12 - 6:05pm

      Neil, please allow me answer your question this way: the world is facing a once in a hundred year crisis. Like the early Nineteen Thirties the conventional wisdom and therefore the first ‘go’ at solving this crisis has made things far worse. Everyone is fighting inflation and producing deflation. We learnt nothing from those times.

      We therefore need the best possible people leading this country and I think we shall before long actually need political unity in addressing the problems here, because there has to be a concord – a Vauxhall Go-Large so that the necessary monetary stimulus comes as part of a comprehensive New Dispensation across society. Big answers to a big problem.

      Already there is really a consensus over the ‘wrong’ solution across the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, (which is why your are right to point to their combined failure to gain the confidence of the public.

      It is for that reason so I can see the scope for political consensus over the right solution when once that is articulated by respected figures in all the Parties of the nations of the UK. We are not far apart, just on the wrong track!

      The wiser we are in the UK (the quicker we get to that solution) the more chance we have of contributing the right solutions globally. Because it will require coordinated global action and strong persuasive leadership, and why should that not come from the UK?

      I think that the three political star performers of the last four years have been Darling, Cable and Hague. Interestingly they are from a generation ‘one up’ from the generation that has given us the present party leaders in the UK. They have a few more grey hairs. And restoring confidence and trust in political leadership will require that. I suspect that their views on the economy in April 2010 were very similar and they will have learnt much in the last 24 months.

      Towards that outcome of a new direction I see Nick Clegg as a barrier – part of the problem – and he isn’t going to be able to change that because it is both of his own making and now of the making of most of the UK population. If his popularity is greater than the Party’s (which I refute) it is because he has made us as unpopular as we were immediately post merger.

      The Rose Garden Love-in, the old style yarbooing as he sat by Cameron on the front bench and the table thumping as the Health Bill became an Act are now the part of the DNA of his brand as perceived by our fellow citizens.

      And the mechanics of change? In the extreme position we find ourselves in I would hope he resigns as Leader at the start of a parliamentary party meeting and that the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (which includes the Party President – who would speak for the membership) makes the decision.

      They should not be allowed to leave the room until the white smoke is visible. I would trust them to make the right decision provided they were free from the influence of the exisiting patronage of the leader.

    • David Allen 6th Jun '12 - 6:09pm

      In 1990, Mrs Thatcher won the first round of the Tory leadership election by 55% to Heseltine’s 41%. She resigned almost immediately, because a leader cannot possibly continue to command respect when such a large proportion of his/her party take the bold step of openly declaring the need for a change.

      Clegg’s figures are pretty similar, aren’t they?

    • In response to Bill le Breton’s comment of 6.05pm
      …”I think that the three political star performers of the last four years have been Darling, Cable and Hague. Interestingly they are from a generation ‘one up’ from the generation that has given us the present party leaders in the UK. They have a few more grey hairs. And restoring confidence and trust in political leadership will require that. I suspect that their views on the economy in April 2010 were very similar and they will have learnt much in the last 24 months.”

      The comment below is not mine but instead a cut and paste from another site That said, it is (I believe), very relevant to the debate you (Bill) have opened up.

      In cultures past, the elders were listened too, as guides of wisdom. But there has been a race on amongst the political parties to provide the freshest, youngest, most votable face possible. That race began with the Micheal Foot election debacle. Its left us here where we are today, stuck with fresh faced ideological clueless young grads running the show to the distress of us all.

    • As i have been saying for the last year – Nick will stand down 6 months before the next election -December2014, for some reason … job in Europe, stress , lack of Party confidence (take your pick). Charles Kenndy will step in as ‘caretaker’ leader for the May GE. CK still loved by the public (yes I know hes hopeless), relatively untainted by the Coalition etc, he will be the best bet for damage limitation.

      Remember you heard it here first – stick a tenner on down the Bookies…….

    • paul barker 6th Jun '12 - 7:48pm

      If we are going to quote polls how about the comres from a few weeks ago ? Asked if they like the leader & the party those answering yes were
      libdems 18%
      labour 16%
      That result doesnt suggest that Clegg is holding us back or that labours polling leads are very solid. In fact “the Polls” give contradictory answers, neither they or the media are a useful guide.

    • I think what should be added to “Bill’s debate” is that with the exception of Vince Cable, to some extent, and Michael Moore, all our Cabinet members, plus David Laws, have been associated with the Orange Book faction, who have espoused key parts of the Thatcher legacy. This agenda is a large part of what seems to have brought us to this pass, and so any change at the top would have to include a change of agenda.

      I would also make a plea for people not to forget that environmental degradation is an urgent and ongoing problem, and no lasting economic solutions or any protection of the environment are going to be found by encouraging an absolute no holds barred economic growth model (as currently measured, anyway).

    • Always Integrity 6th Jun '12 - 8:46pm

      It seems to me that the problem is not the leader its is the very fact of coalition.

      The libdem’s are the minority partner. Had the coalition been with the Labour party they would still have been the minority partner.

      In either case the LibDems would have had to renage on some key policy or the other. A bit like the US republicans it was silly to sign up to absolutes in opposition which you can only deliver if you are the majority party.

      I am a conservative and pretty cross that the coalition cannot re-boot the economy with strong supply side moves but I accept we didn’t win the election outright.

      So, whoever had been the LibDem leader I dont think things would be much different.

      The second problem is that the LibDems appear to be a very wide coalition with little identifiable specific ideology other than not being either conservative or labour. That being the case it doesnt matter much if you end up in coalition with labour or the conservatives – half of the party will dispair and run away.

      I cannot offer much positive advice as it seems to me that neither the LibDems or the great british public ‘get coalition’

    • “If our opinion poll ratings are still at 10% and there is 12-6 months before the next general election, do you really think Nick Clegg will lead the party into the general election?”

      Well, in that case the Cleggite line will be:
      “For the past four years we and our Conservative coalition partners have been working together for the good of the country. In the coming election, given the unparalleled crisis we face [etc], it would be absurd for us to contest parliamentary seats held by our coalition partners, and for them to contest seats held by us. I therefore call for an historic gesture [etc etc]. PS to Lib Dem MPs: This is the only way you’re going to keep your jobs.”

    • Steve Walsh 6th Jun '12 - 10:29pm

      One thing is clear and that is the need to get back to our core philosophy and start being Libdem’s. Polls are one thing but the voters are far more sophisticated and can see through politicians at 10 paces. If you are true to your values you have integrity. I believe that Charles Kennedy had and despite what you may think of his record he was human with frailties like the rest of us.

      No matter who was the leader was going to have to make compromises and to think otherwise was naive. So now is the time for our leadership to change gear and get momentum behind our policies. How much time are we going to spend explaining why we didn’t do something instead of saying why we did?

    • Liberal Neil 7th Jun '12 - 9:37am

      @Bill – I personally have a lot of time for the three people you mention. But none of them, as far as I am aware, strongly disagree with the general direction the Government is going in. So you might change the faces, but there is no sign that it would lead to the sort of change of direction you advocate.

    • Peter Watson 7th Jun '12 - 10:37am

      @Always Integrity
      “it seems to me that neither the LibDems or the great british public ‘get coalition’”
      I don’t think that it is sensible to support a minor party without accepting the need for coalition government, and the sort of proportional representation that many of us support would make that more likely.

      My problem with Nick Clegg et al is the way that they have handled being in coalition. Perhaps it is an inevitable consequence of collective cabinet responsibility, and maybe that is incompatible with coalition government. Horse-trading and negotiation over policies is necessary, but I believe that it should be open and transparent. Lib Dem ministers come out to publicly endorse policies which contradict those for which they were elected and which are opposed by members. We hope they negotiated well, stuck to their principles and gained important concessions, but we don’t know. Maybe they capitulated completely in return for a ministerial pension. Maybe they’re speaking through gritted teeth now, or maybe they were lying before. Student fees is a special case: conceding a manifesto commitment to remove student fees as part of a costed package is sensible, but abandoning personal pledges to vote against fee increases is an unforgivable display of dishonesty and/or incompetence. More importantly, whilst not a big issue per se, it undermines any confidence we might have that the behaviour of our MPs in negotiations behind closed-doors is anything like what we would hope for.

    • Alec Dauncey 7th Jun '12 - 1:06pm

      It seems to me to be a simple truth that Nick Clegg in a TV debate at the next GE will be difficult.
      Keeping him as DPM to “stay the course” deals at least to a degree with the “heat in the kitchen” point.
      The fact that 34% are agreeing with a proposal made by Lembit Opik, in what I am finding to be a serious book on the position of the party, deserves more serious respect for those 34% who hold the view, including Lembit Opik. His celebrity “weakness” can distract from the fact that his approach to politics is actually rather serious, principled, analytical and profoundly liberal. Finding myself agreeing with Lembit on a question of political positioning worries me not one bit.

    • Bill le Breton 7th Jun '12 - 1:17pm

      Neil, it is impossible to know what they would advocate if they were given the task of representing their Parties at the head of a National Government.

      Cable we know through his interview with Hutton is not against NGDP targeting. In that interview he worried about any increase in the exchange rate (then at 1.15, now 1.25) chocking off the chances of recovery and saw NGDP targeting as the way to keep down the exchange rate.

      It is interesting that, at the time that Darling ran the Treasury, the Bank of England was unofficially targeting NGDP at +5%. At the start of the crisis the Bank of England (and therefore he?) was content to see inflation rise (which allowed for the necessary negative real interest rates). Was its change in tack his doing, or Brown’s or the Coalition’s, or KIng going for the knighood? We need to know.

      Hague? Surely more pragmatic less ideological? Can’t see him really buying expansionary deficit reduction, can you?

      But where I come from is a sense that we are about to head into another storm. European collapse at a time when the BRICS are going into their own recession.

      We have seen that politicians get a lot of flack for changing their policies and that their vanity also makes it harder for them to admit error and make changes.

      How would the House of Commons react to the need for fundamental change against the background of a global deflationary event, given the new laws for calling elections?

      I could see the solution being a Government of National Recovery with Labour involvement. A Labour decision to stand outside this might be impossible and might divide their Party. Three wise men would come forward. (I regret that they are men, but that is the fault of culture as it was forty years ago.)

      On top of which Clegg continues to be an electoral liability underlined this morning with his call at CityAM http://www.cityam.com/latest-news/clegg-keen-cut-pension-perks where he said he ‘wants to reduce the £5bn bill for elderly benefits, which includes the likes of free TV licences and prescriptions, free bus and Tube travel and NHS eye tests.’

      It is as if he has never met an elector.

    • Neil – the same could have been said of John Major in October 1990

    • Leekliberal 7th Jun '12 - 3:53pm

      ‘A Labour person’ says ‘As for the tuition fees stuff you just have to suck it up. No apology is going to make it go away.’ While agreeing with him that we handled tuition fees very badly and should apologise I would remind him that another party promised not to increase tuition fees and then tripled them and they were not a minor partner in a coalition. Additionally they gave us the Iraq war …….and looking at the opinion polls Labour appear to have been forgiven. So there is hope for us yet!

    • “Additionally they gave us the Iraq war …….and looking at the opinion polls Labour appear to have been forgiven. So there is hope for us yet!”

      Never underestimate the self-interest of the Labour vote.

    • Peter Watson 7th Jun '12 - 5:06pm

      @Leekliberal and Tabman
      “Additionally they gave us the Iraq war …….and looking at the opinion polls Labour appear to have been forgiven. So there is hope for us yet!”
      I think that Tony Blair, rather than the Labour party, carried the can as far as public opinion is concerned, and Labour’s forgiveness comes after a general election which has revealed the alternative to be no less incompetent, hypocritical and riddled with self-interest, so I’m not confident that there is much hope for Nick Clegg or the Lib Dems this side of 2015.

    • David Allen 7th Jun '12 - 6:16pm

      “If our opinion poll ratings are still at 10% and there is 12-6 months before the next general election, do you really think Nick Clegg will lead the party into the general election?”

      Definitely. He and his allies will say that it is too late to change tack, and that it will just look to the public like a panic grab for survival. And they will be right. The answer is, of course, that we need to make the change a great deal earlier.

    • Will you be standing, David Allen?

    • I am going to stop reading this stuff. You lot are dragging us all down with your negative attitudes to everything, your belief in the story according to the tabloids and your reliance on opinion polls written up with their loaded questions on behalf of those same tabloids. Come on!! Where is you positive radical stance that we are doing the right thing and that we are looking forward to a second term with LibDems in the major party position… entirely possible ! If we need a new leader it must be because he or she comes up from the ranks and eclipses Nick, not because we have cut Nicks legs from under him and we are scratching around to find the least worst person to replace him. ‘Bring back Charlie..’ are you mad?

    • Tony Dawson 8th Jun '12 - 7:59am

      @Peter Watson:

      “Additionally they gave us the Iraq war …….and looking at the opinion polls Labour appear to have been forgiven. So there is hope for us yet!”

      More ‘forgotten’ than ‘forgiven’ (due to more pressing immediate concerns), I reckon, though you are right about Tony Blair being the charcoal which has taken much of the rancid smell away. You may notice, however, that George Galloway recently managed to get a lot of people in Bradford to remember what they had forgotten!

    • Tony Dawson 8th Jun '12 - 8:14am

      @Bill le Breton :

      “he ‘wants to reduce the £5bn bill for elderly benefits, which includes the likes of free TV licences and prescriptions, free bus and Tube travel and NHS eye tests.’”

      Repeat after me……

      “Piecemeal means tests are inefficient, costly to implement and forever create new ‘poverty traps’ or ‘steps of unfairness’. A small (often miniscule) rise in general taxation ALWAYS gets you the same financial gain more cheaply, more fairly and with less political pain.”

    • Peter Watson 8th Jun '12 - 9:21am

      @peter
      “Where is you positive radical stance that we are doing the right thing”
      I don’t think that our parliamentary party has been doing the right thing. If the majority of the party does think that our leadership has had two years of flawless decision-making, competent management of coalition politics, and standing up for the principles upon which they were elected, then great. But that’s my vote gone.
      LIb Dem MPs are only part of the party, and if the membership and voters feel that they are not being represented then they have every right to say so and posit alternative ways forward. It might drag you down to hear the negative comments, but it reassures me that not all Lib Dems are like the MPs I now regret supporting since I was old enough to vote.

    • Peter Watson 8th Jun '12 - 9:33am

      @peter
      “your belief in the story according to the tabloids and your reliance on opinion polls written up with their loaded questions on behalf of those same tabloids”
      ukpollingreport.co.uk is a great forum for discussing political polling, and I think it is unfair to dismiss opinion polls as biased because you don’t like the newspaper paying for them. I find the Observer’s reporting of its monthly polls quite bizarre at times, while the daily yougov polls for the Sun seem fine, even though I loathe the newspaper and the results are not good news for the Lib Dems.
      My gut-feeling is that the national polling figures will not reflect the situation when it comes to voting. If polled today, I would have to say reluctantly that I would not vote LD. If faced with an election tomorrow in which the LD candidate was the best way to replace my tory MP then I would vote LD. If faced with just a LD candidate in an electoral pact with the conservatives then I would vote against them. Tactical voting might return a lot of LD MPs in 2015, or it might wipe us out, but either way I think that our core support has been damaged and confused. Good or bad, the next election will certainly be interesting!

    • A Labour Person – thank you. Possibly the most sane and thoughtful advice I have read here for a long time.

    • None of this discussion takes into account the sustained levels of character assassination that Nick Clegg has had to endure across the print media and beyond for more than two years. No-one in the world could have kept their reputation in tact with the level of venom, spite and utterly unbalanced and frankly idiotic criticism Clegg has endured from both left and right.

      Basically they HATE anyone who threatens to break their duopoly and will lie, smear and shout down anyone who dares to try. Had it been anyone else leading the Lib Dems they would have faced the same treatment. I reckon we wait and see for at least another 18 months before taking any rash decisions. Nick is a good man, a great leader (in the real sense of the word, not a focus group follower like Miliband) and has been really badly treated.

    • “Nick is a good man, a great leader …”

      Not only that, but a dear leader and a young leader too!

    • RC8th Jun ’12 – 2:23pm………………None of this discussion takes into account the sustained levels of character assassination that Nick Clegg has had to endure across the print media and beyond for more than two years. No-one in the world could have kept their reputation in tact with the level of venom, spite and utterly unbalanced and frankly idiotic criticism Clegg has endured from both left and right……………….

      Here we go again, “It’s all the medias fault”! The media have treated Milliband far, far worse than Clegg.

      What counts is how the VOTERS see the LibDems under Clegg….The last two local election results say all we really need to know.

    • jason – what the last two local elections tell us is that most people don’t bother to vote in local elections.

    • Tabman8th Jun ’12 – 3:08pm…………….jason – what the last two local elections tell us is that most people don’t bother to vote in local elections………………..

      Nearly right! “what the last two local elections tell us is that most people don’t bother to vote in local elections; but those who, don’t vote LibDem.

    • lucas north 8th Jun '12 - 6:13pm

      I wonder what percentage of Conservative members think Dave should stand down before the next election…

    • I have been around long enough to know that accurate predictions and certainies in politcis (and life) are just about impossible. BUT, for what is’s worth, my opinion is that the voters (the only people who count in this discussion) seem to be minded to blame Nick Clegg for most, if not all of the ills that beset our country. He has behaved in government in a way that many LibDem voters diapprove of. As a consequence there is not a little voter anger directed at him. Therfore it seems to me that in order to be taken serously at the next election a new leader will be needed. Can anyone seriously imagine Mr Clegg being taken seriously when he says “I promise in the next parliament that I will………….”

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