Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 500 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.
47% say Nick should stay to fight 2015 election; 46% say he shouldn’t
LDV asked: Thinking about Nick Clegg’s position as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems, which of these scenarios do you want to see happen?
- 47% – I want Nick Clegg to continue both as Deputy Prime Minister and to lead the Lib Dems into the next general election
- 23% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election
- 9% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election
- 5% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader this year
- 9% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader this year
- 4% – Other
- 3% – Don’t know / No opinion
These are findings which will make deeply uncomfortable reading for Nick Clegg. While 47% of Lib Dem members in our survey say they want Nick Clegg to lead the party into the next election, almost exactly the same proportion – 46% – want him to resign as Lib Dem leader before then. It will be scant consolation that a large majority – 70% – want him at least to continue as Deputy Prime Minister until May 2015.
Even three months ago, Nick Clegg’s leadership wasn’t seriously being questioned by many within the party, with calls for his resignation mostly confined to mavericks like Lembit Opik. Two factors have, I think, changed the equation.
First, the Coalition’s troubles — from the unravelling of George Osborne’s budget to the collapse of Lords reform — means many more Lib Dems are increasingly unhappy about being in alliance with the Tories, even though few reckon there’s an immediate alternative. For many, in our party and beyond, Nick Clegg personifies the Coalition. And just as party members are now starting to look ahead to post-Coalition times, so are folk also starting to think whether life would be any easier for the party without Nick at the helm.
Secondly, Nick Clegg is more exposed now than he was in May because of Vince Cable’s recent hints that he is limbering up for the leadership. Vince is staggeringly popular within the party, as our surveys show, and he has made no bones about the fact that he sees the Coalition as a necessity of the electoral maths, not a natural partnership of like-minded souls. In short, there is a plausible alternative to Nick — unlike David Cameron, whose only leadership rival (Boris Johnson) isn’t even an MP.
There is an upside for Nick, though. The survey also shows he’s in little immediate danger, with only a small proportion of party members (14%) wanting him to stand down any time soon. That means he has time to win back discontented party members over the next year or so. The party conference, which starts in Brighton in a month, just got a whole lot more important for the Lib Dem leader.
* 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.