So, about that Lib Dem wipeout in 2015 then…

GB-election-map2Ask most commentators about Lib Dem prospects at the next general election and a couple of words are sure to crop up sooner or later: either ‘wipeout’ or ‘annihilation’.

I understand why. Look at the opinion polls and the party is bobbing around the 10% mark. Compare that to the 23% we won in 2010, get your uniform national swing slide-rule out, and you can see why many folk, even quite sensible ones like Peter Kellner, will say something like this

The Liberal Democrats are facing political extinction with the loss of 80 per cent of their MPs at the next general election, one of the country’s most respected pollsters has warned. Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov, said the party was on course to return just 10 MPs to Westminster after the 2015 election if it remained adrift on 10 per cent of the vote.

So far, so accepted wisdom.

But yesterday, the Labour party published its list of key seats they’re targeting in order to win a 60-seat majority in 2015. The list includes 16 Lib Dems seats. (Of course we should treat all such published lists with a pinch of salt: parties publish them for a reason, y’know, and it’s rarely to be helpful either to rival parties or journalists.)

And two months ago James Forsyth at The Spectator noted the Tories’ 40/40 election strategy. It says the Tories are expanding their official hit-list of 9 current Lib Dem seats to 20. Personally I’m dubious about this claim, not because I think Tory HQ is worried about upsetting Nick Clegg (surely the AV referendum showed they have no such qualms?) but because I think Tory HQ will focus its resources on its most likely prospects, and given how good local Lib Dems are at bedding into their constituencies I’d be staggered if they thought 20 seats will turn from yellow to blue.

As Tory peer Lord Ashcroft noted just yesterday:

The Lib Dems will almost certainly do better on the day than their poll numbers currently suggest, since local factors and popular MPs are a more important part of their appeal.

However, Tory HQ has to show their backbenchers that they’re putting up a real fight against the Yellow Peril, and a good round number like 20 leaked to your house mag does the job nicely. Anyway, as all this is hypothetical I’m going to make an arbitrary assumption based on my hunch: that 9 Lib Dem MPs will face an intense, well-funded campaign, fully backed by Tory HQ.

Now let’s do the math: Labour are targeting 16 Lib Dem seats; the Tories 9. That brings us to a grand total of 25. The current Lib Dem tally of seats is 57.

Let’s assume Labour and the Tories gain all their targets. They won’t, but let’s assume they will: that leaves the Lib Dems with 32 MPs, as I tweeted yesterday:

Maybe knock off another couple to account for the SNP and Plaid (we can ignore Ukip). That takes us down to 30. We’d have lost half our parliamentary party. That’s bad, disastrous. But it’s not a wipeout, it’s not annihilation.

Here, now, is my best guess on the basis of current polling (which I think will differ significantly from the actual 2015 poll): Labour would win most of their targets while the Lib Dems would defend about half their seats from Tory attack. So let me guesstimate that at Labour winning 12/16; and the Tories 4/9. That totals 16 losses, taking the party down to c.40 seats. Again, that’s bad, verging on disastrous. But it’s still not wipeout, still not annihilation.

For the avoidance of doubt, none of this is to suggest the Lib Dems should be in any way remotely complacent: wipeout remains a possibility. Nor am I suggesting for a moment we should be sanguine about losing even a third of our MPs: turning the clock back to 1997 is a depressing thought. But the words ‘wipeout’ and ‘annihilation’ are glibly thrown about by the media without considering what that means in terms of the actual seats Lib Dems must lose for such a calamity to happen.

Things are grim, yes. But they’re not that grim.

* 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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130 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Jan '13 - 8:07am

    Nor am I suggesting for a moment we should be sanguine about losing even a third of our MPs: turning the clock back to 1997 is a depressing thought.

    And it wouldn’t even be that bad, because going by the seats that have been lost to date, they have mostly not been lost to landslide swings. Most of those seats remain winnable in the following electoral cycle, on the back of relatively small changes. That’s a much stronger position than in 1997.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 8:08am

    I can’t help but feel you’re seeking comfort from the wrong quarters when you look at the published targets of the Labour and Conservative parties.
    Firstly, I don’t think that either party would publicise all of the seats that they hope to win: better PR to set a target that they can exceed than to be deemed a failure for ‘only’ winning 9/10 targets. We see the same management of expectations at local election time. Also, in the case of Labour’s list it has been suggested it’s simply a tactic in response to Ashcroft’s list, making the tories think about defence rather than attack.
    It would be interesting to see a Lib Dem list though: will Lib Dems go on the offensive, e.g. targetting LD-Con marginals and chasing the tactical vote, or adopt a defensive bunker mentality, focussing on incumbency to ensure that poor national polling is not reflected where they already have representation.

  • Adopting a defensive bunker mentality to try to ensure that poor national polling is not reflected where the party already has representation is a recipe for disaster…. I can just see the opposition leaflets now – your Lib Dem representative is certainly a very nice person, but just look what his national party stands for and has supported for the last five years (and then go on to compare it with what was said pre the previous election).

    Whats needed is for this party to stick to its principles – the number of times Ive heard ‘ I voted Lib Dem to stop the worse of the Tories – what are they doing?’ is surely a signal of that.

  • The most effective Tory strategy would be to talk up support for the Labour Party in constituencies where Conservatives challenge a Lib Dem MP. How will they do this though? I suppose Ashcroft could give lots of money to the (often moribund) Local Labour Parties in these Lib Dem constituencies.

  • It’s all very well saying that uniform swing is unlikely to be accurate, but simply plucking figures out of thin air is hardly likely to be any better – let alone plucking figures out of your opponents’ press releases!

    You say your assessment is based on current polling. Current polling by nearly all the companies shows the Lib Dems at around half their 2010 support. In that situation, the maths suggests that reality could actually be worse for the Lib Dems than uniform swing would suggest – losing half of 40%+ in a Lib Dem seat results in a much bigger swing than losing half of the 23% national vote.

    That leaves ‘incumbency’. But in a situation where it is primarily the actions of the parliamentary party that have alienated voters, is membership of the parliamentary party still a positive factor on the whole? I’m not sure, and in the absence of hard evidence to suggest it is, you really seem to be relying on wishful thinking.

  • A lot will depend on the local electoral contests. Places with Lib-Dem V’s Labour (or SNP) are likely to tip against the Lib-Dems based on this usual pattern of people voting against incumbent government parties. Places with Lib-Dem V’s Conservative are going to be interesting – What will happen there? Will some Conservative voters opt for UKIP? Will some Lib-Dem voters vote for no-hope Labour candidates on the basis they won’t vote for the Lib-Dems for having supported the Conservatives in government?

    Time will tell…

  • Take a look at the 2011 Scottish parliament results and you will find that only knocking off 2 for seats vulnerable to the SNP is ridiculously optimistic.

  • “Maths” please, Stephen, in English, not “math”.
    Key issue is what psephologists have called tactical unwind, ie the likelihood of continuing leftish support for Lib Dems, encouraged by our 2 Horse Race slogan. I find it highly unlikely that many leftish supporters (I am unwilling to call them “Labour supporters” because many of them are not really that, but anti-Tories) will vote Lib Dem after the record in Government. So I think low end is sensible.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 10:15am

    This is all very interesting but, frankly, way too early to say. Speculating ‘good’ (as Simon Jenkins id doing today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/08/clegg-may-be-in-power-for-a-generation ) is as silly as speculating ‘bad’ or, in Stephen’s case, ‘not quite so bad’.The question of the reasons [b]why[/b] we are talking about losing a third to a half of our seats as being ‘a good achievement’ are nicely sidelined, I see. Of course, we’re meant to swallow the line: it’s [i]“all down to the responsibilities of being in the Coalition”[/i]. NOT.

  • “But the SNP have the potential to win almost all Lib Dem seats in Scotland”

    But what will their poll rating be after they have, as seems likely, lost all credibility by failing in the referendum the year before? Their raison d’etre will have virtually disappeared overnight.

  • paul barker 9th Jan '13 - 10:26am

    The point is that to compare polls in mid-term with general election results is silly, if you are actually interested in whats likely to happen.
    If, instead we compare typical polls from particular firms with the same firms polls from 5 years ago we find that the Libdems are about 4% down. Thats 4% not 14%.
    If polls are a useful indicator we can expect the Libdem vote share to be around 20% in 2015. That might give a small fall or a small rise in seat numbers , depending on how the other parties do.
    I should stress that I dont put a lot of weight on voting intention polls, not when even Yougov claim that 37& of voters blame Labour for the cuts against only 25% blaming the coalition.
    I think our vote share may rise in 2015, its too soon to say.

  • Bill le Breton 9th Jan '13 - 10:44am

    Whatever the number, the situation would be greatly improved if the party was practicing integrated campaigning.

    Our MPs are good campaigners and no doubt they are fighting great local campaigns. But they are probably fighting campaigns by distancing themselves from Government. Placing a side bar in a Focus ‘reporting back’ on the deficit and the pupil premium and the tax threshold success is only one dimensional.

    Where is the engagement in Government policy and action? Which Spads are devising campaigns for local activists that would help their ministers build support for their initiatives?

    The present decision to fight 60 by-elections, as it were, consigns everywhere else to black hole status. There is nothing particularly wrong in the campaigns department concentrating on that if someone else is creating integrated campaigns for use everywhere.

    Involving the party’s campaigners in the issues before and during negotiations, so that they can involve their communities is good liberal practice and good campaigning technique.

  • Alistair Carmichael 9th Jan '13 - 10:48am

    Interesting analysis. Crap map. Orkney and Shetland are not a single circle due east of Caithness. Get it sorted.

  • dylan thermos 9th Jan '13 - 11:12am

    Most people on this comments page are I would imagine Lib Dem supporters in some way or other.
    Living in a relatively poor part of Wales all the people that I speak to regarding this subject are of one mind.
    Many regret voting lib dem because of the way they u-turned on many issues the most famous being student fees.
    This is the lib dems “poll tax”.
    Everyone I have spoken to will never vote for the lib dems ever again in their life time.
    In some ways they are getting the worse end of the stick (becoming the tory whipping boys) even though the tories are the main culprits for some of the most catastrophic policies ever to damage the poor of this country.
    As far as I can see there is no way back for the lib dems in Wales. I doubt they will retake one seat there.
    Jumping into bed with the tories gave the lib dems power which they have never had. Foolishly they have bent in the wind to the tories tune. They could have made so much of a name for themselves but decided to have the ministerial car was far more important. Enjoy it while it lasts because come 2015 they are finished for a generation.

  • Uh oh Stephen, you’ve angered our Chief Whip!

  • It is a simple fact that at the last election the Lib Dem vote increased, but fewer seats were won. We need to remind ourselves that the overall outcome was negative: had we won more seats the political situation now could have been very different.

    It is very likely on current patterns that there will be a decrease in support (though events happen) in 2015, but clearly this does not translate directly into seats won (in England at least – SNP could squeeze Lib Dems out in a way that has no parallel in England).

    Labour will try to label Lib Dems as Tories or worse, but what will the Tories do? Will they try to maximise or minimise the differences? It will be harder for us if they minimise the differences, but that could go down very badly with their right wing core.

    In government it is harder to construct a new manifesto, as there is a risk that policies developed for a manifesto might get overtaken by current events. The lost electoral reform however has past by, so there should be a concerted development of policy to rethink and represent issues of constituency size, fair votes, Lords reform, Local democracy, industrial democracy etc.

    For the record I think we should be proposing smaller constituencies (if FPTP remains); that the referendum has completely quashed AV (most voting for it probably wanted something else); 100% elected HoL with renewable 4 or 6 year terms on a biannual elections; the right for local councils to adopt proportional representation (possibly after a local referendum); incentives to support workers councils in large organisations and reform to the voting system for European elections (to STV).

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 12:23pm

    @RC :

    “what will the (SNP’s) poll rating be after they have, as seems likely, lost all credibility by failing in the referendum the year before? Their raison d’etre will have virtually disappeared overnight.”

    I think you misunderstand the various reasons why people vote for the SNP. And ‘credibility’ is a relative concept.

  • Martin “had we won more seats the political situation now could have been very different.”

    I have heard this said a number of times but I wonder what it actually and realistically means ? Given that you were never going to win outright, do you mean if you had won 20 more seats ie 77 MPs rather than 57, ” the situation would have been very different” or 30? 40? I don’t see how any realistic increase in seats (70 MPs is the very maximum I have ever seen as a target for Lib Dems) could possibly make much difference as you would still be massively outnumbered by the 300-odd Tory MPs.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 12:38pm

    @paul barker:

    “If, instead we compare typical polls from particular firms with the same firms polls from 5 years ago we find that the Libdems are about 4% down.

    Please quote your source, Paul. Ipsos Mori has us at 17-23 per cent throughout 2006, 12-20 throughout 2007. Compares to 10-15 through 2011, 9-13 through 2012. About 5-8 points down on average. About one third of our vote!

    I agree that it’s silly to make projections based on present polls. It is also silly to ignore what voters are telling us right now. And things can go down as well as up.

    http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/103/Voting-Intention-in-Great-Britain-1976present.aspx?view=wide

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 12:48pm

    @Tim13 “I find it highly unlikely that many leftish supporters (I am unwilling to call them “Labour supporters” because many of them are not really that, but anti-Tories) will vote Lib Dem after the record in Government. So I think low end is sensible.”
    I am less certain about this. When polled in the abstract, I am sure that many who are asked “Who would you vote for tomorrow?” will give their first choice and this is unlikely to be a Lib Dem these days. When faced with an election and the possibility of victory for somebody they detest more than their Lib Dem candidate, I am sure many tactical voters will hold their nose and put a X in the Lib Dem box. However, this is far from guaranteed. Some voters to the left might stay at home. Some voters will look at media reports about polling and wonder if their first choice party might have a realistic chance after all. In some constituencies they might see a better alternative, e.g. SNP in Scotland, PC in Wales, Green, UKIP or independents in England. The incumbency effect might be strong enough to ensure poor national polling averages out with good results in a few areas, or it might provide targets for a decapitation strategy by Lib Dem opponents.
    I agree with Paul Barker that the electoral outcome for Lib Dems is far from certain, though I believe he is too optimistic. I expect a significantly worse performance in terms of votes in 2015 (unless there is a noticeable upswing in the coalition and the country, why would somebody who did not vote Lib Dem in 2010 do so in 2015?). But in terms of MPs, who knows?

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 12:54pm

    @Phyllis “I don’t see how any realistic increase in seats (70 MPs is the very maximum I have ever seen as a target for Lib Dems) could possibly make much difference as you would still be massively outnumbered by the 300-odd Tory MPs.”
    If the number of Lib Dem seats made both a CON-LD coalition and a LAB-LD coalition possible, then Lib Dems would truly have the balance of power and considerably more influence.
    Unfortunately, the only feasible coalition was one in which Lib Dems were very junior partners, and Lib Dem leaders were wrong to give the impression that they were kingmakers or that it was some great meeting of minds.

  • Richard Dean 9th Jan '13 - 1:29pm

    There’s no better way to guarantee losing than to plan to lose. Libdems form a sixth of the government – there’s no reason that can’t rise and rise at each new election. The map shows that LibDems are on the periphery. Places where people can feel specially different, where people can feel they are entitled to special consideration owing to being far away. Perhaps LibDems need to learn humility, and update their policy stance to be more mainstream-attractive.

  • To Phylis: Peter Watson is right. The choice in 2010 was to form a coalition with Conservatives at a time of a particularly difficult economic situation or to make it impossible to form a stable government in difficult economic circumstances.

    A shot gun wedding in fact.

    More seats would have opened up the negotiations and left open the possibility of reforming a different government mid cycle. Imagine if the Lib Dems were in a position to say to Labour that the Tories have broken agreements or are heading in the wrong direction on important issues and could offer the chance to form a new government with Labour. This would change strategy and policy for both the Conservatives and Labour, forcing both to be more pragmatic and less tribally tactical. I do not want to overplay the possible Lib Dem card as there would be clear dangers for Lib Dems in such circumstances (accusations of irresponsibly destabilising government and consequently the economy), but it is enough to understand that the political situation would have been very different.

  • Electoral Calcus seems to have a bleak outlook,judging by their opinion polls.Take a look here.

    List of predicted seat changes in 2015

    http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/gainloss.html

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 1:41pm

    Yes, it’s quite possible that the Lib Dems will hang on to around 30 seats, despite a collapse in their national vote. However, it’s far from certain. If I was a Tory or Labour organiser, then reading this analysis, my thoughts would be “are we missing a trick”? Then I would make sure I had a respectable campaign organised in the non-target seats, just in case that halving of the LD vote did prove to be something that happened evenly all across the country. Because if it did, even more seats would fall into the Tory and Labour laps.

    A lot is going to depend on whether the Lib Dems are perceived as an independent party or a Tory ally. I can just see the argument being put in 2015 that we have lost the pale red lefties irretrievably, so, we had now better put all our efforts into retaining the pale blue rightists. That would of course mean a manifesto of “critical support” for, let’s say, “whichever Party has the best programme for a free-enterprise economy with a sound plan to eliminate the deficit by 2020″. Alongside a few pale pink goodies to differentiate ourselves slightly from our allied Party.

    And it will all be true! The fortunes of the Lib Dems will indeed be inextricably linked to the Right, because the plan to drive away our so-called “refugees from Labour” has worked so well.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 1:44pm

    @Pete B :

    “Electoral Calcus seems to have a bleak outlook”

    That is, and always has been, a GIGO suite for geeks.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 1:54pm

    @Pete B “Electoral Calcus seems to have a bleak outlook,judging by their opinion polls.Take a look here.”
    I think a big problem for Lib Dems in 2015 is the possibility that with a lot of media reporting of other elections, polling and sites like electoralcalculus, the pessimistic predictions will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Other parties or independents might be encouraged to challenge them, and those who voted Lib Dem tactically might have the confidence to back their first choice.

  • Have I missed something! I thought that the official colour of the Liberal Democrats was GOLD not yellow and that this has been the case since the “merger” of the Liberal Party with the S.D.P. (though I recognise that orange is sometimes used).

  • @Peter Watson:

    I agree with Tim13 – I think that the left leaning / “anyone but the Tories” tactical vote will abandon the LibDems at the next election, on the grounds that if they vote LibDem, the risk is that they elect a LibDem MP who will actually vote with the Tories – i.e. effectively they have voted for a Tory anyway.

    Now you could argue that in some Con/LibDem marginals, voting Green or Monster Raving Loony etc. instead of LibDem means that Tory will win the seat anyway.

    However from the perspective of a left leaning voter, if your MP is going to effectively be a Tory anyway, all you can do is register your disapproval by not voting Tory or LibDem.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jan '13 - 2:07pm

    Forecasts for Liberal Democrat number of seats based on an assumption of uniform swing are always favoured by the commentariat, because they’re easy to do and because the commentariat thinks that’s how politics works in this country: people like them, London-based elite types, produce a national image, and people vote on the basis of that national image. The Liberal Democrats don’t work like that. Our vote has always had a large dependency on the strength of the local campaign. When one sees one place where there’s a strong LibDem presence, plenty of councillors, either an MP or a good second place, and another which seems similar in social terms but few or no LibDem councillors and a firm third place in the Parliamentary elections, one can often NAME the people responsible for this if one has the knowledge – the person who was the driving force in the place where the LibDems are doing well certainly, in the other place it may be there never was anyone like that but we’ve been around long enough to have quite a few places where one can name the person whose burn-out led the thing to collapse or the person whose presence seemed to work as a block on anything productive developing.

    This is why “Cleggmania” did us no good. It was written up as such by the commentariat because they had no other explanation for why our vote went up when the 2010 general election campaign started (the fact that the election was delayed long enough for everyone to KNOW it when it would finally happen and have their pre-election literature stocked up to be delivered just before did not feature in their thinking). However, it diverted attention away from our local campaigning, it flopped when Clegg really did not live up to the mania in the later debates, it meant too many activists had unrealistic expectations and so stayed working in unwinnable seats rather than moving to the targets, and built up the image of our party as being the Clegg fan club, which does not help us now.

    This is why Clegg and those around him need to be very careful NOT to alienate the membership. It is also why though, yes I accept the argument that we are more resilient than the press suppose, I am more worried about poor performance in this election than in previous elections. The two where we were most predicted to be wiped out were 1979 after the LibLab pact and Jeremy Thorpe affair, and 1992 after the merger. However, in both cases the activists were mostly in good humour. In 1992 in particular, the press had completely misreported the situation. Tim Farron in his Guardian article here shows once again what a please fill in appropriately of a man he is (have people guessed, I dislike him?) when he writes of the merger being “acrimonious”. Some of what happened in the lead up to it was, but when it happened the big thing (that the press to this day has never reported) was just how smoothly it went.

    I’m not so sure about now. I shall retain my membership, but unless the leadership stops doing and saying things which seem designed to alienate and demotivate formerly active members like myself, the 2015 general election will be the first since 1974 where I shall not be doing any campaigning. For Clegg to permit his outgoing “Director of Strategy” last year to have a major article published which essentially said “Half of you LibDem activists, we don’t want you, so word rhyming with hissoff and join Labour” was, well, coming close to a Ratner moment. To THIS DAY as people like “Phyllis” writing here know, I am prepared to defend the formation of the coalition and much of what it is doing, on the grounds that while I very much dislike it, I think most of its critics on the left are being completely unrealistic about what is possible under the circumstances. However, Clegg and those around him KEEP ON doing and saying things which seem to undermine what I am saying to try and support him.

    I’m angry enough about this to make my point, repeatedly, here, until I see signs it’s getting noticed – or until the Cleggies get so word rhyming with missed off with me that they move my expulsion from the party. However, hundreds, thousands even, are just leaving or dropping out of activity quietly.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 2:29pm

    @Crush “I agree with Tim13 – I think that the left leaning / “anyone but the Tories” tactical vote will abandon the LibDems at the next election, on the grounds that if they vote LibDem, the risk is that they elect a LibDem MP who will actually vote with the Tories – i.e. effectively they have voted for a Tory anyway.”
    I’m still not sure. I think that there are seats and voters who will see a Lib Dem tory-lite candidate as a less horrible option than a full-fat tory, however reluctantly. Equally, in a LD-Lab marginal, tory voters might rally behind the LD candidate with more enthusiasm than ever before (e.g. Oldham and Saddleworth byelection) – partly answering my own question earlier about why somebody might vote LD in 2015 but not 2010!! For my own part though, I am evidence that you could be correct as I no longer plan to vote for Lib Dem candidates in local, european or national elections as I perceive the party to have moved to the right of where I believed it was / would like it to be.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 2:36pm

    Just to clarify my last post:
    1. I live in a safe-ish tory seat with LDs in second place.
    2. I perceive the top of the party (its public face) to have moved right: there are plenty of committed Lib Dems who post on this site with whom I agree entirely.
    3. In the dim and distant past I was a Liberal party member, did a bit for my local councillor (in a different seat), and apart from a dalliance with Labour in 1997 when I lived in a Con-LD marginal, I’ve always voted for the Liberal party or its descendants.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 2:36pm

    Oops – meant Con-Lab marginal.

  • In 2010 where I voted, due to boundary changes, it was not certain who would win, but it was between Lib Dem and Conservative. Labour was no where to be seen and do not even put up candidates for council elections.

    We have a Lib Dem MP; obviously if large numbers switch to Labour we will have a Tory MP. I just doubt that this will happen on the scale that some of the blogosphere like to claim, particularly since the sort of person who believes Lib Dems are the same as Tories, is also likely to say the same of Labour, I suppose if it were stark obvious that Labour would run away with the election, then some would not care if,locally, they helped ensure a Tory win. However in such circumstances, I would expect a compensating exodus from Tories to main opponent.

    A big danger lies in the behaviour of the Tories. Currently the Tory right are doing a fairly good differentiation job, but if the Conservatives manage to tack back and try to position themselves as Lib Dem Lite, it would be harder for us (and easier for UKIP).

  • To Peter Watson: I expect Lib Dems to do much worse in Con-Lab marginals next time round.

  • Those saying that our campaigns rely on local activists rather than national swing are right. The problem is a hell of a lot of our activists have left the party, and many that haven’t are not enthused to campaign the way they used to because of the parliamentary party’s actions.

  • paul barker 9th Jan '13 - 5:48pm

    Can I just point out that polls are not meant to be predictive & have a very poor record of predicting results this far out. We are about 4% down on the polls from 5 years ago, that would not lead to a substantial loss of seats.
    If we are talking about the number of MPs elected then localactivists are a crucial factor along with our national polling. National polling however is almost entirely dependant on our national campaign & that of our rivals.
    If we are ever to move from 3rd party to 2nd then its the national vote that matters & that depends at least partly on which of the 3 main parties looks most united. Lets make sure its us.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Jan '13 - 6:31pm

    Seeing we’re into wild, unsupported speculation, here’s my tuppenceworth: the Lib Dems will take rather more seats in May 2015 from Tory MPs than they will lose sitting MPs to Tory challengers. Whatever the polls state in January 2013 about national voting intention. Fighting Labour will be an altogether different matter though, as Labour is the Opposition and the government isn’t popular (although the broad swathe of the British voting public sort of understand that it’s got an almost impossible job to do). Expect a dozen losses or more in Labour facing and in three way seats. As for the SNP? Wee Eck will be writhing around with his privates in his hands having received a chastising boot to them in the independence referendum. The SNP’s problem is not winning an unwinnable referendum, it’s not losing broader support afterwards..

  • Paul McKeown: most of that makes sense, though there is an element of crossed fingers (as always you might answer). However, you need to be more circumspect on the SNP. Firstly, depending on where Cameron drifts, the referendum might not be unwinnable; secondly, a lost referendum might actually backfire into increased support for the SNP at Westminster, particularly since I would reckon that a majority of Scots would go for ‘devo max’. I would suggest that Scottish Lid Dems should be pushing hard for ‘devo max’ both on principal and as sound political tactics.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Jan '13 - 7:22pm

    @paul barker:

    ” polls are not meant to be predictive & have a very poor record of predicting results this far out. We are about 4% down on the polls from 5 years ago,”

    I asked you, elsewhere on this forum, to justify such assertions and I produced evidence to the contrary ie that the polls are roughly 5-8 per cent down on those at the same electoral phase 5 years ago. . Can you produce your evidence here (or kindly desist from repetition)?

  • Charles Beaumont 9th Jan '13 - 7:25pm

    Whilst we’re all guessing, some of the variables are pretty clear: nationally as a brand the Lib Dems are very unpopular. Locally, some (not all) Lib Dem MPs are popular. That’s an intriguing bit of cognitive dissonance for any campaign. But as all politicians are unpopular right now, it’s difficult to see the balance falling on the side of a grudging acceptance of your local LD MP whilst disliking the national party.

    Another important point which isn’t adequately examined is the ‘anti-Tory’ tribe. The big divide in british politics is between those who view the the Tories like any other party (agree with some stuff, disagree with other bits)and those who believe the Tories are inherently evil. That may be irrational but a significant proportion of british voters will never forgive the Lib Dems for doing (what I believe to be) the right thing in 2010. So we should expect to lose big against Labour and probably lose a lot against the Tories too as people forgo tactical voting to register an anti-Lib Dem protest.

  • Has anyone or any polling organisation actually made a study of those who believe the Lib Dems have supped with the Devil and vow never to vote for them again?

    They seem to abound anonymously on the internet,but are not so easily found in everyday life. Are they fairly hard core Labour who turned away from Blair after he pushed through the invasion of Iraq? In which case they were always ready to find the first pretext for returning to the fold (not that we should have provided it so easily).

    There are also many who declaim ‘traitors!’ who I am rather sure were never ever anywhere near to voting Lib Dem. There are some in this category who would rather have a full Tory government than one that was compromised by coalition.

    My main worry about the Lib Dem vote is its core base, which may be alarmingly small, however where the base has been built up and where Lib Dems are either the main challenger or have a sitting MP, I expect tactical voting to continue.

  • Matthew Huntbach ” To THIS DAY as people like “Phyllis” writing here know, I am prepared to defend the formation of the coalition and much of what it is doing, on the grounds that while I very much dislike it, I think most of its critics on the left are being completely unrealistic about what is possible under the circumstances”

    I’ve heard lots of comment about what happened in 2010 and since. What I am now interested in is where the Lib Dems go from here.? In 2015 you will know that under FPTP you can only hope, at best, of being a minority partner in a coalition with either Lab or Tory. We now all know what that means. A party horrendously outnumbered with many of its voters, members and activists deeply unhappy with the actions/messages of the Parliamentary party. And whatever the Lib Dems promise to push through in a future Coalition ( eg pupil premium, raise personal allowance etc), if the other parties were astute, they would also build those into their 2015 manifesto, leaving Lib Dems with very few Unique Selling Points. For me, PR was one such USP but that has gone now.

  • @Martin and Peter Watson

    Oh yes I understand now, thanks for the clarification. However, I don’t see how getting so many more seats could have made a Coalition with Labour possible as those extra seats would have been won from Labour rather than Tories. So more seats for you, fewer seats for Labour, equals same lack of majority for Lib/ Lab Coalition. Surely Tory voters aren’t going to vote Lib Dem?

  • @Martin and Peter Watson

    Also I think there is another factor in this is that the Coalition negotiating Teams and the two leaders seem VERY comfortable with each other from the start. They even said quite explicitly that they were surprised how much they agreed on a lot of things. Clegg even said that he and Cameron would have nothing left to disagree about in the TV debates. On the other hand the mood music between Lib Dem and Labour was pretty well toxic. So while I think Lib Dem members might like to think that a Coalition with Labour was only prevented by the lack of sufficient seats, I wonder if the reality is that your leadership has, to a large extent, ‘ gone native’ . Don’t forget that one of the first things they did was fix parliament at five years and impose a very high bar for no-confidence votes (66%) . So not that easy to dissolve Parliament.

  • Umm, so where is the LD list of seats to be targetted aggessively?

  • and with regard to Scotland (and Wales) I imagine that we’ll keep 2 or 3 seats, being O&S, B&R and Charlie Kennedy’s, if he stands. and please don’t think that the SNP will be cowed by a negative outcome in the refendum – in fact, if it is lost they’ll be after LD seats in Scotland like never before. their mission is a process not a single event.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jan '13 - 11:16pm

    @Phyllis “those extra seats would have been won from Labour rather than Tories.”
    That’s moving the goalposts :-) If each extra LD seat was at the expense of Labour then a Con-LD coalition would increasingly still be the only game in town with a weaker opposition. I’m sure there’s a famous quote about the difficulty of managing a government with a large majority: perhaps with more LDs in a larger coalition then left-right arguments would have been more open and less unity displayed.

  • FormerLibDem 9th Jan '13 - 11:57pm

    I think the key to whether there will be a Lib Dem meltdown will be the Labour tactical vote in LibDem/Tory marginals. How are you going to get voters who incline to Labour to vote Lib Dem again? This was easy enough in 2010 – lots of Focus leaflets saying “Labour can’t win here, help us defeat the Tories by voting Lib Dem”. But how does that work now? It is particularly counter productive when Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws appear on the telly knocking Labour while avoiding any knock at the Tories. Honestly, they SOUND just like Tories now (especially to Labour inclined voters). This is a real strategic problem for the Lib Dems – because without the thousands of Labour-inclined tactical voters in Lib Dem key seats – the next election will be a bloodbath. You’ve got to find a solution – and a viable strategy – very quickly indeed.

  • I honestly have no idea what will happen in the next election, but what does concern me, is what many others have said, the collapse of our local support. On a national level we are really unpopular, though less so now, than a year ago in my experience, but still very unpopular. However, on a local level I find out support is returning and it is that localism which will be in the national elections. In my opinion many of our MPs like John Leech will fight on the grounds of, a am the local champion and I do lots for you locally. Now, I think where this is delivered effectively, it will be be enough to carry a few over the line, not all, but a few.However, for this to be effective, it requires manpower and dedication, lets face it, not one of us here (if your a Lib Dem) hasn’t been out on a cold night, knocking on doors and fighting hard in one election or another. We all know how draining it is, how much work it requires…etc. Now, we have never been blessed with numbers and so for some parties, the lose of just 1 dedicated activist is a big blow, but as others have noted, this coming election the situation is worse because unless something magically changes soon, we go in, not just with low numbers, but also low moral. One must ask, how can we go out fighting and be dedicated in our campaign if we are deject and low spirited?

  • I think there;s too much simplistic talk about the anti Tory vote, The reason section of of the electorate vote against the conservatives is because the Conservative Party has a long history of clobbering them in power. They moved away from the labour party because the labour party started clobbering them. They have moved away from the Lib Dems because the Lib Dems are happy to clobber them too. People do not like being made poorer or being sacked, or forced to jump through hoops when they are ill.
    The problem for progressive parties generally is that they do things that alienate their own voters . Obviously, we do not know exactly what will happen in the next two years, but I think the Lib Dems will be a much weakened force because a lot of the trust as gone.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jan '13 - 10:06am

    After 2015 I guess that the future of the party will be pretty much defined by the MPs that remain. If the pessimistic predictions of many lost seats are correct, what is the likely composition of that parliamentary Lib Dem party?
    Have leftish Lib Dems been most successful against Labour in seats which are now most at risk? It looks like Clegg, Laws and Alexander are relatively safe whilst Teather is not, but what about the rest? Could parliamentary Lib Dems be greatly depleted as a result of their behaviour in coalition but be left dominated by the architects of that coalition?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '13 - 10:18am

    Phyllis

    Don’t forget that one of the first things they did was fix parliament at five years and impose a very high bar for no-confidence votes (66%) . So not that easy to dissolve Parliament.

    From recollection, a “No confidence” vote still requires just a majority. It’s a vote to dissolve Parliament without that being a “No confidence” vote that requires a two-thirds majority/

    An end to the situation where a Prime Minister can call a general election whenever it suits him or her has long been a Liberal Democrat and before that Liberal demand as part of our general support for constitutional reform.

    I do think it fair to say that the Parliament the people of the country has elected is the Parliament they have elected, and should stay there until a new election is due, which is five years later. I am fed up with people moaning about this government as if it was just imposed on them. It was not – it was the only viable government coming from the Parliament THEY chose to elect. If they felt the Parliament was unbalanced due to the distortions of the electoral system – which gave the Conservatives many more seats than their share of the vote and the Liberal Democrats many less – then they were give a chance to show that in the referendum in 2011. While the referendum was on the AV system, which is not proportional though it does have the benefit f not forcing people to vote for the main parties out of fear of “splitting the vote”, it was widely seen as a referendum on the principle of proportional representation, because the successful “No” campaign made a big part of their argument a support for the distortions of the current system. The people of this country voted for it by two-to-one, they voted for the principle that it is better to have distorted representation in favour of the largest path, so as that is the Conservative Party, the people of this country, having seen what a Conservative-dominated government is like, voted in favour of it.

    I say this again and again because I don’t think the case for electoral reform should be shut down by that referendum. I am pointing out what people in effect voted for, not because I REALLY believe many who voted that way did it conscious of what they were doing, but because I want to get people to THINK about it. To me it is obvious – anyone who is unhappy about the current government because they believe it is over-dominated by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are too weak in it OUGHT to be an opponent of the electoral system which led to that, and ought to be calling for that electoral system to be changed.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '13 - 10:30am

    Phyllis

    What I am now interested in is where the Lib Dems go from here.? In 2015 you will know that under FPTP you can only hope, at best, of being a minority partner in a coalition with either Lab or Tory. We now all know what that means. A party horrendously outnumbered with many of its voters, members and activists deeply unhappy with the actions/messages of the Parliamentary party.

    Yes, and so the Liberal Democrats should be explaining this – that they can’t get much of their policies through if they don’t have many MPs. It ought not to be that difficult, ought it? Isn’t the line “If you want Liberal Democrat policies, you need to vote Liberal Democrat” pretty much the first thing the leader of the Liberal Democrats should be pushing? Isn’t the line “Sorry we can’t do more, but with just 57 out of 650 MPs, what do you expect?” a pretty good supporting line for this?

    Any coalition has to be a compromise between its parts, and the nature of the compromise will depend on the relative balance of the parts. So if we have an electoral system which distorts massively in favour of the biggest party and massively agains third parties we have what we have got in terms of coalition. Shouldn’t it be the job of the leader of the party which has always had as one of its key policies the reform of that electoral system to point this out, and to take advantage of the evident dissatisfaction of the people of this country with what the current electoral system gave them to persuade them of the case for changing it?

  • “I am fed up with people moaning about this government as if it was just imposed on them. It was not ”
    Matthew :
    No amount of bluster can make the above true. No-one voted for a coalition in 2010. And they certainly didn’t expect to have a Tory government with 57 Tory-lites to fill in the missing Tory votes. That was the even bigger shock. Who could have imagined that ‘principled’ Liberal Democrats would have wilfully, slapped the face of the poor, the elderly, disabled and students?
    It beggars belief. But one thing is for certain. We won’t get fooled again.

  • There needs to be some education: no one can vote for a ‘government’ and still less for ‘a prime minister’. Voters vote for (or not for as the case may be under FPTP) members of parliament. MPs decide what constitutes the government and who is Prime Minister. Clue: that is why there has to be a vote by MPs.

  • @Peter Watson

    Hadn’t thought of it that way before, but yes, it could certainly be the case that the centre of gravity of the parliamentary party would move further to the right as a result of the next GE.

    In which case, they might well wind up looking something like the National Liberals of old and be absorbed into the Tory party (or even give pro EU Tories a home).

  • paul barker 10th Jan '13 - 1:23pm

    Theres an interesting & very relevant article over on Labour Uncut, on the significance of Labours current poll lead. Both article & comments are worth reading but if you dont have time essentially it analyses the historical record & concludes that Labour would need to be 12% ahead, 2 years out from the election, just to come joint first with the tories in the actual vote. Currently the Labour lead averages 11%.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '13 - 3:00pm

    John Dunn

    “I am fed up with people moaning about this government as if it was just imposed on them. It was not ”
    Matthew :
    No amount of bluster can make the above true. No-one voted for a coalition in 2010. And they certainly didn’t expect to have a Tory government with 57 Tory-lites to fill in the missing Tory votes.

    So what did they vote for? And what did they expect?

    Suppose the Liberal Democrat vote had been more evenly spread, as it the Liberal-SDP vote was in 1983. It was a greater then but the result was many fewer MPs. So, with the same share of the votes, we could have had a Conservative majority government. Why should whether the LibDems concentrate their votes or spread them out make any difference to the legitimacy of the government? You may say that back in 1983 when the Tories won a big majority, they did at least get a higher proportion of the vote than in 2010. Well, OK, if that’s the case, consider the 2005 general election when Labour got a majority of the seats but a lower share of the votes than in 2005. Why is it that the current government over-dominated by the Tories is considered illegitimate when the Tories gained 36% of the vote in the general election, but people who say that do not say the same about the previous Labour government – completely dominated by Labour even though they got only 35% of the vote in the 2005 general election?

    The coalition represents the balance in Parliament of the two parties that form it, Conservative and Liberal Democrat. Given that there are over five times as many Conservative MPs as Liberal Democrat MPs, it is not surprising that it is far closer to centre of opinion of the Conservatives. If your complaint is that it is too biased to the Conservatives, then shouldn’t you be calling for proportional representation so that any coalition would have a balance of policies which reflected the balance of votes of its parties?

    Now, when you say that “No-one voted for a coalition”, with the implication that ANY coalition would be illegitimate, a different argument arises. If that is what you mean, then it follows from your argument that the only legitimate government would be one composed of just one party. Indeed, up till now, that has been how British politics has worked – we have an electoral system which distorts representation in favour of the largest party to the point that it always has half the seats. People voted against electoral reform in May 2011 after a “No” campaign which explicitly supported distorted representation because it said that was a good thing. So, therefore, it would follow from your argument that as the only legitimate government is one of one party alone, and the largest party is the Conservatives, that the only legitimate government we could have now is one which is purely Conservative, as that is what more people voted for than anything else. If that is what you believe then surely your only legitimate attack on the Liberal Democrats is that they are STOPPING the country from having what you regard is legitimate – what you ought to be saying is that the Liberal Democrats should just abstain on everything so that we have the purely Conservative government that you claim is what people voted for.

    The only other way I can think of making your argument work is to say that as no party gained a majority in the May 2010 general election, we should have immediately had another general election and kept on doing this until one party did get a majority. Fine, so what do you think the result of a June 2010 general election would have been? Remember, the people of this country would have been told “If you don’t get a Parliament with a majority this time, we will have a third election in July”. People would have see that the biggest factor standing in the way of a majority government is the existence of those 57 Liberal Democrat MPs. Don’t you think people would be moaning about the selfishness of this small party which is nevertheless making the country unstable by insisting on standing candidates? I think what would have happened is that the Liberal Democrats would have got wiped out in the June 2010 general election as people would see they would never get a majority, and the Conservatives would be the main beneficiaries and hence win a majority.

    So, John, I have given you three options. Please let me know which of these you support, or suggest a fourth.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    If the Lib Dems had maintained their principles by sticking to their pledge on tuition fees, their voters would not have deserted them in large numbers. After all, Cameron is sticking by his pledge to pensioners, despite the ‘harsh economic reality’ and everyone understands why – a promise is a promise. If they had then refused to support the NHS reforms they would have attracted new voters who would have seen Lib Dems as the saviours of the NHS. Why should Lib Dems care about ‘most of the country ‘ who would never vote for you anyway. You should look after your own supporters as a matter of principle.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jan '13 - 5:18pm

    @Phyllis “You should look after your own supporters as a matter of principle.”
    Comments by senior party figures suggest that this is what they are doing, but they are redefining who those supporters should be.

  • The unwinding of LibDem-Lab tactical voting will be counterbalanced by some LibDem-Con tactical voting, so there is potential to win seats from Labour where tories are in third place.

    Losing 15 seats and gaining 7 or 8 is much less than either a disaster or annihilation.

  • Matthew, that is a very comprehensive response. It will be interesting to see if John Dunne replies or whether he will simply wait to come out with the same line in a week or two’s time.

    Phyllis, I sort of agree with you, except I am not at all sure about the “principles” aspect. In fact I think that, with considerable naïvety , the student fees system was an attempt to produce the nearest workable structure to a graduate tax. In hindsight Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and other Lib Dems involved should have obdurately refused to change Labours student fees and used it as a totemic millstone to hang round Labour’s neck.

    This would have been very hard on lower paid graduates on lower than an average wage paying back through PAYE and would have restricted the number of places available in higher education. However in terms of dirty party politics it would surely have been a winner.

  • @Peter Watson

    Interesting observation. But probably right on the money. Maybe there should be some kind of formal process to ensure that the wrong sort of people don’t become LibDem supporters or voters?

  • Martin “Phyllis, I sort of agree with you, except I am not at all sure about the “principles” aspect”

    I don’t know about totemic millstones but you know the Lib Dems signed a pledge and said ‘no more broken promises’ . Once you’ve gone down that route you have to stick to it or you will seem like con-men and people will desert you. . Cameron realises this with the grey vote. All I am saying is that Matthew Huntbach sets great store on what other people think. But it doesn’t matter about everyone else – it’s only your own voters who matter because they voted for you expecting something in return. The rest of the country didn’t vote for you and most don’t intend to.

  • Peter Watson Comments by senior party figures suggest that this is what they are doing, but they are redefining who those supporters should be.

    But why would anyone else vote for them? There is already a Tory party, we don’t need another one. Or perhaps they intend to win over Tories who are EU-friendly.

  • FormerLibDem 10th Jan '13 - 11:15pm

    Oranjepan

    I think Lib Dem gains from Labour are highly unlikely next time. Although there might (possibly) be some additional tactical voting where Conservatives are third, the Lib Dems will almost certainly be losing some voters direct to Labour. (Those who can’t stomach a coalition with the Tories, Tuition fees, broken promises , etc…) This means the Lib Dems have to gain two tactical Tory votes for every vote lost direct to Labour just to even the score – let alone gain the seat. Just look at the Oldham by-election in 2010. A really big 3rd placed Tory vote for Lib Dems to squeeze – yet Labour held the seat with an increased majority.

  • Mathew very interesting.
    But I suspect you are wrong about what would have happened in 2010. Cameron failed to beat Gordon Brown , one of the most unpopular prime-ministers of all time. So I think the conservatives would have first sort a voting agreement on particular budget plans and may with some outside support have struggled on until November 2010 . And the Lib Dem vote would have retained a stable vote whilst keeping its party workers. I also suspect that Labour would have gone with Ed Miliband would have stood down in his bid to become party leader to avoid a drawn out and dangerous leadership battle. In both cases the Lib Dems hand would have been strengthened because the gap between the two other parties would have narrowed and a more generous coalition agreement or electoral pact would have been worked out.
    All the available evidence suggest that the lost Lib Dem votes have disproportionately gone to Labour or the SNP. I think that the Clegg camp over estimated and continue to overestimate the size of the centre right vote.. The Conservatives are simply not that popular,
    But it’s all conjecture.

  • “it’s all conjecture”

    It is, partly because no one knows how public opinion will change over the next two years.

    On the other hand, Stephen Tall presented above a “best guess” on the basis of current polling. I think we can be fairly sure that on the basis of current polling (and by-election results in Lab/LD contests) the Lib Dems will struggle very hard to hold seats and will certainly not be expecting any gains.

    The situation in Con/LD marginals is more interesting. Will disaffected former LD voters still conclude, when it comes down to voting, that a LD MP would be the lesser of two evils? I can speak only for myself, but I am so disgusted by the record of my Lib Dem MP over the last two years that I simply will not be able to bring myself to support him. But admittedly only time will tell how other many people feel like that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '13 - 4:30am

    Phyllis

    I don’t know about totemic millstones but you know the Lib Dems signed a pledge and said ‘no more broken promises’ . Once you’ve gone down that route you have to stick to it or you will seem like con-men and people will desert you.

    Indeed, and this is yet another example of the way the party has been so poorly led. Although we’ve been told it was the party’s democratic mechanism which forced the no-fees-for-students policy on the party when the leadership was doubtful about its affordability, it was not that mechanism which insisted on making a big thing about signing a pledge and highlighting it above all other policies. The pledge being to “vote against” it can only really be interpreted as a pledge that it would be THE sticking point in the event of a coalition. The general assumption in a manifesto is that it is about what you will do if you win a majority – but then to pledge to vote AGAINST something is meaningless because if you were in government you would be the ones introducing the policy so you’d hardly introduce it and vote against it. On the other hand, why pledge to vote against if you are in opposition as that’s what opposition parties do anyway? However, if you are a junior partner in a coalition and the senior partner introduces a policy you disagree with, then the pledge to vote against makes sense – it’s the ONLY case where such a pledge is meaningful.

    The possibility of a coalition was very real in May 2010. It should have been thought through carefully what might happen in the event of one. If there’s a policy which you support but no chance of getting the other parties to agree, it’s not a good idea to make a pledge like this because you really do have to think “OK, what if we are in that coalition situation and the others won’t give in?”. That is basic politics: if you make a BIG thing about some pledge, you have to be absolutely sure under all circumstances you can keep it. Otherwise, make it an aspiration for sure, but make sure you have wriggle room if you just can’t manage it.

    Those of us who supported that policy realised that. We didn’t ask for it to be singled out and made a pledge like this. We accepted it to be put forward like any other manifesto policy. The reality is that everything has to be up for negotiation in a coalition situation, any manifeto “promise” depends on the willingness of the other parties to agree to it and the extent to which doing so fits in with their own “promises”. It was the leadership and its public relations advisers who singled tuition fees out in the general election campaign, putting this in a unique position as the one party policy that was mentioned in a way that made it a coalition sticking point, and so placing us in this disastrous position.

    On the promise in general, well, you may say that Liberal Democrats made it, but real politics means if you want something you have to pay for it. For the Liberal Democrats to keep this promise it would have meant higher taxation in some way to pay for it – but while the Liberal Democrats might support that, the other parties would not. The Tories would rightly say they would be breaking their pledges to keep taxes down if the Liberal Democrats forced a big tax rise to pay for the abolition of tuition fees. Note that Labour, while joining in the kicking of the Liberal Democrats on tuition fees has never said what it would do even to keep them where they were. This is going to be a considerable embarrassment to Labour if they win the next general election, because it might be expected that benefitting from attacking the LibDems over tuition fees they would reverse the trebling of them, but then how are they to do that – they’ll be stuck.

  • Excellent post Matthew – cannot disagree with it.

    I too do not understand why no analysis was done on how to manage a Coalition, especially with the Tories which was the most likely scenario. A coalition with Labour was never a likely in my view.

    On the Labour point I foresee the changes made by this Government on public spending to be very difficult to reverse. In fact it may be irresponsible to do so without very careful consideration and targetting. This Government could potentially change forever our attitude to the state and be difficult to reverse. In my view the change is not for the better as we seem to be approaching a more American style of public service

  • Peter Watson 11th Jan '13 - 1:00pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “Note that Labour, while joining in the kicking of the Liberal Democrats on tuition fees has never said what it would do even to keep them where they were.”
    Labour introduced fees and commissioned the Browne report. I am sure that they would have increased fees in exactly the same way as this government has – though they may have played different tunes with the repayments. This is what we accused Labour (and Tories) of planning to do after the election when Lib Dems made a big deal about tuition fees in the election campaign. That makes the Lib Dem behaviour worse: we were either going to be in opposition or in coalition with a party that would raise tuition fees, so the pledge was made fully expecting one of those two scenarios with the implications that you describe above.

  • FormerLibDem,
    your logic is perverse – in areas where Labour hold a seat LibDems are less likely to be recipients of an anti-tory vote, so your conclusion does not hold.

    So areas like Hull North or Ashfield where we are less than 1000 votes behind Labour, with tories on 13% and 22% respectively, by picking up anti-Labour votes this represents a good chance of gains.

  • David Seary 11th Jan '13 - 2:37pm

    I fancy there will be several gains from the Conservatives, Harrogate, Cornwall x 2 for example, there are others, local election results suggest this. Also County Council elections in May will not be bad, there could be gains of County Councils eg Somerset,
    I fancy final MP tally on current trends, I say current, not 2015 when the climate should be more favourable, in region of 50 – 65!

  • Peter Watson 11th Jan '13 - 3:59pm

    @David Seary & @Oranjepan
    It does look like we’re forecasting (relative) success on the basis of not being Labour in some places and not being Conservative in others. After 5 years in government (and umpteen years in opposition before that) one would hope that Lib Dems had carved out a more distinctive identity than that.
    And in Wales and Scotland (and Brighton Pavillion) even that is not distinctive.

  • Peter Watson “This is what we accused Labour (and Tories) of planning to do after the election when Lib Dems made a big deal about tuition fees in the election campaign. That makes the Lib Dem behaviour worse: we were either going to be in opposition or in coalition with a party that would raise tuition fees, so the pledge was made fully expecting one of those two scenarios with the implications that you describe above.”

    Yes, exactly!!

  • Glen “But I suspect you are wrong about what would have happened in 2010. Cameron failed to beat Gordon Brown , one of the most unpopular prime-ministers of all time”

    Yes, I agree. I read from one of the respected Commentators of the time that Cameron was desperate for a deal as he couldn’t risk going to the Country again – there was even a suggestion that the Tories wanted to replace Cameron for not winning outright. Those Tories are brutal towards losers. Whereas Lib Dems seen to stomach anything from their leaders – secret courts being the latest example.

  • Sorry Glenn. Ipad stole the second n in my previous post!!

  • FormerLibDem 11th Jan '13 - 8:16pm

    Oranjepan

    So what happened at the Oldham byelection, then? Oldham should have been target number one for the Lib Dems re a gain from Labour. What actually happened at that byelection? The Conservative vote collapsed. It certainly didn’t collapse in Labour’s direction. Conservative voters clearly transferred to the Lib Dems. However, the Lib Dem vote remained, more or less, static. This can only mean that some people who voted Lib Dem in the general election earlier that year had switched to Labour (who’s vote rose). That’s not conjecture – that’s what actually happened in a byelection. I genuinely think the chance of Lib Dems gaining seats from Labour in 2015 is delusional. I would be surprised if the reverse isn’t true.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jan '13 - 2:42pm

    @Oranjepan :

    ” areas like Hull North or Ashfield where we are less than 1000 votes behind Labour, with tories on 13% and 22% respectively, by picking up anti-Labour votes this represents a good chance of gains.”

    You appear to have a tense-shift problems. In May 2010 we were 1000 votes behind Labour in these seats. Where do you think we are now? A ‘good chance of gains’ in such seats before 2015 would require a change of presentation which would demand an alteration of the upper reaches of our Party to an extent possibly not seen since the Cultural Revolution.

  • Scott Burnett 12th Jan '13 - 3:31pm

    It really astonishes me at the Liberal Democrat’s capacity to bury their heads in the sand over this issue. Who is going to vote Liberal Democrat at the next general election? If you don’t want another right-wing Tory government then it is imperative NOT to vote Liberal Democrat as proved at the last election. If you do want a Tory government then you might as well vote Tory. Therefore, if you don’t want a Tory government at the next general election then you HAVE to vote Labour. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this will wipe out the Liberal Democrat vote at the next general election. I speak as a life-long Liberal Democrat voter who will never vote Liberal Democrat again after their behaviour in this coalition. Wake up and smell the roses people, your party leadership have led you into political oblivion. It really is over for the Liberal Democrats. I believe the Green Party will become the new progressive force in British politics to fill the vacuum left by the Liberal Democrats.

  • When in government, especially with austerity and economic problems that seem to plague the world’s economy, the people in power have become unpopular and have suffered some backlash for austerity from the electorate.
    The Lib Dems especially difficult being a junior party in a coalition with a party consisting of some unpalatable right wingers.
    This is why we Liberal democrats should make our opposition to some of those unpalatable policies clear. I am not saying going to the point of heated argument as in some other countries but it does prove a point.

    I suggest we concentrate our campaign in LD -Tory marginals (which should be easier to win anyway).
    We should also not assume we are the only choice against the Tories.
    Our experience in the Isle of Wight is that there is a successful force of growing independents, they place themselves close to LD policies but without the tag of Tory poodles. That is in a constituency where Labour is consigned to small specific parts of the community.
    We need to highlight Tory mistakes, and their part in making failures in drawing up and implementation of coalition policy, and how much it will be better with a more powerful Liberal Democrat voice or LD in majority government.
    Give the electorate hope. United Russia did give the people of Russia hope with that country’s problems and they got re-elected in 2012!

  • FLD,
    you answered your own question, Oldham was a by-election, not a general election, and therefore no conclusions to be drawn correspond exactly.

    Oldham has a particular demographic balance creating particular local issues and is not representative of the country as a whole. As you say local LibDems retained a strong share of the vote and this was due to their strong stance on the issues, but this was insufficient to win the seat because of the general reaction to events – specifically the financial crash in 2008 and confused attitudes towards the coalition after 2010.

    There remains a massive fundamental debate on the economy relating to the scale of the crisis, and depending on your view of how big the problems built up in the 1999-2008 period actually were, this will determine your view of the correct government response, and therefore which party you choose to support.

    Lets remember when the bubble burst UK GDP collapsed by 6% almost overnight and it hasn’t bounced back.

    The country faced and still faces a choice of reinflating the false economy, or searching for stability and experiencing the trauma of changed expectations.

    Because that’s the thing about debt, you buy now and you pay later. The only question is whether you want to wait before you pay, and whether you’re prepared to pay more for it in the end.

    And it’s the same thing about politics. LibDems had to wake up sooner or later – not everyone on the right is irredeemibly evil, and not everyone on the left is completely reliable.

    I’ll also say that protest voters and floating voters are by definition liable to sway or be swayed, and how they make their minds up will inevitably change over the course of the parliament as policy takes effect. Obviously the immediate reaction to the coalition was more shock on the left and more relief on the right, but as we can see now this has changed into anger on the right and fatalism on the left.

    LibDems habitually confound opponents at election time, and I see every reason why doommongers will be confounded again in 2015. We’ve been condemned every 5 years for a century, and we keep coming back – freedom cannot be killed off.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jan '13 - 9:07pm

    Scott Burnett

    If you don’t want another right-wing Tory government then it is imperative NOT to vote Liberal Democrat as proved at the last election.

    How was it proved? Can you explain the mechanics? If someone voted Liberal Democrat in a Tory-LibDem marginal and thereby secured a LibDem rather than a Tory MP, how did that help get another right-wing government? It didn’t – it elected one more LibDem and one less Tory and so helped push the government we have a little more away from right-wing Conservatism. You may say not much, well yes, but that’s because there are only 57 LibDem MPs compared to 306 Tory MPs.

    What about if someone voted LibDem in a LibDem-Labour marginal and so elected a LibDem rather than a Labour MP? Well, that wouldn’t have changed the total number of Labour and LibDem MPs combined, and a Labour-LibDem coalition was ruled out because that total number is less than half the total number of MPs altogether. However, again with one more LibDem MP it would have helped push the coalition we have AWAY from right-wing Conservatism, not towards it.

    So by this argument it can be seen, the actual case was the opposite of what you are claiming. As it happens, far more LibDem MPs represent constituencies where the Conservatives were second than constituencies where Labour was second. So the effect of people turning away from the the LibDems is likely to be MORE Conservative MPs and so make it MORE likely we will have an extreme right-wing Conservative-only government. This sort of thing has ALREADY HAPPENED is several local councils where the Conservatives have won control from the LibDems thanks to people saying “I’m not voting LibDem again”.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jan '13 - 9:58pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    Although I agree with what you write, Lib Dems have to accept that the behaviour of our leaders in coalition means that there is a popular view that Lib Dems and Tories are cut from the same cloth. This is the reasoning behind the sort of comments to which you are replying, and if this view is widespread (or worse, accurate), then we do risk losing LD-Con marginals because of a loss of tactical voters who can’t see the point in anti-tory vote that isn’t.

  • Scott Burnett 13th Jan '13 - 10:30pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    Peter Watson does make my point, but you also reinforce my point by stating that “far more LibDem MPs represent constituencies where the Conservatives were second than constituencies where Labour was second”. Presumably, most of those voters voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats to avoid a Conservative administration and now feel, as I do, that they ended up with a Conservative administration anyway. So all of those Liberal Democrat voters are not going to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats at the next election if their vote is going to be used to prop up a Conservative administration in any case. That’s not the fault of the voters, it’s the fault of the Liberal Democrat leadership and MPs for forming a coalition government with the Conservatives that the majority of LibDem voters were voting to avoid. It is also the fault of the Liberal Democrat party activists for barely raising a whimper against their right-wing leadership at party conferences. That is why I’m saying “wake up” because I’m getting the sense reading through the comments on this site that LibDem activists just don’t understand the level of anger and feelings of betrayal that have built up in all those ex-LibDem voters such as myself over the past three years. Unless you get rid of your current party leadership and leave this right-wing coalition asap, your vote will largely disappear at the next election. I get the feeling that most LibDem activists and party workers are just hoping that it will somehow all magically come right again at the next general election. It won’t. Every vote in support of right-wing Tory policies such as the reduction in the relative value of unemployment benefits last week, hammers another 51 nails in the LibDem coffin. I believe that’s how many LibDem MPs voted for that disgraceful policy? That’s a pull towards the right-wing not away from it, and there’s no way I’m going to vote for that again at the next general election, tactically or otherwise.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 1:42am

    Peter Watson

    Although I agree with what you write, Lib Dems have to accept that the behaviour of our leaders in coalition means that there is a popular view that Lib Dems and Tories are cut from the same cloth.

    Yes, and I have been saying this continuously since the coalition was formed, most recently here. So why do you reply to me as if this comment of your would come as some sort of revelation, as if you supposed me to think “Gosh, well I never, what a good point, I never thought of it that way”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 1:45am

    Scott Burnett

    Presumably, most of those voters voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats to avoid a Conservative administration and now feel, as I do, that they ended up with a Conservative administration anyway.

    How can MOST voters vote tactically? A tactical vote is when someone who supports a party which is clearly in third place decided to vote for a party which is in first or second place as a way to stop the party which is in second or first place from winning. That is, it relies on MOST of the voters for the party being supported being people whose FIRST choice is that party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 1:47am

    Scott Burnett

    So all of those Liberal Democrat voters are not going to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats at the next election if their vote is going to be used to prop up a Conservative administration in any case.

    So instead they’ll vote Labour and watch the Conservatives win back the seat? What good would that do?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 1:55am

    Scott Burnett

    That’s not the fault of the voters, it’s the fault of the Liberal Democrat leadership and MPs for forming a coalition government with the Conservatives that the majority of LibDem voters were voting to avoid.

    Er yes, but not enough people voted Liberal Democrat to be able to avoid it. More people voted Conservative than voted for any other party, and we have an electoral system which tends to distorts representation in favour of the party which got the most votes, and against third parties whose votes are evenly spread. It did just that in May 2010, the distortion meaning that the onky viable government was a Conservative-LibDem coalition, with the distortion meaning it would be far more Conservative than LibDem.

    If people didn’t like this, they had a chance to express their dissatisfaction a year later by voting to change the electoral system. But instead they voted to KEEP it, after a campaign where those who wanted to keep it put this distortion in favour of the biggest party and against third parties – the distortion which GAVE us this government – as its best feature. So, there we are, we have what people voted for, by two to one in 2011 the people of this country voted for THIS government. They voted to say they WANTED the distortion which made the Conservatives so powerful in it and made the Liberal Democrats so weak in it and which ruled out a Labour-LibDem coalition because it would not have had a Parliamentaru majority even though those two parties had a majority of the vote.

    Sorry, I disagree with the people here, but that’s democracy, you have to go along with what they voted for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 2:01am

    Scott Burnett

    That is why I’m saying “wake up” because I’m getting the sense reading through the comments on this site that LibDem activists just don’t understand the level of anger and feelings of betrayal that have built up in all those ex-LibDem voters such as myself over the past three years. Unless you get rid of your current party leadership and leave this right-wing coalition asap, your vote will largely disappear at the next election.

    Look, actually I AGREE with you. But the way you attack ALL Liberal Democrats by assuming ALL Liberal Democrats are mad keen supporters of the current leadership and by discounting the reality of the electoral balance after the May 2010 general election, and by ignoring what the Liberal Democrats in Parliament HAVE been able to get done with just 57 out of 650 MPs, is NOT HELPING. Actually you are helping the leadership of the Liberal Democrats by enabling them to say “there is no support for a left-liberal position, no-one is interested in that, whatever the party does everyone on the left in politics will still attack us and say we are just another sort of Tory, so the only way we can survive is by forming a permanent alliance with the Tories”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan ’13 – 1:47am……..So instead they’ll vote Labour and watch the Conservatives win back the seat? What good would that do?……………

    I think you over-estimate the ‘involvement’ of the electorate. The majority vote, not for an individual MP, but for, or against, a ‘party’;which party usually depends on their experience of the policies of the existing government.
    Prior to 2008, although Brown was not popular, most were ‘content’ with the status quo (why else would Osborne have promised, just weeks before’meltdown’, to match Labour’s spending plans?).
    After 2008 all changed; Osborne’s promise was forgotten (along with his calls for ‘lighter touch regulation on the financial sector) and it was “All Labour’s fault”, However, even against that background, Cameron failed to win a majority and so ‘enter’ the coalition.
    In 2015 I believe Labour will win a majority; not because of what they will promise, but because the Tory policies will be seen to have not delivered a ‘fair’ answer to the situation. I also believe that ‘disaffected’ voters would have flocked to the LibDem banner had the parliamentary party even made a token public show of discontent with what is happening; instead we see Clegg/Alexander/Laws showing enthusiastic support for NHS/Welfare/Disability legislation(after the recent Welfare ‘cap’ it was Alexander and Laws who appeared in the media to parrot the line that “Benefits were rising faster than wages” and carefully using ‘percentages’ instead of actual cash).

    Clegg/Alexander/Laws are the ‘face’ of the LibDem party that the public sees and, in 2015, when a leaflet drops through a door, no matter how good the candidate, it will be ‘binned’ by most of the recipients.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 2:46pm

    annie

    I think you over-estimate the ‘involvement’ of the electorate. The majority vote, not for an individual MP, but for, or against, a ‘party’;which party usually depends on their experience of the policies of the existing government

    Yes, but I think you underestimate the extent to which the Liberal Democrats win seats by countering this. That is, there are few, perhaps NO, constituencies which the Liberal Democrats win purely because more people there decide to vote Liberal Democrat than for any other party based purely on the national party’s image.

    I agree with you that the most likely result in the next election is that people will flock to Labour because of their poor experience under this government. But they have this government because too many people just flocked to the Conservatives after their poor experience with the last Labour government. Isn’t it time people thought a bit more deeply instead of rushing from Labour to Conservative, Conservative to Labour forever?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 3:01pm

    annie

    I also believe that ‘disaffected’ voters would have flocked to the LibDem banner had the parliamentary party even made a token public show of discontent with what is happening; instead we see Clegg/Alexander/Laws showing enthusiastic support for NHS/Welfare/Disability legislation

    I don’t. I believe the situation is that Labour can see the best way to win the general election is to say almost nothing about what it would actually do differently to resolve the problem that this country’s government is spending much more than it is raising in taxes, but instead run a campaign based on “nah nah nah nah nah, nasty rotten Liberal Democrats, propping up the Tories, yah boo sucks”. It wants to see the Liberal Democrats destroyed, a return to the “good old” two-party system – which when Labour messes up on their return which they WILL because they have nothing in the way of radical new policies and will so hit EXACTLY the same problems as this government, will result in us having a majority Conservative government after that. And when that happens GOD HELP US. I mean that very seriously, GOD HELP US. People moan about the LibDems, but I find what the Tory right-wing wants to do and is being stopped from doing by the Liberal Democrats to be truly frightening. I am not joking.

    I realise that so many are disappointed with the Liberal Democrats because they seem to be achieving little. I agree Nick Clegg has been a poor and ineffectual leader and has too much sympathy with the free market ideas of the Tories. Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats HAVE been stopping the worst of what the Tories want, so it’s more than a “token” effort, yet there’s been no recognition for it whatsoever. If there has been SOME recognition, some calls of suport and positive promises of more if the LibDems did more to stand up against the Tories, I believe that wold encourage a stronger stand. But when whatever the party does it is still attacked as if it had done nothing at all, that encourages a bunker mentality, discourages those on the left of the Liberal Democrats from trying (that is why many are just dropping out), and pushes the party further to the position where its leaders see it as a permanent junior partner to the Tories with an interest only in fringe “classical liberal” issues.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 3:08pm

    I hope the following analogy will help.

    I am very worried by the way Islam has become dominated by illiberal elements who have an interpretation of their religion that is not in accord with a lot of how it used to be historically (there was a time when Islam could show a lesson in tolerance to Christianity – that is why Christian minorities survived in the Middle East and it is a mark of how Islam has changed that it is NOW that middle eastern Christianity is being destroyed).

    So, how best to counter this? Would it be to bad-mouth Muslims, to constantly go on and on about all Muslims being bad people who support violence? Would that encourage the more liberal elements of Islam to get active and change things? No, it doesn’t – it has encouraged a bunker mentality in Islam, it has been one of the elements pushing Islam to illiberal extremes. The better approach is to acknowledge the more liberal elements of Islam, give then some support, help them build some standing so that they can have the courage to take in the illiberal elements.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '13 - 3:22pm

    annie

    I think you over-estimate the ‘involvement’ of the electorate. The majority vote, not for an individual MP, but for, or against, a ‘party’;which party usually depends on their experience of the policies of the existing government

    OK, so what are we to say to those who add to this that coalition is bad, that people vote for A PARTY thinking of this as a vote for government BY THAT PARTY ALONE and that therefore only single party government is acceptable? That has in fact been quite a common line, it was the line many used to argue for voting against electoral reform on the grounds “Coalitions are bad, electoral reform makes them more likely, so let’s have the current system which nearly always gives us single party government”.

    If that is your position (I mean by “your” the position of anyone reading this, not you personally, annie), then WHAT would you say is the legitimate government right now? It seems to me that the only answer to this that could be given with any sort of logic is one which is purely Conservative, given that the Conservatives “won” the last election on the first-past-the-post principle that whoever has the most votes wins, it doesn’t matter if there are more votes for others put together.

    Therefore it seems to me that anyone who says “I don’t like the Liberal Democrats, I don’t like the idea of proportional representation and the coalition governments it will lead to, I want to go back to how it was, Labour v. Conservative”, should, if they are to follow their logic, be arguing that we ought to have a purely Conservative government right now, as that is what their ideal would have led us to anyway. So, they ought to be PRAISING the Liberal Democrats for giving them that ideal and letting the Tories do what they want, and attacking them for being “undemocratic” when they don’t just wave through Tory policies. I don’t hold to this line at all, of course, but given that the AV referendum voted “No” by a two-to-one majority, and the “No” line was what I have written above in my first sentence of this paragraph, it seems to me that if the people of Britain had any logic, their main criticism of the Liberal Democrats would be that they are doing too much to stop the Tories rather than not enough.

  • David Allen 14th Jan '13 - 5:06pm

    Matthew,

    It’s all very well you arguing that there is a rational case for left-of-centre voters being nice to the Lib Dems, and encouraging them to carry on and assert themselves more in coalition. There is such a case, in theory. But the question is, is there any evidence that the great British public are prepared to buy it?

    They aren’t. They hate Clegg in huge numbers. They do not feel willing to vote LD, because then that man Clegg and his acolytes will claim that their “attitude / fortitude / principled stance / whatever” has been proven right. The Great British Public do not want that to happen, and they loathe the thought with real deep loathing. All the rationalising in the world won’t change that fact.

  • @David Allen

    “They aren’t. They hate Clegg in huge numbers. They do not feel willing to vote LD, because then that man Clegg and his acolytes will claim that their “attitude / fortitude / principled stance / whatever” has been proven right”

    Bang on the money.

    I have voted for both Labour and Liberal Democrats in General Elections and local elections, I am pretty sure I have voted more for Liberal Democrats in local elections.
    Those days are well gone though. If I can not trust a party on a national level, why should I trust them on a local level.
    I know some people try to separate local and national government, but that no longer works for me.

    I can not stand Nick Clegg for all his betrayals and the direction in which he has steered the party.
    I can not stand Danny Alexander, who before the 2010 election spoke out about disability benefits, ATOS and how the DWP were failing millions of sick and disabled people, he even took part in a channel 4 documentary promising to take on the Government on its failings. But since being elected he has tuned his back on those promises and principles and supported massive cuts to disability benefits and done nothing to campaign against the failures of the DWP and ATOS.
    As for David Laws, I find the man untrustworthy, A real Tory in all sense of the word, another one who is responsible for misleading the electorate and steering the party in the opposite direction to what most people expected.

    The party loves to use the line “triple lock” and while this trio remains in charge of running the party my vote is triple locked against the Liberal Democrats on both national and local level.

  • Matthew,
    the reason why a Labour-LibDem coalition was impossible in 2010 was because whatever it was, it wasn’t an endorsement of Brown. His leadership had to change or or he had to be changed. The campaign and result showed this equally.

    Brown’s Premiership was compromised, he was slow to wake up to this and refused to make any concessions, either publically or to a coalition.

    Labour could not reach agreement on who to replace Brown with, and would not have lacked legitimacy to retain power by putting in place another doubly-unelected leader anyway, so Miliband and Balls refused to join a coalition because that would have meant handing No10 to Clegg as they fought over the succession.

    Labour could not, did not want and were not ready to form a coalition. They were utterly defeated and had to retreat.

    Brown could not sustain a minority government, and he couldn’t retain the Labour leadership since the party had made his position untenable once his prospective replacement was publically considered in that way.

    Brown went, Labour went into opposition. Ever since Labour has demonised Clegg for exposing their failure.

    We might imagine in retrospect what other result we may have preferred, but what we got was what the country voted for – to get rid of Brown. What happened was the only way that could happen given his choices.

    If anyone is unhappy, tell them to blame Gordon Brown.

  • matt,
    the media must have a hate figure (Clegg), just like they must have a figure of fun (Boris). That doesn’t mean it is justified or will stop them being successful at the ballot box.

    Like the saying goes, you only know you’ve arrived when people start abusing you.

    Personally I don’t think Clegg is hated, it’s just he’s upset a lot of people who thought they could bully him.

  • “Personally I don’t think Clegg is hated”

    He really is.

  • @Orangepan

    Who are you suggesting that is bullying Clegg?

    I don’t think you can make assumptions on how “individual” people feel. You only know for certain how “you” feel

  • matt,
    if that’s the case then may I present Phyllis’ comment.

    Therefore you should address your comment to Phyllis too, and accept the logical inference of your comment that you should keep to yourself any view which seeks to influence others.

    Surely you should read before you make contradictory statements. I’m suggesting you and she’re trying to bully him.

  • Scott Burnett 14th Jan '13 - 9:30pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    Look, we can agree to disagree on the level of tactical voting in marginal seats etc. My personal opinion is that the Liberal Democrats should have had the courage to stand back at the last election and let the Tories form their own minority administration. They could then have kept their independence and only voted through the policies that they genuinely supported. Getting into bed with the Tories was always going to be a disaster for the Liberal Democrats. The Tories will continue to use and abuse them for their own ends and then ruthlessly ditch them as soon as they are able to. Again, it’s my personal opinion, but I see the Liberal Democrats heading over the electoral cliff at the next general election and it’s sad to see so many, clearly intelligent and erudite, LibDem activists letting that just happen without kicking up an almighty protest first and at least trying to ditch Clegg and the other closet Conservatives that I believe are currently leading your party out of British politics as a credible third party. And if you agree with me on that, then at least maybe get together with other LibDem activists and party workers to try and push for a change in your party leadership before it’s too late and your current leadership have set up their “permanent alliance” (that will be as permanent as the Tories decide it to be) with the Conservatives which really will be the death knell for the LibDems in my opinion.

    P.S. I won’t even go there with the alternative vote fiasco which has put back the cause of proper proportional representation for years to come.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan ’13 – 3:22pm………..OK, so what are we to say to those who add to this that coalition is bad, that people vote for A PARTY thinking of this as a vote for government BY THAT PARTY ALONE and that therefore only single party government is acceptable? That has in fact been quite a common line, it was the line many used to argue for voting against electoral reform on the grounds “Coalitions are bad, electoral reform makes them more likely, so let’s have the current system which nearly always gives us single party government”………If that is your position (I mean by “your” the position of anyone reading this, not you personally, annie), then WHAT would you say is the legitimate government right now? It seems to me that the only answer to this that could be given with any sort of logic is one which is purely Conservative, given that the Conservatives “won” the last election on the first-past-the-post principle that whoever has the most votes wins, it doesn’t matter if there are more votes for others put together……………….

    The legitimate government is Conservative. However, without a majority, they should put their policies on an ‘item by item’ to the test of a Commons vote.
    I know your contention is that , after their first defeat, they would have gone to the country to ask for a mandate. I disagree . After failing to win the election against, arguably, the least popular party for years led by the most unpopular PM ever, I don’t believe Cameron would gamble his political future on a ‘single roll of the dice’ against a new Labour leader.
    However, had he gambled and won, I don’t believe that , strengthened by an outright victory, the ‘Right Wing’ of his party would be a threat to his leadership and that the policies would be much different from those currently abetted by the LibDems. The difference is that they would be TORY policies and, after a triple dip recession, welfare and disability cuts and the NHS ‘reorganisation, the Conservatives would be a ‘one term government’ and, in opposition, the LibDems would perhaps be seen as a viable alternative to both Labour and Conservative parties.
    I’m not saying they would win the next election but might end up really being ‘Kingmakers’…

    As things stand they are in a lose/lose situation; they are seen as ‘Tory-lite’ by the Left and as ‘irrelevant’ by the Right…. .the word “Wipeout” comes to mind.

  • The only answer might be an alliance with UKIP.

  • “, it’s just he’s upset a lot of people who thought they could bully him.”

    No. It’s just that he’s upset a lot of people who thought they could trust him.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jan '13 - 12:00am

    @Matthew Huntbach “So why do you reply to me as if this comment of your would come as some sort of revelation”
    I would never be so presumptuous – I did hope others might read it as well :-)
    More seriously, the point I was trying to make is that I think you are entirely right about the 2010 election: if more Lib Dem votes had led to more Lib Dem MPs, then we would have a more Lib Dem coalition. But this might not be the case (or at least the public perception) as we approach 2015, since (as you have so often pointed out) Clegg, Laws, Alexander, Farron, etc. have given the impression that this is a coalition implementing policies that Lib Dems are happy with so it is not obvious that more Lib Dem votes and more Lib Dem MPs would make any difference. If our MPs could express to a wider audience the points that you make so eloquently then the party might have better prospects, but I fear that it is now too late and instead they have allowed themselves to be too closely associated with policies which contradict previous party positions and confuse voters.
    Also, it is not just about needing more Lib Dem MPs: had we won fewer seats from Labour then we might have held the balance of power and wielded far more influence. I prefer to think that as voters we ended up with this situation by accident rather than through choice, but I accept your point that in the AV referendum, the public did give their tacit support to the electoral system that gives such unpredictable and unrepresentative results.

  • Oranjepan

    I don’t know what you find so hard to understand.

    A lot of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 now feel Nick Clegg has betrayed them and – as a result – hate him and – as a further result – won’t vote Lib Dem again. “Bullying” doesn’t come into it. In a sense, it’s democracy in action.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jan '13 - 1:36am

    Scott Burnett

    My personal opinion is that the Liberal Democrats should have had the courage to stand back at the last election and let the Tories form their own minority administration. They could then have kept their independence and only voted through the policies that they genuinely supported.

    Yes., and how long do you suppose that would last for? The Conservatives would blame the instability caused by this situation for any economic problems. The press would be tearing the Liberal Democrats to bits, accusing them of making the country ungovernable, saying “what right has this tiny party with just 57 MPs to hold the country to ransom, making us wait while they decide on every government policy?”.

    That is why anyone with any political sense could see if we had gone down that road, Cameron would have called another general election in months on the theme “get rid of the Liberal Democrats and let me govern properly”. Quite obviously, until that general election he wouldn’t have put through any cuts or other unpopular policy, he’d leave all that until he got his majority. Any economic problems caused by the growing deficit would be dismissed with “blame the Liberal Democrats for that”.

    Holding out against a minority government like this would work only if that government had reason to fear a general election. But it was the Liberal Democrats who had – and have – the most reason to fear another general election. Had the Liberal Democrats done unexpectedly well in the May 2010 general election, coming out with a higher share of the vote than the polls were suggesting, they’d have looked to have been on an upwards path, there would be reason to fear they would do even better in an early general election. However, as the Liberal Democrat came out of the general election on a downwards path, with share of vote well below what was predicted, it was fairly obvious they had flopped and would do even worse in another general election if one was held soon.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jan '13 - 1:41am

    Peter Watson

    Also, it is not just about needing more Lib Dem MPs: had we won fewer seats from Labour then we might have held the balance of power and wielded far more influence

    No we would not. Do try a little arithmetic on this. The number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs combined was less than half the total number of MPs, that was why a Labour-LibDem coalition was not viable. How many MPs do you have to switch from LibDem to Labour to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable? There is no answer to this because it can’t be done. However many you switch, the number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs combined remains the same, therefore a Labour-LibDem coalition remains unviable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jan '13 - 1:48am

    Oranjepan

    We might imagine in retrospect what other result we may have preferred, but what we got was what the country voted for – to get rid of Brown. What happened was the only way that could happen given his choices

    Yes, quite obviously had a Labour-LibDem coalition been cobbled together, it would have been condemned by the right-wing press as a “coalition of the losers” as the Liberal Democrats “propping up a failed Labour government that the people rejected”. And as it would be facing the same economic crisis the current government is facing, it would still have to make massive expenditure cuts, and would be very unpopular for that.

    In fact, knowing the mess they had got the economy into, Labour knew well the 2010 general election was one to lose. It made no sense for them to try and cling onto power, and every sense to force the Liberal Democrats into coalition with the Conservatives and run a “nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten LibDems” campaign after that to get them destroyed in the next general election – much easier, as we can see, than trying to win the next general election by having some policies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jan '13 - 1:58am

    David Allen

    It’s all very well you arguing that there is a rational case for left-of-centre voters being nice to the Lib Dems, and encouraging them to carry on and assert themselves more in coalition. There is such a case, in theory. But the question is, is there any evidence that the great British public are prepared to buy it?

    No, but I think you have to consider that most people don’t think very much about politics, and so are just vaguely aware that there’s something massively wrong with the Liberal Democrats and they’re a bit of a joke right now. Of course there’s much more than this amongst committed left-wing people, but we do need to recall that however much that sort might like coming and taunting us here or in outlets like the Guardian newspaper, there aren’t as many of them as might be supposed. So I do think if there was a more intelligent acceptance of the LibDem dilemma caused by the Parliamentary balance in 2010, and less of a “nah nah nah nah nah” approach, it would eventually lead to the public feeling a LibDem vote might not be such a bad thing, and that would be seen most of all in those critical Conservative-LibDem marginal areas where we need to keep a winning presence. Even NOW we are seeing where Liberal Democrats work hard at the local level they can still win – though I think they are being massively harmed by the way the Liberal Democrats leadership seems actually to want to see the party destroyed so much does it play into the hands of the “nah nah nah nah nah” attackers. That is why right now I cannot go out and work actively for the party – I’ll put the case as I have in this forum, but I cannot canvass or deliver literature while the leadership undermines the line in defence of the party’s position I would want to put and have been putting here.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jan '13 - 8:20am

    @Matthew Huntbach “Do try a little arithmetic on this.”
    Mea culpa. I can’t even use the late hour of my post as an excuse as you were up far later than me.
    I should have written, “Also, it is not just about needing more Lib Dem MPs: if the number of Labour and Conservative seats were closer then far fewer Lib Dem MPs could have held the balance of power and wielded far more influence.” It was just a point about the unrepresentative way our system can throw up coalitions, and that our weakness within the coalition is as much because of those quirks as it is because of the number of Lib Dem MPs.

  • @Orangepan

    “Therefore you should address your comment to Phyllis too, and accept the logical inference of your comment that you should keep to yourself any view which seeks to influence others.

    Surely you should read before you make contradictory statements. I’m suggesting you and she’re trying to bully him.”

    1) Point. Me and Phyllis are separate entities, so how can the comments contradict, Phyllis is entitled to their opinion, just as am I.
    2) The web is full of comments from “individuals” who despise Clegg. They are very well with in their rights to voice those opinions.
    3) My comments are my opinions and do not seek to influence anyone, though people may share my views.
    4) You can only be sure how “you” feel, not how other people feel.
    5) Judging by the huge number of “individuals” all over the web who voice their disgust, The huge swathes of people who have left the party, former votes, polls. Paints a picture that there are a heck of a lot of people who despise clegg and the leadership.

    Of course, you are quite entitled to your opinion and just carry on your merry little way pretending everything is all right and its just that the public are “bullying” Clegg at the moment, but that sort of naivety will do nothing to prevent the hammering in the 2015 election

  • @ Orangepan
    actually there was a point 6

    “you should keep to yourself any view which seeks to influence others.”

    6) Isn’t politics “supposed” to be about influencing others with your opinion? I am pretty sure that it is lol

  • Matthew Huntbach, Matt,….

    I have responded to your posts. However, my posts are now ‘awaiting moderation’ and so about 12 hours (and umpteen posts) exist between my replies and publication….a little like having a ‘conversation’ with “Voyager 1″…..

  • David Allen 15th Jan '13 - 1:25pm

    Matthew Huntbach said,

    “Most people don’t think very much about politics, and so are just vaguely aware that there’s something massively wrong with the Liberal Democrats and they’re a bit of a joke right now.” “If there was a more intelligent acceptance of the LibDem dilemma … it would eventually lead to the public feeling a LibDem vote might not be such a bad thing”.

    I don’t think so. The last time we were similarly portrayed as a joke throughout the media (and it isn’t just the Guardian) was when we had the ludicrous double-headed leadership fudge of Owen and Steel. The comedians made mincemeat of that situation because they could see that it was inherently ludicrous. And the more that Owen and Steel prated on about how wonderful it was to offer leadership by two guys who couldn’t get on, instead of the normal one leader, the more the nation laughed.

    Now we are presented with Lib Dem politicians repeatedly declaring how proud they are of all the government policies they have voted for, in total contradiction to what they stood for at the last election. If anybody forgets why the comedians are laughing at the Lib Dems, along comes a Lib Dem spokesperson to explain why.

    The party has lost its moral compass. Quite seriously, its collective head is in a spin. It has spun itself up in so many knots that it can’t see how to extricate itself.

    I can provide a specific example. I went to a Party function this month at which the guest speaker, in presenting the expected keep-calm-and-carry-on type of speech, chose to go out of the way to make a specific and complimentary reference to … wait for it … Cyril Smith! For comparison, just imagine the impossibility of the BBC, now, choosing to talk favourably about Jimmy Savile.

    I don’t know if that Party speaker had actively decided to hint that we should all be willing to associate ourselves with what I can only call moral degeneracy. I suspect it was more of a subconscious process, involving suppressed feelings of shame, and a transference of those shamed feelings about policy choices to feelings about shameful personal behaviour. However, it is all of a piece with the ridiculous boasting and self-righteousness that passes for Lib Dem publicity these days.

    The self-righteousness is not really aimed at the public. It is aimed back at the speaker, who is trying to expiate their own shame at policy betrayal, through a process of public denialism.

    What the party needs is a psychotherapist. Or a chaplain / spiritual adviser, for those with faith.

    To be fair to Matthew, if he had written the script, it wouldn’t sound like that. It would have sounded something like “We have worked to try to make Coalition policy a bit less bad than it would have been without us.” Now, if that had been the publicity line, then a typical public reaction would probably have been “Well, maybe I buy that line, and maybe I don’t buy that line, but, I don’t actually loathe the Lib Dems for having uttered that line.”

    But Matthew didn’t write the script. The tortured souls who sold out their principles wrote the script.

  • matt et al,
    obviously burning effigies of a person and making physical threats, according to your point of view, doesn’t constitute bullying. The law takes a different perspective, but as this is politics opinions which support emotive appeals such as ‘hatred’ must be tolerated – at least until speech turns into violence.

    Personally I take a dim view of that. You can feel ‘betrayed’ if you can’t understand the contingencies of the electoral system, but that’s to make an admission of your own failings, not anyone else’s. To express ‘hatred’ of a public figure is to express your own idiocy.

    To defend the language of hate is to defend the intimidatory tactics which have been well reported: if it isn’t to bully, it is to defend bullying.

    Whether or not ‘matt’ and ‘Phyllis’ are separate people it is an inescapable fact that you both are conversing with reference to each other’s comments. If, as ‘matt’ says, politics is about trying to influence others then why does he also say he isn’t trying to influence others by expressing his opinion? Certainly seems contradictory to me.

    Personally, I’d advise moderating your tone of language, ‘despise’ is a long way from being the same as ‘disagree’, and I’d suggest it is an unwise person who seeks to pretend the two are the same.

  • @Orangepan

    “If, as ‘matt’ says, politics is about trying to influence others then why does he also say he isn’t trying to influence others by expressing his opinion? ”

    If you cared to notice, in my fist post I said I was not trying to influence anyone.

    However I then picked up in your post that “you” ad said in your post ““you should keep to yourself any view which seeks to influence others.””
    My Number 6) comment was taking the P’s out of your statement, showing how ridiculous it was in respect of talking about politics.
    {Nice attempt at spin though}

  • @Orangepan

    Do you actually believe that you previous comment is adding anything remotely constructive to this thread?

    For anyone who can conjure up the slightest enthusiasm to read back the posts will understand exactly what I was saying. Frankly I doubt people can be bothered and I don’t blame then.

    But as I say, Nice “attempt” to spin and guff your way out of a conversation, you should really consider a career in politics.

  • @Orangepan
    “Whether or not ‘matt’ and ‘Phyllis’ are separate people it is an inescapable fact that you both are conversing with reference to each other’s comments.”

    Please try and find a single post where I was conversing with Phyllis. If you bother to take the time you will note at “no” point was I conversing with Phyllis. There are no @Phyllis comments coming from me, in fact my comments where @David Allen who in his post used the language that you have such an issue with, my comments in response to David where slightly less “sharp” when I used the word “despise” which I will make no apology for using and I have every right to feel and express openly.

  • Oranjepan

    As you have mentioned me by name, I shall respond. I find that your last post makes no sense whatsoever. Therefore I do not consider it possible or desireable to engage further in discussion with you on this topic. Please re-read my last two posts if you wish to be enlightened further.

  • The betrayal of the principles of liberalism by your party in joining with a right wing Conservative Party, more extreme than Thatcher’s Governments, will be visited on you in 2015. Lloyd George was a maverick and not to be trusted but even he was so much more honourable than your Party’s leadsership. The betrayal of the students will cost Clegg his seat along with many other MP’s who have betrayed the proud tradition of liberalism. Hopefully, after the next election all your MP’s will once again fit into one taxi heading for Westminster and that taxi will be a mini-car. Labour will win with a clear majority but much of the damage will have been done and be irreversible by then – because your party supported an Tory party dtermined to strike at working people and the public sector.

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