Lib Dems are still waiting for a bounce in the opinion polls. So far this year, we’ve had Westminster voting intentions at 6, 7 and 9%.
However, there are some very interesting things coming out of current polling generally.
There was a very interesting YouGov Scottish poll this week which showed that we are not just hanging in there, but making progress as the SNP and Labour slip since the last poll in October Lib Dems show a slight rise in voting intention for Westminster and Holyrood constituency and regional votes. The Tories are holding their own at Westminster, despite a deeply unpopular (floating at around -50 across the two polls) leader. Ruth Davidson is Scotland’s most popular leader with an approval rating of +15, yet her party has lost ground since the Holyrood elections. While they have gained slightly in this poll to the mid twenties, they achieved 31% two years ago. Perhaps that’s because people see Scottish Conservative MPs troop meekly into the voting lobbies behind Theresa May rather than stand up for Scotland’s interests, particularly with regard to the devolution aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Jeremy Corbyn is a massive loser in this recent poll. He was +20 in October and now he’s -3. Perhaps his Brexit stance is not going down so well in a country that predominantly voted to Remain.
Scotland is neutral on its first minister who continues with a neutral approval rating. It’s only a couple of years since she was given a rock star welcome everywhere she went.
Scottish Lib Dems are getting some attention in the media on housing, health, justice and our stance on Brexit. There is still a lot of work to be done and this first non-election year since 2013 provides a good opportunity for the party to develop a longer term strategy. Willie Rennie held a strategy day with key party stakeholders in November which was described by an observer from south of the border as one of the most constructive party events they had ever seen.
Depending on the question you ask, you can get very different results.
On a simple question about whether Scotland should be an independent country, the YouGov poll cited above has 37% in favour (down 2 from October) and 50% against. Those were roughly the levels we were seeing from about 2008-2013 before the referendum campaign and the failure of the dire Better Together campaign to put the issue beyond doubt.
If you ask people whether there should be a referendum on independence in the next 5 years, 36% say yes, 54% say no. Those in favour stay constant but the number opposed falls to 51% after the conclusion of Brexit negotiations but before we leave and to 47% after we leave the EU.
Similarly, you get different results if you ask about another referendum on Brexit. Lord Ashcroft discovered that the number opposed goes down if you give a scenario which includes a choice on the deal.
And no majority for a second EU referendum – however you ask the question: pic.twitter.com/Dm5ptnk8dJ
— Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) January 17, 2018
Maybe no majority but still around 40% in support which is way ahead of where it was last year. Last March YouGov found only 21% in support.
Our feelings about tv programmes can give an insight into our politics. I’d rather listen to nails on a blackboard while being made to eat cauliflower cheese (food of he devil, in my opinion) than watch an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys. Brexit voting, Tory inclined family members love it. That pattern is replicated in a YouGov poll with Leave voters being far more likely to like the programme and Liberal Democrat voters in last year’s general election being more likely to dislike it by a factor of 2:1.
What little I have seen of Mrs Brown’s Boys reminds me of the worst of sitcoms from the 1970s that I grew up with. I don’t think it has ever made me laugh. But then the people who love it wouldn’t find the satirical comedy that I like funny either.
Is there a message in this for us? I tend to think that we sometimes fudge stuff to try to appeal to a wider range of people. There is an argument that we need to concentrate on being ourselves, throwing a way the nuance and just saying what we think. Our message on Brexit has been getting more firmly opposed but do we need to be even more explicit about the need to stop it? What I’m saying is that we need to let go the people who are never going to vote for us and concentrate on those who will.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings