Ashcroft battlegrounds poll: both Tories and Lib Dems down on 2010, but it’s the Tories who’d make gains

lib toryLord Aschroft, the Tory peer and pollster, has published the results of a large survey of 17 Lib Dem / Conservative battleground seats. Six are Tory-held seats where the Lib Dems were runners-up in 2010; 11 are Lib Dem-held seats where the Tories were runners-up.

Across those seats the voting intention (compared with the 2010 general election) is: Con 33% (-8%), Lib Dem 28% (-15%), Labour 14% (+5%), Ukip 18% (+14%). However, that conceals a lot of individual seat-by-seat variation. Here’s the constituency overview. The headlines are that:

  • all six Tory-held seats would remain Tory – Camborne and Redruth, Harrogate and Knaresborough, Newton Abbot, Oxford West and Abingdon, Truro and Falmouth, and Watford;
  • seven of the 11 Lib Dem-held seats would be Tory gains – Chippenham, Mid-Dorset and North Poole, Solihull, Somerton and Frome, St Austell and Newquay, St Ives, and Wells;
  • three of the other 11 would be Lib Dem holds – Cheadle, Eastleigh, and Sutton and Cheam – and one is a tie (North Cornwall).
  • ashcroft poll 2014

    For all that Ashcroft is a card-carrying Tory, that’s no reason to disregard his polling. He publishes his results for all to see, even when they’re inconvenient to his own party.

    Credit to him, too, for acknowledging the Lib Dem incumbency boost we see in constituencies where the Lib Dems have a well-known MP or campaigner. Instead of only asking the standard national voting intention question, he also asked the more reliable follow-up (similar to that used by ICM): ‘thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next general election and the candidates who are likely to stand for election to Westminster there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency?’

    It’s a shame he didn’t go a step further and name the candidates, as that would have made his polling much more ‘real world’ – after all, the names of the candidates, not just the parties’, will be on the ballot papers next May, and there is past evidence that this further boosts the incumbency effect which is especially important to Lib Dems. I’ve no idea whether that would have made an overall difference to the headline findings, but I hope it’s an improvement Ashcroft (or any other pollsters conducting constituency polls) will consider in the future.

    Another graph is particularly interesting – ‘Local campaign activity’, recording whether voters have heard from any of the parties in the last few weeks. The polling was conducted between 11 May and 14 June 2014, coinciding with European elections and probably local elections too, so the figures for all parties are perhaps more even than they would have been outside of an election period. Nonetheless they show considerable variation among our held seats, from 42% in Newquay and St Austell (named as a likely Tory gain) to 74% in Sutton and Cheam (named as a Lib Dem hold).

    ashcroft poll 2014 - activity

    Finally, here’s the Lib Dem dilemma encapsulated… Coalition is the preferred outcome for between 25% to 33% of those polled. That’s a substantial proportion, but one which is pretty evenly split between those voters wanting a Lib/Con coalition and those wanting a Lib/Lab coalition. Whichever partner the Lib Dems choose will antagonise the half of Coalition-inclined voters who wanted the Lib Dems to team up with the other lot.

    ashcroft poll 2014 - preferred result

    As Ashcroft himself rightly points out, polls are snapshots, not predictions. In particular, I’m interested to see Ukip polling so well across the battlegrounds. That’s not surprising given where they stand in the national polls now, and given the survey was conducted at the peak of the European elections. I very much doubt, however, that Ukip will poll 18% across these seats in May 2015, so one of the key questions is where the votes they shed between now and then go.

    Also key, of course, will be whether the Labour vote can be squeezed back down, as those 2010 Lib Dem voters who’ve switched realise that doing so may well let back in the Tories.

    Historical footnote: in 2009, PoliticsHome conducted a large regional poll of marginal seats. It wasn’t, unlike this Ashcroft poll, a constituency battlegrounds poll. It did, however, project heavy losses for the Lib Dems in the south-west of England. In the actual general election a year later, the Lib Dems held a number of the seats the poll found to be under threat.

    * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    64 Comments

    • David Evans 19th Jun '14 - 1:20pm

      More evidence to prove to Nick that it’s time to go.

    • Paul in Wokingham 19th Jun '14 - 1:28pm

      The poll data itself seems to answer the question of how the UKIP support would split if it was to decline. The “parties you would definitely not vote for” shows UKIP supporters ruling out LD at a higher rate than ruling out Con. So Con would benefit disproportionately from a UKIP squeeze. That looks like it would push North Cornwall to Con gain.

      Overall this is showing that as of right now it’s looking pretty grim in those Con facing seats.

    • It is unbelievable the parliamentary party support him, it is like turkeys waiting for Christmas or perhaps their redundancy pay offs. If Clegg would go, that would be that, the arguing would cease, we would have a new leader in a month or so.
      There is no guarantee we would improve, but there would that chance, a chance that does not exist with Clegg. Let us stop defending the indefensible and just get on with it NOW. For all our sakes Nick do the honourable thing for the sake of the party.

    • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jun '14 - 1:52pm

      Stephen,

      Can you think of any reason why Ashcroft might have decided to randomly pick the three weeks of the entire parliament when it could easily be predicted that we would have the most concentrated worst publicity to poll Lib Dem held seats?:-).

    • Oh Caron, you appear to be hiding from the reality like others. Your question is really fallacious. The position is terrible, we are likely to have only MP from Scotland next time at the current rate and look at the situation in Somerset. Actually as I understand it, he produced the polls from the Labour /Conservative marginals 3 or 4 weeks ago and was then asked about the Con / Lib Dem marginals. If the next election is close between Cons and Lab there will be more polarisation and we will be squeezed further.
      We simply have no chance of moving forward at all under the present scenario. A quiet resignation, a quick election if that is needed, and things might just change, they may not but at least there is that chance and once you have a bit of momentum, more can follow. It is still mid June, let us get on with it now and there is some hope, better than the current despair.

    • Stephen
      The variation figures for campaigning activity are pretty strongly correlated with whether or not locals were taking place on May 22nd. Looking at the figures for Devon and Cornwall, where no locals were taking place in the constituencies polled, and where I am familiar with the constituencies, there is a strong correlation with membership levels. The ratios between level of membership in constituencies in D&C don’t change much over the years.

    • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jun '14 - 2:16pm

      Theakes, on what do you base your evidence of having one Scottish seat? I’m not hiding from any reality. I am well aware of the challenges we face, but I wouldn’t be quite as pessimistic as you are. You are very quick to write of our chances even though membership and activity is growing significantly in our held seats here. I spoke to many, many voters in all but two of them over the European elections and I have reason to think that we have everything to play for.

    • Caron – Ashcroft is doing rolling polls – the next lot will include Labour /Lib Dem marginal. I don’t think need a poll to tell us the Lib Dems will lose in most of those seats

      These are the 10 most marginal Lib Dem/Con seats – only the three with the strongest local government bases would survive – it is utterly deluded to think the polling will be any better in the 10 next most marginal.

      Nor is it co-incidence that the Lib Dems worse poll rating follow Nick fronting the Euro-Election campaign and the polls merely fall into line with the actual Lib Dem vote in the euro-election.

    • Frank Booth 19th Jun '14 - 2:33pm

      Caron – If the fieldwork was done during the European elections that was a mistake. You won’t gain much from that. However I’m not sure why Ashcroft would have a particular reason for wanting to produce polls that look good for the Tories and bad for the Lib Dems? Much of what he does seems to be about debunking Tory optimism. His last marginals poll was very encouraging for EdM and not for the Tories. So in answer to your original question (not addressed to me), NO I can’t think of a reason why Ashcroft would pick those dates.

      It’s really very simple. The Lib Dems did a deal with the devil (okay, not quite). Most unforgivably Nick Clegg has been the leading cheerleader of a Tory dominated government. The Party will have to pay the penalty.

    • Actually, Caracatus, you are basing what you say on an overoptimistic assumption. If you notice in the methodology section, they have added in Eastleigh from a less marginal group, because of strong UKIP presence, they say, so the poll result there was always liable to be better for the Lib Dems than the other more marginal seats.

    • “These are the 10 most marginal Lib Dem/Con seats … it is utterly deluded to think the polling will be any better in the 10 next most marginal”

      But the 10 seats which are “next most marginal” are by definition not as marginal as the first 10, so if the Lib Dem to Tory swing in them is the same as that in the first 10, surely a smaller proportion of them will be lost.

      We need to consider the Ashcroft results carefully and not rush to judgement on them based on preconceptions about oncoming disaster in 2015.

    • Sorry, I note you are now Caractatus. Is this a correction from the earlier(Caracatus) version? If so, not quite there yet!
      Caractacus (I think!!) I have ancestors called Cradock, which is supposed to be a rendering of that name.

    • Frank Booth 19th Jun '14 - 2:55pm

      The Lib Dems threw everything at a by election in Eastleigh which may explain why it’s bucking the trend.

      Things have got worse and worse for the Lib Dems yet the leadership refuses to change its approach. What was it Einstein said?

    • Tony Greaves 19th Jun '14 - 3:13pm

      In a way admire your stubborn optimism, Caron. But I am afraid that this kind of mesmerised complacency is what is putting this party’s very existence at risk.

      Tony

    • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jun '14 - 3:33pm

      Tony, I am not feeling particularly optimistic and I’m far from complacent. I have had a great deal to say about all sorts behind the scenes. I also know what I see and feel on the ground and it is definitely better than it was. We have an awful lot to do between now and next May to make sure we get a decent result, but I think it can be done. I’m not going to write off our chances and make a poor result a self fulfilling prophecy.

    • Caron – this data is consistent with all other reliable polling, including the British Election Study (sample size 20,000). Face it – the numbers are bad. Really, really bad. Of course we’ll only get 1 MP in Scotland. Your (and others’) inability to face facts is beginning to sound a bit like oil companies saying scientific theories about climate change are just someone’s opinions.

    • @Edna: The Lib Dem’s vote will collapse that much is completely clear but the linkage between vote and MPs might be less direct.

    • David Evans 19th Jun '14 - 4:09pm

      Caron I agree that “We have an awful lot to do between now and next May to make sure we get a decent result, but I think it can be done.” What we need to do is get rid of Nick and apologise for the mess he has allowed by his complacent dream of proving that ‘the Lib Dems, led by him, are a party of government.’ He has insisted we are more loyal than most Tories, and has he made an absolute mess of so many things – Tuition Fees; NHS Reform; Secret Courts; Bedroom Tax; ATOS; plus a couple of Lib Dem dreams – PR and HoL reform. Add to this his latest disaster: posing with the Sun. The last three Lib Dem councillors left in Liverpool must be turning in their newly dug graves. Oh yes and don’t forget those of us disgusted by having topless women posing in a daily newspaper.

      He has to go, and go now, or he will destroy our party for two generations.

    • Hugh p
      There are two seats where the Ashcroft poll shows Con to LD swings, Sutton and Cheam. Those two happen to be seats where a huge number of the local councillors are LDs. In the other seats, swings vary from 1.5% to 7.5% LD to Con. So many will be on the same range of swing, indicating that we could well lose 5 or 6 of the next 10, and possibly 3 or 4 of the following 10 (there are, of course, very few rock solid Lib Dem seats). I would want to inspect all the swings, and remembering that Labour marginals will only hold 2 or 3 max, it looks like we are down to around 20 – 24 seats.

    • Whilst I may be part of the outnumbered Nick Should Stay rump on LDV, I’m in certain agreement with the general thrust Adrian Sanders post. Given the seat in which I live is one of the ones we would lose I’ll be putting my money to stopping the Tories here, but an absolutely targeted method of funding money to local campaigns in seats such as Adrian’s is essential and would be a vastly more effective use of money and resources than some others…

    • A swing of only 3.5% from the LDs to the Tories is smaller than I would have expected. Even so, taking into account the likely losses to Labour, it would probably mean the LDs losing more than half their seats.

      But I think the real cause for concern (as Stephen and Paul have said) is that large 18% UKIP presence. I don’t believe UKIP will do as well as that next year – particularly in seats where there will be pressure to vote Tory tactically to unseat a Lib Dem. If a significant number of those 18% are squeezed towards the Tories things could be a lot worse. For example, if half of them voted Tory, the 3.5% swing would turn into an 8% swing.

    • “But the 10 seats which are “next most marginal” are by definition not as marginal as the first 10, so if the Lib Dem to Tory swing in them is the same as that in the first 10, surely a smaller proportion of them will be lost.”

      Not at all, it is clear there has been a massive collapse of support in all the Lib Dem held seats. The drop in support is 15% points absolutely inline with the national poll drop from 23% to 8%. Now in many seats we can’t actually lose 15% because we started with less than that. That means we will lose more where we start with more. Another way of looking at it is that for every 100 votes we got in a seat last time, we will get 35 in 2015. (8% /23%)

      In Truro we are now doing worse than the Liberal Party did even at the worst general elections for the party such as 1950, 1955 and 1970.

      In 1950 the party insured itself for lost deposits from 50-250, in the end it lost 319, but that was when you needed 12.5% to keep a deposit. On current from we will lose more on a 5% threshold.

    • As everyone is happy to go along with the integrity of Michael Ashcroft’s research, perhaps it’s worth bearing in mind what he says on his commentary about these polls:

      “These findings are clearly not good news for the Lib Dems, and as such will no doubt be reported as “adding to the pressure on Clegg”… But taken together with my previous research on the Lib Dems’ predicament, it is hard to see how replacing Clegg before the election would amount to anything more than a ritual sacrifice. The Lib Dems are in their current position not because of anything Nick Clegg himself has done or not done, but because his party is in government with the Conservatives – a decision endorsed by the whole party through its exhaustive processes of internal democracy.”

      Most people who hate Nick do so because he’s the leader of our party. The polls that ask people about alternative leaders show that the difference it would make is in single digit percentages. So, surely after twelve months of relentless attacks by Labour and the media on whoever the new leader would be, we’ll be back in exactly the same position as we’re in now.

    • Constituencies, all with about 1000 surveyed. Caveats:
      It’s a constituency poll
      Work done during Euro elections, so inflating UKIP and Others, and deflating LD (mostly)
      Subjects told to think of candidates who might be standing in their constituency, but no names explicitly mentioned
      Work done by parties in run up to GE will benefit Con and LD (and Lab in Watford)

    • David Evans 19th Jun '14 - 5:48pm

      Anders – your analysis is totally flawed . If people hate Nick, it’s because they believed in him and now they think he lied to them. If Cameron had done the same as a Tory leader, people who voted for him on that basis would hate him.

    • “The drop in support is 15% points absolutely inline with the national poll drop from 23% to 8%. Now in many seats we can’t actually lose 15% because we started with less than that. That means we will lose more where we start with more.”

      Well, I think these polls do indicate that the drop in the vote in Lib Dem seats won’t actually be worse – in terms of percentage points – than the national polls are indicating, as one might expect for the reasons you state. In other words, though the national polls indicate a loss of between a half and three quarters of the 2010 support, in Lib Dem held seats the loss is more like a third.

      But even that drop of 15 percentage points in these seats would be disastrous in normal circumstances. How many seats could be held with only 28% of the vote normally? The only thing that is stopping it being disastrous is that Tory support has also fallen, and that is closely linked to the strong UKIP showing. If UKIP is squeezed during a general election campaign (as seems likely), then things become very dangerous for the Lib Dems.

    • Matthew Huntbach 19th Jun '14 - 7:10pm

      Stephen Tall

      That’s a substantial proportion, but one which is pretty evenly split between those voters wanting a Lib/Con coalition and those wanting a Lib/Lab coalition. Whichever partner the Lib Dems choose …

      And here we go again. Just WHY do you and others do this? We are being enormously damaged by this false idea that a coalition means the Liberal Democrats picking which partner and choosing the conditions. It is damaging us right now because most voters assume we could have chosen Labour rather than Conservative, so that angers all our Labour-inclined ex-voters, and voters tend to assume we could have asked for whatever we wanted e.g. full subsidy of university tuition and just got it, so they are angry with us that we didn’t do it, and assume it was because we were not telling the truth in the election campaign about what we really wanted.

      In order to counter these false assumption we must push again and again and again the message that coalition is NOT necessarily like this. If there’s only one coalition partner with enough seats to form a majority, as in May 2010, the choice has gone. If there’s two potential coalition partners, the choice is just as much, if not more so, up to them than us – again as in May 2010 where it was very much in Labour’s interest to go into opposition due to the mess the country was in and how unpopular any government dealing with that mess would be.

      In my view, with the Liberal Democrat vote in serious decline, and the distortions of the electoral system, the chance of the LibDems being in the position of being required to form a coalition is small. But the chance of it being one where the party has a real choice over which partner is much smaller than that.

      I feel if we were honest about how we were weakened by the distortions of the electoral system and the fact that only a Conservative-LibDem coalition would have a majority in May 2010, voters would be much more sympathetic to our position. Instead our Leader chose the opposite approach of exaggerating the influence we could have and saying nothing about the damaging effects on us of the electoral system. That is why the man must go. He is useless, he gets it all wrong.

    • @Caron
      Surely, it is up to the leader to have a strategy to increase the support for the Lib Dems in the country

    • John Broggio 19th Jun '14 - 8:05pm

      @ Matthew Huntback
      “and voters tend to assume we could have asked for whatever we wanted e.g. full subsidy of university tuition and just got it”

      No. Please give us some credit. We naively assumed, though, that LD MPs would honour their unconditional pledge (which wasn’t to get full subsidy of university tuition IIRC). It may have been unsuccessful (had Labour joined with the Tories) but at least the LD MPs would have kept a crucial part of the pact made with the electorate.

    • @Jack – YES that’s what this polling does – the results are dire

    • It’s interesting to compare the changes since 2010 in these Tory/LD seats according to Ashcroft –

      CON -8 LAB +5 LD -15

      with the changes since 2010 according to the latest national poll from Ashcroft –

      CON -7 LAB +6 LD -15

      The figures are identical, for all intents and purposes. I’d suggest:

      (1) That although uniform swing obviously won’t predict the results in individual seats correctly, it will probably be a good guide to the total number of seats (as it was in 2010), because the average swings in these marginals are almost the same as the national swings.

      (2) It’s not incumbency that is standing between the Lib Dems and electoral disaster, but UKIP.

    • What shocks me the most is the number of held seats where the Tories are shoving more paper through letterboxes than the Liberal Democrats. That needs to be put right as a matter of urgency. Though whether or not members will be willing to shove paper through letterboxes while we’re propping up a Tory government and have Mr Clegg as leader remains to be seen. I would only do so myself on a rainy day wearing a mask. Just look at those figures. There is a very clear correlation between volume of literature and the level of support. That is something that Liberal Democrat campaigners have known since the days of Jones the vote. Though I can quite believe that Mr Clegg’s PR men are unaware of this undubitable ground truth, Jones the Vote being old enough to be their great-grandfather. Thank you, Lord Ashcroft, for providing this information free of charge.

    • Julian Critchley 19th Jun '14 - 10:38pm

      It’s not Clegg alone. It’s the policies.

      The voters the LibDems have lost were overwhelmingly centre-left social democrats who have been appalled by the enthusiastic collusion in the most right-wing government the country’s seen in 70 years. These people, like me, take the not unreasonable view that while the LibDems certainly couldn’t have forced more of their pre-2010 centre-left policies on the coalition, they could certainly have prevented more right-wing policies. That they not only didn’t prevent these policies, but were cheerleaders for them, is why those voters, like me, left.

      Clegg and the Orange Bookers always knew that they would jettison this demographic (they prefer to call us “protest voters”, as they believe that there is only one possible Thatcherite market-based set of policies which could possibly be implemented, and so anyone advocating greater redistribution, equality and market regulation must be a “protest voter” rather than adopting a perfectly sound alternative platform). However, they believed – insanely, in my view – that by doing so, they would attract a replacement set of right-wing Thatcherites who were perhaps more pro-EU and more socially liberal than the Tories, but who had previously voted Tory. In other words, the likes of Clegg and Brown made the classic mistake of believing that because they had that set of values, there must be millions more like them. Whereas in fact, there really aren’t very many people with the views of Clegg or Brown who aren’t quite content in the Conservative Party.

      It’s that simple. Clegg dumped the centre-left, willingly. It turned out we were the majority of the party. It wouldn’t be sufficient to dump Clegg. It doesn’t matter who the LibDems replace him with, because unless that new leader were to utterly renounce this Thatcherite creed and return to the social democratic policies of pre-2010, then none of us are coming back. There’s a lot of denial and wishful thinking still going on below the line here. Even 19 seats is a wildly optimistic estimate of what will remain after 2015, in my view. I’d be quite surprised if there were still double figures of LibDem MPs in 2015. The party leadership utterly, utterly failed to recognise who their voters were.

      Anyway, there’s one other problem the LibDems now have when considering dumping Clegg : the person to replace him would have to be very likely to still have a seat after the next election. That narrows your options down to about ten people.

      It’s too late now, to be honest. The Orange Bookers and their fellow travellers have murdered the LibDems as a progressive alternative in British politics for at least a generation. The party, and the Party, is over.

    • @Anders:

      ” it is hard to see how replacing Clegg before the election would amount to anything more than a ritual sacrifice. ” (Ashcroft)

      Anders, it is hard to see how taking Ashcroft’s polling, paid for and done by reputable pollsters, seriously, means you have to take Ashcroft’s personal political conclusions seriously. His personal political judgement (as opposed to his money-making capability) is somewhat Clegg-like. Were this not so, the Tories would have elevated him considerably in their operations. But he constantly spends money seeking to obtain objective information to back his prejudices.

    • @David Evans

      “they believed in him and now they think he lied to them. If Cameron had done the same as a Tory leader, people who voted for him on that basis would hate him.”

      And, in fact, that is what (true or not) a fair chunk of those presently considering UKIP do indeed feel about DC. But nowhere near as many as feel they cannot trust NC. In these circumstances, if Labour had a half-decent leader, they would be absolutely wiping the floor with both Tories and Lib Dems. Thankfully, they have not.

    • Julian Critchley wrote:

      “It wouldn’t be sufficient to dump Clegg. It doesn’t matter who the LibDems replace him with, because unless that new leader were to utterly renounce this Thatcherite creed and return to the social democratic policies of pre-2010, then none of us are coming back.”

      Julian, this is the point where your argument begins to fall apart. That’s because you’re arguing by assertion. You are expressing your own feelings and opinions as though they are incontrovertible facts.

      I agree that replacing Mr Clegg wouldn’t be sufficient. I have long argued that it is the “coalition”, and not Mr Clegg, that is to blame for our catastrophic loss of support. However, removing Mr Clegg is a step in the direction of exiting the “coalition”, and since more of my fellow members are prepared to remove Mr Clegg than exit the “coalition”, I am more than happy to assist them rather than reach for the bigger, and at present unattainable, target.

      You are wrong when you say that it doesn’t matter who replaces Mr Clegg. It clearly does. Opinion polls have shown that alternative leaders, such as Dr Cable and Mr Farron, would raise the party’s level of support, and might even tip the balance in some of those marginals. You then go on to claim to speak for members who have left the party since 2010. What gives you the right to do that? Lord Ashcroft’s findings indicate that the loss of tactical voting from the left has been slight. Only in metropolitan areas (such as Cheadle) is it a serious worry. So a lot of you are coming back.

      It does strike me that you are simply baiting us from the sidelines rather than offering constructive suggestions for putting the party back in the position it was prior to 2010. You won’t support the Liberal Democrats until we do X, Y and Z. But you’re not prepared to contribute to achieving X, Y and Z.

      Also, bracketing Jeremy Browne with Mr Clegg is a tad unfair. Jeremy has always been very upfront about what he thinks. Mr Clegg, by contrast, can be irritatingly vague.

    • “For all that Ashcroft is a card-carrying Tory, that’s no reason to disregard his polling. He publishes his results for all to see, even when they’re inconvenient to his own party.”

      The entire reason he got into polling was because he was sick of snake oil salesmen PR men telling the Conservatives what they wanted to hear, only to be get a very different picture on election nights. He’s not remotely biased towards the Conservatives and is the only one bothered/rich enough to do this kind of polling.

    • Just to say I stand with much of what Julian Critchley has said. I was a party member for 28 years but felt unable to renew my membership in 2011. I knew I could never knock on another door after – and I hate using this word – the betrayal on tuition fees. It wasn’ t the policy itself as I believe there is a case for students contributing toward the cost of a university education. It was the blatant breach of an explicit pledge made above and beyond the party’s manifesto commitments by most of our mp’s. The attacks on the most vulnerable members of society which the party has supported while in government – and which judging by their latest pronouncements on the unemployed the Labour Party is keen to expand upon – have left me without a party and faced with not voting for the first time in 2015.

    • Bill Le Breton 19th Jun '14 - 11:44pm

      On the 7th June I spent the day having a look at our situation in our held seats, using a heavy weighting for incumbency and campaigning ability. On the 8th I added this comment on the members forum following an accusation that my predictions were designed to goad the leadership,

      “First I am trying to get in my head where the frontier of our support may be in 2015. At present I see 11 ‘bankers’, following those I see about 12 who I think need every mobile resource at our disposal if they are to survive. They need top level bespoke campaigning support on the ground and/or the firepower to bring home success after success with those campaigns month by month til next May.”

      A couple do days ago Peter Kellner published his analysis which also suggested that without a recover to 14% voter intention he too figured on us holding 11 seats. Surely not a coincidence. Nor does polling by Ashcroft do anything to dissuade me from that figure of 11. The differential reaction of former Tory Kippers and former Lib Dem Kippers suggests to me that his figures are too generous. None of his holds or the tie are in my 11 bankers.

      The real fight is over the next 12 to 14 seats and as people have said above ground activity will be the crucial factor. All mobile resources of people , money and expertise must be focused on these 12/14 unless and until there is evidence that our fortunes are improving considerably.

      The single biggest influence on the political frontier is the leadership/trust issue. Yes, there is a potential new leader in my 11 bankers and they are Probably the PLP’s favourite for the job, someone totally uncontroversial and unifying.

      Make that change and I think the frontier moves to the next dozen.

      So who cares whether we have a parliamentary party of 11 (same leader and too optimistic targeting) or 25 ( same leader and ruthless targeting) or 37 ( new leader and ruthless targeting)?

      I do.

    • Looking at the Ashcroft poll more closely, I see that it predicts a poor FOURTH place in Redruth/Camborne, a seat held by us until 2010. Does anyone know what makes that result such an ‘outlier’ ? Truro is nearly as bad. David Penhaligon must be turning in his grave.

    • Paul In Wokingham 19th Jun '14 - 11:57pm

      @Mike Barnes – he was sick of snake oil salesmen PR men telling the Conservatives what they wanted to hear

      Your comment invites comparison with the last week’s polling debacle in US Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary in Virginia. Cantor paid for polling by McLaughlin that claimed he was 34% of his rival. A few days later he lost by 10%.

      A particularly bad case of confirmation bias, or “hearing what you want to hear”. The Liberal Democrats are in thrall of confirmation bias right now.

    • Julian Critchley 20th Jun '14 - 12:20am

      @sesenco

      There is truth in what you say, of course. I am indeed projecting my own feelings on to others. However, to tighten that up a bit with evidence :

      We know from polling that a rather larger number of LibDem ex-voters have gone to Labour and Greens than to UKIP and Tories. Form this, we can deduce with some confidence that the issue is policies, not leader, because if it was merely a personal dislike, there’s no reason why left-leaning voters would have left in greater numbers than right-leaning voters. Yet they have. The party has supported – indeed promoted – a very right-wing government, imposing very right-wing policies across a lot of areas (and indeed some very illiberal policies at times – not the same thing). That’s before we even get anecdotal, but if one wanted to, one could simply count up all the posts by ex-members and voters which have appeared here since 2010, and compare the numbers who left because the party was seen to be too right-wing, compared to the numbers who left for other reasons. Unscientific, to be sure, but I think we all know what picture that would paint.

      So I don’t think it’s a huge leap of faith to assert that the reason for the departure of so many left-leaning voters is because the party they thought they were voting for, turned out to be the party of Clegg, Laws, Browne and Alexander (as another contributor on here memorably described them “slightly less mean-spirited Tories”).

      I’m not baiting. What has happened to the LibDems makes me angry and despairing, not vengeful. I was a member for over twenty years, a local candidate and an activist. But I think you mistake the motives of some of us who have now transferred our support to Labour or the Greens. I didn’t support and work for the party for so long simnply because I wanted the yellow team to win. I did so because I thought the party offered the best chance of a genuinely alternative approach to the post-Thatcher authoritarian consensus between Labour and the Tories. When Clegg and the Orange Bookers decided that Thatcherism was actually going to be LibDem policy as well, that left me with no realistic positive choices, just a “least bad” option. And clearly, the least bad option for someone who rejects the values of Thatcherism is either Labour or the Greens at present. I would not vote LibDem again unless the party renounced the blind ideological Thatcherism of the last four years and returned to the rational social democratic programme which had been adopted for over the previous two decades. Obviously a new leader would be necessary to make that credible, and even then it’s a long hard road to regain trust once it’s been so lightly discarded.

      You ask what gives me the right to speak for others who have left. I don’t. I speak for myself. But anyone who reads this site will know that my views are consistent with plenty of others who have left. We are giving the same message, and have been since the true scale of Clegg’s enthusiastic embrace of Tory policies became clear in late 2010. For four years, Clegg and his coterie have stuck their heads in the sand and ignored that message, dismissing us as “protest votes”, and waiting for the non existent millions of Eddie Sammons to turn up and fill the gap we left. It’s not going to happen.

      It’s also getting worse for the LibDems on a weekly basis. As their support visibly collapses, I think even those less ideological voters, who have stuck with the LibDems as their own “least bad” option, and thus saved a lot of parliamentary seats in the past, will start to think of the party as a wasted vote again. When that happens, they’ll abandon that tactical voting, and either find another “least bad” option, or simply vote for their original preference. There’s a threshold of support below which, probably, less committed voters stop thinking of a political party as a serious option for their vote. I think the LibDems are now there, and their vote has further to collapse.

      I’ve been saying for two years that the LibDem MPs after the next election will fit in a minibus, despite some ostriches on here talking about keeping 40 seats until comparatively recently. I’m not starting to think that I’ll be able to give all of them a lift to the Commons in my 7-seat people mover. It really is that bad, yet those remaining in the party continue to sit on their hands and watch as the cliff approaches without even trying to turn the wheel.

    • I going to take the risk of being accused of being over-optimistic. I think that the Euro elections might be the lowest point of our support and therefore we might be able to increase our support from this level in the MP seats. Therefore to the three seats of Cheadle, Sutton & Cheam and Eastleigh we can add North Cornwall. St Ives should be in play especially if we can deliver more literature that the Conservatives but maybe we should be resigned about losing Wells etc.

      It seems reasonable to conclude as Hugh p does that we would do better in our next set of 10 marginals.

      Someone said Eastleigh isn’t in the top ten marginals and is only included because of the by-election.

      So if we win 4 out the first ten, 5 out of the next ten, 6 out of the next ten, 7 out of the next ten, 8 out of the next ten and 6 out of 7 we end up with 36 which is close to what others have predicted. A loss of 21 MP’s would be the largest loss since 1922 (excluding 1983).

    • Bill Le Breton 20th Jun '14 - 6:35am

      Michael, two reasons why I think you should be less optimistic.

      First, ashcroft’s selection of these seats does not seem to address the incumbency factor. We are trying to assess the erosion of support since 2010. Incumbency is just one factor but it is very important. A Lib Dem MP who has been in place since or before 1997 is in a much more secure position than one elected later. A person who ‘inherited’ a seat in 2001 is in a more secure position than one who ‘took over’ in 2005. So Ashcroft’s selection of the above 11 defences is not where I would have suggested he looked if he wished to examine the present political frontier between the Conservatives and ourselves. He compounds this error by choosing not to ask a further question which offered names of say the responder’s first choice and the LD candidate if not the same. Those seeking to ‘take over’ a held seat in 2015 are behind the 8 ball.

      Second there are the Labour facing seats to Michael, two reasons why I think you should be less optimistic.

      First, ashcroft’s selection of these seats does not seem to address the incumbency factor. We are trying to assess the erosion of support since 2010. Incumbency is just one factor but it is very important. A Lib Dem MP who has been in place since or before 1997 is in a much more secure position than one elected later. A person who ‘inherited’ a seat in 2001 is in a more secure position than one who ‘took over’ in 2005. So Ashcroft’s selection of the above 11 defences is not where I would have suggested he looked if he wished to examine the present political frontier between the Conservatives and ourselves. He compounds this error by choosing not to ask a further question which offered names of say the responder’s first choice and the LD candidate if not the same.

      The targeting strategy is the single most important element of successful election campaigns. Have a look at two campaigns from last month; Eastleigh and Harringay. One assessed the political frontier correctly, precisely and one got it wrong. Probably each fought similarly resourced and energetic campaigns. Now look at the results and the consequences.

      The impact of losing office to infrastructure is devastating. The medium to long term future of the Party is more dependent on targeting than any other factor except the question of who is the face of the national campaign, viz the Euro campaign.

      The targeting strategy is the single most important element of successful election campaigns. Have a look at two campaigns from last month; Eastleigh and Harringay. One assessed the political frontier correctly, precisely and one got it wrong. Probably each fought similarly resourced and energetic campaigns. Now look at the results and the consequences.

      The impact of losing office to infrastructure is devastating. The medium to long term future of the Party is more dependent on targeting than any other factor except the question of who is the face of the national campaign, viz the Euro campaign.

      The worry is that other factors are determining the allocation of mobile resources, compounding our woes.

      Second, there is the question of the Labour facing so-called marginals.

    • Bill Le Breton 20th Jun '14 - 6:37am

      Apologies for the above repetitions. Struggling with a smart machine !!!

    • Tony Dawson 20th Jun '14 - 6:56am

      @Julian Critchley:

      We know from polling that a rather larger number of LibDem ex-voters have gone to Labour and Greens than to UKIP and Tories. Form this, we can deduce with some confidence that the issue is policies, not leader, because if it was merely a personal dislike,”

      I think you analysis is too simplistic, Julian. There are more than two factors to consider, although some overlap. The ‘dislike’ from a significant sector of voters is largely not ‘personal’. It is a highly ‘political’ dislike, largely-framed around the ‘trust’ issue but also a massive perception of being ‘David Cameron’s poodle’ in rather the same way as the famous David Steel ‘Spitting Image’ puppet sat in David Owen’s pocket and kept repeating “Oooh David!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynsy3F3ZqLg“.

      There is also a perceived indifference to ‘and/or inability to judge ‘the public mood’. So the public rejection is more due to a reaction to a mixture of ‘attitudes’ and ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘policies’. I don’t think that those who have gone towards the Greens or Labour give any massive endorsement of these Parties’ present policies (if they know them) – it is more a decision born of despair.

      For all my criticisms of it, I cannot accept description of the present government as being either massively-right wing or massively-illiberal, certainly in comparison to its immediate predecessors who supervised a redistribution of wealth and income towards the very rich which outstripped the record of Margaret Thatcher. Furthermore, a considerable amount of the criticised policies would have been implemented one way or another by virtually any government which emerged in 2010, whether with alacrity or no. Nick Clegg’s political failure is that, besides his individual errors, particularly on the pledge/trust issue, he has consistently failed, from the Rose Garden onwards, to portray any image of his Party as being at all critical of those elements of government action which have not helped ordinary people of this country – and this perceived indifference (whether true or not) has heavily-tainted the rest of the Party.

    • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '14 - 9:03am

      Back on my PC! But still struggling thanks to having to leave XP and cope with a new hard drive. Sorry for above confusion. So I sll try again.

      Michael, two reasons why I think you should be less optimistic:

      We are trying to assess the extent and nature of the erosion of support since 2010. Incumbency is just one factor in this but it is very important. A Lib Dem MP who has been in place since or before 1997 is in a much more secure position in retaining support ‘locally’ than one elected later. A person who ‘inherited’ a seat in 2001 is in a more secure position than one who ‘took over’ in 2005. Those seeking to ‘take over’ a held seat in 2015 are behind the 8 ball. This last factor seems to be insufficiently appreciated and the Leader’s Programme will not have helped unless the new candidate is local and a campaigner.

      Ashcroft’s selection of his seats does not seem to address the incumbency factor. His selection of the above 11 defenses is not where I would have suggested he looked if he wished to examine the present political frontier between the Conservatives and ourselves. He compounds this error by choosing not to ask a further question which offered names of say the responder’s first choice and the LD candidate if not the same.

      The targeting strategy is the single most important element of successful election campaigns. Have a look at two campaigns from last month; Eastleigh and Harringay. One assessed the political frontier correctly, precisely and one got it wrong. Probably each fought similarly resourced and energetic campaigns. Now look at the results and the consequences.

      The impact of losing office on campaigning infrastructure is devastating; be that a councillor, an MSP, an MEP or an MP. The medium to long term future of the Party is more dependent on targeting than any other factor except the question of who is the face of the national campaign, viz the Euro campaign.

      The worry is that other factors are determining the allocation of mobile resources, compounding our woes.

      Finally, your optimism may have glossed over the question of the Labour facing so-called marginals.

    • Tony Rowan-Wicks 20th Jun '14 - 11:06am

      Sesenco
      I’m interested by your reasons and in the order you state; NC to step down as leader first. The Coalition would be ended once we see how the Tories begin to lose control generally in the parliamentary business?

      With regard to polls and LD seats, at present we cannot tell which LD leader would be elected and if that person would retain her/his seat in 2015. Further, we cannot tell if UKIP will take more votes from the Tories than the current polls are suggesting but most believe that the better UKIP does, the better for holding our LD seats.

      Whatever NC’s final decision on stepping down, we should endeavour to work together to retain as many seats as possible, following the Party Conference. Clearly, NC stepping down within the next 2-3 Summer months is critical for the Party re-signing its former membership and facing a future with the broad Liberal Democrat policies our Party voted for and not those foisted on us by the Tory majority government.

    • “Further, we cannot tell if UKIP will take more votes from the Tories than the current polls are suggesting but most believe that the better UKIP does, the better for holding our LD seats.”

      But conversely if UKIP do less well than the average of 18% in these seats, that will make it harder to hold them. I find it very difficult to believe that UKIP will be supported by nearly one in five voters in seats that the Lib Dems are defending against the Tories in a general election.

    • @Anders: there’s no logical connection between taking Ashcroft’s polls seriously and taking his personal analysis seriously. None-the-less, he’s an intelligent, well-informed man so I think it’s worth listening to what he has to say. Whether removing Clegg will help the Lib Dems does, I think, depend on what question you want answered. Removing Clegg will not significantly alter Lib Dem fortunes in 2015 – especially if either Tim Farron or Vince Cable replace him – although I believe a small vote swing and a maybe an MP or two would follow. However, getting rid of Clegg now opens up better opportunities for the Lib Dems to set forth a plan of action post-2015 and allows them to negotiate more credibly and effectively if a coalition is on the table.

    • > I see that it predicts a poor FOURTH place in Redruth/Camborne, a seat held
      >by us until 2010. Does anyone know what makes that result such an ‘outlier’ ?

      Yes – the change of wind from 2010 onwards was the expense scandal, which she was mildly implicated in. Come the election the Tories successfully campaigned about her “rocking chair” scandal. I find the poll hard to believe, perhaps I’m underestimating the UKIP effect. Julia’s a great campaigner, she knows a lot of people here and is well respected. I think she’ll do better than this poll suggests, that’s not to say she’ll take the seat.

      >Truro is nearly as bad. David Penhaligon must be turning in his grave.

      I live in this constituency, its never been so anti-Lib Dem as it is today. The PPC has been parachuted in, so there’s no doubt in my mind that we don’t stand a chance here. One of the guys on the selection list was a bit of a Penhaligon style local hero – he might of taken the seat. Since he didn’t get selected activist appetite has waned significantly; I’m 99% sure that Falmouth/Truro will be a Con hold. Tories are great organisers here, I’m always in awe come election day at the way they network these little Cornish villages; sadly, we are disparate.

    • @ Bill le Breton

      If you are now using Windows 8 – it takes some getting used to.

      I think that the incumbency factor works to our benefit. If we consider North Cornwall hopefully you will see my point. The seat was held by Paul Tyler and he was succeeded by Dan Rogerson who received 42.6% in 2005 and 48.1% in 2010 with majorities of 5.5% and 6.4%. Therefore without the Ashcroft data I would expect us to lose the seat as Labour moved back to its 2005 share. Ashcroft puts us and the Conservatives both on 31% and the voters are seeing more of our literature than Conservative therefore it is likely we can hold the seat.

      You are correct I haven’t considered the Labour marginals but I am not sure we are much more likely to lose them than the Conservative marginals. I need to look at all the seats individually to firm up my prediction as I have done for Scotland.

      With regard to resources you might know more than me, but I assume that all held seats receive about the same amount of resources. I don’t recall any complaints in 2005 about resources being discussed at the regional level.

      @ Jack
      I think you are correct that having a new leader is likely to add a few percentage points to our national rating, but it opens up the opportunity to present ourselves as more like our pre-coalition selves, while still stating what we have achieved in government. It also opens up the possibility of recognising all our failures and trying to convince the electorate that we have learnt the lessons of these and will not repeat them if we are in government again. If there are any actions we can take that MIGHT reduce the number of MPs we lose in 2015 we should be doing it.

    • “You are correct I haven’t considered the Labour marginals but I am not sure we are much more likely to lose them than the Conservative marginals.”

      Obviously you are more likely to lose them, because the national swing from the LDs to Labour is about 10%, compared with about 4% from the LDs to the Tories.

    • Tony Dawson in one concise comment demonstrates why the Ashcroft polling indicates what it does. Tony points out that – ” Nick Clegg’s political failure is that, besides his individual errors, particularly on the pledge/trust issue, he has consistently failed, from the Rose Garden onwards, to portray any image of his Party as being at all critical of those elements of government action which have not helped ordinary people of this country – and this perceived indifference (whether true or not) has heavily-tainted the rest of the Party.”

      Some comments in LDV seem to betray a perception of opinion polls as if they are measurements of the weather or a force of nature, as if they are nothing to do with the actions of political leaders. Some people seem to believe that the Labour Party is doing badly becausefor a quick bit of character assassination of Miiband by the Murdoch Press. But politics is more than just a bacon sandwich.

      Clegg could be photographed a thousand times eating pâté de fois gras in the most elegant fashion and it would not improve his poll rating. I am prepared to believe that he eats every day in the very best restaurants with the ultimate decorum, it will not alter the fact that at the elections four weeks ago it was Miliband’s party that was sweeping the board, whilst Liberals Democrats carried the can for their leader and faced defeat after defeat.

      It is the political failures of our leader and his strategy that has brought about the electoral failure that Ashcroft’s polls and other organisations’ polls have recorded. Polls reflect what s happening. What is happening in terms of the Liberal Democrats is the political failure and strategic dead ends of Clegg, who he has consistently failed, from the Rose Garden onwards, to portray any image of his Party as being at all critical of those elements of government action which have not helped ordinary people of this country.

    • Bill le Breton 20th Jun '14 - 11:01pm

      Michael BG, I’d be happy to consider particular seats in the members forum, but not here. Earlier today I posted there a piece on Hard Talking About Hard Targeting – perhaps we could ‘meet’ in that.

      Yes, incumbency works for us but with differing force depending on length of time the incumbent has been an MP – whether the MP was the orginal pioneer or took over from the pioneer and if so how may elections ago, and finally whether someone is taking over in 2015 for the first time.

      Ashcroft may have thought that he was spending his money getting intelligence on the key Con/LD marginals, but I could have saved him money. His results have told him that he was in fact surveying trenches that his own forces already occupied in 13 out of 17 cases. And even the remaining 4 reveal plenty of phantom UKIP strength that will actually return in greater numbers to his side than to ours.

      The LDs are involved in their Dunkirk.

    • Is there correlation between how someone voted on tuition fees and how they do in this poll?

    • @ Chris – “Obviously you are more likely to lose them, because the national swing from the LDs to Labour is about 10%, compared with about 4% from the LDs to the Tories.”

      I am not sure your conclusion is correct. If we had a 13% lead over the Tories then using your figures Labour would gain 10% and the Tories 4% and we would lose 14% and so the Tories would win by 1%. Therefore for any lead less than 14% over the Tories we will lose it to the Tories. If we had 13% lead over Labour then Labour would gain 10% and the Tories 4% and we would lose 14% and so the Labour would win by 1%. Therefore any lead less than 14% over Labour we would lose to Labour.

      However if we can reduce the swing to the Tories by squeezing their vote then we can keep more of those seats where Labour is second. At the moment I don’t see us being able to squeeze the Labour vote.

    • The basic problem here is that squeeze back labour voters you’ve got to reassure them that there won’t be another coalition with the tories and as Matthew Huntbach points out under the present electoral system the lib Dems do not get to choose their coalition partners. Further more if Im not mistaken under Ashdown and Kennedy there was a loose agreement with Labour to minimise the potential for splitting the progressive vote. Then you have to ask why would Labour agree to a similar arrangement after five years of being portrayed as incompetent by prominent Lib Dems?
      Personally as a voter, I want to see the Lib Dems recover by concentrating on distinctive policies, but I hate saying this yet again Nick Clegg is box office poison. My view is that the Lib Dems are far from dead and will come to be seen as a positive force for liberal social changes , but need to stop pretending that the many compromises of the coalition were Lib Dem policy all along.

    • Michael BG

      “I am not sure your conclusion is correct. If we had a 13% lead over the Tories then using your figures Labour would gain 10% and the Tories 4% and we would lose 14% …”

      No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m simply calculating swings between each pair of parties – defined in the standard way – from the national poll ratings.

      The swing from party A to party B is defined as the average of the decrease in A’s percentage and the increase in B’s. The national swing from the Lib Dems to Labour is much larger than that to the Tories, because Labour’s rating has increased since the last election, while the Tories’ has decreased.

    • @ Chris – “No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m simply calculating swings between each pair of parties – defined in the standard way – from the national poll ratings.”

      As you didn’t give any examples I will have another go.

      Say we had a 6% lead over the Tories. There is a 10% swing to Labour and a 4% swing to Tories. The Labour one is easy we lose 5% and they gain 5%. Now if we lose 5% do the Tories have to lose 1% as well to get a 4% swing?

      However I don’t know where you get your swings from.
      General election Lab 35, LD 22 Con 32
      Opinion poll rating YouGov Lab 38, LD 8 Con 32
      Swing LD to Con 7%
      Swing LD to Lab 8.5%

      In a Labour / Lib Dem marginal we would be able to squeeze the Tory vote.
      Hence my thought that “I am not sure we are much more likely to lose them than the Conservative marginals.”

    • Michael BG I think your comment here, that “we can squeeze the Tory vote” is highly contentious, and may explain the difference between your and Chris’s views. There is some evidence from a few seats, eg Sheffield Hallam, that we have squeezed Tory votes, but it is unusual, and a minority pursuit! Many on LDV would say that that type of thinking is part of what has led Nick Clegg into so much trouble. From listening to him speak, he has for many years believed we can win over soft Tories. We can, in certain circumstances, but only when the Tories nationally are desperately unpopular, eg 1993 – 7.
      Our “tactical voting Labour” people, on the other hand, are in many areas very long term LD voters, and many would be described as Lib Dem supporters. For that reason, I think your assumptions are wrong. I also think you would be hard put to it to find any local voting evidence for this.

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