Can the surge last? Lib Dem bloggers give their views …

Lib Dems leading the election race, and polling above 30% – that’s not a line (m)any of us expected to be able to type with a straight face. But it’s the present reality. The questions is: can the Lib Dem surge last? Here’s what a handful of Lib Dem bloggers think …

James Graham

Anyone who claims to know what will happen electorally next month simply doesn’t know what they are talking about. But there are a number of reasons to suggest that the Liberal Democrats’ poll leap over the weekend might last.

Firstly, polls tend to be mutually reinforcing. This is why some countries ban them during election time. The same factor which has reinforced the Lib Dems’ image as no-hopers in the past might well work in our favour now, especially since it is such a dramatic development.

Secondly, even though elements of the media might prefer to starve Clegg of the oxygen of publicity, they can’t thanks to the Representation of the People Act.

Thirdly, the Lib Dem general election team did their homework and have crafted a simple and consistent campaign message. Contrast that with Cameron’s flipflopping. Remember when he was inviting everyone join his government last week? Now his message is that only one person – him – should be allowed near the levers of power. After telling people for four years that it is time for a change, insisting that it shouldn’t happen now simply beggars belief.

The Lib Dems, by contrast, are offering genuine radical change. It was hitting a nerve with young people even before the leaders’ debate; look at how the Rage Against the Machine – Vote Lib Dem facebook group was growing exponentially even before Thursday.

Clegg’s biggest weapon is that his message is striking a chord with the public. That, at least, won’t change before 6 May.

Stephen Tall

Lib Dem members could have been forgiven for waking up this morning, surveying the papers, and imagining they were still dreaming. Suddenly, the media cannot get enough of us, the party is surging in the polls, and the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times splashes the headline ‘Nick Clegg nearly as popular as Winston Churchill’ as its front-page lead.

Can ‘Cleggmania’ last until polling day? Here are three reasons why it just might.

First, the time is ripe. There is a public eagerness for a fresh start, a feeling that Labour and the Tories have taken it in turns to govern for 65 years and made a mess of it.

Secondly, the Lib Dems are in a position to break through. The party is in first or second place in almost half the country, some 250 constituencies across Britain, with mustard-keen activists campaigning all year round to make Lib Dem victory a reality. If the party reaches 30%, as some polls are currently suggesting, it could easily double its number of MPs to well over 100. Labour and the Tories would not then be able to ignore the public appetite for change.

And thirdly, there are still well over two weeks to go until polling day itself, plenty of time for the Lib Dem momentum to snowball.

Yes, it’s possible Lib Dem support has peaked. That’s what Labour and the Tories will be praying.

But it’s equally possible that this time the public really could break the mould of British politics. The decision rests not with the politicians, but with the voting public.

Mark Valladares

Suddenly, it’s a good time to be a Liberal Democrat. Ahead in some opinion polls, a popular leader, but can it last? Here’s why it might.

Just as in 1997, the British people want a change. They want to get rid of a tired Labour government and, until recently, were being told that they should vote Conservative to do so. However, they weren’t convinced, something I had been hearing on the doorstep for months. All the polls have said that there were lots of people who hadn’t made their minds up, or weren’t going to vote.

Now, in an election period, when Liberal Democrats get far more coverage than they otherwise would, voters are hearing our messages and some like them. Even before the debate, our poll ratings were improving, but it gave Nick Clegg an opportunity to talk directly to ten million voters, most of whom are likely to vote, and they liked him. The next day, they told their friends and their workmates.

Will it last? Who can say. What I do know is that, over the years, if voters have been asked whether they would vote Liberal Democrat if they thought they could win, about 40% of those polled have said that they would. And now, the polls are telling them that we could. With their support, perhaps we can change politics for good.

Mark Thompson

The TV debates have now changed everything with regard to this election. They were an opportunity for Nick Clegg to set out his stall and he did so with gusto.

Obviously the rapidity and scale of the rise in the Lib Dem polling numbers is giving everyone pause for thought and activists are nervous as to how durable the boost might be. I think there are reasons for optimism for the following reasons:

1) It is difficult to see how Cameron and Brown can handle Clegg in the next debate. They tried hugging him close and that didn’t work but attacking him will allow him to portray the other leaders as of the old style of politics.

2) The next debate is on foreign affairs where Clegg has good expertise and the final one is on the economy where Vince Cable is widely respected and admired.

3) A main reason given by people for not voting for the Lib Dems is because they think they cannot win. With the momentum behind the party now that argument starts to fall away and the boost could continue in a sort of positive feedback loop.

We certainly live in interesting political times!

Mark Pack

The polls are not just a surge in Lib Dems support but bit increase in the number of young backers of the party, and in the number of people saying they will vote overall.

For the Tories to counter that energy with negative tactics, including “putting the fear of God into the electorate” over getting Brown again as PM, as Matthew d’Ancona suggests, will be deeply counter-productive, painting the Conservatives ever more distinctly an old party, wedded to the old ways.

It’s a reaction against all this which is bringing so many new people into politics.

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49 Comments

  • paul barker 20th Apr '10 - 3:01pm

    Another reason to beleive the surge is real is the long-term trends. The combined vote of the 2 old parties has been in decline for 60 years & that fall has accelerated in the last decade. My best estimate was for it to fall to around 62% this time yet the polls were putting it in the low 70s till a few weeks ago.
    Our vote was rising before the campaign even began & has risen every time we get more exposure. My only worry is that we are so locked into the Target ward/seats mindset that we may not take full advantage.

  • Philip Young 20th Apr '10 - 3:09pm

    There is a whisper going the rounds that one poll coming out tomorrow puts us at 30 per cent…so, if true, its still on a roll. Morale within Labour must surely be pretty gloomy.

    The Tories are bumping along around the same level achieved by Michael Howard, William Hague and John Major who all saw campaign figures of around 31 per cent. Clearly something wrong with the product…its hardly about a shortage of cash.

  • Being naturally pessimistic, I’m concerned that some of the vitriol currently beig poured in the right wing press may have an effect. The clincher will be if there’s a second wave of Labour Voters who desert the sinking, third-placed Brown vessel that could shore things up.

  • In every three way debate the Lib. Dems. responses to the negative slants on their manifesto proposals have been cut short thus preventing them from justifying the statements put to them. They keep being denied the chance to FULLY clarify the statement a positive light. We can only hope the viewers will pick up on this, seek the responses online or locally and vote Liberal.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 20th Apr '10 - 3:36pm

    “What I do know is that, over the years, if voters have been asked whether they would vote Liberal Democrat if they thought they could win, about 40% of those polled have said that they would.”

    Actually, YouGov asked this question yesterday, and 49% said they would vote Lib Dem.

    To my mind that suggests there is still plenty of scope for upward movement if the surge is sustained.

  • Anthony Aloysius St – stop being picky!! 40% ? 49%? (Just joking!) .
    The only thing us poor bloody infantry can do is – stick to our plans & redouble our leafleting, canvassing efforts. Our big boys & girls at the top havent put a foot wrong & done us proud to date – lets get on with the job.

  • When SKY led the case for a leaders debate they only had Brown in their sites. This however has backfired on them as it lifted Nick from being someone very little known into the limelight. Just watched Cameron in Burton-on- Trent promising to make the work shy work,taking away their benefits if they didn’t. I think he has forgotten the Human Rights Act. There is no way he can force people to work if they don’t want to and this will never get off the ground. First of all he has to find new jobs for them to do. One presumes he will send all foriegn workers home and replace them with the unemployed. It sounds good and makes him feel like a friend of the people. It was his Tory party that distroyed British Industry in the first place. One more sound bite,one more broken promise. He wants to privatise education so that only chosen pupils will get the best education,schools run by his weathy chums. A two tier education system so the chosen few will prosper and the rest will fall behind creating those very people who he says won’t work. Fine words from a man who saw 15% instrest rates and three and half million unemployed.

  • The surge can last, and with postal voting happening so soon its difficult to believe that the Lib Dems won’t benefit from it even if the Lib Dems position slips slightly before polling day.

    As a party though we have to be clear what we mean by a political mandate. We can’t mean that if Labour came 3rd but got most seats we would support them. That would go against our principles and support the terrible electoral system that we currently have.

    Are we ready for this? Well there’s no training for being in charge and how we cope as a party and what we do will be an interesting test. After all those years as the shadow chancellor was Brown really ready to be PM? If the opportunity comes I think our MPs and party will rise to it.

  • As a part-time Lib Dem supporter I can’t help but be intoxicated by Cleggmania. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a little scared by the prospect of a majority Lib Dem government and the *real life* implementation of some of the more loopy stuff in the manifesto (which was easy to live with for as long as the prospect of government was non-existent). So – forcing banks to lend against their better judgement, scapping university tuition fees, ongoing climate change hysteria and the anti-coal-fired & nuclear power ‘road to blackout Britain’ policies really do worry me. To the extent that I think the arguments for the moderating influence of coalition government may apply just as readily to a Lib Dem landslide scenario as to one with a Lab or Can majority.

  • The TV debates have done well for Mr Clegg and the party, but the party cannot win outright, not a chance, and, the public have no stomach for a LIB/LAB pact that leaves Brown as PM. If the Libdem share of the vote is at the expense of Labour (and it looks more likeley) then you will have done the Tories a favour. Remember the Tories have a constant 30/35% core vote, if Labour dont rise above 26% on polling day, they are toast leaving the tories as the biggest party.Someone posted before about the Lib Dem vote being on a roll, well that works both ways, the Labour vote is also on a roll but downwards and that could get worse…so! heady and dangerous times.
    I predict a small Conservative majority, and Labour demoted to third place come polling day, I doubt the Tories will want to form any pact, so they will keep hammering home the message..vote Lib Dem, get Gordon Brown and it’s working from my doorstep canvassing…vote Lib Dem…get Gordon Brown.

  • paul barker 20th Apr '10 - 7:40pm

    Stephenb, we can win outright, we dont need the 49% that Yougov gave us yesterday, another 5% would probably make us the largest party, its all still to play for.

  • Andrew Suffield 20th Apr '10 - 7:40pm

    I find it curious how everybody is saying “Can the surge last?”, and think it might be more interesting to ask “How can we make the surge last?”

    That’s better, but I have no doubt it was because of opposition to the first proposal… how many other proposals have similarly fluid?

    All of them. You see, the Lib Dems have a different approach to policymaking than the one you’re used to. The Labour/Tory approach is:

    – as the front bencher for this policy area, decide what your party is going to do
    – announce policy
    – hold consultation to show everybody how much you care about their opinions
    – manipulate or ignore consultation results to claim that everybody supports what you decided to do, which demonstrates what a brilliant, incisive, finger-on-the-pulse leader you are and why your party would be the best government next time it’s their turn

    while the Lib Dem approach is:

    – announce a proposal
    – seek input from interested parties
    – modify proposal to make it work better
    – present the whole lot to the next conference, who will debate and vote on whether to accept the proposal

    Since it is impossible for the author of the proposal to ram it through, like the other two parties are fond of doing, it is necessary for every policy to be modified and improved when people find issues with it.

  • paul barker 20th Apr '10 - 8:00pm

    Ive just had another look at our polling figures since the wave hit & it seems like they are still creeping up, about 1% every 3 days. Over the last 2 days we average about 31%. lets see what tonight brings.

  • Mr comments on David Cameron and benefits seems to upset a few people. What he said is what a lot of think. Come to my town in Somerset and see the scroungers we have. When the HRA was signed i stood up in my town council and said it was the worst piece of legislating this country had ever accepted and it would played by the workshy and groups who would come to this country and take advantage of a weak government. The tories shouted me down. Now they are saying they want to change it. We need to change it. I have been a Liberal since the age of 15 and proud of it. We need to close the loop holes that there are. Article 8 is not clear enough and the right to choose a life stye you want to live is the main thrust of it and that makes it very vulnerable. Believe me there are clever lawyers out there who will play it for all it’s worth.
    There is no way you could get away with withdrawl of benefits for three years. I feel a riot coming on.

  • ChangeChangeChange 20th Apr '10 - 8:25pm

    This surge is not completely unexpected to me. I have a 200 to 1 betting slip on the Lib Dems winning the most *seats*

    a) People are fed up. Labour voters dissatisfied, will not turn blue, Lib Dems are the next reasonable choice.

    b) We are in or recovering from a resession where the majority have been touched in a negative way, or know someone that has. The conservatives will look after big business and the elite. Labour are not trusted so we will receive the greater majority of floaters.

    c) Anger at how the country is reaching a tipping point. Election turnout will either dip, robbing the other two of some of their voters as they decide to abstain while new Lib Dem support will boost the Lib Dem %. The alternative is the Anger and frustration tips the balance and people *WILL* vote for change, once again increasing the Lib Dem % These scenarios have happened in the past. RE: Unexpected landslides.

    d) Fairness, – We have seen the banking crash, the mp’s expenses, the Lib Dem message strikes a chord with anyone that has any sense of humanity.

    e) So as a party there is not any recent history of being in power and its to the majority an unexpected position to be in. “Great leaders are not those who seek great power, but rather, those who have great power thrust upon them.” The Party does have maturity, and a fresh start means less risk of repeating OLD politics.

    SO go forth, Facebook everyone into voting mellow yellow, leaflet, flier, and above all, GET EXCITED!!!

    Ps, We better bloody win, I want my holiday XD

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 20th Apr '10 - 9:55pm

    The Clegg Bounce will last in my opinion, as British voters see more of our straight taking and gritty Leader, who I predict will stay in the ascendant in the Prime Ministerial TV Debates and continue to enthuse the Nation.

    Young people and those 4 million beneficiaries of tax reform at the bottom of the pile and all seeking to clean up politics deserve the right to choose the gifted Liberal Democrat Leader who was not part of the tired lacklustre old politics of Yabo Brown/Cameron.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Apr '10 - 10:10pm

    Alec

    Have Tower Hamlets LibDems learned to love the local Bengalis?

    Will Tories who pretend to be LibDems ever stop repeating 20 year old Labour Party propaganda?

    Anyway, here’s their website:

    http://tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk/

    check for yourself.

  • “Reality” is not simply any event that happened. It is what people think they saw happening, once they had the chance to talk about it, read about it, and establish some sort of consensus about what it was they believe happened.

    One interpretation is that Clegg worked a form of ninety-minute magic, a nine-days wonder, that will soon fall apart. That is the interpretation that favours the Labservatives, and to try to fix it in everyone’s minds, they call it “Bubble”.

    Another interpretation is that anger has been building for a year or more, that our poll rating has been rising throughout the campaign, that Cable as well as Clegg not to mention Huhne, Laws, Teather and many others have all proven popular, and that the more people see of us, the more they like it. That is an interpretation with more real evidence for it. To fix it in everyone’s minds, we must give it a name. “The end of the old politics”, perhaps?

    Anyway – Let’s hear no more of this black propaganda word “bubble”!

  • I am not a particularly “political” person, and have never voted Lib Dem, but I’ve always felt that the Lib Dems never get a fair hearing from the media. Now the Lib Dems are showing more strongly in the pols the media are at it again saying what a bad thing it would be to cause a hung parliament by voting Lib Dem. In my opinion the best way to avoid a hung parliament is for all the people, and in my experience there are many, who have ever considerd voting Lib Dem but not done so because they thought it would be a wasted vote, to vote Lib Dem this time.

    If thisopinion, or something along these lines, is used in publicity material or as a slogan of some sort I will not require attribution or copyright 😉

  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Apr '10 - 1:42pm

    A MORI poll just released has headline figures in line with those from other pollsters:
    CON 32 (-3)
    LAB 28 (-2)
    LD 32 (+12)

    But on the topic of the thread, it highlights the finding that 56% of Lib Dem supporters said they might change their minds. On the other hand, the same applied to 50% of Labour supporters and 40% of Conservative supporters (funnily enough, 2% of Conservative supporters and 1% of Labour supporters didn’t know whether they had definitely made up their minds or not!).

    That does suggest there’s a huge level of volatility. But while a “core” Lib Dem vote of 14% sounds plausible on the evidence of polls over the last couple of years, I’m amazed that the core votes of Labour and the Tories are as low as 14% and 19%.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Apr '10 - 1:45pm

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