ComRes poll: Vince leadership would boost Lib Dem fortunes

It’s not often that polling companies ask how alternative Lib Dem leaders would impact the party’s popularity — in fact, I’m struggling to recall a single example — but ComRes has asked what difference Vince Cable leading the party would have on its fortunes. Here’s the result:

ComRes/Independent poll: party voting intentions by leader

Current Voting Intention - name of party only Current Voting Intention - name of current leader and party Current Voting Intention - name of current leaders for Con / Lab, Vince Cable for Lib Dems
Conservative3535 (n/c)34 (-1)
Labour4239 (-3)38 (-4)
Lib Dem1214 (+2)18 (+6)
Others1112 (+1)10 (-1)
Conducted 31st August and 2nd September 2012; published 3rd September 2012.

Two findings of note:

1) There would, according to this poll, be a small but significant boost to Lib Dem fortunes if Vince Cable were party leader. The headline rating for the party is 12%; this increases to 14% with Nick Clegg named as Lib Dem leader alongside his Labour / Tory counterparts; and is boosted still further to 18% when Vince Cable is given as the alternative Lib Dem leader.

2) Ed Miliband is a notable drag on the Labour ticket. While Nick Clegg’s and Vince Cable’s names boost the Lib Dems’ standing according to these figures, Labour support drops back when Ed Miliband’s name is mentioned as Labour leader.

I’m generally sceptical of these hypothetical polls. As UK Polling Report’s Anthony Wells remarked a month ago when similar surveys were showing how Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Tories might impact on their fortunes:

The [other] thing to consider is quite how hypothetical these questions are! In many cases we are asking about politicians who the general public know very little about – apart from very well known politicians like party leaders and Chancellors of the exechequer many other ministers – even cabinet ministers – are almost complete unknowns to the majority of people. Even when a politician is relatively well known, like Gordon Brown pre-2007 or Boris Johnson now, people answering questions like this don’t know what they would do as a party leader, what sort of mission and narrative they’d set out, what policy priorities they’d follow, and all these things could change how they are viewed.

Quite. I am a big fan of Vince Cable as business secretary, a cabinet minister who gets that true economic competitiveness is not the same as giving business everything it asks for. That does not mean I think he is necessarily the answer to Lib Dem prayers. As I wrote earlier this summer:

Would he be a successful Lib Dem leader? I’m unconvinced. Though he has that rare ability to speak to the full spectrum of Lib Dems – an Orange Book liberal who prefers the label ‘social democrat’ – he has a habit of springing surprise announcements on the party, from his hasty welcome of the Browne Report’s fee-hiking recommendations to his proposal for a ‘mansion tax’ launched without any consultation at the party’s 2009 conference. It’s the kind of behaviour more forgiven if you’re not leader.

On the balance of probabilities, I still think Leader Vince an unlikely outcome. But it cannot be ruled-out entirely. If it came to pass, it would be (among other things) a massive irony, for it is Nick Clegg’s breaking of the Lib Dems’ tuition fees pledge which remains – as Iraq was for Tony Blair – the issue that continues to define him for much of the public. Yet who was the architect of that policy U-turn? It’s that man Vince again.

* 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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12 Comments

  • If Nick is such a drag on the Lib Dem vote, why does the poll ratings go up when his name is mentioned?

  • It may well only be a a few (literally 2 or 3) respondents depending on sample size so debatable if it is statistically signfificant.

    I am highly sceptical that naming Nick as leader wins us support from Labour as the single commonest thing for people to mention as a reason for not voting for us his him (that’s anecodtal/doorstep based and ignores the much large group of people who dont’ name a reason)

    @Stephen – is Cable an Orange Book liberal? As opposed to being someone who wrote for the Orange Book (eg Stephen Webb wrote for that book and I don’t think anyone has suggested he is an “Orange Booker”)

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Sep '12 - 10:59pm

    Possibly the reason for the disparity of support for he Lib Dems in the two scenarios is not anything to do with Vince’s merits, he is simply ‘AN Other we’ve heard of’?

  • David Allen 3rd Sep '12 - 11:29pm

    “he has a habit of springing surprise announcements on the party”

    Bit like Nick then!

  • Richard Dean 3rd Sep '12 - 11:45pm

    There seems to be an arithmetic error. In the third column, for Con, Lab, and Othe, the plus or minus number is obtained by subtracting the first column from the first number in the third column. If this is done for the LibDems as well, the answer is +6%, not +4%.

    Am I right? If this is the standard of ComRes arithmetic, I don’t think we should believe the poll!. Perhaps Mr Gove can explain?

  • And very like Paddy Ashdown! No sorry, Paddy is the champion all time springer of surprises.

  • paul barker 3rd Sep '12 - 11:57pm

    As every spokesperson for one of the polling firms says, when asked – polls are meant to be a snapshot of where things are now, they are not meant to be used as a predictive tool. The sillines of trying to predict the real worls using polls is magnified when voters are asked to compare an actual leader with some other chap who seems vaguely familiar. The phrase “voodoo polling” was intended precisely for this sort of thing.
    If we allow ourselves to be swayed by this sort of thing we will demonstrate that we arent ready yet.

  • Vince is clearly more respected than Clegg(not difficult) . But what would he actually do differently ? Would he take the Lib Dems into a confidence and supply arrangement , now there’s no tenable case for staying hitched . Or is he too, wedded ideologically to the Tories, as the other right-wing Orange Bookers’, Clegg , Alexander and Laws are?

  • @Hywel – good point about Clegg and Labour, but this may just be the political ignorance of some Labour leaning voters. There are people out there who voted for us because Labour wasn’t tough enough on immigration oor because Mandelson was gay!
    Any potential 50% increase (12 to 18 points) in our vote is worthy of consideration. Or even a 28.5% increase (14 to 18).

  • Who pays ComRes? What is their real intent in publishing this stuff? Were the questions they asked merely designed to produce the stats that would support their client’s thesis?
    If, or rather when, the LibDem Leadership comes up for election, Vince will certainly not be in the running. Just look around and see the other potentials in the wings.. we have some greats in the making, but none of them are ‘positioning themselves’ at present. They are close enough to know that Nick is not about to step down, – nor should he!

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