More voters think the Tories have broken their Coalition Agreement promises than think the Lib Dems have

Nick Clegg’s announcement on Monday – that the Lib Dems would end the party’s support for the boundary changes pledged in the Coalition Agreement in response to David Cameron’s failure to persuade his party to back the Lords reform pledged in the Coalition Agreement – has triggered a collective how-very-dare-he whine from the right-wing commentariat. Unreliable, betrayal, treachery… and those are some of the kinder words being uttered.

So what does the public think of the Lib Dems’ and Conservatives’ role in the Coalition: how far do they think the parties have stuck to their respective sides of the deal? Well, YouGov has asked the question, and here are the results:

Three specific points to note:

1) By 45%-30% voters are more likely to believe the Lib Dems have kept to their side of the deal than that the Tories have. (It’s quite another matter, of course, whether voters agree with what’s being done.)

2) A majority – 51% – of the public says the Tories have failed to stick to their Coalition Agreement promises. Just 32% of voters think the Lib Dems have reneged.

3) Even among Tory voters, by 44%-36% they are more likely than not to think the Lib Dems have stuck to the party’s side of the deal.

I realise there are many people – Lib Dem (ex-)voters and others – who will say that this shows the problem: the naive Lib Dems have stuck to their promises while the ruthless Tories have happily shed theirs when they don’t suit. I don’t (perhaps unsurprisingly) buy that explanation. But that Tory MPs’ first major breach of Coalition faith, on Lords reform, has earned a Cameron capitulation will likely embolden the right-wing to push further, to see what else they can get away with. And just as the results of their rebellion on Lords reform is to make a Tory majority at the next election less likely, so will further such attempts. Maybe it’s time Tory MPs started thinking through not only the consequences of their actions, but also what the public will think of them?

* 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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  • Have any questions been asked about whether they actually care though? It would be interesting to see how this relates to the public’s views on whether coalition works as a concept, and how, if at all, those views have changed.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Aug '12 - 10:33pm

    So, the public who always thought we were being taken for a ride, have now seen that we’ve realised we are being taken for a ride. The big question, which will affect the public view of our worth is: “What are the Lib Dems going to actually do about it?”

    Whether this will cut much ice as we head for the triple dip recession ,I know not.

  • Oh it’s in the same survey:

    “Asked how long they would LIKE the coalition to continue, 48% of people now say they would like it to end immediately. Obviously answers to this are largely partisan and include the vast majority of Labour supporters, but it also includes 26% of Conservative supporters and 22% of Liberal Democrat supporters.”

  • Guys; no matter how disaffected Labour and/or Tory voters are, they are never going to flip to Lib in the next election. It’s going to be a massacre and there is not a thing that can be done to avert it . Nick has been boxed in, and to some extent he has allowed this to happen.

  • Simon @ 8:54 – think you were right first time.

  • Those among the great British public who have an opinion on the issue would be forgiven for thinking that it is in fact the Lib Dems who are reneging on their promise. Namely that boundary changes would be backed in return for the AV vote. Next we have the Lords reform, which in all honesty looks like Cameron AND Clegg being defeated by Tory rebels.
    No where here am I seeing nasty Tories can’t keep a promise. What makes it look worse for you is that Clegg behaved in the most child like manner by declaring he won’t play ball anymore.

    There is also the small fact of the offered, then denied referendum on the EU, that makes the Lib Dems like liars, prepared to say anything, but not to deliver.

  • Peter Watson 9th Aug '12 - 10:02am

    I think your article might be reading too much into one result in a survey carried out in the immediate aftermath of the climb-down over Lords reform. This survey was carried out while the news was reporting the issue of Clegg’s response to Cameron’s tory rebels breaking the coalition agreement, and against a backdrop of Lib Dems being portrayed as tory lapdogs. What would the survey have said after the tuition fees vote? What would it say now that Cameron has responded about boundary changes? What would it say in month’s time when people have forgotten this particular story? What is the effect on voting intention? (yes, I know the latest you-gov figures are better than the previous ones but don’t get excited yet, one poll does not a summer make)
    I think Aaron and Tony hit the nail on the head though. Do voters really care about which coalition partner is more to blame for the internal squabbles? And if the Lib Dem leadership has finally cottoned on, what will they do about it?

  • I’m perhaps one of those voters who you might call a “floater”. I’m interested in Politics and hence find myself here. I have one question… I’ve read the Coalition Agreement and if I’m right I believe it says…

    “We will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more
    equal sized constituencies.”

    Does this not mean that the Tories held up their side of the agreement. As it seems to be that the Lib Dems got the AV vote which was promised and it strikes me that the boundry vote should be the “pay off” for that. I just take issue with the posters “Tory MPs’ first major breach of Coalition faith”. As someone who needs to think about where to put my cross. It seems to me you guys are breaching the agreement. However I’m happy to be corrected.


  • The possibility of a Tory majority after the next election looks remote, and even in the event of a hung Parliament the possibility of Lib Dems once again endorsing a coalition with the Tories also looks less & less likely (you let us down last time, so why shld we both with you again?). The picture may well look gloomy for us, but at least we don’t expect to win elections(!), for the Tories it’s looking pretty grim… they haven’t won an election for 20 years and that looks like a number that will rise & rise. Added to all that, I suspect that if they went back into opposition then there would be the kind of search for purity that opposition parties sometimes descend into. It won’t be pretty. Of all three parties, the outlook for the Tories looks worst of all. And they only have themselves to blame, for blocking Lords reform.

  • Leaving aside the fact that the 81% No re the Tories from Labour sympathisers completely skewed the result, what does that tell us about what really matters – voting intentions at the next general election?
    Indeed, if the Lib Dems are so easily betrayed in a coalition and have no possibility of forming a government on their own, would not many voters decide the party is irrelevant?
    And refusing to back boundary changes which all parties recognise to be currently equitable completely undermines their fair play claim and so destroys their USP.
    I can’t see how this gives any joy to anyone but Labour.

  • Daniel Henry 9th Aug '12 - 2:23pm

    @ Jon

    We’ve already done what the coalition agreement quote said – voted through a bill with the boundary changes.

    Whether we vote to accept these boundary changes is another matter, not covered by the agreement. I know that’s a bit of a pedantic sophistry, but it matches the sophistry that Tories used as an excuse to rebel against lords return.

    We’re basically showing the Tories that there are consequences for reneging on the agreement, that they’ll lose something dear to them in the process. Don’t most contacts/agreements have sanctions/penalties for failing to hold to the deal?

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '12 - 12:13am

    @Jon and @Simon Shaw
    Perhaps we should listen to the wise words of Mr. Clegg on this particular point. In his evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill in February:
    Tristram Hunt: Am I right in thinking that the coalition agreement suggested that a draft House of Lords Bill would come forward, so in terms of the coalition agreement just a draft Bill was all that was required?
    Mr Clegg: Yes.

    Equally, the Lib Dem MPs who (rightly IMHO) honoured their pledge to vote against increasing tuition fees broke the coalition agreement more explicitly and earlier than any of the tory rebels.
    Voting for measures in the CA is only mentioned explicitly twice: Lib Dems would be able to abstain over tuition fees, and both parties would whip their MPs to support the bill for an AV Referendum and boundary changes. Does this mean there is tacit approval of MPs to withdraw their support for other items?
    I don’t think this issue is as black and white as many seem to paint it. The coalition agreement was cobbled together behind closed-doors by politicians in a few days and was never presented to the electorate or debated publicly in the same way as each party’s manifesto before the election. As evidenced in the last few days, people interpret the CA in different ways, arguing about whether the letter of the law has been upheld if not the spirit, whether there is an unbreakable implicit link between every item, whether a commitment to bring forward a bill or form a committee is the same as a commitment to vote for the bill or the recommendations of the committee, etc. Whilst valuable as a statement of intent for the inevitable deals required for coalition government, I do not believe it should trump promises made to voters or bind our MPs to vote a particular way before a bill has even been published and debated. The coalition agreement was not divinely delivered on tablets of stone and is not immutable: if MPs on both sides find themselves unable to support parts of it, perhaps it is the agreement that is at fault.

  • @ Daniel – I think you’re right, it’s implied. This is why come 2015 we’re gong to be left without a viable 3rd choice between the two major parties – noone is going to look at us for decade after this disaster.

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '12 - 10:39am

    Two questions:
    1. A significant number of our MPs (rightly IMHO) honoured an election pledge and broke the coalition agreement to vote against tuition fees. Why do we believe we have the right to retaliate when tory MPs do the same (even though they are wrong IMHO)?
    2. The coalition only explicitly refers to whipping for support of one bill: that which coupled an AV referendum and boundary review. It does also refer to forming committees, introducing bills, etc. Was it accurate and carefully drafted, in which case why do we now insist it compels all coalition MPs to vote in a particular way; or was it intentionally vague or clumsily written, in which case why do we treat it as though it were divinely scribed in tablets of stone?

  • Nigel Quinton 10th Aug '12 - 12:08pm

    ‘I realise there are many people – Lib Dem (ex-)voters and others – who will say that this shows the problem: the naive Lib Dems have stuck to their promises while the ruthless Tories have happily shed theirs when they don’t suit. I don’t (perhaps unsurprisingly) buy that explanation.’

    Stephen, (unsurprisingly 😉 ) I don’t believe it is quite as simple as you portray it. It is not that we have stuck to promises where the Tories have not, it is that the Coalition Agreement was just that, an agreement, and like all agreements or contracts is subject to changing circumstance and what in business we refer to as “Variation Orders” which is where contractors almost always make their money. With their larger number of MPs and Ministers, the Tories have been able to play that game much more successfully than have the Liberal Democrats. One might call it naivety on the part of Nick Clegg’s leadership (and its advisers) or one might be more generous and admit it was inevitable. Personally I think that in hindsight even Nick ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’ Clegg must admit the first two years of coalition have been much better managed by the Tories than by his team.

  • Simon Shaw

    Is this from the same poll that shows VI for your party in the very low teens at best and also the approval rating of your leader at around -50%

    From the same poll it seems that the majority of polled want the Coalition to finish within the next couple of years and a substantial number of LD want the same thing

    I think that this is what actually matters! It seems that the electorate are noticing other things as well!

    The Tories will not lose many votes for breaking the Coalition Agreement, whereas I think your party would have done so

    We all know the Tories and Labour are duplicitous but LD are seen as being duplicitous and weak.

    It is dangerous to quote polls selectively

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '12 - 3:59pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “That seems to me to be the electorate “noticing” something.”
    But only while Nick Clegg is on TV saying he is doing this because the tories have broken the coalition. In the following days, weeks, 2.5 years, … as the tories and right-wing press respond, or people just forget, will they think the same?
    And even if they think the tories have broken the coalition agreement, do they think that is a good or a bad thing? People on this site are claiming that our party breaking the coalition agreement in retaliation shows we are united under strong leadership, so who knows what fanciful beliefs people might have about the tory position?

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