LDVideo EXCLUSIVE: “The Lost Liberal Democrat Votes”

Here’s a fascinating 7-minute video from documentary producer Ed Stradling looking at “The lost Liberal Democrat Votes” – and what the party can do to win them back by 2015. Ed’s not a Lib Dem member, so when I asked him what had prompted him to make this short film, here’s what he told me:

I’m not a party member, in fact I’ve never even voted for the Lib Dems, although I may have done had they ever stood a chance in any of my constituencies. However, I do think the Lib Dems have done a fantastic job in Government, and come 2015 I would certainly favour a Lib-Con coalition over an outright Tory Government, just as I’d favour a Lib-Lab coalition over an outright Labour Government. I think the political consequences of joining the Coalition have been terribly unfair on the Lib Dems and I guess that is the main motivation for the video – it’s always struck me as crazy that the Lib Dems should be punished by the left-sided voters for taking a decision which is clearly better for them, than the almost certain alternative of a Tory majority in a second 2010 election.


(Watch it on YouTube here.)

* 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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63 Comments

  • James Moore 7th Feb '14 - 3:54pm

    Really good concise appraisal of what happened in 2010. This guy made a load of Doctor Who documentaries so it’s hardly a leap of faith for him to make one about the Lib Dems 🙂

  • Yet another “theorist” who accepts the “greek collapse” story. Many economists simply don’t accept that, and to be honest, the Lib Dems should have had a few cool heads who didn’t either. Clearly, the “second general election” idea would have been difficult.

  • Frank Booth 7th Feb '14 - 4:47pm

    Yet again we have this myth of a second general election leading to a Tory majority. Says who? Cameron certainly wasn’t so convinced, If he was, why do you think he was so keen on a coalition? Labour would have fought the election under a new leader – not Gordon Brown – who would be more appealing and not as tainted by his record in government.

    As for Greece!!!!!!!! We were not and never likely were to become Greece for various reasons. As the great liberal economist John Maynard Keynes made clear you don’t embrace draconian austerity after a financial crisis unless you really need to. Having a 5 year deficit plan when gilts were at record low rates was beyond silly. As Osborne told David Blanchflower though – it’s political.

  • I’m not watching it all again, but I don’t think Greece was even mentioned in that video, was it?? So why are people banging on about Greece? I think perhaps the reporter over-states the certainty of a Tory majority in any second election, I’d say it was likely, but not “overwhelmingly” likely. The printed quotes about Labour having no money left were interesting.

  • The Lib Dems were right to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010. But let’s not kid ourselves. No -one knows what the results of an October 2010 would have been. A Labour majority is just as plausible as a Tory one. I think though we can be reasonably sure that the electorate would have punished the Lib Dems severely for walking away from power in May.

  • The 2010 election was the Tories best shot, They went into shock when could form a majority. That’s why they jumped at a coalition with such speed. The tories are a party with an aging voter base and boundaries working against them. They did about as well as they were ever going to do,
    Britain was never in danger of emulating Greece and in fact growth levels have been lower under Osbourne than they were when Darling left office for most of this parliament,
    I’ve have some sympathy with the more psychological aspects of the analyse, but would point out that the Lib Dems had a high proportion of voters in the groups most effected by the Tories phony emergency budget and that you can’t really expect people who feel attacked to see the big picture. For them the deal was not about tempering Tory excess, it was and is about hard reality.
    And to be honest, it’s hard to say where exactly the Tories have really been restrained by the Lib Dems when you look at the Bedroom tax and various other hard right economic policies. I do think that the Lib Dems will recover and may not do as badly as some predict in 2015.

  • Ed Strading has made an interesting video which has merit because it clearly expresses why the Liberal Democrats entered into this coalition government. If we had not entered into coalition there would have been a second general election and the most likely outcome would have been fewer Liberal Democrat MPs. However the issue of tuition fees is not addressed. How can we canvass for MPs who pledged not to increase tuition fees but have done so? These MPs broke their word, proven we are not different to other political parties and brought the party into dispute and the party has not cleaned them out.

    I think the situation might even be worse because some MPs who made the tuition fee pledge didn’t believe in it and had tried to remove it from party policy. They are doubly dishonest.

  • Paul Pettinger 7th Feb '14 - 6:41pm

    I think the assumption that the Tories would have almost certainly won an election six months later, when they failed to win outright and when Labour would have soon replaced Gordon Brown, is all rather fanciful. The film makes some good points, but Nick Clegg is the obstacle to wining back disaffected voters and because of things like back slapping in the rose garden; saying that the Govt’s policy on tuition fees was better than his Party’s; allowing NHS marketisation and campaigning against the Tories more aggressive approach to deficit reduction and then saying after the election that there is no other alternative to it. We can’t get our message across while Nick Clegg remains leader.

  • The simple truth is – we have set out to be representatives of “the new politics” – something radical, green, a new approach to economics etc. This has been our pitch over many years. Then the moment we are offered a little slice of Government action, we are suddenly “centrist” and clearly part of the existing, “old” politics. Is it any wonder there are many disaffected voters. What Ed Stradling fails to put over properly (perhaps because he doesn’t believe it?) is that many of the former tactical voters are also disaffected, so winning many of them back is perhaps an even bigger task than winning the “Disaffected Liberal / Lib Dem” voters.

  • Haha, like James Moore my first thought was “Wow! *The* Ed Stradling of Doctor Who DVDs fame!”.

  • Amalric 7th Feb ’14 – 6:35pm rghtly asks —
    “…How can we canvass for MPs who pledged not to increase tuition fees but have done so? These MPs broke their word, proven we are not different to other political parties and brought the party into dispute …”

    But tuition fees are not the only example. How can we canvass for MPs who pledged no new nuclear power stations and no subsidies to nuclear power? At general election after general election we have stood as the opponents of new nuclear power, we took the votes of those who wanted safe,clean alternative energy sources. Did we stick by those voters? Did our MPs keep their pledge? Ed Davey tells us he “changed his mind” — but he did not tll us or the voters until after the ministerial car was on the way to collect him and whisk him off to hs splendid new life as a Cabinet Minister. So who should those opponents of nuclear vote for now? Certainly not Ed Davey.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Feb '14 - 11:25pm

    If we came across as a reasonable party who looks at things from every angle then I think we would win elections easily. The answer is not to become an economic liberal party who fails to challenge the powerful or to become a left party that is anti merit and responsibility.

    There is no need to panic.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Feb '14 - 11:36pm

    The party of IN campaign worries me though. We won’t get a landslide victory by looking like a PRO EU think tank. Our ambitions should be high.

  • Stuart Mitchell 8th Feb '14 - 9:40am

    “it’s always struck me as crazy that the Lib Dems should be punished by the left-sided voters for taking a decision which is clearly better for them, than the almost certain alternative of a Tory majority in a second 2010 election.”

    This is twaddle. By and large, left-leaning voters did not turn on the Lib Dems because the party entered coalition with the Tories; it was because of *the way* they entered coalition with the Tories. For a couple of days back in May 2010, Nick Clegg was a genuine hero to myself and other left-leaning voters because we were delighted he was going to save us from the worst excesses of the Tories. All that goodwill evaporated during the rose garden love-in. I suggest Stradling (and in-denial Lib Dems) go back and look at the video of that if they really want to understand why the left turned on the Lib Dems.

  • nvelope2003 8th Feb '14 - 11:30am

    The problem with oppositionist parties like the Libereal Democrats and the Labour Party is that they promise all sorts of nice things to get elected knowing full well that they will be unlikely to be able to implement them in office. As they felt they were unlikely ever to achieve office the Liberal Democrats could go even farther in this than the Labour Party. Did anyone seriously believe that tuition fees would be abolished or that nuclear power stations would be closed ? If they did then they must be very credulous. The lesson from this disaster is to stick to things that are possible but I guess many on the centre left are very credulous so that will not happen.

  • Steve Mitchell has it right

    I am one of those ‘lost’ voters (which puts me at an advantage over the writer of the article) – voted for every election since 87 apart from 97 when voted Labour.

    I voted LD because I do happen to believe education should be funded from general taxation, that we should reduce dependence on nuclear fuel, believe in equality of opportunity, a more equitable distribution of wealth, voting reform, the state acting for the people and not the other way round etc etc…I do have more some radical views such as the abolition of the monarchy, breaking of the ‘old boy’ network at the head of our institutions but realise these are not as widespread

    These I still think may be core values for a number of LD (although a shrinking number reading some of the posts on here) but not with the current leadership and not since the support of the excesses of this current administration. The behaviour of the Government over the last few days during the floods and the complete absence of logic is a case in point. Not a peep from the LD apart from tacit support by Clegg

    The fact that Clegg thought is appropriate to bring back laws into Government just emphasises the lack of understanding of the leadership

    If you want my vote back – which personally I don’t think you do as I have been frequently insulted by your members/representatives on this site – then you need to remove the leadership and get back to the policies from before the orange book economic liberalism became the new party ethos

    Personally, I don’t this that you are interested in getting back those ‘lost’ voters because they are mainly on the left of the political spectrum and you make it pretty clear here your disdain for us.

    We will see if you are right come May 2015 – perhaps as paul barker continually informs us that Labour are on the verge of collapse and you will attain 25% vote share.

  • Ed Stradling 8th Feb '14 - 1:27pm

    Michael – thanks for the comments. I actually offered my services to direct a Party Political Broadcast along similar lines of argument, but heard nothing. Amused that there are some Dr Who fans on here BTW 🙂

  • Nick Collins 8th Feb '14 - 1:48pm

    Even if one accepts the argument in the video; which is basically a rehash of what was said at the Birmingham Conference in 2010 and has been repeated, ad nasueum, by LibDem apologists ever since; it does not excuse the abysmal performance of LibDems in government nor the enthusiasm with which they have supported a whole raft of Tory and illiberal legislation. That’s why many centre-left voters have left them and why I , for one, hope that those centre-left voters will neither forgive nor forget.

  • Julian Critchley 8th Feb '14 - 3:42pm

    Stuart Mitchell above gets this spot on. I’m one of the “disaffected” category as per the video, and yet I didn’t leave because of the coalition being formed. As a 20+ year Liberal member, I was ready for the necessity of coalition with the Tories. I left because of what the LibDems in power allowed to happen or helped to happen.

    I voted for a party which was largely Keynesian, which refuted the idea of deepening recessions with huge public spending cuts, which supported the concept of well-run public services, and which sought to protect the weakest and most vulnerable. I suddenly found I was in a party which was doing the reverse. For me it wasn’t even student loans; it was the enthusiastic adoption of a very right-wing economic strategy of shrinking the state, even if the cost of that was to make the recession (which always hits poorer people harder than richer people) both deeper and longer than it needed to be. That’s before we even consider the decisions to privatise the NHS and the post office, slash social security and attack public sector workers.

    You’ll notice I didn’t leave because of forming the government, or even the tuition fees disaster. I left because I found myself in a party which was suddenly economically significantly further to the Thatcherite right than it had ever publicly stated pre-2010. Party bosses can kid themselves that the 2/3rds of 2010 voters who have gone were all irresponsible “protest voters”, but actually every ex-LibDem I know who left was a thoughtful individual, who had made a positive choice to support the LibDems as offering a non-Thatcherite economic alternative without the authoritarianism of traditional Labour. It was the abandonment of that stance which drove us away. And we won’t be coming back unless and until the Orange Bookers cede control and a centrist economic backbone is once again the platform.

    Of course, the remaining rump of the party may well say good riddance, and – like the Orange Bookers – start claiming TINA. In which case, I guess they’ll be very proud of their single figures result next year, as the LibDems lose more than half their seats.

    Still far too much head in the sand in the LibDem leadership. Eastleigh may turn out to be a disaster for the party, because it allowed too many people to pretend not to see what they don’t want to see : there’s no room in British politics for a third Thatcherite party.

  • Steve Griffiths 8th Feb '14 - 6:33pm

    I am in agreement with the comments of Stuart Mitchell, bcrombie and Julian Critchley above. I have felt recently from comments here on LDV that we former Lib Dem lefties are only required to return and one again campaign for the party, if we swallow the new leadership orthodoxy of the Orange Book and soggy centrism. My party right or wrong? No, no NO!

  • @Ed Stradling

    Cheques, Lies and Videotapes stands as one of the all-time great Who special features, Brought back so many memories of getting bootleg VHS tapes of unreleased episodes through the post – the sheer excitement of having a bootleg copy of Web of Fear 1…the teenage me’s head actually exploded.

    @Nick Collins

    It would also be terribly undemocratic to deny the fact that the Tories won more votes than anyone else and that LibDems form only 20% of the Government and hold 8% of seats. In what possible world could the LibDems ever block every single thing? I’d far rather we were in government not allowing the Tory right back-benches run riot of the agenda. A perfect world, far from it. But this or a Tory majority government, I know what a I prefer – especially during a time of financial crisis.

  • Nick Collins 8th Feb '14 - 8:23pm

    @ ATF There was no majority in the country for the Tory programme which this government has delivered. There ought to have been no majority for it in the House of Commons. I say that for two reasons:
    1) the Liberal Democrats lost seats in the 2010 election. As such , they had a negative mandate; they had not earned the right to enter into government.
    2) The programme which this government has delivered and its direction of travel bear iittle or no relation to the party’s campaign messages prior to the election. It follows, therefore, that those who voted LibDem did not vote for, this governmentl’s programme. (Therein , by the way, lies a simple explanation for much of the LibDem party’s loss of support )

    Far from tempering the excesses of Cameron, Lansley, Pickles,Gove,and Duncan-Smith, the LibDems have provided them with the parliamentary majority which they did not earn but which they needed to push their baleful programme home

    @ Julian Critchley. Exactly. To repeat
    “I didn’t leave because of forming the government, … . I left because I found myself in a party which was suddenly economically* significantly further to the Thatcherite right than it had ever publicly stated pre-2010”

    * not just “economically”, in my view.

  • Nick Collins 8th Feb '14 - 8:27pm

    Sorry about the typos.

    The third sentence in my 2) above should read
    It follows, therefore, that those who voted LibDem did not vote for this government’s programme.

  • @ bcrombie I agree we need to get rid of the Orange book ethos. I am disappointed that you have been insulted by people on this site and a little surprised as I share some of your views and have never been insulted here. I want your vote back.

    @ Julian Critchley I shared your view of the party and hate the fact that the leadership has enthusiastic adopted the idea that cutting the deficit is the best way to get out of an economic recession. I will stay and support those who wish to restore our values to our economic policy.

    However I am not sure how big a portion of our lost voters are because the leadership enthusiastically ditched our economic policy to embrace the Conservative one. Also as we come out of the recession it is difficult to change the leadership’s position and still gain credit for the recovery.

    Of course if all the MPs who broke their pledge on tuition fees were expelled from the party for bringing it into disrepute we would have a different leadership for the general election.

  • Ed Stradling 8th Feb '14 - 9:52pm

    I’m afraid ATF (clearly a person of taste) is right. To say “I had no problem in forming the coalition, but I can’t forgive the party for implementing so many Tory policies” is obviously ridiculous in circumstances where the Tories make up roughly 75% of the Government. However, just because it’s ridiculous doesn’t mean it’s not how people feel. People aren’t always terribly logical.

  • Ed Stradling

    Unfortunately your reply shows why you don’t understand….it is not obviously ridiculous because a lot of things that have been supported were not in the Coalition Agreement (top down reorganisation, nuclear energy etc, etc.) and also the How is as important as the What – and in that the LD have been let down by their leadership.

    I am quite tired of being told that I am being ridiculous by LD members – and also from you who admitted to not even voting for them!

    Almaric, there are some posters on here who seem to treat LD voters with disdain – but I will try to ignore them – people like you and various others on here remind me that the LD Party as existed previously is still the best option out there and I hope that post-2015 I can return my vote to your party. Whilst the current leadership is there – no chance and I wait to see what follows after.

  • “To say “I had no problem in forming the coalition, but I can’t forgive the party for implementing so many Tory policies” is obviously ridiculous in circumstances where the Tories make up roughly 75% of the Government.”

    Not really, if they’re talking about policies that weren’t in the coalition agreement. That was the basis on which the coalition was formed, and the basis on which the party approved it. The leadership had neither any obligation to the Tories nor any authority from the party to implement all the additional Tory policies in which it has been complicit since then – NHS ‘reforms’, secret courts, bedroom taxes and all the rest.

  • Julian Critchley 8th Feb '14 - 11:25pm

    @Ed

    I think I take a rather different view of coalition from you, based on this comment. I don’t see a coalition as a Buggins’ turn approach to policy – you deliver 4 of yours and we’ll deliver 1 of ours. No party obtained a majority either I votes or seats. It would be entirely logical, therefore, to argue that legitimacy only accrues to those policies which command the support of both coalition parties, because only then can one argue that they command a majority. There were some of those policies even from the start, and others which were open to negotiation. But the idea that policies were to be shared 20%-80% is what I’d term ridiculous.

    The Tories never saw the coalition deal this way, and happily moved to block all and any policies they really didn’t like. In other words, they acted as if a solely LibDem policy would be illegitimate, and killed off constitutional reform, mansion tax, etc. Interestingly, this now appears to be the position of the LibDems as they try to differentiate themselves, and now have no problem blocking policies popular within an increasingly unhinged Tory party.

    This is entirely proper. The disaster for the LibDems, and the reason why people like myself eventually felt forced to leave, was that rather than approach coalition in this regard, seeing their role as to represent the agenda which they had gone to the polls with, and serve the interests of their voters in Government, Clegg instead chose the Rose Garden love-in, and committed the party to implement, at huge cost to the party and the country, policies which bore no relation to the manifesto (savage deficit cutting), the wishes of the supporters (education policy) or even the coalition agreement (NHS privatisation). They did not need to. If they had blocked NHS privatisation, or Gove’s scorched earth of the state education system, or the top rate tax cut, then they would have represented the views of their voters, and the views of the majority of the country. THAT was the legitimate position. The ridiculous position was the one they assumed, which was to act as enablers to a minority, extremely right-wing, Tory government.

    You simply cannot state that on the one hand, the LibDems’ minority of votes and seats means they couldn’t implement their agenda, while at the same time maintaining that the Tories’ minority of votes and seats not only did give them the right to implement their agenda, but demanded that the LIbDems assist them in doing so, against the wishes of their own voters, and indeed the majority of the country ! That’s ridiculous, to use your phrase.

    The Orange Bookers embraced this savage right-wing government with enthusiasm, because they believe in these policies, not because of arguments about legitimacy. The markets weren’t going to crucify the UK economy if we didn’t introduce a bedroom tax, or privatise the NHS, or give our schools to Carpet Warehouse. Even Clegg can’t use the TINA argument on those policies. But he still enabled them. There was no need to. The only people who would have complained would have been the Tories. The rest of the country would have been cheering. But as we’ve seen, the people whose approval Clegg really wants are the guys he used to go to school with, clearly not the millions of us who voted for the policies he put forward in 2010.

  • Nvelope 2003 Are you a Tory? Are you seriously arguing that it is only Lib Dems and Labour who promise nice things at election time? Thatcher Right to Buy? Cameron Referendum on Europe? anyone. I must admit, I don’t think Major promised the Cones Hotline… But then major is “the most leftwing Tory I have ever known” (K Livingstone)

  • Julian Critchley 8th Feb ’14 – 11:25pm
    “……The Orange Bookers embraced this savage right-wing government with enthusiasm, because they believe in these policies, not because of arguments about legitimacy. The markets weren’t going to crucify the UK economy if we didn’t introduce a bedroom tax, or privatise the NHS, or give our schools to Carpet Warehouse. Even Clegg can’t use the TINA argument on those policies. But he still enabled them. There was no need to. ……”

    This shows why Julian Critchley and others are much needed back in the Liberal Democrats. Their insight and ability is needed to rebuild the party.

  • jbt – Referendum is “nice” for the many who pay little attention to the deeper “non- headline aspects of news, yes.

  • Ed Stradling 9th Feb '14 - 10:43am

    Bcrombie & Julian ,

    I made this video last year about the Secret Courts http://www.totalpolitics.com/blog/366577/watch-why-2-lib-dems-resigned-over-secret-courts.thtml

    So I do know how you feel.

    But answer me this. Which of the unpleasant policies to which you refer, do you think the Tories would NOT have implemented , had they been in Govt on their own?

    Answer., all and probably more besides.

    That is the point I am making.

  • Ed Stradling 9th Feb '14 - 10:55am

    You will also note that the LD vote share had collapsed before the NHS, or Secret Courts (which most voters don’t care about anyway), were announced.

  • Ed Stradling 9th Feb ’14 – 10:43am

    Your rhetorical question would be more convincing if we were not 15 months out from a General Election in which Liberal Democrats will go like sheep to the slaughter if Clegg remains leader. The Conservative Party will be the main beneficiary of a Liberal Democrat collapse. The likelihood of a majority Conservative Government after the next election has not been reduced by the coalition. The coalition has fostered the growth of the raving right within the Conservative party and the even worse extremes in the UKIP. You seem to see everything through the lense of 2010, but life and politics have moved on.
    Do you really want Liberal Democrats to fight the next election as if Cleggmania had been more than a five day wonder?

  • Nick Collins 9th Feb '14 - 11:10am

    @ Ed Stradling,

    Under Clegg’s leadership, the LibDems have positioned themselves, for much of the time, as enthusiastic supporters of “the unpleasant policies”, They are partners, not captives, in this government. Without LibDem support, the Tories would not have had a majority in parliament for those plicies.*

    That is why I find the point you are making, and which has been made by others repeatedly since 2010, totally unconvincing

    * You may argue that had Cameron gone back to the country later in 2010, he would have secured such a majority. That argument is, at best, “not proven”. The experience in situations where two elections have been called in quick succession (e.g. 1974) has been that the second election produces a result not hugely dissimilar to that of the first.

  • “You will also note that the LD vote share had collapsed before the NHS, or Secret Courts (which most voters don’t care about anyway), were announced.”

    Whatever gives you that idea? The NHS ‘reforms’ were announced on 12 July 2010 – only about halfway through the process of the Lib Dem vote collapsing. Undoubtedly they played a significant part in that collapse.

  • My main concern with the collapse of the LibDem vote,which I think is inevitable with Nick Clegg remaining leader.And not forgetting Danny Alexander appearing to go native with the Tories.Is the rise of UKIP and the xenophobes.A lurch to the far right with BNP type politics.Even we did not stop the awful ring us if you are a illegal immigrant vans.Which brought about attacks on legitimate immigrants,

    I think now the LibDems have lost their protest vote status,because now many see little difference between the LibDems and the Tories.Because Nick Clegg is obviously a awful negotiator.When we look at legislation that has been passed through in our name.ie,NHS and Welfare.

    The attack on the welfare state,the right winged press bias by a compliant BBC because they don’t want to be sold off.A lot of stuff on TV about benefits is pure propaganda.Like benefits street,were I believe residents were supplied with alcohol.No wonder they talked rubbish.

    If we don’t want to return to lost deposit status,Nick Clegg must go.

  • “But answer me this. Which of the unpleasant policies to which you refer, do you think the Tories would NOT have implemented , had they been in Govt on their own?”

    That’s absolutely irrelevant to the question of how the Lib Dems should have conducted themselves in coalition, and in particular whether they should have exercised a veto on all those Tory policies that weren’t in the coalition agreement.

    You are surely not suggesting that the Tories would have pulled out of the coalition in the Summer of 2010 and forced a second election if the Lib Dems had simply insisted on sticking to what had been agreed? And the Tories certainly wouldn’t have done so later than that, because Labour has had a lead in the polls since Autumn 2010!

  • Ed Stradling

    Nick Collin’s sums it up in his post

    I am sure the policies would have been implemented by the Tories. Fortunately though they did not win but also I did not vote for them as I know what they would do in Government. I grew up in the 80s and saw what they did then.

    LD have to take responsibility for what the go through the lobbies and vote for – not just blame the Tories

  • Julian Critchley 9th Feb '14 - 12:06pm

    @Ed

    Thanks for the reply Ed. I understand your point, but it is rather predicated on the idea that, had the LibDems not gone along with so much of the Tory agenda, then the Tories would have called another election and then ruled as a majority single-party government doing even more vile things than they already have.

    I see two problems with this argument :

    1) I see no reason to believe that the Tories would have won a working majority in a second election. In 2010, they fought an election against a shambolic Labour party, in the midst of a huge economic crisis, with a popular leader who had made all the right “de-toxifying” noises, and with the full-throated support of our corrupt right-wing press. Yet they still couldn’t gain a majority. One could very easily make the case that 6 months of minority Tory Government, reminding voters just what they hadn’t missed, as Tories appeared on camera to reveal the lack of actual detoxification in the party, could have seen them do rather worse. In such a position, the LibDems could have made the principled case that they were there to represent the views of their voters, not to facilitate Tory government, and in such a case would have been likely to retain or even add to their votes.

    2) If one accepted the argument that voters would have punished the LibDems for refusing to enter coalition with the Tories at a time of economic strife, one must accept the premise that more LibDem voters would have abandoned the party as a result of staying out, than have actually abandoned the party as a result of going in. Given that more voters have left than remain, that’s a mathematical impossibility. Yet leave that conundrum aside, and assume that plenty of the leavers, like me, initially accepted coalition and held their noses. Your argument is that the LibDems had to give the Tories what they wanted, or the coalition would have failed and another election would have taken place resulting in Tory government. Yet they didn’t. They had to give them what was in the coalition agreement. No more. No less. If the Tories had ended the coalition as a result of the LibDems refusing to allow the privatisation of health and education, or the violent assaults on the poor and disabled, then the very clear message the LibDems would have taken into the next election would have been “we refused to allow this right-wing agenda to pass”. Given how unpopular that agenda has proved to be in most cases, it is again a rather big leap to suggest that the Tories would have swept to a majority on the back of their inability to work within an agreed framework. By November 2010, just months after the election, the Tories slipped under Labour in the polls, and haven’t emerged above them since, flatlining on 32%, which is essentially their core loyalist vote.

    So in answer to your question, I would say that it’s based on a false premise, which is that without LibDem compliance, the Tories would have governed alone. I see absolutely no reason to buy this argument. There is no evidence that the Tories’ overall policy position is anything other than deeply unpopular with everyone bar their core loyalists. So the LibDems haven’t been restraining the Tories from worse, they have been enabling the Tories to do more than they could have done alone.

    That means that the bedroom tax, the longest, deepest recession, the attack on public services, the retreat from “green crap”, the “immigrants go home” rhetoric : this is all on the LibDems. The party IS responsible for this agenda in its entirety, and it cannot wriggle away by saying that it had no choice. There is always a choice. Voters recognise this, and that’s why the increased shrieks of differentiation are finding so little purchase in terms of increased support.

  • “To say “I had no problem in forming the coalition, but I can’t forgive the party for implementing so many Tory policies” is obviously ridiculous in circumstances where the Tories make up roughly 75% of the Government.”

    Of course, the other reason why that argument is so dangerous for the Lib Dems is that if there is any realistic possibility of a hung parliament it will be used against the Lib Dems by the Tories, to potentially devastating effect.

    They will say to voters wavering between the Tories and the Lib Dems, “If the Lib Dems form a coalition with Labour, it will be essentially a Labour government, because 75% of the MPs will be Labour.”

    And of course, Labour will be saying the converse to voters wavering between Labour and the Lib Dems!

  • Ed Stradling 9th Feb '14 - 5:01pm

    Completely agree that the argument in my video is entirely reliant on the premise that the Tories would have won a second election. But it’s heavily probable. That’s why I included the quotes about Labour being out of funding. It’s a crucial point. I’m sure there’s a Mandelson quote along similar lines but I couldn’t find it.

  • I don’t buy the fact that the Tories would have called a 2nd General Election and won.

    How long was it into this government before the Tories revealed their top down reorganization of the NHS which they had promised wouldn’t happen?

    The moment the public got one whiff of that happening, the Tories would have lost completely a 2nd election.

    I do not believe the British public would have given a mandate to any party who was going to do that to the NHS.

    The Liberal Democrats should not have supported that and it’s only through the support of Liberal Democrats that the Tories managed to push it through.

    A great proportion of former Liberal Democrat voters will not forgive the party for allowing that to happen along with many other issues people feel betrayed over.

  • matt: you have to be realistic, apart from the Tories having money to mount their campaign, they would be able to choose the moment for the election. In such circumstances Labour would have had the choice between fighting a second election with Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman or an undecided leader. Liberal Democrats would have taken a big hit for not being able to do what they advocate (coalition government) and for being responsible for increased economic uncertainty. Only a few months on the negatives associated with Tories in government would not have had time to build up, but there would have been a crescendo of noise about about the faults of the previous government.

  • I am struck by the repeated message that Clegg must go before Liberal Democrats have a chance of even starting to recover support . It is apparent from this thread and from other threads as well. This is coming from a growing number of people posting comments in LDV. It is not just ‘the usual suspects’.

    I would count myself amongst the usual suspects, but I have only been participating in LDV since October 2013. The calls for Clegg to go have been increasing. On a quick look back through the archive some of those callings for Clegg to go have made that comment and virtually no other during the last 5 months. But the number of different voices has been growing.

    Of course Ed Stradling’s views about 2010 are interesting but politics has moved on. Almost everybody in the Liberal Democrats was prepared to give Clegg the benefit of the doubt over the formation of the coalition in 2010. But how many are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt now? He has had his chance, he is now a liability.

  • Nick Colins 9th Feb '14 - 7:28pm

    @ Ed Stradling

    So why was it that Cameron chose to enter into a coalition with the LibDems rather than call a second election? Was it, at least in part, because by doing so he would put the LibDems exactly where he wanted them? He achieved the double benefit of positioning the LibDem Parliamentary Party as a “human shield” against his nuttier back benchers while destroying their electoral appeal in areas of the country where Tories had never been in any danger from Labour but had, since the 19990s, been facing a growing threat from the LibDems.

    It horrified me at the time and has amazed me ever since that the LibDem negotiators were apparently oblivious to the trap that was being laid for them and that only a handful of LibDem representatives at the Birmingham Conference voted against drinking from the poisoned chalice.

  • ed Stradling – Liam Byrne has claimed that his remark “no money” was a joke. Cannot be surprised, because I have almost no time for Byrne, David Laws seems to have little in the way of humour, so he probably wouldn’t have detected a joke!

  • There is more of those critical of Clegg than call outright that Nick Clegg should go. A year or so ago, I thought there was a good chance that Clegg would make way for a new leader before the full term of government. Now, I do not think that likely, not least because there is not an obvious contender to replace him.

    If Clegg stays on he will command a hearing on account of his position in government as well as Lib Dem leader. With poorer polls and an name unknown to most of the general public, I do not think a new leader would get much of a hearing.

    Clegg’s strategy is to go into the election claiming credit for stabilising and resetting the economy and to have prevented particular Tory policies such as further reduced taxes for the very well off and cutting inheritance tax. He will also claim credit for reducing taxation on the lower paid. With or without a new leader, I cannot think that going into an election whilst disavowing anything done in coalition is likely to appeal to anyone.

    The important issue for the party is to affirm its core principles and explain as best we and more importantly the leadership can, how they relate to policies and practice in government.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Feb '14 - 8:16pm

    @ matt – “I do not believe the British public would have given a mandate to any party who was going to do that to the NHS.”

    i think you overestimate how much people care about the changes made to the NHS.

    day by day, life goes on, the NHS still soldiers on and the sky does not fall in…

  • David Allen 9th Feb '14 - 8:39pm

    Ed Stradling
    “Completely agree that the argument in my video is entirely reliant on the premise that the Tories would have won a second election. But it’s heavily probable.”

    If it was that probable, why didn’t Cameron abandon talks, announce that they couldn’t reach a viable agreement with those awkward Lib Dems, and plan to fight and win that second election?

    Cameron had the choice between a sure-fire way of staying in government for a term, versus a chancy gamble. If he had gone for the gamble, and lost the second snap election, that would have been the end of his career. It was a risk he did not dare take.

    The Lib Dems did not recognise how much negotiating strength that position gave them. Or maybe they did not want to know. Cameron’s project, after all, was much the same as the Orange Booker project.

  • David Allen, the likelihood that the Tories would have won is predicated on the Lib Dems, despite advocating the virtues of coalition government, refusing to form a coalition. Had the Tories been seen to refuse to negotiate, this would have been taken as a strong negative that would have changed the odds significantly and justly enabled opponents to point to any economic negatives as a consequence of this decision. It is indeed likely that the money markets would have reacted unfavourably and added to the economic difficulties.

  • Ed Stradling 9th Feb '14 - 9:57pm

    The Tories were genuinely very frightened of the short term economic consequences of an unstable Government. We’ll never know if they were right to fear, or how badly the country would have been affected, but there’s no doubt that the fear of a serious backlash was very real.

  • Paul in Twickenham 9th Feb '14 - 10:08pm

    Like many other people here my own view is that in 2010 Mr. Clegg had no arithmetical choice but to enter a coalition with the Conservatives. I – like most of you – worked very hard during that election to secure Liberal Democrat votes and I did so in the full understanding that a Con/Lib coalition was the most likely outcome.

    The issue is what Mr. Clegg has done since then. We have seen Mr. Clegg deliver abject failure on the AV referendum and House of Lords reform. We have seen Liberal Democrat MPs (with a few honourable exceptions) vote in favour of profoundly illiberal measures such as secret courts and what are frankly punitive “reforms” targeting the poorest in society. We have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of a “pledge” reneged and a complete and unapologetic volte face on nuclear power. Where we should have had clear articulation of the distinctive, radical and Liberal manifesto on which we stood in 2010 we instead had mumbled, mixed messages and a perception of tacit consent for a Tory agenda.

    So now as Mr. Clegg seeks to step up his “differentiation strategy” by picking specious arguments with the Tories or by writing “right-on” comment pieces for the Observer, we have to ask why on earth he and his advisers think that this will be believed by the public or overcome a net personal rating of -53% as reported in today’s YouGov survey for The Sunday Times. Frankly, I don’t believe it will be. The only solution is for Mr. Clegg to go.

  • Martin,
    “David Allen, the likelihood that the Tories would have won is predicated on the Lib Dems, despite advocating the virtues of coalition government, refusing to form a coalition.”

    Yes, that’s a fair point. The Lib Dems would have justly been punished had they not tried to form a stable government. However, they could reasonably have demanded a better deal, and thus thrown the ball back into the Tories’ court. They would then have been blamed for a failure in negotiations only if their demands were judged excessive by the general public.

    As others have pointed out, many of the problems were not spelled out in the coalition agreement – instead they were things the Tories did which were left out of the coalition agreement, or skated over with dubious words. Ordinary observers can be forgiven for not spotting these details. The negotiators can not. The Lansley plan for the NHS was first of all hidden inside a couple of short ambiguous sentences in the coalition agreement, then launched in its full horror on an unsuspecting public only a few months after the election. The Lib Dems should have cried foul, preferably by spotting the dubious words in the CA, but if not then, at least when the full announcement was made. They didn’t. Why didn’t they? I would suggest that the Lib Dem chief negotiators knew perfectly well what was planned, and they didn’t object because they were quietly in favour of dropping Lib Dem policy and replacing it with Tory policy.

    But quite apart from that, the one obvious problem issue which WAS in the CA was tuition fees. The CA said that the Lib Dems might not get what they wanted, and would be allowed to abstain and see what they didn’t want get passed by default. Some observers might have thought that this meant some sort of compromise, for example the retention of fees but no increase. Well, we know better now. Clegg and colleagues must surely have known better at the time. Even Clegg cannot have been unable to ask what would happen. When he heard the answer, that the Lib Dem pledge was due to be blown sky high, why didn’t he refuse to accept that? One can only suggest – because he was quite happy to support the policy, because he never believed the pledge when he uttered it.

    A different leader, one who genuinely stood for Lib Dem independence from the Tories, would have demanded better terms from the Tories. Cameron would then have had either to concede, or to take the rap for the breakdown in coalition negotiations. As Martin indicates, Cameron would then have been at great risk, electorally and perhaps also in terms of the economic consequences.

  • We are stuck with Nick Clegg as party leader until after the next general election unless he along with all the other MPs is kicked out of the party for bringing it into disrepute. There is an argument that says he should be the one forced to defend the appalling record of the Liberal Democrats in government and their failure to stick to the coalition agreement and veto all Conservative ideas that we not included in the agreement. If we had done this then maybe some of our lost voters would still be with us. Not only couldn’t we keep to our manifesto promises but we couldn’t keep the government to only implementing the coalition agreement.

  • Gosh this is a lively debate. I too think the LibDems have done quite well in Govt overall, and very much agreed with Steve Coogan’s remarks in the video. I disagree with those who say it’s the LDs behaviour since forming the coalition that is the problem. For me, the real problem was right at the start in the Coalition agreement, with their selfish decision to prioritise the AV referendum over their tuition fees pledge. I am sure if they had made tuition fees a deal breaker but given up on the AV vote (which the Tories probably would have gone along with) they wouldn’t have lost so many votes. In the end, they threw away priceless bargaining chips on a referendum which they lost. That is my only real criticism of the LDs but it’s a very big criticism.

  • “The Lansley plan for the NHS was first of all hidden inside a couple of short ambiguous sentences in the coalition agreement, then launched in its full horror on an unsuspecting public only a few months after the election. The Lib Dems should have cried foul, preferably by spotting the dubious words in the CA, but if not then, at least when the full announcement was made.”

    It’s worse than that. Lansley’s plan actually contradicted what had been agreed. Not only the agreement that there would be no more “top-down reorganisations” of the NHS, but an explicit commitment to reform PCTs to include elected members. Two months later that was ripped up with Lib Dem agreement, and Lansley announced he was going to abolish PCTs altogether!

  • @jedibeeftrix

    “i think you overestimate how much people care about the changes made to the NHS.”

    I think you will find that every poll that has ever been taken these reforms has shown that the clear majority are against the reforms.

    Every Poll has shown that the Tories can not be trusted with the NHS.

    And the NHS is always one of the top priorities of most peoples concerns when it comes to elections.
    Hence the reason why Cameron lied when he told the electorate during his campaign there would be no top down reorganization of the NHS.

    The only party that has higher support for the NHS reforms are the Tories and even then there is no clear majority.

    Among Labour and Liberal Democrat inclined voters there is much opposition to these reforms.

    It is one area where the Liberal Democrats will be punished during the election campaign as rightly so many former voters will feel betrayed.

    You seem to think that people are not noticing any changes since the NHS reforms, well as one person who has to attend the Hospital regularly for medical problems, I personally have seen and been affected by the changes and there are many people up and down the country like me.

    This will be a big issue at the next election where the Tories are going to feel the Mud stick and the Liberal democrats will share the blame for allowing it to happen among their former supporters.

  • dean clarke 10th Feb '14 - 4:22pm

    I despair. As one who spent nearly 50 years voting and working for the Liberals and then Lib Dems I see no way back. The party has not had the guts or it seems desire to fight for the social agenda or the democratic one developed over that time. I am not interested in a romantic return to a party just because of its name as it has betrayed its ideals in so many areas. I would join in an instant a party that follows many of the ideas and ideals still sometimes written of here, especially on this thread by Julian Critchley.

  • Chris 10th Feb ’14 – 10:25am
    It’s worse than that. … ….Two months later that was ripped up with Lib Dem agreement, …

    Chris, one theory is that it was even worse than your description. Because it was not done with conscious Lib Dem agreement but was simply nodded through by Clegg who was too busy coping with the transition to his magnificent new role as DPM that he did not read through or understand what was going on.
    Lapsley had been plotting with senior DH mandarins for months and therefore had his top down reorganisation of the NHS planned before the Coalition Agreement was written. Clegg either did not read the relevant bit of the Coalition Agreement or did not understand what Lapsley was up to . Or maybe he was approving new business cards saying “Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister”. It was all such fun. He was jolly busy at the time doing all sorts of important DPM-type things. How could people possibly expect him to notice a top down reorganisation of the NHS ?

    All this is just a theory. Only Clegg could confirm the truth , maybe in his memories once he has resigned.

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