Exclusive: 62% of Lib Dem members back Coalition’s deficit policy & 60% back post-2015 cuts to eliminate deficit

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members responded, and we’ll be publishing the full results here over the next few days.

62% back Coalition’s deficit policy

LDV asked: Thinking about the government’s economic policies, which of the following best reflects your view?

  • 62% – Borrowing more at a time when we already owe so much will simply make matters worse, as the country will have to pay back even more money in the longer term. We have to bring the debt and the deficit under control even if it has some painful effects for the economy in the short term.
  • 22% – The government’s spending cuts and tax rises are hurting the economy. It should cut taxes, and/or cut spending less fast, even if that means we go on borrowing more for longer – because given how much we already owe, borrowing an extra few billion pounds cannot do much more harm.
  • 12% – Neither
  • 4% – Don’t know / No opinion

Overall there is strong support within our sample of Lib Dem members for the Coalition’s deficit-reduction strategy, with almost two-thirds of members broadly backing it.

Of the 12% who opted for ‘neither’ there were a variety of responses, but the most common alternatives put forward were (1) the Coalition needs to cut some public spending, but should not be afraid to increase investment in infrastructure which will boost the economy and deliver longer-term economic benefits; (2) a more radical re-shaping of public spending is needed (eg, scrap Trident); (3) there is scope to increase much further wealth taxes which could lessen public spending cuts; and (4) economic policy should be based on pragmatism, and adjusted to the economic data.

60% say yes to post-2015 cuts to eliminate the deficit

LDV asked: As a result of reduced growth forecasts, it now seems unlikely the Coalition Government will achieve its aim of eliminating the deficit over the lifetime of this parliament. Danny Alexander has indicated that the Liberal Democrats will probably need to go into the next election in 2015 promising nearly £30bn more austerity for a future government to balance the books. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Eliminating the deficit must remain a top priority, even if that means the Liberal Democrats have to commit to post-2015 cuts at the next general election.”

  • 60% – I agree
  • 32% – I disagree
  • 8% – Don’t know / No opinion

By a 2:1 margin, then, Lib Dem members believe it is important that the party holds steadfast to the Coalition’s stated priority for the next government to balance the books. However, it was also clear from the comments that members felt it was crucial that (1) the Lib Dems and Tories contest the next election as fully independent parties, and (2) the way in which the party chooses to eliminate the deficit will almost certainly differ significantly from the Tories’ manifesto choices. As one member noted in the comments, “This doesn’t mean we need to commit to the same fiscal position as the Tories. Just that we, and all parties, need to admit the reality of the situation.” In addition, a number of comments noted that, over three years away from the next general election, we cannot know now what the priorities in 2015 will be.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 9th and 13th December.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
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This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.
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21 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Dec '11 - 12:21pm

    No surprises here. Despite all the waffle about “economic” or “social” liberalism, the bottom line is that all liberals want social spending programmes and most recognise that in order to keep spending money on them in the long term, you must have money to spend in the long term.

    For your next round of surveys, I would like to see the first question amended to capture whether people are opposed to spending cuts per se, or merely think they should be done differently or over a longer period of time.

  • Mike Falchikov 14th Dec '11 - 1:07pm

    Well, here’s a cut for starters that we could make anytime after 2015 – scrap Trident, an immediate saving, I believe,
    of £16bn. And we should not seek a replacement of any kind . The idea of a wee “independent” British nuclear
    deterrent was always a bit dubious. It made some kind of sense during the cold war, but has long ceased to have
    any relevance to international peace-keeping – it’s just a piece of macho willy-waving – “my nuke’s bigger than yours”,
    except that of course it isn’t. Nobody has ever succeeded in explaining what difference a Trident submarine makes
    to the balance of power and the cost of Trident is bleeding dry the RAF in particular. What we need are smart up-to-date land, sea and air forces, capable of swift action for peace-keeping and conflict-resolution purposes. We can stay in Nato, by all means, but as Nick Clegg said a propos of the Euro fiasco something on the lines of Britain not wanting to be a little island floating in the mid-Atlantic. I say hear hear to that, but specially not with a silly little nuclear weapon we’ll never be able to even threaten to use.

  • As LibDems overwhelmingly back the government’s policy why, to paraphrase Paxman, should ‘joe public’ not just vote Conservative?

  • The argument from left wing economists is that by being willing to borrow more in the short term you inflict less damage on the economy and end up borrowing less money in the medium to long-term. History seems to bear this out. But whether this view is right or wrong (and after all the past is not a certain guide to the future) the coalition seems determined that it is a view that is not heard. So the first question seems designed to frame the debate in a Coalition friendly direction rather than a genuine attempt to canvas the views of the party.

  • .Liberal Neil…. I agree with you. I have yet to receive, from ‘pro-Tidents’ any scenario in which Britain could unilaterally use, or even threaten to use, our ‘independent nuclear capability’ ……..and, if there is an occasion where nukes are an option, our tiny contribution would make no difference.

    BTW this latest poll does not read well for LibDem prospects…. The perception is that Tory backbenchers have far more influence over the government’s European policy than Clegg does – 61% think that Eurosceptic backbench Tory MPs have influence over the government’s European policy, only 31% think that Nick Clegg has influence over it……..

    .

  • Nick (not that one) 14th Dec '11 - 2:36pm

    Damn, in the minority in my party again. Another reason to not renew my membership next year…

  • Tony Greaves 14th Dec '11 - 5:13pm

    This is a very depressing result. Perhaps people like me should just give up and enjoy the rest of our life.

    Tony Greaves

  • jenny barnes 14th Dec '11 - 5:20pm

    I was contacted by LD HQ and asked for additional contributions because “half our membership has gone”. Presumably that’s the left wing half, mostly. So 60 % of those who have so far not left the party think the coalition policies are not too bad. If the other 40% decide that it’s all a waste of time – than that would mean only 30% of the party still existed in a few years time. I thought it was quieter than usual at conference. Never mind fitting all the LD MPs in a minibus; you’ll be able to fit the party membership in a bendybus pretty soon.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Dec '11 - 5:54pm

    The argument from left wing economists is that by being willing to borrow more in the short term you inflict less damage on the economy and end up borrowing less money in the medium to long-term.

    Most economists agree that this is true some of the time and for some levels of borrowing, that excessive levels of borrowing will be counterproductive, and that so will a complete absence of borrowing.

    But whether this view is right or wrong (and after all the past is not a certain guide to the future) the coalition seems determined that it is a view that is not heard.

    The current government’s policy is to borrow vast amounts of money in the short term in order to inflict less damage on the economy and end up borrowing less money in the medium term of 5-7 years. So, the government agrees with those economists you describe, and has made this their top priority.

    What the government is unwilling to listen to is people who just say “I think the numbers should be More For Me” without coming up with any kind of concrete proposal.

  • Daniel Henry 14th Dec '11 - 8:00pm

    In the last election, all three parties had the same target of eliminating the deficit, the difference was how they went about it, e.g. tax rises, speed, etc
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn99.pdf

    I don’t see why the same wouldn’t apply to the next election too. All three parties will be looking to make £30bn in savings, the big question is how they’re going to do it.

  • Stephen Donnelly 14th Dec '11 - 8:49pm

    This is a very encouraging result. My concern is that it may not be reproduced within the policy making apparatus of the party.

  • Spirit of 56 15th Dec '11 - 9:05am

    A more interesting survey would be to add the views of those who have left the Lib Dems over the lat 18 months I have done. I am glad the majority of the remaining Party members support the economic policy they campaigned against in 2010 it proves I was right to leave. The Government is implementing Tory economics and is Europhobe, can someone tell me what is the poin of the Lib Dems? (and this is before talking about the was, I mean tuition fees) I joined the SDP to get away from the antoi European Labour Party in 1983 to end up in a Thatcherite Party was too hard to take!

  • Andrew Suffield 15th Dec '11 - 11:08am

    How, on the basis of 550 replies from a forum not necessarily representative of the membership as a whole, can you say that 62% of Lib Dem members back the strategy, or indeed, anything?

    They don’t. See the disclaimer at the bottom of the article, which appears in every one of these survey results that they regularly post.

    This is a misleading headline

    Yeah, it is a bit. They meant “members of this site’s forum” and not “members of the Lib Dem party”, and a person who wasn’t familiar with these surveys would read it the other way.

    Stephen, can we get that changed to say “Lib Dem Voice members”?

  • Simon Shaw write: “After all the current Government is “only” borrowing around £120,000,000,000 this year. I would love those who argue for a different policy to explain why we should borrow (say) £160,000,000,000 and who they think should lend it to us (and at what rate of interest).”

    Simon, it is perfectly possible to argue for a different policy without necessarily wanting to borrow more. You could, for example, alter the balance between spending cuts and tax rises. You could alter the distribution of spending cuts – for example, there has been ample evidence that councils in deprived areas of the north have taken a much bigger hit in terms of council funding reductions than those in the Tory shires of the south. You could change specific policies, such as the costly NHS reforms which were in neither party’s manifesto and which were scathingly criticised by the medical profession. Scrapping them would save billions.

    In short, it is perfectly possible to challenge parts of the coalition’s economic strategy without seeking spending increases or more borrowing.

  • @Mike Falchikov

    Once a technology has been developed it isn’t lost unless something better comes along or the civilization responsible for it collapses. The ability to retaliate in kind to something of such destructive force as a nuclear weapon is a very powerful deterrent against it’s use. Further technological and economic development will mean that every decade that passes will see new nations obtain the ability to create nuclear weapons. Sooner or later one of these nations won’t have peaceful intentions towards us and it will only be the fear that they have of being on a receiving end of a nuclear attack that will prevent them from launching one against us.

    As far of Britain’s concerned nuclear weapons have nothing to do with the balance of power, we don’t threaten or oppress states with them, we’ve fought plenty of wars without them, and make it clear that we won’t use except in retaliation of a nuclear attack upon us.

  • Mike Falchikov 17th Dec '11 - 5:44pm

    Charles,
    Yes, of course we’ve fought plenty of wars without nukes – never fought a war with them (though I suppose
    you’d have to accept that we acquiesced over Hiroshima and Nagasaki). So who actually at present is going
    to threaten us with nuclear weapons? (THe only conceivable justification for possession)
    But it isn’t about that really, is it? It’s about pretending to be a Great Power – and we’re not. I’d rather be a
    country that people respect e.g. does anybody suggest that e.g. Canada or Australia or Norway don’t pull their
    weight?

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