LDV post-conference members’ survey (2): ‘savage’ cuts, tuition fees, ‘mansion tax’ and the leadership

Over the weekend, Lib Dem Voice invited the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions about the party and the current state of British politics. Many thanks to the 200+ of you who completed it; we’re publishing the results on LDV over the next few days. You can catch up on the results of all our exclusive LDV members’ surveys by clicking here.

First up, LDV asked: In a media interview before the party conference, Nick Clegg spoke of the need for the Lib Dems to be “quite bold, or even savage, on current spending”. Do you agree with Nick’s assessment?

Here’s what you told us:

>> 46% – Yes, Nick was delivering a much-needed wake-up call given the state of the national finances
>> 48% – No, this kind of language is unhelpful, and doesn’t reflect the Lib Dems’ fiscal policies
>> 6% – Don’t know / No opinion

By the slimmest of margins, therefore, LDV-reading party members felt Nick’s language was unhelpful, and didn’t really reflect the party’s agreed economic policies. Interestingly, the close result almost exactly mirrored the split opinion of LDV’s general readership (not all of whom are party members by any means). Clearly it’s the kind of language that divides people – in itself not necessarily a bad thing; after all, Nick needs to have sharper elbows than Messrs Brown and Cameron to get noticed. Many of those who responded that the word ‘savage’ was poorly chosen nonetheless felt the principle behind Nick’s words was exactly right.

LDV then asked: On tuition fees, Nick Clegg said, “There is no question mark over the policy of the Liberal Democrats to scrap tuition fees. The only question mark is about when we can afford to scrap tuition fees.” What is your view?

Here’s what you told us:

>> 42% – The Lib Dems must include a firm commitment to abolish tuition fees as a priority in the party’s general election manifesto
>> 50% – The Lib Dems should make clear the party’s opposition to tuition fees, but acknowledge they may not be abolished immediately because of the need to cut back government spending
>> 8% – The Lib Dems should drop their opposition to tuition fees altogether
>> 1% – Don’t know / No opinion

In effect, the second proposition – we’ll abolish them when we can afford to – is the position Nick adopted, and it’s the preferred option of one-half of LDV-reading party members. However, there was very significant support, too, for the absolutist position that the abolition of tuition fees must appear as a priority in the party’s general election manifesto notwithstanding the current economic situation. I was struck reading the comments made in response to this question how firmly wedded is the Lib Dem membership to free education up to and including an undergraduate degree. Only a small minority – just one in 12 – favoured a reversal of the party’s policy of opposing tuition fees.

Next, LDV asked: Vince Cable has proposed levying a new household tax of 0.5% on the value of properties over £1m. Which of these statements best represents your own view?

Here’s what you told us:

>> 55% – I support the policy and think it will be a vote-winner
>> 12% – I support the policy but think it will be a vote-loser
>> 21% – I do not support the policy and think it will be a vote-loser
>> 9% – I do not support the policy but think it will be a vote-winner
>> 3% – Don’t know / No opinion

This shows that among LDV-reading party members:
* 67% support the ‘mansion tax’, while 30% disagree with it; and
* 64% think it will be a vote-winner, and 33% think it will be a vote-loser.

The comments submitted broke down into roughly four categories: 1) those fully in favour of ‘mansion tax’ as a bold, progressive measure; 2) those who liked the general idea, but wanted to see more details of how it would work in practise; 3) those who were sceptical, noting that the party had previously opposed property taxation via the Council Tax, and that it was a missed opportunity to look more broadly at land value taxation; and 4) those who regarded it as a ‘bonkers’ and unfair tax, which was either/both wrong in principle and/or would cost the party votes.

Finally, for today, we asked: The party leadership – both Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – received criticism during the conference for making statements without first consulting their shadow cabinet colleagues or party policy committees. Which of these statements comes closest to your view?

Here’s what you told us:

>> 40% – We elect leaders to lead. Nick and Vince need to be free to make known their views, even if they are not necessarily approved party policy.
>> 56% – We are a one member, one vote party, and this applies also to our leaders. Nick and Vince should respect the party’s democratic policy-making process and not be seen to ‘bounce’ it.
>> 4% – Don’t know / no opinion

A number of people, unsurprisingly, wanted to combine the two options on offer to come up with their ideal prescription. The comments received below are representative of those submitted:

* “Both – Nick and the FE were too slow and cumbersome on expenses scandals within the party, and too quick to make on the hoof decisions at the conference – but I believe that they should be free to lead *with* the cabinet rather than lead purely by annual conference decisions which are much too slow.”
* “Nick and Vince and other leaders can propose policy to conference to debate but need to have consulted their shadow cabinet first.”
* “Leaders must respond topically and generate ideas more quickly and more frequently than would be allowed by making our decisions at conference twice a year. They should however consult with colleagues before planned release of policy and with conference to check direction in order to retain our party’s public standing and activist commitment.”
* “Leaders have to be able to react quickly to current affairs, of course, but that doesn’t extend to making up party policy on the hoof. The point of democratic policy making is that the policies that the leadership then promotes demonstrably have the support of the party, avoiding damaging splits.”
* “I didn’t join the Liberal Democrats because I believed in the due process of the FPC [Federal Policy Committee]. I joined because I’m a liberal. I judge our policies on that basis. The FPC’s mandate comes from a few hundred conference attendees. They don’t represent that party and they certainly don’t have an ear to the ground of the public mood.”
* “I want to see Nick, Vince and the other members of the frontbench team to show more willingness to stir up, as Vince put it in the Mail, more hornet’s nests. We need to offend people from time to time.”
* “I do know and have an opinion but but neither of your options express it. We elect leaders to lead. Nick and Vince need to be free to make known their views on current issues, even if they are not necessarily approved party policy – but their views should be consistent with party policy. Nick and Vince should respect the party’s democratic policy-making process and not be seen to ‘bounce’ it.”

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This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.
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2 Comments

  • Tom Papworth 9th Oct '09 - 1:02pm

    “By the slimmest of margins, therefore…”

    Surely this is within the margin of error.

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