Learning the lessons from last week #2: Lib Dem voters don’t want out of the coalition

Even after last Thursday, I’ve come across very few Liberal Democrats saying, “we should have made a deal with Labour last May”. That’s not a surprise, given the Parliamentary arithmetic and also all that has come out since about just how split Labour’s negotiating team was, not to mention the almost farcical lack of preparation from Labour for talks. Peter Mandelson grabbing a quick cup of tea with Ed Balls to sort out Labour’s negotiating line before walking into the first meeting may be very English, but competent or prepared it wasn’t.

That does, of course, leave the question of whether coalition or a minority Tory government would be preferable. A minority Tory government, with Liberal Democrats providing support on “confidence and supply”, certainly sounds tempting to some in the party. (Though given that the “supply” part of the phrase is voting with a minority government on the big financial votes, it’s worth remembering that would have meant voting for George Osborne’s financial measures.)

But what do the voters think?

Courtesy of polling carried out last Thursday and Friday by YouGov we have some pretty up to date evidence (with all the usual caveats about one poll etc, but as you’ll see the margins are pretty hefty).

The poll shows that current Liberal Democrat voters think the party should stay in coalition, but express its differences with the Tories more often (with my bolding in the questions):

Do you believe the Liberal Democrats should now distance themselves from the Tories?
No, they should remain in the coalition and continue to make the compromises necessary for the coalition to work: 36%
Yes, they should remain in the coalition but refuse to back policies they oppose: 48%
Yes, they should leave the coalition altogether: 9%

Less than one in ten Lib Dem voters saying the party should leave the coalition is a clear message. But, you may ask, that’s current Lib Dem voters – what about those who used to be Liberal Democrats? That’s a fair question as the YouGov poll put the party on 10%.

However, the poll also records results from people who were recorded by YouGov last May as having voted Lib Dem, both those who are still Lib Dem and those who are no longer Lib Dem. Their views collectively are not that different:

Do you believe the Liberal Democrats should now distance themselves from the Tories?
No, they should remain in the coalition and continue to make the compromises necessary for the coalition to work: 23%
Yes, they should remain in the coalition but refuse to back policies they oppose: 48%
Yes, they should leave the coalition altogether: 21%

So when you look at the views of people who voted Liberal Democrat last May, 71% still think the party should remain in coalition. The idea that leaving the coalition would somehow win back the support lost since last year isn’t supported by this evidence. In amongst the 21% are certainly some very vocal voices, but they are the 21% not the 71%.

What the figures show is that many Liberal Democrats – both currently and the 2010 voters – want the party to distance itself from the Tories, but by a massive majority wants to stay in the coalition.

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  • George, I’m not so sure that would be the case in Scotland. Much – if not all – of the reason for our drubbing was because of the coalition, and that really did come across clearly. Look at the almost uniform drop in support of 10% – straight to the SNP.

  • But a majority even of those still supporting the Lib Dems apparently believe that the coalition agreement should be ripped up and that the party should no longer support “policies they oppose.”

    Taken literally, that would mean a coalition of a fundamentally different nature, and one that the Tories would probably not find acceptable. Indeed, wouldn’t it be much more like the kind of “supply and confidence” agreement that was touted before the election?

  • So there is a massive North/South split in the Lib Dems then? Because the official, and not unreasonable, line from the Scottish party is that being in coalition is wiping the party out there, hence they want out.

    Looks like you have serious internal problems that need to be addressed.

    Cherrypicking a few facts from a poll (you’re silent on the 65% of 2010 Lib Dem voters who think the government is doing a bad job) might make you feel better but won’t save your party.

  • The only poll that counts, was that taken last Thursday and that was a damming indictment of the Party’s leadership and stagy. However you are where, you are and the only way forward you have is to be seen as a brake on Tory plans to cut this, scrap that, privatise this. The party leadership, need to be seen meeting and talking with doctors, nurses and NHS staff and stating they agree with them and no changes will be made to the NHS that will any way weaken or privatise it. You need to set up a hit list of policies you won’t allow and make sure you stick with it. If the Tories don’t like it and walk, it will be their responsibility for demise of the coalition. You at least can then say we stopped the Tories privatising the NHS, we stopped them cutting this, we prevented them from privatising the Public sector etc etc.

  • @George Kendall
    People on this site who have been critical of the coalition have tended to fall into two categories, those who oppose it outright, and those (like me) who oppose the manner in which it has been implemented. Tuition fees should also not be reduced in importance. Whilst most members seemed to take the breaking of the pledge as a price of government, many voters saw it as an outright lie. Parties don’t win anything with just their members votes. Mark is right to highlight the lack of Labour enthusiasm for the coalition, the truth is they were a tired party that needed time in opposition. The coalition was, and is, the only game in town but it needs to be seen to be a pragmatic and limited partnership not a pseudo merger…

    I have quite a few Scottish frieds from my time in the forces. It would not be an understatement to talk about the hatred of the Tories amongst many of them, I have often been quoted how they were the test bed for the Poll tax. I imagine that a coalition with the Tories would have hardened attitudes more in Scotland than England.

  • #What the figures show is that many Liberal Democrats – both currently and the 2010 voters – want the party to distance itself from the Tories, but by a massive majority wants to stay in the coalition.

    Wait another year and I bet those figures will swap around.

    Remember, these elections and those figures are a snapshot of the present, when the full effects of the cuts (eer..deficit reduction measures) are not yet being fully felt. Add to that:
    – the ill conceived dog’s dinner of NHS reforms,
    – the crude market place that higher eduction is being turned into,
    – the ending of progressive programmes like Sure Start,
    – the budget led loss of additional support in schools (in the name of ‘academy freedom’),
    – the removal of legal protection to challenge adverse decisions in housing, welfare, debt, immigration and employment cases
    – ‘reform’ of policing meaning that most ‘low level’ crime will simply go uninvestigated
    – letting down our armed forces with the barmy ‘strategic defence review’ and consequent declining morale
    – I could go on…

    There’s a clue about the future in the same poll. To the question, “Do you think this coalition government will be good or bad for people like you?”
    Responses are
    Total Good 23
    Total Bad 54
    no difference/don’t know 24

    Still, I’m sure that Lib Dem apologists will always find a silver lining.

  • George Kendall – ‘My impression is that the voters we’ve lost aren’t so much angry with us – they’re not that much into politics anyway – but they they feel we’ve come over as too close to the Tories, so haven’t been voting for us. If we can change that impression, with a more public display of the differences within the coalition, I think some will come back.’

    With all due respect, at the elections the Conservative vote appeared to improve whilst the Lib Dems disintegrated. That alone should suggest to you that the voters DO see ‘distinctions’ between the Coalition parties. And to dismiss this as, ‘voters not that much into politics,’ is astonishing. Indeed, if the Conservative line is the one that chimes with voters then doesn’t that suggest that Clegg should be pushing harder to the Conservative line?

    I keep hearing this thing about being, ‘distinct,’ and asserting differences, but no one seems to want to tell me what that looks like for a party that necessarily needs coalition for power. What would have been distinct would have been to say pre-election, our vision for working with party X is this and our vision for working with party Y is this. The majority for hire model has killed trust. It’s not a lack of distinctiveness that is the problem. It is that there is a lack of credibility or vision – still less conviction, and the reversal of the one big-ticket red-line pledge on HE fees is corrosive.

    Of course, coming out of the Coalition could well wipe the party off the map.

    This thing about, ‘distinct,’ is a massive red herring and speaks to a lack of confidence about identity. The nettle that needs to be grasped is that at the election, a campaign that actively targetted those on the classic left was followed by confluence with the Conservative line. In short credibility. Yes, that is the result the voters gave, and yes, Clegg faced a difficult situation. But saying, the voters just aren’t into politics and don’t understand is so wrongheaded.

    More worrying is that the only way I can see to restore credibility right now is for Cameron (or, more specifically, the Conservative Party) to give substantial concessions. Why on earth would they do that now?

  • To expand on my previous point, it seems the Lib Dems are prepared to lose Scotland to maintain ideological purity (the belief that the coalition is working). Losing Scotland for ideological reasons was why the Tories didn’t get a majority and keeping Scotland was partly why Labour lasted so long (not that they ever relied on Scottish MPs for the majority, they just made the majority larger). If the Lib Dems lose Scotland you will never be able to win more than 40 seats under FPTP again.

  • The poll might be more meaningful if the options actually made sense! We have

    “No, they should remain in the coalition and continue to make the compromises necessary for the coalition to work”

    Fair enough. But hoiw does that compare with the more popular option of

    “Yes, they should remain in the coalition but refuse to back policies they oppose” ??

    Presumably that must mean NOT making the compromises necessary for the coalition to work, with the inevitable consequence being that it won’t?! It’s unclear, but to me this suggests those slelecting this option want something more like the sort of co-operation rather than formal coalition that was floated about just after the election.

  • Julian Plumley 10th May '11 - 10:44am

    I have been an ex-pat for 20 years in Germany and Switzerland (and some other places), where coalition government is normal. I am astonished at the assumptions that LibDems and the political commentators are making with regard to how a junior coalition partner can and should act.

    Here are some rules for how you should act, based on how I have seen it work in Europe:
    1. You cannot play Greece to Conservative Rome. The idea that LibDems can ‘moderate’ the Conservative government is a completely false way to think about your role. Stop talking this way.
    2. You should be responsible for the ministries where the minister is a LibDem. You should publicly claim their successes (and take the blame for their cock-ups). You should not attempt to interfere in the others.
    3. The senior coalition partner will always hold the finance ministry/Chancellor role. Refer to rule #2 – you cannot influence the overall budget, or the rate of budget cuts. The effort you spend to do this will not be recognised or rewarded. You have to make clear that budgetary success or otherwise belongs to the Conservatives.
    4. Your leader needs a senior ministerial job. He has to demonstrate he is competent and delivering results. Deputy PM is not a job. (Hans-Dietrich Genscher was a superb example of this – everyone thought he was competent. I once saw an FDP campaign poster simply saying: “Genscher Staerken” – strengthen Genscher).

    I am not sure whether the UK system of collective cabinet responsibility works against the above rules. But surely it should be possible to make clear which part of government you are running, and advertise its successes. People mostly want competent government – your job is to deliver this in your areas of responsibility.

    Good luck. I am conservative-leaning myself, but I think the coalition is an important realignment against anti-liberal Labour, so I don’t wish the LibDems to be destroyed by it.

  • @George Kendall
    The country desperately needs stable government to sort out the deficit

    There lies the problem the day of the GE the Lib Dems did not back the Tories on the defecit. It seems to most people that they changed their minds once the Mondeos were getting handed out.You will not get any respect back untill you sack Nick Clegg and get back to your Liberal roots as this will not get any better .I have spoken to a lot of Lib Dems and they all can,t understand why Michael Moore said on Friday after the local elections “Defecit reduction is our top priority”if thats the best answer he can give, you are in right trouble up here and will loose the north of England aswell.
    Andy Edinburgh

  • This poll confirms my own thinking. The Coalition should remain – after all, the two Coalition parties secured a collective 54% of the national equivalent vote on Thursday, according to Rallings & Thrasher – but we need to rattle our sabre more and differentiate ourselves from the Tories much more.

    Labour needs to wake up, get over its weird, stalker-like obsession with the Lib Dems, and Nick in particular, and start targeting the Tories. Letting the Tories off the hook as they have has meant Labour limped in second on Thursday – that is astounding for essentially the only opposition party to a Government planning big cuts (however necessary). That’s if it wants to win in 2015, although with Ed in charge I am not sure that’s really on the cards.

  • @George Kendall. “I think some will come back” That doesn’t sound like a hugely optimistic train of thought to me. Personally I will return when the LibDems break totally with the Tory Party and then install a new leader, ideally one with the qualities of Mr Grimond (for those fortunate enough to remember him an inspirational politician).

  • Norman Fraser 10th May '11 - 1:09pm

    The problem is not coalition per se, the problem is Clegg. By ditching fundamental Lib Dem policies and adopting and championing Tory ones he has alienated over half our electorate. Clegg is not the only culpable parliamentarian, they have proved to be a broken-backed, venal lot in the main, but Clegg is the figurehead. He has become a laughing stock and must now go.

  • It was not Labour that was virtually wiped out in Scotland it was The Coalition. The Coalition lost 17 seats — Labour lost only 7 in Scotland. The Coalition lost 800 council seats to Labour in England. (350 from the Tories/450 from Liberal Democrats) (Comparisons between Ed Milliband’s first local election victory and Tony Blair’s are absurd — Blair was capitalising on an 18 year Tory government that was deeply unpopular and mired in sleaze) Last Thursday Labour won 30 seats in Wales, more than it has ever won there and those seats will allow Labour now to govern as a single party. Labour won the Leicester South by-election with a 12% increase in its share of the vote. The Tories and the Lib Dems between them couldn’t even equal Labour’s vote at Leicester. The Lib Dems have been virtually wiped out in the UK. The Tories have been pushed back into their heartlands in the South. The Tories and Lib Dems are nowhere in Scotland, the North of England or Wales. The Lib Dems lost overwhelmingly their flagship policy in the referendum. They lost their flagship councils in the North.

    If what happened last Thursday doesn’t persuade you that you have to abandon the Tories before they destroy you for a generation then I’m afraid you’re doomed as a national party.

  • So if this YouGov poll is to be used as supporting evidence, are you also going to accept your 8% poll rating, as given by YouGov?

    Duncan makes an important point. Your current position is a result of a long standing failure. The failure to explicitly spell out to the electorate what the priorities of a Lib-Con coalition would be, and what the priorities of a Lib-Lab coalition would be? The “we are campaigning to win a majority” line was, and is a disingenuous one. Your goal always was a hung parliament. To pretend otherwise would be to treat people as fools.

    The LibDems have to make coalition government work. You don’t do that by having very public, and heated arguments between coalition partners. People don’t like divided government, whether that be coalition or single party. So it seems the LibDems are in a catch 22 position. And you have an inept leadership to thank for putting you in that position.

  • I think it is very likely that the coalition will prove to be the worst govt in living memory. However I think it should remain because FPTP can only deliver it’s crude approximation of democracy if governments change from time to time. I don’t think it is healthy to seek to lock the right out of power for ever. Better that they should govern once in a while and their ideas and aspirations be tested against reality. There is a whole new generation that needs to be taught that most basic and enduring of political truths, namely that the Tories are vermin.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 10th May '11 - 2:33pm

    @George Kendall “You may disapprove of deficit reduction and want to defer a much bigger deficit crisis to the next generation. Personally, I think that’s utterly immoral. But that’s just my opinion.”

    All generations leave some rubbish for the next generation(s) to deal with. The “lucky” baby-boomers, for example, had the fall-out from two World Wars to patch up, not something they especially enjoyed, but they managed. By attempting to wipe out the deficit in one term, with all that that entails, we are effectively depriving the next generation (today’s babies) of a decent upbringing and education system, thus rendering them less capable as adults of tackling whatever lies in store for them – knowns as well as unknowns. That surely is the realistic way of deciding on a viable strategy.

    All this talk of “not leaving the mess for the next generation” is just convenient clap-trap to justify the unjustifiable and make us all feel guilty that we’re such lousy parents.

    The fear factor is alive and well and living in Downing Street.

  • @George Kendall

    You call one year into a supposed five term parliament mid-term? LibDems can’t have it both ways. You can’t on the one hand claim that the coalition’s deficit reduction plan is only slightly more austere than Labour’s, and then on the other claim that Labour have no credible plan to reduce the deficit.

    If the LibDem leadership didn’t, as they have said themselves, have full confidence in their own deficit reduction plan, before the GE, but supported the Conservative plan; it would have been common courtesy of them to have let us, the electorate, know also.

    It’s these kind of displays of dishonesty that have so damaged the LibDem leadership, and by extension, the LibDem party. Remember it was Clegg who campaigned on a platform of “no more broken promises”, and the “new politics”.

  • paul barker 10th May '11 - 3:01pm

    The survey seems to fit with what Libdem campaigners hear on the ground, in England & Wales. The situation in Scotland is very different.

    Perhaps part of the solution for The Scottish Party is to talk louder about our traditional support for Federalism.

    On the Yougov poll, its worth always remembering that they tend to overestimate support for Labour at our expense. Our real support is probably between 12 & 15%. Lets stay focussed on making The Coalition work.

  • primroseleague 10th May '11 - 4:40pm

    AndrewR, as I long time Tory wet lurker on this site, it speaks volumes that my first post ever is to say that I find it unbelievable that some people still find it acceptable to trot out the “Tories are vermin” line. To you I’ll say the same thing that was said to Bevan at the time he was daft enough to say it (although you’ll have to adjust for the 2010 vote share yourself) – what it must be to be a man who hates 8093858 people….

  • @George Kendall “You may disapprove of deficit reduction and want to defer a much bigger deficit crisis to the next generation. Personally, I think that’s utterly immoral. But that’s just my opinion.”

    When I hear the word morality, I reach for my chequebook. The idea about ‘legacy’ is fraught with difficulty, not least in the context you choose to argue it. While the deficit is real enough, the causes, the causers and the cures need to be looked at again. The documentary film ‘Inside Job’ is as accessible as it is blood curdling.

    Let’s talk legacy.

    – Would you call, say, £30,000 that a young person would have to take on to do a degree, a long-term blue chip investment? No talk of debt there.
    – Would you call the conditions in two or three generations have to share one house, because they’ve been priced out efficient spatial resource utilisation? The rich have the luxury of mobility.
    – Would you call banks paying handsome bonuses, while asking us all to ‘move on’ anything but a slap in the face? Or perhaps you prefer ‘right conditions to attract investment in the financial sector’
    What would you call a government that tackles a trillion pound underwriting of banks-too-big-to-fail by cutting benefits, starting with the disabled? Tackling broken Britain perhaps?
    Moral? I’ll give you moral, less…

    What sort of country do you think this government envisages that we will have left to pass on to the next generation? Eviscerated, emasculated and amoral I hazard.

  • @AndrewR. I like your post. The greatest British politician of the last 200 years, Mr Aneurin Bevan said on the 4 July 1948, when he was Minister for Health “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin”. It appears that of late several senior LibDems have come round to Bevan’s point of view. Buti is it too late?

  • Lib Dem Ben 10th May '11 - 7:27pm

    The basic problem is the new right have infitrated the Lib Dems in the guise of Liberal Future (should it be called Liberal Demise – after all these are the p[eople currently leading us to defeat) and its new reincarnation as Liberal Vision. At least Liberal vision is good enough to admit it isn’t a democratic organisation. If you read the agenda of these people it is economically identical to the tories – small state, privatise verything and currently in line with the tories current swing towards personal liberty.

    In short these people do not subscribe to the vision of our party’s manifesto – they should right be expelled – sadly however they include the Party leader and its Chief Executive. Until we get back to being a properly Social Liberal Party there will be nothing but pain as the Conservatives have econoic Liberalism sewn up and well bankrolled by the business interests it serves

  • Barry George 10th May '11 - 10:25pm

    On the subject recent Polls…

    The latest for the Times suggests that a massive 50 % of the voters think that Nick Clegg is out of his depth…


  • Barry George 10th May '11 - 10:33pm

    In the same poll it is worthing noting that only 7% of the voter think that he is ‘up to the job’

    Interesting tie in with the You Gov poll suggesting our support is at 8 %

    Is it any wonder that we are polling 8% when only 7% think that our leader is up to the job…

  • @George “Reading your words, anyone would think we’d had a Conservative government for the last 13 years.”
    …..eeer…yes! QED I’d say.

    – Browne report? Well, Neu Labour might have commissioned it, but we didn’t have to do what we did with it. The issue is vastly more important than the ‘punishment for a broken promise’ at the polls. Education is often the only way for those of modest means to overcome the circumstances of their birth and achieve what the middle classes call a full life. The tuition fee debate is now so contaminated, it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. A graduate earns £100k more in a working life. So how much is that in tax over 40 years? Plus, many will pay higher rate taxes. As for the £21k starting point to pay off, well when you have average salaries of about £25k and the likelihood that these will decline, it offers cold comfort.

    – The deficit: As you sagely say in your earlier piece “I think there are hard lessons for all of us.” Yes indeed. The political classes are to blame too, as you observe, as are avaricious consumers. All of us. But this borrowing was conceived in optimism and fuelled by the cheap plonk of ready credit. It went to our heads and as we saw property prices rocketing up and the price of consumer goods come tumbling down, we got giddy with it all. At a macro level, too much off-the-books accounting through PPP and PFI meant that we lost sight of the true cost of anything.

    – On Labour: Yes Labour squandered their large majority and were far too cosy with bankers and international finance. They chose to weave a dream that you could spend without taxing some people more. Labour did not sufficiently tackle redistribution or social mobility. And when the edifice came crashing down, Brown was made mud.

    But what on earth made us (or at least our post election negotiating team) think that as a parry we actually share a world view with the Tories? We don’t, do we.

    But I’m beginning to wonder.

  • Barry George 10th May '11 - 11:09pm

    George Kendall

    <i. Last May, the electoral arithmetic gave us the responsibility of being part of the government to out the terrible financial mess Labour left.

    That all depends on how you do your math George…

    Not one single voter voted for a coalition, that was a behind closed doors agreement that the public neither voted nor were consulted on.

    The Voter had the chance to accept the view that Labour had destroyed the economy and it needed urgent attention. That was what the Tories were telling us.

    If you look at the reality George then the electoral arithmetic gave us no responsibility to deal with the economic crisis as not one single person voted for it. We came third!

    If you genuinely believe that the public wanted the government to tackle this ‘urgent’ economic crisis then tell me why the Conservatives (who were screaming the loudest about it) failed to get enough votes to command the House of Commons.

    It is fair to say that the Lib Dems decided that if they played around with the election arithmetic they could form a coalition to tackle the economy, but it is incorrect to say that the voter wanted it or even believed that it was necessary.

    The decision to enter the coalition and take our current stance on the economy was purely a party decision, it was never backed , supported, endorsed , or even considered by the electorate.

    Of course if you play with the math and start adding numbers together you can say that the public wanted whatever you like. But the result of the election was simple .. A minority Conservative Government that would need to reach across the house for support in making legislation.

    The electorate didn’t trust the Conservatives enough to give them a majority. They didn’t believe that the economic crisis was as dire as the Tories were telling us.

    So in steps the party that came 3rd and we give the public exactly what they did not want…

    A majority Conservative Government !

    All we did was take the result of the election (the voice of the people) who clearly said they wanted a minority Conservative Government with 307 MP’s and twisted the numbers to make it look like the public actually wanted the party that came 3rd to join with the party that came 1st to form a majority Government.

    That was pure magical thinking.. You can’t honestly believe that the people voted for a coalition ? Or that the public accepted that the economy required this drastic slash and burn policy ? there is no evidence from the election result that such thinking has any bases

    That, in my opinion is blatantly twisting the election result to our own ends and fully justifies the anger that the real progressive majority in this country has for the party right now.

  • Barry George 10th May '11 - 11:14pm


    Barry, I think that’s a misreading of the poll. Ed Miliband had only 10% tick that box

    I would agree with the poll on that point also.. I don’t believe that Milliband is up to the job either 🙂

  • @primroseleague
    I admit I hesitated before I wrote it. I hoped the novelty of my argument (that we need the coalition to show how bad the Tories are) and the echo of Bevan would mean people would see I wasn’t being entirely serious. On the other hand it is certainly no worse than what i see on ConservativeHome every day and I can’t help but recall that during my lifetime I’ve seen Tory politicians attack miners, trade unionists, unemployed people, benefit claimants in general, single mothers, asylum seekers, immigrants, ethnic minorities, feminists, Scottish people, gay people, teachers, academics, public sector workers in general… I could go on but you get the idea. I mean, you know, there is a reason why Theresa May called you the nasty party.

  • Barry George 11th May '11 - 1:22am

    @ andrewR
    Better that they should govern once in a while and their ideas and aspirations be tested against reality. There is a whole new generation that needs to be taught that most basic and enduring of political truths, namely that the Tories are vermin

    Show some sympathy will you. Right wing thinking is a mental illness you know 🙂


  • Barry George 11th May '11 - 6:52pm

    Indeed. No one voted for the coalition. Just as only 35% voted for a Labour government in 2005. But the electoral arithmetic in 2005 (a Labour majority) gave Labour the responsibility of forming a government.

    In a similar way, the only way to form a stable government at a time or serious financial crisis was cooperation between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

    …….I’m convinced we had a responsibility to help form a government.

    That Convinces you does it ?
    You are fully aware George, that we elect our parliament on a first past the post system…
    Labours share of the vote in 2005 is completely irrelevant. They held an election using first past the post and they were first past the post. Hence they won the election fair and square.

    You may be unhappy that a party can get elected with such a small share of the vote but that is also irrelevant. If it angers you then it is a shame that we failed to convince the public to switch to AV but it is nether the less the way our election system works and as such you have to accept the result.

    There is no ‘similar way’ with the coalition.

    The Tories failed to make it to the post in a first past the post election.
    We came third.
    In reality, with such a result, the precedence was that Gordon Brown had the first chance to form a Government, Not the Tories and certainly not us.
    The public did not vote convincingly for the manifesto of any party.
    The people voted for a minority Conservative Government.

    Once you remove your inserted share of the vote figure (which is irrelevant to FPTP) I fail to see how or why you are making a comparison between the two elections ?

    Yet you are convinced that we had a ‘responsibility’ to help form a Government? From where did this responsibility come? It wasn’t from the voters , they wanted a minority Conservative government.
    It wasn’t because the public accepted that there was a ‘serious financial crisis’ because if they did they would have given the Conservatives a FPTP win. Clearly not enough of the people actually accepted that argument.

    So we decided on our own that we should form a stable Government to give the Tories full autonomy to attack the economy with a machete.
    We took responsibility when it was neither requested nor deemed necessary by the people of this country.
    So tell me George, where does your sense of responsibility come from ? It wasn’t given to you by the people of this country, in fact you may have noticed that quiet a lot of people a rather upset about it.

    In reality our sense of responsibility was manufactured in a dimly lit room , away from public scrutiny and presented as a ‘coalition agreement’ that rather fortunately negates the need for either the Tories or the Lib Dems to honour their manifesto pledges that actually gave them the votes in the first place.

    The people did not vote for a stable Government George but we (the party that came third) decided to give them one anyway.

    Extremely presumptuous of us don’t you think. Yet some loyalists still have no idea why so many people feel betrayed by us, and that was before a single policy was announced.

    Here, you and I completely disagree ….. Some rightwingers have similar contempt for anyone with leftwing views.

    Contempt !
    Why only half quote me ?

    I said

    Show some sympathy will you. Right wing thinking is a mental illness you know

    That’s not contempt that was a request not to give such people a hard time.

    There is genuine , nonpartisan research that concludes that (extreme) Conservatism is a mental illness and I was merely highlighting that fact.

    Pointing out that people are unwell is not contempt , it is signal to be less harsh with them…

    It is the article that claims…
    Reasonable people, such as the distinguished academic researchers cited here, will no doubt agree that until effective treatments can be developed, we should reconsider whether sufferers of conservatism, like other mental defectives, should be allowed freely to exercise the franchise.
    Not me…
    I just highlighted that part of the scientific community believe these people are unwell and just like any other unwell person , they should be given some slack…

    Please don’t shoot the messenger 

    And finally you said

    Which may explain why, over the months, we’ve been unable to come to any meeting of minds.

    We agree more often than you think George, But it is our different perspective on the word tribal that get’s in the way.

    You may think I am tribal but I belong to no political party and I fail to understand which tribe I supposedly represent.

    I may think that Coalition supporters have created a new form of tribalism. They batten down the hatches, they are defensive, unshakable in their insistence that the (economic) world was about to end and adamant that they are doing this for the good of the country when the country never asked them to do it in the first place.
    It’s the ‘we know best’ tribe.

    We unfortunately, will never fully meet minds George because you will defend your Coalition Tribe to the death. You may occasionally criticize the Coalition but your support for the continuation of the coalition is unshakable and you will justify it even though it was not by the will of the people.

  • Is adding together the responses for the remaining current LibDem supporters with the (larger group of) ex-LibDem really valid? Current LibDem voters would be answering with the party’s best interests in mind. Presumably ex-LibDems have primarily defected, or returned, to Labour. Their motivation for wanting the LibDems to stay in the coalition are likely to be different. For example, regardless of the imagined futility, they may wish to see current Tory policies opposed, but ultimately would wish to see the LibDem vote decimated and Labour returned with a thumping great majority.

  • Barry George 12th May '11 - 6:41pm


    Or do you mean that the millions who voted Conservative last Thursday voted that way because of a mental illness?

    Of course not !

    They are not Conservatives, they are merely people who decided to cast a vote for the Conservative party. There is a big difference.

    In the opening comment of this thread you made this statement about the voters…

    “they’re not that much into politics anyway

    And I agree…

    There are very few true ‘Conservatives’ in this country. Most of us are ‘progressive’

    The research was conducted on American Republicans who are even more to the political right than the Conservatives in this country. Although I am quite sure that many of the current cabinet would be deemed mentally unwell if judged by the same criteria.

    My comment was not written for you or people who think like you so it is no surprise that you misunderstood it. It was written for those who find the Conservatives as repulsive as I do, but use language that is not helpful in convincing others of the same.

    LDV has its own such problem with posters calling the voters ‘stupid’ for not supporting AV. As I am sure you agree, such people do not help the fight to convince the public to vote Lib Dem.

    However, as usual George it seems to be me that is answering the questions. It would be accommodating if you would reciprocate and actually try and answer the questions I asked of you.

    So tell me George, where does your sense of responsibility (To help form a Government and deal with a perceived economic mess made by Labour) come from ? The Voter never consented or even agreed with Tories perspective of the economic situation we inherited. They certainly never approved the recovery plan or its defined time scale. If they did then The Conservatives would have won FPTP.

    So if it is not by the will of the people then what is it that makes you think we have any responsibility beyond honouring our manifesto commitments and pledges ?

    I have no doubt that you genuinely believe that it is for the good of the country. But how can it be for the good of the country when the country never consented to our role in Government.

    The people certainly never consented to a behind closed doors ‘coalition agreement’ that override and negated the promises we made to the people to convince them to vote for us.

    The lack of consent given by the public for a Conservative Majority Government is clear by the result of the Election.

    So why , when it was never wanted, did we go and give them one anyway.

    The opinion of the voters for this ‘sense of responsibility’ was made very clear last Thursday.

    To make matters worse, I doubt that you would disagree that the excellent work of local councillors means that we get significantly better results at a local level than we do at a general election. I would not expect us to get anywhere near the share of the vote we got last Thursday if a national election was held today…

  • Barry George 13th May '11 - 9:57pm


    Thank you for your reply , There is much I disagree with in your comment but seeing as this is a dead thread, I will simply highlight a few concerns .

    You still seem to be fixated on the share of the vote when it really has no significance to the debate. The party that wins FPTP could mathematically gain a lower share of the vote than the party that finishes second. They are still FPTP.

    Labour in 2005 made it past the post and gained the right to the keys of the House of Commons.

    The Conservatives in 2010 did not make it past the post so did not gain the right to the keys of the House of Commons.

    It really can’t be any more simple…

    But the system produced an outcome where there was only one way a long-term stable government could be formed.

    True , but who asked for a Long-term stable government George ? If the people of this country actually wanted a long term stable Government then they would have given one of the parties a FPTP win.

    They did not.

    The people voted for a short term Conservative Minority Government. You may strongly believe that the country needed a stable government for the long term. But who do we think we are , when the party that came third can come out and say ‘what the voter actually wanted was for us to form a coalition with the Conservatives’

    How narcissistic is that !

    The voter didn’t want us to be part of the government at all, We do not make it past the post, we were not nearest the post, we were not even second nearest the post.

    We have about us much (voter granted) legitimacy to run the country as a wet paper bag.

    . Frankly, I agree with the IFS and NIESR, that all the parties were misleading the country about the severity of the budget situation. We misled less than the others, but we were guilty too. So the public weren’t making a clear choice last May.

    I don’t think that helps the case for the coalition. You say ‘misleading’ but you mean LYING

    You are saying that all three main partied lied to the electorate in order to gain votes.

    Does that not disgust you ?

    If it is true that the Government lied to the people to get elected then surely that is a travesty of democracy. The election should be deemed null and void and the people should immediately be given the chance to cast their vote again.

    Surely no decent Liberal Democrat can support an election that was won with lies. Why are you not up in arms George ?

    Your telling me that we have an illegitimate Government, yet you support it

    Or are you saying that because the voter was lied to, they were incapable of making a fair choice and as such rather than give them that choice we have decided for them what is for the good of the country.

    The we know best tribe.

    Clearly the voter can’t be trusted with the truth…

    How strange… Maybe we like this unauthorised and (by your own admission) deceitful acquisition of power and we will use our ‘sense of (self defined) responsibility’ , to drag out this illegitimate coalition for the full five years.

    In short, no I don’t think you have answered answered my question. I am still no clearer as to where your ‘sense of responsibility’ comes from.. but I doubt that further discussion would enlighten me.

    Of course like you say , this thread is dead so feel no need to respond

  • Barry George 14th May '11 - 10:04pm


    I’m sorry this thread appears to have got bad-tempered.

    Mea Culpa George,

    I will not deny that I am an angry voter right now and that my anger has not subsided one bit since the party I voted for decided to enter this coalition a year ago. However, I apologise if my anger for our choices is perceived as being bad tempered towards your good self.

    It is difficult to strike the right balance. I wanted you to know that I was angry but not to think that I was angry with you personally. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves of on opposite sides of the table. You defend the coalition and I oppose it. I do not find it at all unlikely that in a few years we could both be sitting on the same side of the fence. Please do not take personal offence to my blunt commenting style. I am yet to use a single ad hominem on this site (it is pointlessly juvenile) and if I was to start doing so I would not pick you as a target.

    I don’t regard the people of the UK as a conscious entity, but as millions of individual voters.

    I think Carl Jung is turning in his grave at the very thought of that comment 🙂 You have just invalidated his research into the collective unconscious by suggesting that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. You do not believe that the people of this country spoke last May , merely that Gordon Bloggs voted one way and Susan Doe voted another.

    Of course if you break it down to the individual voter then it is easy to dismiss the accusation of betrayal. Because we only betrayed some people, others were happy that we did what we did and so all in all, everything is ok.

    You don’t have to worry about how numerous the collective voices of anger is because we know that another undefined number of people were happy.

    Whereas if you accept that elections are a collective representation of the opinion of the people then it is less easy to dismiss the feeling of collective betrayal felt by large numbers of Lib Dem voters after our temporary merger with the Tories.

    The recent local election and AV vote showed how incredibly collective the people of this country feel about us.

    When thousands of students take to the streets in protest, do you just think , oh look , there goes bob, Sue and Alice…. ?

    Sorry if I don’t make such a philosophical leap with you. It is certainly convenient to debate the individual voter (as it dilutes any collective consensus) but elections are won or lost by a collective decision. Nobody cares that Gordon in Bromley voted Lib Dem because he liked the tie Nick was wearing. It is the collective voice of the people that decides the shape of parliament. Or at least it should be.

    Last May , The collective voice of the people decided that there should be a minority Conservative Government with 307 MP’s. Last May the collective voice of the people decided that we should be the third largest party in Parliament. Nobody voted for a coalition because such an option was not on offer. The Tories said X , Labour said Y and the Liberals said Z. So we end up with Q.

    Coalitions are common place throughout the democratic world but it is hard to find a more dishonestly created one.

    People vote for parties based on their manifestos. To disregard ours in favour of a totally undemocratic ‘coalition agreement’ that was hatched behind closed doors shows nothing but utter contempt for the collective known as the British electorate. To be to willing sacrifice even one of our commitments made to the people, less than one week after the people spoke is nothing short of betrayal.

    But, in the week after polling day, the country was facing in Europe, and there was widespread fear that this crisis would spread to the UK. At that point, in my opinion, the people wanted stable government,

    How marvellously convenient ! Within days of the electorate telling the politicians that they did not want a majority Government, a “Crisis of confidence” happened the people (individually of course) changed their minds and now wanted a Majority Government after all !

    Damn, if only the election had been delayed a week, the people would have given us a FPTP winner !

    Come on George, You’re kidding right ?

    Is that how you justify forming a (temporary) merger with the Tories ,when we had spent the previous months telling the people how bad the Tories would be and the people had already spoken and decided that (despite the economy, the illegal war, The dislike for Brown etc.) they did not want a majority Conservative government in this country.

    The people spoke and then we ignored what they said because we believe that the people had changed their minds within days of telling us what they thought.

    I have to admit that you have given me one of the best examples of magical thinking to date. You actually believe that the coalition was wanted by the people. The fact that they had voted only days before has no relevance. They were going to change their minds , weren’t they ?

    I use the terms to mean different things. In the main, politicians don’t lie, they mislead.

    Lying is when you make a specific statement which you know, at the time, to be false. Misleading can take many forms…. In this case, the misleading was by ommission

    🙂 I think you should be a politician George…

    Mislead…. ‘To lead into error of thought or action, especially by intentionally deceiving’

    Yep, still sounds like lying to me…

    I don’t like it. But it’s not lying

    I accept that you don’t like it but it smells iffy to me.

    You seem to be getting lost in semantics George 🙂 It is as if you believe that misleading is somehow not as distasteful as lying.

    They pretty much amount to the same thing.

    In short , If I am correct, the answer to my question is that you believe that ‘our sense of responsibility’ to ‘help form a stable government’ came from a perceived ‘ major crisis of confidence’ that the voter was unaware of due to being ‘mislead’ by the politicians. And that we took the decision to form a coalition based on a new perception of what we thought the voter would have wanted if we hadn’t lied (sorry mislead) them in the first place. So whilst we are in fact not doing what the voter requested we are in fact doing what the voter would have wanted if they had all the facts, weren’t misled and were aware that a sudden and unforeseen crisis of confidence was going to happen in Europe within hours of casting their vote.

    Well if nothing else you have affectively explained to me how Nick Clegg can mislead himself to sleep each night. I am glad you believe it too George, But I am sorry to say that I won’t be joining you at the table just yet.

  • John Fraser 15th May '11 - 1:01am

    Come on mark this is bordering on the disengenious the question asked in the poll is whether the Lib dems should stay in the coalition and you are using that to dismiss whether tehy should have did a suupply and confidence LAST YEAR . This is no longer a realistic option now so the people who have been polled would not have considered it, and yet you use this poll to justify opposing something that is no longer an option ?

    The poll also shows that a majority want to either leave the coalition or oppose conservative policy when applicable . This is vastly different to showing there is a difference betwen the two paties . This means that supporters and ex supporters want Lib dems MPs to actually go into the anti government lobby on important points of principle , and yet you seem to claim it means simply voicing the odd word of disaproval . Six months ago you claimed to me that there was no real opposition to government policies within the Lib dems . Sorry but this new stance does not seem to me to be much more tenable.

  • Barry George 15th May '11 - 2:31am


    Sorry my reply is so long , I should have edited it down but I posted as is….

  • I’m a leftie, but anyone who suggests there was any other option but for the Lib Dems to form a coalition with the Conservatives is dreaming. Labour+LibDem was 11 seats short of a majority. I can’t see any easy way to make up those 11 – adding their allied parties in Northern Ireland brings in another 4, which is still 7 down.

    As an expat earlier noted, Europe (and other places – New Zealand, for instance) have a lot of experience in forming coalitions which actually work, while Canada and Australia are like ourselves trying to figure it out as they go. As an Australian expat myself, I’ll give this one a go.

    I think there is some merit in the notion that a minor party in a coalition government should have “red lines” which it will not cross, but at the same time be quite ready to compromise on other things. Western Australia’s state government is interesting – it consists of a Conservative minority government dependent upon a rural centrist party and independents for support; while the coalition partners usually support government legislation, on several occasions, Labour and the rural party have united to defeat key government legislation because each has a constituency which utterly opposes it. That example would suggest that LibDems in power could think “who are our constituency? what will/won’t they accept?” and make decisions on that basis. The NHS would seem a rather obvious one; student fees would have been another.

    I find it sad that we’re where we are – I have a lot of respect for the LibDem party, we have nothing like it at home and the political scene suffers for it, so I hope it can find a way out of its current woes.

  • Barry George 15th May '11 - 10:54pm


    anyone who suggests there was any other option but for the Lib Dems to form a coalition with the Conservatives is dreaming.

    Yet you say…

    Western Australia’s state government is interesting – it consists of a Conservative minority government…

    So what makes us so different to Western Australia ?

    Why couldn’t we have had a Conservative minority government here ?

  • Western Australia has the same setup as we do – except that the two coalition partners aren’t completely joined at the hip. The rural party has I think 3 ministers (including agriculture, obviously), and one of the independents is also a minister. That was why I was suggesting their model was a way forward.

  • (I forgot to point out that the Nationals – the rural party – are doing very well out of the arrangement politically. Two years after this coalition formed, they managed to get a Federal MP elected – at their majority partner’s expense – for the first time in 37 years.)

  • Barry George 16th May '11 - 2:31am

    Western Australia has the same setup as we do – except that the two coalition partners aren’t completely joined at the hip

    Yes it is the ‘joined at the hip’ bit that concerns me. I am glad to hear that the partners in Western Australia are managing to maintain their unique identities…

  • Noone has yet explained to me why, last May, a supply and confidence arrangement with the Tories was so clearly off limits – except by use of the much vaunted notion of ‘securing firm government’ (a virtue of such apparent obviousness that none now seems able to doubt it despite the evidence that ‘strong government’ at times means merely ‘Thatcherism’). I left the party precisely because of the headlong rush into government with a Conservative party whose ruling ideology I abhor and whose leader I do not trust. sadly, I am being proved right to have done so with every passing day.

  • Kevin Colwill 16th May '11 - 10:35pm

    Just for bit of thinking the unthinkable…all that distinctiveness, might it not be just a tiny bit of an illusion?

    Of course the membership of each party, especially at the extremes, are very distinctive but can the same really be said for the leadership?

    If Orange book Lib Dems share Tory right of centre economic analysis and Cameron’s detoxed Tories share many liberal values on social policy then where, exactly, is all that distinctiveness going to come from?

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