Lib Dem members survey: overwhelming backing for military action in Libya

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. Over 530 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results this week.

Seven-in-10 Lib Dems back coalition force, but members split on success of action

LDV asked: Do you think Britain, France, the US and other countries are right or wrong to take military action in Libya?

    73% – Right to take military action
    18% – Wrong to take military action
    9% – Don’t know / No opinion

LDV then asked: Overall do you think the coalition’s military action in Libya is going well or badly?

    1% – Very well
    41% – Well
    Total well = 42%
    40% – Badly
    3% – Very badly
    Total badly = 43%
    15% – Don’t know / No opinion

Here is a selection of your comments:

Initially supportive, I do worry that this action is suffering from ‘mission creep’ and is becoming about regime change rather than protection.

The [coalition] must stay within the UN agreed terms. Unless the UN agree that regime change is permitted, we should restrict our actions to those permitted under the UN agreement

So long as they stick to the UN mandate. We’ve had enough of “illegal” wars.

Wrong in terms of timing. They turned a war that was over [prior to coalition action, Gaddafi’s forces had all but won] into what is now a stalemate.

It is not possible to win a war on the ground from the air. This is very well understood in military circles. (I am a former Wing Commander who ran air force operations so this is not a quote from some text book it is from bitter experience!) At some stage the rebels will need more than air support to overcome the loyalist side. The 1972 UN resolution does not allow for troops on the ground so the coalition’s efforts are good given this limitation. At some point in the future military help (ideally visible and legal) will be needed. It may be done under the guise of protecting civilians/convoys etc but you cannot clear streets of loyalists from the air; it takes boots on the ground. The latter way is not the best way as it leaves the coalition open to exceeding its UN authority.

It’s going badly if the expectation was that the application of air power alone would cause the Gaddaffi regime to implode. It will take a significant tightening of the blockade on Gaddaffi forces and training of the anti-Gaddaffi forces in order to remove this repellent regime.

Some members of the public, fuelled by media narrative, seemed to expect 100% positive results by the next news cycle. That was never realistic, but what’s happening does seem to be making a difference.

There are other equally deserving locations. Why should Libya be singled out in particular?

It is fundamental that the action remains within the confines of the UN resolution and that Arab support for the intervention is maintained.

It has turned a defeat for the rebels into a stalemate, but presumably that was not the objective.

I support the initial no-fly zone, but I am very worried by the mission-creep. We should not be promoting regime change – this is illegal.

We’re right to go as far as we have done, but we should not put boots on the ground

  • Almost 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Over 530 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 18th and 24th April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’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
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    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


    • If the party seriously considers that we as a nation have a moral obligation to protect civilians then I urge all Lib Dems to seek to pressurise the government, and in particular Lib Dem Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, to press the UN for a full investiagtion into the possibility of war crimes committed in the civil war in Sri Lanka. The UN’s preliminary report releaased today finds credible support to allegations that the Sri Lankan military committed both war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the murder of thousands of civilians. The UN Secretary General has said that a full investigation can only be conducted if the Sri Lankan government so wishes or if there is sufficient support from influential nations at the UN. The British government has a moral responsibility to push for this – to not do so would be rank hypocrisy – and in particular the Lib Dems have a chance to exert their influence in maintaining human rights and international justice. Of course the Sri Lankan government will not request an inquiry – would Pol Pot have asked for an investigation to Khymer Rouge crimes?

      I know this has been an issue admirably supported by Simon Hughes and Ed Davey over the years and urge all Lib Dems who care about human rights to seek justice in this instance.

      read the report here

      or Independent newspaper report here

    • I am one of those who think it was wrong to go into Libya. We have another Iraq or Afghanistan situation here – dive in on a knee-jerk reaction, supposedly to protect civilians, but have no thought as to “Where do we go from here?” We all know that it was an ill-judged decision, badly-timed and very badly thought-out. In fact it was not thought out at all beyond the immediate action. Who has thought out the implications of our actions now? Who has thought out what happens from here onwards and into the future?

      We are facing yet another 10 or 20 year protracted war with no-one actually winning and massive loss of life in the process.

      There are 192+ Member States of the UN (including Libya) and only 5 permanent Members of the Security Council – France, UK, US, People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The remaining 10 seats on the Security Council have to be shared out between the other Member States, many of whom will never get to be on the Security Council. How can this be a “representative” number of States? Yet the UN per se decides what will happen and we go in blindly on the nod along with the US – again!

      Personally, I think it is time for the roles of both the UN and NATO to be re-visited and re-assessed as to what their actual roles are. The UK goes blindly in on the “say so” of the UN and with UN backing but what, exactly, is their remit here?

      We have turned what was a relatively small scale dispute (in the grand scheme of things) which could have been sorted out by the Libyans themselves into a full-scale “Iraq no 2” – with Gaddafi using civilians as human shields, just as Saddam Hussein did, and with tremendous loss of civilian life and horrendous injuries to men, women and children to the point that the hospitals cannot treat everyone. The whole situation is appalling and shows no sign of coming to an end let alone a satisfactory conclusion. Gaddafi is not going to stop now – he can see that he might still win and will now hold on to his power with every ounce of his strength and will not care who gets killed, tortured or murdered in the process.

      It would be well worth looking at Libyan Crisis History – go back into the 1980s (which I remember very well) – look at various websites pointing to that information –

      As always – “There is nothing new under the sun” – I, for one, do not wish to be associated with yet another Middle East conflict fuelled by the West’s greed for oil and power – “Not in my name” – yet again!

    • richard heathcote 27th Apr '11 - 2:00pm

      i find it hard to see a distinction between the action in Libiya and what has happened previously in Iraq. I think both had good intentions from the start to protect civillians from ruthless leaders but i think its very difficult to stop once you have entered a conflict such as this.

      I think the resolution set out for Libiya is going the way of resolutions in Iraq i think we will end up going beyond the mandate we have been given making another dubious legal intervention in another country.

    • Great, what a very sensible vote then.

      On that basis, where’s good to go next then? Syria? Israel? Bahrain?

      Have we really learnt nothing?

    • George Kendall 29th Apr '11 - 5:28am

      @richard heathcote

      I’m not a strong supporter. I didn’t express a public opinion before the decision was made, and I’m concerned about mission creep, potential overstretch, and our inability to be consistent in intervening in other similar conflicts.

      But I can see the arguments in favour, and I really hope it will be successful.

      There is, however, an enormous difference from Iraq. It’s legal. The Arab league called for intervention, the UN passed a resolution.

      No way to know for sure, but I also think it’s less likely to turn into a running sore in the way Iraq did.

      THe issue that concerns me is we seem to be equating Ghadaffi with Saddam Hussein and others guilty of genocide.

      Ghadaffi, as far as I know, while a dictator with a poor human rights record, has not systematically murdered in the way Saddam did. He did appalling things in the past, in his support of terrorist groups, such as the IRA. But he’s stepped back from that.

      Now we’ve started it, we need to finish it.

      But when I imagine similar uprisings across the Arab world, I know we won’t have the resources or the political will to do the same in those countries.

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