EXCLUSIVE: Nick Clegg’s ratings get a boost & 55% of party members want him to lead party in 2015

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. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Nick Clegg’s ratings recover to +18%, best in over a year

nick clegg
What is your view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader?

    14% – Very satisfied

    44% – Satisfied

    Total satisfied = 58% (+10%)

    20% – Dissatisfied

    20% – Very dissatisfied

    Total dissatisfied = 40% (-8%)

    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

When we last polled party members on their view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader, in March 2013, he had a rating of -2%. This was only the second time perceptions of Nick within the party had dipped into the negative zone. July’s rating sees his position recover significantly to +18%. That’s Nick’s best rating since June 2012 (when it was +19%).

Comments from those who filled in the survey seem to fall into three broad camps:

1) Nick’s fans

I think he’s done a good job. What many people seem unable to understand is the immense difficulties inherent in the role he has.

Nick has understood how to get liberal policies approved in a coalition and has a long term strategy for the Party which takes us out of constant opposition

Given the amount of flak he has taken – from so-called supporters as well as political opponents he deserves credit for still being in the job.

2) Nick’s critics

He has played a weak hand badly, which is forgiveable, but he has abandoned key liberal principles and move far to the right.

Very disappointed, I supported Nick for leader but he has totally lost touch with the party’s values – very sad.

He is toxic with the electorate and in the interest of the country and the party he needs to go before the election.

3) The inbetweeners

Although ‘satisfied’ I’m actually dissatisfied with many of the things he’s done. However, I think his heart is in the right place, he is really in an impossible situation where he can ‘do no right’ and I can’t see anyone who would obviously do it better (even if they did it differently).

He is doing better as Deputy PM than he is doing as party leader.

I don’t agree with all the choices he makes (He chooses X over Y, and I feel Y is the most important thing), or the binary way he presents the party to activists (You are with us on everything, or you are for permanent opposition), but he is handling things overall well.

All of which brings us to the tricky question of Nick’s future as party leader: should he stay or should he go now?

55% say Nick should stay to fight 2015 election; 38% say he shouldn’t

Thinking about Nick Clegg’s position as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems, which of these scenarios do you want to see happen?

    55% – I want Nick Clegg to continue both as Deputy Prime Minister and to lead the Lib Dems into the next general election

    16% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election

    9% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election

    3% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader this year

    10% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader this year

    3% – Other

    4% – Don’t know

I deliberately offered a range of options here to try and capture the span of opinion — also to recognise that Nick has two roles, party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, and that these could potentially be de-coupled before the next election.

If we sum the various options, though, we arrive at this aggregate total: 55% want Nick Clegg to fight the next election while 38% want him to resign before then.

I last asked this question in August 2012: back then, 47% of Lib Dem members wanted him to continue, while 46% wanted him to resign before the 2015 election. There has, therefore, been a noticeable shift in Nick’s favour among members — though the fact that more than one-third of party members want Nick Clegg to stand down will still make deeply uncomfortable reading for him.

Reading through the 100 or so comments, three thoughts struck me:

1) The mood seems to have changed. While a year ago, people were actively considering whether Nick could be replaced by (eg) Vince Cable there is a sense now that moment has passed — many people used a variation on the phrase ‘there is no alternative’.

2) A number of people also make the point that Nick’s job is to soak up the criticism of the Lib Dem role in government: better he continue to do so than someone else also become tainted by the inevitable compromises of Coalition. “Let’s not ditch the lightning rod, eh?” captured that view.

3) Nick divides opinion within the party, as highlighted above: fans, critics, inbetweeners. But interestingly there wasn’t even a hint in the comments of any attempt to try and force the issue: no threats of no-confidence motions or organised leadership challenges. In short, the decision to stay or go is Nick’s decision, Clegg’s Call.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • 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 offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * 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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    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


    • Eddie Sammon 26th Jul '13 - 11:06am

      Good news, somebody bang this over on an email to him.

    • David Wilkinson 26th Jul '13 - 11:31am

      The majority of the public still cannot stand him

    • On what planet is David Wilkinson living?

      I am finding that Nick is much more popular than he was and people are (finally) starting to understand what we Lib Dems are doing in government – and they like quite a lot of it.

    • mickft – funny that’s not being reflected in the polls then isn’t it? Clegg’s approval ratings are woeful.

    • On what planet are Lib Dem members all living? The majority say they want a coalition with Labour, the majority say they want Clegg to stick around. They cannot possibly have both these things at once. What do they really want?

    • The fact that only 55% of the members want the party leader to stay in office is quite disastrous – particularly bearing in mind that that represents only around a third of the number who were members when Clegg was elected, because membership has plummeted since then.

    • The polls aren’t really the issue right now – ratings in the 11-13% range are only a shade below what we typically attracted in the midterm under Labour. The question is whether we can recover in the run up to the General Election as we have generally done previously. Clearly this will be more challenging this time than in the past – but then both of the other main parties face challenges, too – the Tories are clearly remain at odds with their leader and all the Bone/hollobone stuff is hardly an advertisement for a Tory majority, and as for Labour, having spent three years pretending to oppose the consequences of their own economic mismanagement they have now capitulated to the point where they hardly have anything either distinctive or relevant to say at all. As the GE approaches these weaknesses will inevitably come under closer focus.

    • Peter Chegwyn 26th Jul '13 - 2:06pm

      Ian – “ratings in the 11-13% range are only a shade below what we typically attracted in the midterm under Labour.”

      True… but we’re not in the 11-13% range, we’re in the 8-12% range, usually 4th behind UKIP according to the ukpollingreport website.

      As for what Lib Dem members think of Nick Clegg, if 40% of the Party’s most loyal remaining members are either dissatisfied or very dissatisified with their own Leader that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

      Of course you can prove anything with figures, shouldn’t read too much into the polls etc. etc. etc. but with the General Election less than two years away I sense some people are still walking towards the electoral cliff and really should consider taking their blindfolds off.

    • David Allen 26th Jul '13 - 3:10pm

      If we don’t try to differentiate from the Tories before the election, we shall assuredly stay linked with the Tories after the election.

    • A Social Liberal 26th Jul '13 - 6:11pm

      Hmmmmmm – Three hundred (ish)people out of 40,000 want Clegg to stay on. Even if we use the number of LDV members it is much less than 20%. Of course we COULD extrapalate that 1200 people are so fed up with Cleggs leadership that they couldn’t be bothered to run through the poll.

      I also find it extremely telling that we get so few people commenting regularly in favour of the Orange Bookers

    • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jul '13 - 10:36pm

      This needs to be put alongside this. Quite obviously Clegg’s satisfaction ratings will rise if those dissatisfied with him have mostly left the party.

    • c.17% is about the figure in the two polls prior to the -2% in March. It would look like that was an outlier/overly influence by a particular issue. I think (might be wrong – its late!) that this is quite a volatile question as one person switching their view equales a 2% change in overall rating

      BTW does no-one ever say, “whilst I agree with the findings of this survey, I have real doubts that it is an accurate representation of party sentiment”? 🙂

    • David Wilkinson 27th Jul '13 - 7:38am

      What planet am I on, its called canvassing and talking to the public and so far I yet to find a member of public who is really keen on Mr Clegg
      Sadly Clegg is a dead weight to Lib Dem candidates, he is no longer an asset on the doorstep and what we doing in government well the negatives are overwelming the positves in the public’s eye
      The article on LDV about the fall in the party’s membership is an example of his effect on the membership.
      His total silence on the Tory poster vans, his silence condemns him.
      When Cameron talks about what he wants to do as the Tory leader in the next parliament, what does Nick say about the Lib Dems.
      He goes to the LD local government conference in Manchester and says “your not serious about government”, in a ridiculus attempt to sound tough on the wayward party

    • The 55% approval is a symptom of Party myopia. Any observation of the public view of Clegg is that he is a joke!

    • John Whitney 27th Jul '13 - 7:41am

      Dear Sirs, what absolute nonsense the Party must return to it’s roots of Social Democracy and this will not be achieved with Clegg. He must go and the sooner the better!


    • And there you have it you see (JW) it’s liberal democracy which is not the same as social democracy albeit with a fair degree of overlap.

    • A Social Liberal 27th Jul '13 - 1:38pm

      Social Liberalism perhaps, Denis

    • The trouble is, the longer Clegg goes on, the more we people unhappy with Clegg leave the party … so the results are not comparable – it gives the illusion of his growing popularity in the party.

      I am one of those that fully support Clegg staying as DPM until the next election … but with us going into the next election with a new leader. I can not see Clegg ever being acceptable to Labour … he is not acceptable to many of us in the party even.

    • @Eddie Sammon

      “Good news, somebody bang this over on an email to him.”

      Dear Nick. You’re hugely unpopular, even among your own members. But not as unpopular as before! 🙁

    • Given the other story run recently on LDV – https://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-publish-latest-accounts-shows-410k-deficit-and-membership-down-to-42500-35480.html – regarding the drop in membership. To what extent does this represent a shift in opinion and to what extent does it represent those most dissatisfied with Clegg leaving the party altogether.

    • David Evershed 29th Jul '13 - 12:02pm

      In coalition with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat Party has been implementing Liberal Party principles. Social Democrats are thus disappointed.

      My view is for the Liberal Democrats to revert to being just Liberals, dump the old Social Democrat policies and stick with Liberal and liberal principles.

      This means more Clegg and Laws but less Cable and Lord Oakeshott.

    • David Evershed

      I await the reply of Matthew Huntbatch, Tony Greaves et al with interest – I don’t remeber the Liberal Party in my youth being a proponent of this type of laissez-faire economics but I will let the members speak on that!

    • David Allen 29th Jul '13 - 1:53pm

      David Evershed,

      Ex-SDP man here. I don’t recognise your distinction at all. Sure, Clegg and Laws are far to the right of typical ex-SDP figures such as Cable, Oakeshott and Kennedy. They are also far to the right of radical ex-Liberals like Tony Greaves and Matthew Huntbach. They are also a long way to the right of more mainstream ex-Liberals like Ming Campbell and Paddy Ashdown. They are also well to the right of people like David Steel, a genuine “centrist” who was perfectly capable of working with Labour. Unlike the phoney “centrists”, Clegg and Laws – who talk about Labour in much the same way that Steel would have talked about Scargill and Stalin!

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jul '13 - 11:02pm

      Indeed. I have said it enough times – the Liberal Party at the time of the merger was NOT an extremist free market party. As someone who was in the Liberal Party at the time it merged with the SDP, and who voted against merger, I do not recognise the difference between the Liberal Party and SDP as put by David Evershed. If anything, the Liberal Party was somewhat to the left of the SDP and some anti-mergerists in the Liberal Party took that position because the SDP seemed too keen on what we then called “Thatcherite” economics. The merger between the Liberal Party and the SDP was almost brought down by the “Dead Parrot” document (a document supposedly written by the two leaders) because the SDP component (actually written by two interns in Bob Maclennan’s office) was full of the sort of policy ideas later promoted in the Orange Book – much to the anger of many Liberal Party members.

      The main difference between the Liberal Party and the SDP was that the SDP was more centralised and leader-oriented, and felt that political success meant playing the conventional political game. In that way, Nick Clegg is the heir of the SDP stream in the Liberal Democrats, not the Liberal stream.

    • It is not what Lib Dem members think, it it what the general public think, and he is just a constant but of criticism.
      The coalition was mainly to turn the economy around etc, that is happening, now we should think of a different strategy as there does not appear much chance of the ratings of the party improving at all over the next 18 months.

    • Theakes

      Turning around? After ensuring it sank?

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