Opinion: “The Lib Dems will be crushed at the next election” – Busting the biggest lie in British politics

We’ve all seen poll after poll regularly showing a massive drop in support for our party since the general election – most have us on 8-12% (with the exception of ICM suggesting 14-15%). The president of YouGov claims 10% would reduce us from over 50 MPs to just 10 in 2015. Many of us (myself included) have accepted this as fact – it makes sense. It’s what the polls say. It’s true.

Except, it isn’t.

Last week I heard a new “Wisdom Index” ICM poll had us at 18% and I was stunned. Such levels of support have been unheard of since entering government, surely this must be a wild outlier or freak poll? After some inquires I discovered this poll differs from all others, and instead of asking respondents how they will vote, asks how they think others will vote if a general election was held that day.

I was sceptical of such a method, especially as it was giving us much higher levels of support; so I dug a little deeper and found this poll wasn’t an outlier – every Wisdom Index poll published in 2011 and 2012 has us at 16-19%. This is roughly the same level of support we were getting from 2007 until the spike of support at the 2010 general election:

I asked Martin Boon, director of ICM, if this new method had ever been tested in the run up to a general election. He directed me to a paper he wrote for the International Journal of Market Research this summer, where I was astonished to discover that ICM used this method on the eve of the 2010 general election. That poll not only predicted the result of each party more accurately than any other pollster, but it managed to get the Lib Dem vote exactly right (23%) where all others failed – many spectacularly overestimating our support.

But if the Wisdom Index poll is correct, why are all the other polls showing such a low level of support for us?

Two factors come into play here. Firstly not all polls are so dire – the most accurate pollster, ICM, maintains our support in the mid-teens, which is within the margin of error of their own Wisdom Index. The polling method by ICM differs from other pollsters such as YouGov by adding back in 50% of unsure voters to the party they did turn out for in 2010. This adjustment technique gave ICM a higher accuracy in the 90’s where most pollsters underestimated Conservative support due to wide spread dissatisfaction within their ranks. When it came to casting votes, ICM was largely right in predicting around half of those dissatisfied Tories would come out to vote Tory again. ICM predicts the same will be said for half of our disaffected 2010 voters, which is why YouGov (who discount ALL “did vote, won’t vote” supporters) give us much lower scores than ICM

Secondly, YouGov produce a daily poll, as opposed to the ICM monthly, so when you average out the polls in any given month the YouGov polls have a magnified effect. As YouGov’s polling suppresses our own vote significantly, this results in a constantly depressed LD vote in any average poll. I find it suspicious that the daily YouGov poll is sponsored by The Sun, whose owner largely blames the Lib Dem surge in the 2010 general election in denying a Conservative majority. It is to Rupert Murdoch’s advantage that a constant media narrative is weaved into the national psyche that we will be crushed at the next election. He probably thinks that if enough people believe this false prophecy, it may just come true.

Before concluding, there are two notes of caution to mention. Firstly the Wisdom Index seems to be most accurate when used on polls that enjoy widespread public engagement such as general elections. Where it has been used on referenda it has been found wanting, and perhaps the same will be said of low turnout elections such as the Police Commissioner elections later this year. Secondly, it has only been tested (albeit very successfully) on one general election. Whilst it proved amazingly accurate once, only more testing will prove its true reliability.

Nevertheless, as the Wisdom Index was the only poll that got our support right in the last election and gave an accurate indication of where we were in the subsequent two local elections, I’m prepared to trust its predictions over the next General Election. Therefore, I am publicly recanting my doom laden estimates of our demise in 2015 and calling us back into play. As the great Liberal peer John Maynard Keynes once said: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

* Lev Eakins is a former Manchester Councillor and parliamentary candidate who now lives in Sussex.

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  • The differences between ICM and YouGov have nothing to do with Murdoch, and virtually everything to do with the way ‘Don’t knows’ are accounted for and reallocated in the two different polls, surely. ICM gives the Lib Dems a bigger ‘benefit of the doubt’, based on past experience. Personally, though I’d love to be optimistic, I have my own doubts about that: we’re no longer an easy protest vote, and far more people actively dislike the Lib Dems than used to be the case.

    I think/hope it will be more the incumbency factor and good local campaigning that will prevent a complete meltdown – I don’t think the polls are ‘underestimating’ our true support.

  • Adam: ” I don’t think the polls are ‘underestimating’ our true support.”

    Look at the local election results in 2011 and 2012 compared to the average poll and the Wisdom Index.

    Can you say that again with a straight face?

  • “Secondly, it has only been tested (albeit very successfully) on one general election.”

    I’m amazed that anyone would draw conclusions like this on the basis of a single poll, especially when the method produces such awful results when applied to referenda. On top of that, the reason it performed better than conventional polling in 2010 was purely because the Lib Dem share of the vote happened to be spot on.

    The other thing to notice is that the method only ‘worked’ when respondents were prompted with the previous election result. Before the prompting, their prediction was much worse than the ICM voting intention poll.

  • David Allen 5th Oct '12 - 1:00pm

    Lev Eakins,

    Come off it, everybody knows the locals are a completely false guide to everything else, of course we always do better in the locals, because we have local strengths.

    I did start wondering if you might have a serious point about your Wisdom Index, but, remarks about local election results do nto strengthen your credibility.

  • “Look at the local election results in 2011 and 2012 compared to the average poll and the Wisdom Index.”

    You really can’t compare vote shares in local and general elections – particularly when the party is unpopular specifically because of what is happening at Westminster.

  • A week IS long time in politics & under our corrupt voting system which the good folk of the UK didnt want to change, its not the total vote, but WHERE you get the votes. You could end up with a much higher % of MPs than your total %vote.

  • Hi David.

    It’s not “my” Wisdom Index, it’s ICM’s.

    As for local election results: Whoever translates from opposition to power normally faces an almighty crash in support at the mid-term locals, only for this to normally recover somewhat at the general election. Labour enjoyed 48% and 43% support in the 1995 and 1996 local elections, securing 43% in the 1997 GE. In the locals in 1999 and 2000 they won only 36% and 30% of support (they lost almost 2000 council seats in the process).

    Then in 2001, they secured 41% of the vote, over 10% higher than their proceeding local election result.

    So the pattern Labour followed was high and sustained local elections in opposition, significant drop when in power, before returning to higher support in the following general. If the Wisdom index is correct (and it hasn’t been proved wrong at GE predictions yet) then we could be looking at a respectable result in 2015. Losses for sure, but not the crushing that YouGov and others predict.

  • David – sorry got too wrapped up the historic stats to answer your point directly.

    “Come off it, everybody knows the locals are a completely false guide to everything else, of course we always do better in the locals, because we have local strengths.”

    That was true when in opposition, but I suspect this is now reversed in power. The Labour example from 1995-2001 shows this is the case when parties translate from opposition to power. I suspect the same is true for us.

  • paul barker 5th Oct '12 - 1:25pm

    On the good news front I have been looking at changes in our vote in recent council byelections
    in elections last fought in 2010 the average decline in our vote over the last 3 months was 9%
    for those last fought in 2011 the fall was 4%
    & for those fought in may there was no average fall at all.
    This suggests the possibility that our performance reached its low point in the summer & that we may have begun a recovery.

    On the polls, people who think they show a real increase in the labour vote have to explain why only half those labour voters want to see a labour PM & why only half blame the coalition for the recession. In fact the number of commited labour voters is, at best no higher than in 2010. The extra votes that “voting intention” polls give labour are an offhand reaction to a very stupid question.

  • Peter Watson 5th Oct '12 - 1:25pm

    @David Allen ” of course we always do better in the locals, because we have local strengths.”
    Err, didn’t we do pretty badly in the last few local elections?

    I think the best hope for the Lib Dems is that its support, which has collapsed – especially compared to our coalition partners, holds up in the seats where it is the incumbent, and that it can attract back a lot of the anti-tory vote which appears to have gone to Labour. Tactical voters, who express a voting intention for Labour or Conservative, might still go back to the Lib Dems when faced with first-past-the-post on election day. However, there are plenty of threats. The greens or independents (e.g. Save the NHS), maybe even UKIP, might rob us of protest votes, SNP or PC might be seen as a more attractive anti-LabCon alternative in Scotland and Wales, and some key figures (Clegg, Laws, Alexander) might face a decapitation strategy by Lib Dem opponents,, especially if the NUS mobilises the student vote tactically.

    So overall … who knows? We might be wiped out, or we might do dispropotionately well under an electoral system we dislike. What is beyond doubt though is that election night 2015 (or whenever) will be worth staying up for!

  • Chris,

    “I’m amazed that anyone would draw conclusions like this on the basis of a single poll, especially when the method produces such awful results when applied to referenda. ”

    The Wisdom Index only appears accurate when there is widespread engagement in the question and a previous result to compare to (as you say the prompting produces higher accuracy). As I write in the piece, in referenda it isn’t accurate, but in the general election it was – for those reasons.

    “The other thing to notice is that the method only ‘worked’ when respondents were prompted with the previous election result. Before the prompting, their prediction was much worse than the ICM voting intention poll.”

    That is true, but as Martin Boon wrote in his Journal piece:

    “However, the purist version of the Wisdom question fared noticeably worse, producing an average error of 2.2%. That said, the average error across all final polls conducted by British Polling Council members averaged 2.2%, which
    makes even the purist Wisdom question no better or worse than the polls as a whole.”

  • On the subject of Council election results – this is a section that didn’t make the cut of the final piece:

    “But what about our disastrous performances in the local elections? If our support really is 16-19% why have we suffered such poor results in those real elections?

    It’s worth remembering that the opposition usually does well in local elections and we would normally win between 25%-30%, significantly higher than we would get in general elections. In the 90s we won at the expense of the Tories, in the 00s we won at the expense of Labour. Now we’re in power, opposed by Labour, we have lost the Labour facing boost we received in opposition, and naturally a significant amount of councillors, to Labour.

    This isn’t a unique phenomenon to us. In 1995 and 1996 Labour won 48% and 43% of the local election vote, gaining swathes of Tory-facing council seats. In 1999 and 2000 when these councillors were up for re-election, Labour lost an astonishing 1,823 of them (compared to our total of 1,084), before going on to win the general election the following year in a landslide. Those who predict that we face electoral oblivion in 2015 on the basis of mid-term local election results ignore recent history and the usual local election swings faced by parties translating from opposition to government.

    Furthermore, most of the parliamentary seats we hold are in Conservative-facing areas where our local election vote has held up well, and whilst we do find things tough in Labour-facing areas (especially cities) this isn’t universally true. We have actually gained council seats in Labour-facing Redcar in the north and Portsmouth in the south in both 2011 and 2012 -it wouldn’t surprise me if we returned our MPs there, just as Blair successfully defended Conservative-facing southern seats such as Crawley and Reading West in both 2001 and 2005.”

  • “The Wisdom Index only appears accurate when there is widespread engagement in the question and a previous result to compare to (as you say the prompting produces higher accuracy). As I write in the piece, in referenda it isn’t accurate, but in the general election it was – for those reasons.”

    It’s been applied to only one general election. You don’t know whether it is accurate applied to general elections in general, let alone why.

    As for what you say about engagement, it seems completely at odds with what Boon says in the article:
    “For the Wisdom predictions, however, all 2,022 people counted irrespective of whether they voted or not. Indeed, the concept actively values the inclusion of the less politically engaged and less informed: it is a theoretically necessary condition of accuracy (although the exclusion of ‘don’t knows’ and refusers from the Wisdom prediction set (2010 general election data) had no substantive impact on the predictions).”

    When it comes down to it, why should a collection of people, many with little knowledge of or interest in the relevant evidence, arrive at a more accurate result than would be achieved by empirical investigation? Frankly the whole thing smacks of pseudo-science to me, and it would take much stronger evidence to convince me than is presented in that article.

  • We may – or may not – have reached the nadir, but recent local byelection performance has not been good. In the 5 months since the locals in May, we have so far had to defend 10 seats on principal councils. We have lost 4, and we have not gained any from anyone else. All were in the North – Lincolnshire, Liverpool and County Durham, but 2 losses were to Tories and 2 to Labour. Lib Dems currently have the worst retention rate. There have been occasional byelections where we have improved our share, but in general results are dire. This must have been the worst half year (near enough) for the party – it is certainly IIRC – worse than 2010 or 2011. Let us remind ourselves that byelections are where we normally thrive, we can concentrate our resources.

    Lev, for you to hang your hopes on this Wisdom Poll is clutching at straws (and that’s an optimistic assessment). The honest truth is that the Lib Dems have a major political millstone round their neck, and until it is cast off, with a new (return to the old) direction, you will continue to see this effect. Wake up, Lib Dems!

  • “On the good news front I have been looking at changes in our vote in recent council byelections
    in elections last fought in 2010 the average decline in our vote over the last 3 months was 9%
    for those last fought in 2011 the fall was 4%
    & for those fought in may there was no average fall at all.
    This suggests the possibility that our performance reached its low point in the summer & that we may have begun a recovery.”

    Even taking these figures at face value, obviously they don’t suggest any recovery. They suggest the Lib Dem vote is down 9% on 2010, down 4% on 2011 and the same as it was in May this year. That’s not greatly different from the situation indicated by Westminster voting intention polls, except that they show support having dropped during 2010, and then having stayed put for nearly the last two years.

    Having said that, of course you can’t simply extrapolate from local election results to Westminster ones, and trying to do so is particularly hazardous on the basis of scattered local by-elections. For example, in the ones I’ve seen, it’s comparatively rare for the same parties to have stood in the by-election and the previous election you’re trying to compare with.

    Also, in a situation where the national party is unpopular because of what is happening at Westminster, I can well believe that the difference between the party’s local popularity and its national popularity, which was always significant, will have increased further since 2010.

  • Just returning to the figures for local by elections again, we were quite lucky to have only 10 to defend in 5 months since May – we have 3 more to defend in the next 3 weeks (1 in Lewisham, 2 in Maidstone). We are also failing to stand candidates in 5 other byelections over that period, so any potential for gains is reduced. Then we come to the Parliamentary byelections in November – and that shows little potential to lift the mood.

    It is all very well trying to see the positives, but you have to recognise when things need to change.

  • Charles Beaumont 5th Oct '12 - 3:07pm

    Part of the issue here is the definition of “crushed”. It seems plausible that our vote in the next general election will be in the mid-teens (based on: local election results, the fact that LDs always get a bit of a surge in a general election campaign). But that means we are still facing a 30% drop in support from 2010 – 2015. Then there’s the incumbency factor and the fact that in many cases our opponent is the Tories, whose vote will also likely decrease from their 2010 scores. So given the electoral system it would need a constituency by constituency analysis to really get to the bottom of this.

  • “Then there’s the incumbency factor …”

    There’s certainly the potential for incumbency to cut both ways at the next election. I’m sure there will be very personal campaigns against those LIb Dem MPs who voted in support of higher tuition fees, and probably those who supported the coalition’s policies on other issues too.

  • I agree that ICM is the most reliable pollster – for general elections anyway they are the gold standard having been the most accurate for quite a few past GEs now. YouGov, OTOH, tends to perform well in the London Mayoral elections. Different polling strategies work well for different things.

    So, yes, ICM’s 15-16% is almost certainly the most accurate estimate of our current support. As Adam says right at the beginning of the comments, good local campaigning and the incumbency factor (now that boundary changes are dead) will probably boost our support a couple of point come the election itself, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we got about 18%.

    However, it’s way, WAY too soon to herald the wisdom index as the new dawn of polling – it has performed well at a single election and that’s no basis for an analysis of it’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • There is an understandable angst within libDems as to how much damage has been done to the ‘brand’, due to tuition fees, NHS, abstention on J. Hunt, etc,etc. The second question is, will that damage result in meltdown? Will 2015 result in 8 or 18 LibDem Mp’s? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else, but it won’t be pretty.
    But I feel LibDems are missing an even bigger gravitational pull within politics. That gravity pull comes from UKIP. I won’t go into the merits and de-merits of leaving or staying in Europe here. (Although I think that discussion ought to be had with some urgency).
    There may be an inherent distaste from LibDems for the idea of leaving Europe, but this runs contrary to public opinion (ie voters). In 2014 the strength of that gravity pull to UKIP will be tested, in elections. I believe Cameron will wait until those elections, to test the strength of this voter pull to UKIP. If that pull to UKIP proves extremely strong, (and I think it will), Cameron will steal UKIP clothes by offering a referendum, (hopefully enshrined with more assurance than his previous, ‘cast iron pledge’), and will win the 2015 election outright.
    At that point, whether LibDems have 8, or 18 MP’s will be academic.

  • Also, Lev, I’m not sure what you mean by being “suspicious” of YouGov’s daily polling? If you suspect that Murdoch chose to hire YouGov as the Sun’s daily pollster because he knew their methodology was unfavourable to us and therefore wanted to give their numbers a publicity boost, then OK I concede that might be the case.

    But if you suspect that Murdoch got YouGov to adjust their methodology in order to suppress our vote share then that’s nonsense. Polling companies don’t make their money from political polling, they make it from commercial polling and market research. The political stuff is their shop window to attract commercial clients, so it’s always in their best interests to be as accurate as possible. Sorry – this may not have been what you meant but I see this kind of “polling conspiracy!” claim all the time (see current US election commentary) and it irritates me 🙂

  • coldcomfort 5th Oct '12 - 3:49pm

    The one thing that would bring a little brightness & cheer into the miserable lives of Conservatives, Labour, UKIP, the media et al would be the obliteration of the LibDems and consequently they will lose no opportunity to ‘advertise’ that opinion polls, and anything else they can think of, point inexorably to that outcome. We must not turn it into a self fulfilling prophecy by dwelling on these matters ourselves. That simply encourages Joe Public to believe in the ‘no smoke without fire’ adage. We should turn into attack dogs. Firstly our leaders need to come up with a simple & compelling narrative as to why the LibDems need to be supported. Making the Tories less nasty is not of itself enough. Firstly the public needs to understand (it doesn’t or doesn’t want to at the moment) that it stuck in our gullet to get into bed with the Tories but the alternative was a second election in October 2010 which would almost certainly have led to an overall Tory majority, and, while that was going on, a collapse in market confidence in the UK . Both would have resulted in pain for Joe Public which makes present pain look very bearable indeed. Secondly as the minority group in Government we have had to fight tooth & nail to curtail the worst Tory excesses and we’ve got a fair few good policies of our own through – apprenticeships being one. And what about going forward? We remain committed to fair rewards for commensurate effort and no rewards for failure where that failure is due to incompetence rather than bad luck. We are committed to rebalance the economy so that making, selling & doing takes precedence over pumping money round a network of computers. We are committed to the green agenda which is the only way to preserve a planet in which our grandchildren have a future. It makes good business sense as well as one Tory Grandee (best known as John Selwyn Gummer) has publically stated. We are committed to helping people take charge of their own lives and to taking care of those who are unable to care for themselves. Finally the public are entitled to competence from our politicians. Every major cock up in the Coalition, culminating in the West Coast Rail Franchise fiasco, has come from a department where the relevant minister is a Tory. There ought to enough in this instant manifesto to give our leaders something to say that would get the public inspired.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Oct '12 - 3:56pm

    Lev Eakins

    It’s worth remembering that the opposition usually does well in local elections and we would normally win between 25%-30%, significantly higher than we would get in general elections. In the 90s we won at the expense of the Tories, in the 00s we won at the expense of Labour. Now we’re in power,

    But we’re not “in power” in the sense of running the government. We’re a junior coalition partner in a coalition dominated by the senior partner.

    Why this constant repetition of this phrase that we’re “in power”, when it seems to mean we get the worst of both worlds – we can’t get much of our policy through, but we get the blame for the government policy which isn’t ours and lose poll support for it?

    This boasting that we should feel good about losing support because it’s a natural aspect of being “in power” is just more and more of what by now is surely obviously a failed tactic – the belief that people will think “Gosh, there are Liberal Democrat ministers, I wouldn’t have voted for the party before, but I will now”. The boasting about being “in power” in a government which, being five-sixths Conservative, is naturally pushing Conservative party policies seems to get more people to think “having government posts is all they really wanted, and they’ve given up their principles for it”. I think it makes it much harder to defend our situation. We should be saying we had to go into the coalition because it was the only stable government, we can do a little in it but that’s all, if you want a more Liberal Democrat flavoured government then you need to vote for the party, and also support electoral reform which would give us an influence proportional to our votes whereas the current system weakens us and strengthens the Tories – with the results you now see.

    So boasting about being “in power” is actually telling people they needn’t vote for us because we’re doing fine with the votes we had, and throwing away the strong case for an important policy of ours which the imbalance of the current government shows, if only we could just be honest about it.

  • Isn’t the most likely explanation for the relative accuracy of the ‘Wisdom’ poll on the eve of the 2010 election simply that people were reflecting what the other polls were saying? A sort of echo chamber effect. Seems to me that the average voter has a pretty good idea of what the polls are saying in the run-up to an election but only a vague idea between elections. It may be that an eve of election ‘Wisdom’ poll will do slightly better than individual pollsters, though one result is not much of an evidence base, but surely it’s fallacious to conclude that a ‘Wisdom’ poll is always more accurate than other polls. Isn’t it more likely that in periods when people are less engaged in politics and less aware of what the polls are saying their predictions become less accurate?

  • AndrewR – but if that is the case, then why didn’t the 2010GE wisdom poll give a much higher (and less accurate) prediction? ALL the other polls had inflated our support, so if “people were reflecting what the other polls were saying” then surely the WI score would have been higher (WI was the lowest of all the polls – and the most accurate).

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '12 - 5:56pm

    John Dunn: UKIP may well become a significant political force; however, the appropriate Lib Dem response would not be to steal its clothes. For the Lib Dems to advocate leaving the EU would, from a positioning point of view, not make sense at all, like Ryanair moving into the business-class flight market. It doesn’t matter how popular the position is, the LDs would not appear credible advocating it. The anti-EU people have UKIP and most of the Tories to fight their corner; meanwhile, there is a significant part of the UK population who are pro-EU and we need to be the party taking that position if no-one else is going to. However, we do need to be openly pro-EU-reformist, saying clearly what we would change in the EU, articulating a liberal vision of the EU; especially for the 2014 European election, which we need to fight on European issues. And incidentally, whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU is a domestic UK issue, not a European issue, and if quizzed on the issue during the 2014 campaign our spokespeople should make this clear by saying something like “No the UK shouldn’t leave the EU but that is not a matter for MEPs to decide, and this is what Lib Dem MEPs can do and have done…”

  • Liberal Democrats always did well in ,local elections and were well represented in councils up and down the country.

    I suspect that a “majority” of that support came from….

    A) Liberal Democrats had not been in Government, therefore they were not be judged the same as {Labour or Conservatives} they never had to defend a record on the national scale, so many people on a local scale would give the party the benefit of the doubt.
    B) The Liberal Democrats would benefit from protest votes on a local level from those who were unhappy with the current government.

    That is not trying to take away the hard work of councillors and grass roots up and down the country, but it has to be recognised that a lot of the electorate do not differentiate between local and general elections.

    Now that Liberal Democrats have been in government, I think the party is now going to find it difficult to fight and win local elections. The electorate are displeased with the parties record and the direction that the “country” as a whole has been directed. The By-elections and local elections and all the polls all indicate that this is and will be the case.

    Losing support on a local level will have drastic effect on the general election for the party and I do believe Libdem Mp’s would be reduced to around the 15-20 figure.

    People always trot out the same old line, “that a week is a long time in politics” and blah blah blah, of course, this is usually done by those defending their own party. I never understood this because the “people” never forget and if they do then they are quickly reminded by political opponents and the media. Even now Liberal Democrats are still obsessed with Tony Blaire and you can hardly go a week without someone mentioning an illegal war in Iraq, or how much money the former prime minister is now earning. And the same will be true for this party, with Cleggs broken promises, tuition fee’s, NHS reforms, David Laws expenses and returned to a ministerial payroll and the list goes on and on.
    The difference is, that whilst a majority of the country do not want our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan fighting wars, there is no sympathy for these regimes whether it be Hussein, Binlarden, or dictator and as a consequence I do not believe a majority of the people really care about the “legalities” of these conflicts and most people are in fact pleased that these stains on humanity have been removed for ever. The “alleged” “illegal” war in Iraq was not what lost Labour the 2010 election, Labour lost because they lost touch with the people and I think Liberal Democrats are going to lose just as badly if not more due to the same. Difference is Liberal Democrats stand to lose far more because they already start from such a much weaker position due to only having 57 Mps in the first instance.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach
    ”we can’t get much of our policy through, but we get the blame for the government policy which isn’t ours and lose poll support for it?”
    Um do you mean the policies that the Lib Dems all voted for and were cheerleaders and frontsmen/women for? A brilliant move by the Tories. Remember that the electorate will be reminded of that by both Tory and Labour. Where you are in a marginal Tory/Lib Dem constituency what would be the point of voting for you when it only means getting Tory policies anyway? The Tory candidates will pulverise you.

  • Alex Macfie
    Sorry Alex, I think you’ve misread what I wrote. Your reply said ” however, the appropriate Lib Dem response would not be to steal its [UKIP’s] clothes”
    I didn’t say that LibDems would or should steal UKIP’s clothes. It’s very clear that LibDems are wedded to more Europe, not less. Unfortunately, this LibDem view of Europe is, as I said before, the direct opposite of the public opinion. (If you think that last statement is wrong it is easy to test.)
    I repeat what I did say, in that, the Tories will steal UKIP’s clothes. And they will do it in sufficient time mid 2014, to ‘harvest’ enough defecting votes to get a majority in the 2015 general election. At that point they will not need the Lib Dems, and will cut them adrift.

  • Richard

    “I thought you might enjoy this piece which outlines why people like You Gov tend to underestimate support for smaller parties and overestimate support for the Tories”

    I’m afraid that link doesn’t work for me, but it is worth noting that a lot of the prevalent assumptions about pollsters are quite wrong. In 2010 YouGov’s final poll for the general election overestimated support for the Lib Dems and underestimated support for the Tories. Exactly the same for first preferences in the 2012 London mayoral election.

  • Robert Carruthers 5th Oct '12 - 8:14pm

    With all due respect and as someone who is more optimistic about the fate of the Lib Dems than the current polls would warrant, I have to say that Lev Eakins is clutching at straws here. I firmly believe that our support is what the current opinion polls say it is, at around 10%. We can’t just dismiss the polls because they are producing a message we don’t like, shooting the messenger because we don’t like the message. We really do have a mountain to climb if we are to retrieve the 13% of voters we have lost since 2010. The good news is that we can do it, or at least get quite close to the summit.

    The answer comes in looking at where the voters have gone since 2010. In order of importance, 41% have gone to Labour, 24% have become “don’t knows”, 9% have gone to the Conservatives, 6% to UKIP, 6% to the Greens, and 3% to SNP. As far as Labour are concerned, I believe that provided the economy is improving by 2015 and along with it living standards and the public finances, I think there will be such a huge question mark against Ed Balls and Ed Miliband that few will actually be prepared to vote them back in to govern in Westminster, especially when they will not be able to promise any real kind of largesse. At local level, I believe the vote for the others will be shaken out by the need to choose a potential winning candidate locally at constituency level, providing we give enough positive messages and ideas for which people can vote. People vote based on what they hope for after the election, much less than what has happened until then. If we can articulate a sufficiently convincing programme for 2015 onwards, we stand a chance at constituency level of winning a large proportion of our voters back.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Oct '12 - 8:25pm

    All attention given to polls and attempts to analyse them more than two years before a general election is navel-gazing of the worst order and a total waste of bandwidth.

  • @Lev Eakins
    You’ve rather glossed over the fact there were two ‘Wisdom’ questions. One was less accurate than the normal ICM poll. The other one was only slightly more accurate . This is the second question “At the last general election in 2005, the Labour Party won 36% share of the vote, the Conservatives had 33% share, the Liberal Democrats 23% share and smaller parties combined had 8% share of the vote . Knowing this, please tell me what percentage share of the vote you think the …… party will win in the forthcoming general election?” It isn’t very surprising that given this prompting people came up with a figure (24%) not very different from the previous election.

  • @Anne “Where you are in a marginal Tory/Lib Dem constituency what would be the point of voting for you when it only means getting Tory policies anyway? ”

    It is not as if the Liberal Democrats actually fixed the entire 2010 election deliberately so that they would form a Coalition with the Conservatives is it? I mean, in circumstances where refusing to form a Coalition would have lead to Conservative Majority Rule by 2011, the Liberal Democrats bit the bullet, and prevented that until 2015. If Labour had not let their own voters down so badly, the Lib Dems would have had a better option, but Labour and the Liberal Democrats simply did not win enough seats. If voters in those constituencies want to help the Conservatives win a clear majority in 2015, and get even more Conservative policies from a Conservative Party that are more inanely right wing now than any I have ever seen before, that is their democratic right, but if their problem with the Coalition is they don’t like the Tory’s, to help them win outright makes no sense to me.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '12 - 10:43pm

    @John Dunn: Well, if the Tories win outright in 2015, then that’s fine, the Lib Dems go into opposition. It is of more interest to the Lib Dems to maximise their vote share in 2015, than to get into a position where they are again junior partner in a mainly-Tory government. It’s not a question of the Tories “cutting them adrift”, which is a turn of phrase that suggests that the Lib Dems would fight the next election hanging on the Tories’ coat-tails, and would seek a slice of power with them come what may. But the Lib Dems will be fighting the 2015 election as an independent party, and would not want to be anything other an opposition to a Tory majority government.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Oct '12 - 10:59pm

    BTW, by “defecting votes” if you mean from UKIP to Tories, then that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Were there many seats in 2010 where UKIP caused a Tory defeat? I doubt it. So there are few if any seats to be gained by the Tories through defections from UKIP. People tend to vote UKIP in European elections, as a protest, or out of a mistaken belief that European elections determine whether the UK remains an EU member, or because they know that in a PR election they can safely vote for small parties. If UKIP starts to increase its vote in FPTP elections, they it will be taking votes *from* the Tories — a scenario that would benefit the Lib Dems!

  • Missomole – don’t feed the trøll. All this “they’re all Tory policies” nonsense is a wind-up.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Oct '12 - 11:51pm


    @ Matthew Huntbach
    ”we can’t get much of our policy through, but we get the blame for the government policy which isn’t ours and lose poll support for it?”
    Um do you mean the policies that the Lib Dems all voted for and were cheerleaders and frontsmen/women for?

    All the Lib Dems? I think you will find that on the tuition fees thing, for example, quite a few of the LibDem Mps abstained or voted against. And do you really have evidence that all the LibDem MPs, every single one of them, has been cheerleading every Tory policy?

    Try reading the right-wing press: Daily Mail, Times, Telegraph, to see what THEY have to say about the LibDems. Mostly it’s moans about how the LibDems are stopping the Tories from doing all the right-wing stuff they want to do. Try reading some of the truly frightening stuff that the right-wing fringe of the Tories is coming out with. And you with your wish that people in Tory/LibDem marginals don’t vote LibDem – well, well done, you’ll be handing them over to the Tories, people like you will be responsible if we have a Tory majority government next time, and then you’ll see what they are like when there’s no LibDem restraint on them.

    Look Anne, can’t you see I’m actually pretty unhappy with the LibDem leadership, and trying to present an argument against what they’re doing, trying to suggest this “we’re so proud to be ‘in power'” stuff come out sounding like you put it? So why are you having a go at me? If you really don’t like the way the LibDem leadership seem to be moving the party to the right, don’t you think it might be an idea to show a bit of support for those of us who are trying to stop that? If we could show a bit of outside support for what we’re doing, signs that attempts to pull the LibDems back to where they used to be are appreciated and might win the party back support, maybe we’d win a few more battles against Clegg and co. People like you are helping the right-wing of the LibDems take complete control of the party because you are making it seem a waste of time to try bother fighting them.

  • @Tabman, sorry.

  • “People will believe what we tell them to believe”

    Who said this?

  • Richard

    Thanks for the link. The suggestion is that YouGov underestimates Lib Dem support because – unlike MORI – it doesn’t rotate the order in which the names of the parties are presented, so the Lib Dems are always the third option.

    The problem is that, though the article quotes a YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems at 9% and a MORI poll showing them at 13%, if you look at more than just one poll the difference between MORI and YouGov isn’t so pronounced. The last four MORI polls have the Lib Dems on 10, 11, 12 and 13.

    The most pronounced difference is between YouGov and ICM. But acccording to the information on UK Polling Report, ICM doesn’t rotate the party names either.

    Plenty of possible reasons for the divergence have been discussed, but I’m sceptical about this suggestion.

  • I tend to believe the polls of around 10% because it gels with my anecdotal experience. I also think that the problems for the conservatives are too deep seated for them to win overall majority. Can the Lib Dems recover? I suspect not for 2015 and certainly not whilst the Leadership is so strongly identified with Conservative policies. The problem, as with Labour, is a tendency to let the economic Right dictate their narrative above representing who actually votes for them. Personally,I just wish that progressive ideas dide not seem to be abandoned every time a newspaper said boo and that the Lib Dems, and Labour for that matter, would stop trying to out Tory the Tories.

  • Catherine, I am going to irritate you some more.. in any line of business you can get a survey or a report done to suit your needs in arguing a position.. it is surely no different in political polling where the paymaster is a very biased press. I have been a regular respondent to two opinion polls, and stopped doing each when I could spot from the questions what the agenda was, and then saw in the following few days press the story I had predicted. Repeatedly I was unable to give the answer to the question I wanted to give, repeatedly the option of ‘don’t know’ and ‘no opinion’ were counted the same, repeatedly the question included a premise that I didn’t agree with. Opinion polls are very crude means of providing the ‘evidence’ to support a story, so the journalist claims he is just reporting ‘the facts’. The prediction of our melt-down is their agenda; we should stop being fooled by their quasi evidence and have faith in what we believe in, or it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  • peter

    How on earth do you tailor the question to get the answer you want in a voting intention poll?

  • peter The British Polling Organisation outlaws so-called “push-polling” which is what you are describing here. So you are actually saying that polls are actually breaking their code of professional ethics on a regular basis? You’d better be sure of your facts – and if you are report them in full to the relevant authorities. Your view is mighty cynical, and undermines the whole polling process. If you sincerely believe this, you should now regard it as your duty to do something about it. I look forward to hearing what you have done and what it has achieved.

  • Richard Dean 6th Oct '12 - 2:40pm

    My experience is the same as Peter’s. Poll questions and their order fit the questioners’ understanding of language and of the world, even if they try to avoid explicitly pushing the questioners’ agenda.

  • Richard

    It’s all very well saying that, but the question being asked by YouGov is simply “If there were a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”, and I believe that is normally asked first of all, precisely in order to avoid the other questions having any influence on the responses for voting intention.

    It doesn’t make sense to speak of that question reflecting an “agenda”, or being framed in such a way that the result will back up a particular viewpoint.

  • Peter Kellner of YouGov never claimed we’d drop to 10 MPs. He said if the swing was universal that’s what’d occur and then noted afterwards that the Lib Dems would almost certainly end up with more than 10 MPs but that basic polling couldn’t tell us a lot more.

  • @AndrewR

    “You’ve rather glossed over the fact there were two ‘Wisdom’ questions. One was less accurate than the normal ICM poll. The other one was only slightly more accurate [where they are prompted with the previous result].It isn’t very surprising that given this prompting people came up with a figure (24%) not very different from the previous election.”

    I would wager that most people (who aren’t politico nerds like me) wouldn’t know at any given time the average rating any party would be on. Some may guess (badly) but I should imagine most wouldn’t. I would even argue that more people would have a better idea of how the £ is exchanging against the $ or Euro at any given moment that where the parties are in the polls.

    Given this, having a “back marker” of where they scored last time would be invaluable at such a method of polling. Those questioned would then go through the mental process of attempting to guess the mood of the national crowd and then predict the movement and direction of support for each party in relation to the last election. Without such background information, it would be difficult for most to place their guess as they would be unachored and may in fact try to predict a higher share but incorrectly place a party with a lower share than the last election (or vice versa).

    For standard polling, the responders simply say who THEY would vote for next, rather than guess how others would. Under such questioning you wouldn’t need to know the last result, but for a crowd sourced guess you would.

  • @thomas long “Peter Kellner of YouGov never claimed we’d drop to 10 MPs”

    Tim Ross, the political correspondent to the Telegraph wrote (linked in the first para of this article):

    “Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov, said the party was on course to return just 10 MPs to Westminster after the 2015 election if it remained adrift on 10 per cent of the vote.”

  • Lev

    If you look at the article Tim Ross was referring to, you’ll see that Peter Kellner did indeed qualify his views about the likely Lib Dem losses:
    “In practice, their losses might not be quite so bad, if Lib Dem MPs exploit their local personal popularity to minimise the loss of votes in their own constituencies. The figures would have been even worse had the Lib Dems continued to back the new boundaries, reducing the House of Commons from 650 to 600 seats. Clegg has done his party a service by repudiating this part of the coalition agreement. Even so, without a big recovery, his party is likely to end up at least 20 seats down.”

  • @Alex McFie
    “Were there many seats in 2010 where UKIP caused a Tory defeat? I doubt it.”
    Dream on.
    I’m afraid you are not the only one here to have misunderstood what John Dunn means about the LibDems being cut adrift if there is an “understanding” between the Tories and UKIP after the European elections in 2014. Were the Labour Party to be poll points ahead to win the next general election – and with a referendum over Europe on offer by a Conservative Party then crucially unopposed by UKIP in swing seats – the Libdems might indeed be grateful to the Tories for their coat-tails.
    Such a scenario needs further examination and I hope Party strategists can find a way to frame future policy so that campaigners won’t have the added burden of defending a pro-European “warts and all” message in the face of an onslaught from their former partners in government.

  • Matt appears to be having a go at my ‘a week is along time in Politics’ – well if he had followed my comments when the headless chickens were worrying about a Lib Dem wipe out in 2009 for coming GE he might not have made that comment!!
    All I can say is stick to your LIBERAL guns and if the B*****ds dont vote for you so be it. If you followed the Polls & believed a wipe out was coming you may as well shut up shop now. Come on stand up for what you believe… .. as long as its Liberalism….. then I might even rejoin!!!!!

  • @Greenfield

    “Matt appears to be having a go at my ‘a week is along time in Politics”

    Erm No actually, if I was referring to a comment you made, I would have quoted it 😉

    My comment was made because ALL you ever hear on these boards and from politicians is the same ol trot “a week is a long time in Politics” which is tiresome and ridiculous to boot

  • The Lib Dem vote could be halved yet the seats in parliament still retained. This is FPTP. At the last general election, the Lib Dem went up but seats were lost overall, this means there is plenty of slack in the relationship between votes an seats.

    UKIP could be marginally helpful in siphoning off a disproportionate number of Conservative votes, so LIb Dem MPs in seats where a Conservative will be the main challenger, might do well to brush up their pro EU credentials, with the hope of attracting in a UKIP name on the ballot paper.

  • In the short term, the Liberal Democrat poll numbers are meaningless except as an index of current public approval. However, it’s obvious that if the numbers continue into 2015, the Liberal Democrats are in for a very bad beating. The only way the party can have a chance of surviving is to leave the coalition in late 2014 or 2015, supporting the government only on a confidence basis, and to fight the election as an opposition party. A change in the visible leadership would also be highly desirable at that point.

  • I have just seen in the Mail that your beloved Chancellor has just kicked into touch and ideas of a Mansion or Wealth Tax

    Apparently he believes people living in million pound houses are ‘Middle England’ – discuss

    Also, the freezing on council tax is surely just moving the deckchairs as the loss in income will be for councils and will have to be made up from further grants from central government or put the blame for the cuts onto the heads of councillors? If I am correct isn’t that a bit sneaky and disengenuous?

  • Sean Blake There has always been a strong element in the Lib Dems, and particularly worrying, the campaigning arm, which has wanted to downplay Lib Dem losses to UKIP. These, of course, are much more marked at Euro elections, of course, but now Lib Dems are no longer an anti, but a pro-Government party, that trend could become more marked at GEs – and is already in evidence in some local elections. People rubbish UKIP for not having won any recent local elections, but their actual performances in a number of places have been much better than previously. Be under no illusion, many of those votes would previously have been Lib Dem (polling evidence again gives a clue to this happening).

    As for any sort of arrangement / pact etc between UKIP and Tories – I don’t think it will happen. The level of personal hatred between members of the two camps is horrendous, as any visit to a Euro election count will confirm. Lib Dems can deal on much more civilised terms with both opponents. Of course, if the unlikely happened, and UKIP were to hold the balance of power in a Tory dominated, but minority Parliament, they would no doubt come to some arrangement.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 10:16am

    Surely no-one believes the Daily Mail?

  • Richard, I’m sure most on here are “very sceptical” of what they read in The Mail, but looking wider at how many readers it has etc, and knowing its formidable reputation as a shaper of opinion, as well as a reflector of same, don’t even in fun, write it off as not believed!

  • @Richard Dean

    maybe they don’t believe the daily mail, but the prime minister just confirmed on the Andrew Marrs show

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 11:05am

    Surely no-one believes the Prime Miinister?

    We’ll fix the economy in 2 years and be growing massively by 2012!

  • Richard

    Was that aimed at me?

    I certainly don’t believe the Mail on most things but when there is a direct quote in an interview (which I presume has been cleared) by Osborne, followed by the Prime Minister confirming it on Marr I give it some credence

  • No one can tell what is going to happen, there is too much that can change between now and the next GE. For the Lib Dems to change leader or pull out of the Coalition right now would not IMO be responsible actions on their part. As things stand, the Conservatives do not have enough support to win outright, Labour do not have the amount of support they need to be sure of a win, and the Lib Dems have never taken on a GE campaign from being in a Coalition before.

    What does strike me is that to improve their positions in the polls, the Conservatives need to turn left, but their party do not seem to want to, Labour need to turn right, but they will disturb their core support if they do, and the Lib Dems need to have not joined the Coalition, except that might have made no difference, since they would then have been blamed for the results of refusing to join instead.

    In the midst of this confusion I have a dream about what could really get “crushed” at the next GE, and that is two party “tribal” politics. The odd thing about that hope, is if the Lib Dems lose, lets say half their MP’s, but that comes from an evenly balanced “pincer effect”, then Labour and the Conservatives end up in stalemate, then what? The “crushed” Lib Dems might still be the only way either can form a stable Government, or this time they fold their arms and say “We cannot help you, with 15% of the vote, we should not get involved.” , and the “dead” Lib Dems are suddenly the Opposition to a paralyzed Grand Coalition? The British people chose another GE under FPTP, and they are going to get one, but is it going to get them what they want?

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 12:27pm

    Surely no-one in their right mind believes the Chancellor?

    No U-turn on pasty tax!

  • Missimole

    Rather a lot of ‘leaps of faith’ there and I dispute that Labour have to move to the right. I think any further right and they would be Tories (or Lib Dems)

    Remember FPTP tends to lead to majority Government, especially if Labour are ahead in the polls due to their voter efficiency. Your leadership seems to have removed some of the possibility of changing that by refusing the boundary changes.

    If there is a need for a Coalition at the next election then I think the LD will be a very difficult position. labour will demand the head of Clegg and I doubt have nothing to do with Laws and Alexander. For the LD leadership a continued Coalition with the Tories would clearly be their favoured option and I can see that being pushed for, even if Labour where the biggest party.

    Another Tory colaition would destroy the LD as a broad-based party and they would be seen as the UK FDP with a right-wing Gladstonian liberal approach that would put off their current demographic. For a lefty this would be wonderful news as we would see a split right-wing vote. Perhaps we would see a 4th party – liberal left (perhaps called the SDP?) or could we see a merger with a Miliband led Labour Party. Who knows?

    I still do not rule out a pact between the LD and the Tories before 2015 if there is no improvement in the polls.

    It will be entrigiung to see the politicking before 2015 but I suggest the first thing for the LIb Dems is to stop this puerile sniping at Labour (it doesn’t work) and concentrate on protecting the future of your party and have a clear set of values.

  • Peter Chivall 7th Oct '12 - 1:34pm

    There isn’t anything in Bassasc’s contribution with which I would disagree. While the recent Brighton Conference were prepared to give qualified assent to continuing Austerity – in practice little different to what MilliBalls would do, the bulk of the Party are very much opposed to all the Tories’ flagship policies, especially on Academies and the NHS, and on green issues, where Osborne is trying to block every LibDem initiative that might threaten the wealth of the oil companies. With Cameron under pressure to appease his right wing on Europe (and much else) and to protect his flank from UKIP, the possibility of a Euro Referendun after 2015 is greater whatever the outcome of the election.
    To his credit, Nick Clegg proposed an ‘in-or-out’ referendum from the Opposition benches at the time of the Lisbon Treaty on the good Liberal grounds of ‘trust the people’. Perhaps we should be prepared to make a virtue of necessity in 2015 and be confident enough to win the argument as part of a subsequent ‘Stay in’ coalition. The only reservation would be to state the Referendum must be held at a date after the Recession was clearly over (to prevent a market panic – of course!)
    Sadly, while Nick Clegg (and now even Danny Alexander) have started making speeches with a more ‘soak the rich’ tone, the overall impression is that of a leadership of the Party firmly wedded to a neoliberal view of economic progress. The early rehabilitation of David Laws can but reinforce the influence of the ‘Orange Book tendency’, despite his welcome remarks on a stronger role for local Councils in managing Education services.
    Whether the optimistic polling results given by ICM’s ‘Wisdom Poll’ turn out to be valid (and spawn many PhD Theses on ‘Survey by Crowd Sourcing’), they do give some hope to Party activists. The persistence of sub-10% poll ratings does de-motivate activists and armchair Members alike, even though we know that, as here in Peterborough, we can suppress the Labour vote and take seats off the Tories in target Wards where Focus goes out 10 times every year and Councillors are on every doorstep between elections.

  • Peter Chivall

    Don’t get me wrong – at heart I still think the LD provide the best long-term solution to some of the problems we see with politics. Voting and constitutional reform, sensible green policies (which is where you can differ from the Green Party fundamentalists) and an aim to improve equality of opportunity and reward are key areas that I support (I even support to this day of having free at the point of use tertiary education).

    The leadership has let you down in this Coalition by not being strong enough and taking on the Tories – perhaps to do a separate deal on HoL reform with Labour may have been possible for example, or testing the mettle of Miliband on a mansion tax or similar. The reemergence of Laws has been the single biggest blow to the credibility of the leadership though – it shows that they are no different to the other parties. In fact, to my mind worse. What will they now do seeing Cameron has pretty much ruled out wealth taxes

    For those of you who are true Liberal Democrats I would try to work out what the post-LDP will look like because it doesn’t look to hot from where I am sitting at the moment

  • I was hoping that the Lib Dems would be a moderating force in politics and stand for things I believe in, like justice.

    However, a test case for this, Julian Assange, has shown otherwise. People will judge politicians on their achievements, not just their aspirations.

  • @ Bazzasc – “Remember FPTP tends to lead to majority Government,” , yes, but it did not lead to majority Government last time, why did it not, and has that situation changed?

  • Missomole

    I said ‘tends to’ not ‘always’

    Things have changed since the last election, the Labour Party seems to be recovering, the Tories will struggle to maintain their vote but it won’t go down too much in all probability and I am guessing the LD will lose around a third of the vote.

    The maintenance of the current boundaries will aid Labour as well

    I do not think your reading of the situation is at all likely

  • Of course, the Liberal Democrat vote will not be completely crushed.

    The share will be likely similar to the ICM poll due to the fact that in some areas the Liberal Democrat is the only opposition to the Conservatives and Labour are too far back. The South West of England is a good example of this.

    The Conservatives are doing their best to remind the voters how unpleasant they actually are`(confirming the reasons why the Conservatives did not get an outright majority in the first place), and the Anti Tory vote may hold in these areas.

    This does depends on entirely negative reasons for voting liberal democrat . It relies upon anti Conservative voters thinking that voting for the Liberal Democrats will not result in another Conservative led government.(No promises will be believed there). It also assumes that two + more years of severe cuts (with agreements for billions more post election), outsourcing of everything and keeping the Conservatives in power does not result the Liberal Democrats becoming indistinguishable from the Conservatives.

    There will be some loyalty shown to MPs where they have carried out good work locally and there is a strong and successful Liberal Democrat presence in the Local Council.

    The Liberal Democrats will but will likely be around 28 to 33 MPs.

    I would suggest that one more coalition with the Conservatives would remove the remainder of the Anti Conservative reasons to vote and the following election would likely leave the Liberal Democrats significantly weaker. It may be possible to talk about being crushed then.

  • Peter Watson 9th Oct '12 - 1:38pm

    To update references I have made previously about potential challenges from “Save the NHS” independents, it appears that such a movement is indeed getting off the ground over at http://www.nationalhealthaction.org.uk/. It will be interesting to see if it gets anywhere and the effect that might have on incumbent Lib Dems and Conservatives in any targeted seats.

  • I’d suggest stop worrying about the semantics of polling systems.

    The reality is that the LibDems are propping up an absolutely appalling conservative government. There isn’t enough differentiation and like many of my friends I will not be voting LibDem again. Listening to the Conservative conference and watching the butchery of the welfare state.

    The level of disillusionment among the general public is high. I had great hopes for coalition government, I was disappointed that it was with the Conservatives because I didn’t trust them or respect their policies.

    I’m a liberal, but I don’t think that this party is any more.

  • @mark –
    Do explain your plan to protect the welfare state? Please bare in mind that to be on a par with any serious political party, your ideas must be both costed, and electable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '12 - 8:40am


    The reality is that the LibDems are propping up an absolutely appalling conservative government. There isn’t enough differentiation and like many of my friends I will not be voting LibDem again. Listening to the Conservative conference and watching the butchery of the welfare state.

    The reality is that this government is what the people of Britain voted for. The Conservatives got more votes in2010 that any other party and we have an electoral system which distorts representation in favour of the biggest party (i.e. the Conservatives) and against third parties (i,e. the LibDems). Any argument that this distortion makes the system undemocratic was destroyed by the British people when in 2011 they voted, by two to one, against even the minimal reform of AV, after a “No” campaign which explicitly put this distortion as the current system’s best feature. No-one in the “No” campaign was using the argument that AV is not a big enough reform, and the referendum result was interpreted by every commentator as closing down the debate on electoral reform for a generation: the British people have spoken and said they want to keep the system they have: the one that gave them THIS government from THEIR votes.

    Most Liberal Democrat MPs represent seats which in the past returned Conservative MPs and which have a profile which suggest they would, in the absence of a strong LibDem campaign, revert to the Conservatives. So if the LibDem vote collapses, these seats will go back to the Conservatives. If the Conservative manage a bit of a revival by 2015, that may be enough to hand them a majority. If Labour gets a majority in 2015 and the LibDems are destroyed, the likelihood is there will be a Conservative majority in the election after that. And we have seen from their conference what this will be about.

    I take the opposite lesson from the Conservative conference as you. It reminds us just how extreme the Conservative Party is now. If it looks like the LibDems are getting little in the way of concessions from them, look at just how extreme they are, at what they say they want to do and are gnashing their teeth because the LibDems are stopping them.

    The LibDems would be able to achieve more on the central economic themes is there were wider support for their solutions in the country. There aren’t an easy solutions, but if there were backing from outside for the difficult solutions the LibDems propose – things like taxation of property – perhaps they could get argued through. But there is no such backing, leaving the LibDems isolated. Under those circumstances, the Conservatives’ difficult solutions get through.

    The key to this is the Labour Party. If the Labour Party were to join with the LibDems in calling for the sort of taxation reform that would properly attack the unequal distribution of wealth in this country, together the two parties could stand up to the right-wing press and the way it howls down any suggestion of this sort of thing. With that sort of backing from outside, the LibDems could make more headway inside the government. But, oh no, if anything the Labour Party has sided with the political right on LibDem proposals for tax reform. Labour has no answer, it has nothing to say about the serious economic situation this country is in apart from “cuts are bad” – er yes, but how would YOU pay for them, Mr Miliband? No answer.

    So sure, by running an empty campaign and hoping to get back on the collapse of the LibDem vote, Labour are doing what is probably the best if all they are interested in is power. However, once they are in they will face the same problems, and having derided the LibDems and joined in with the right-wing press in doing down their proposals, they will be stuck, they will be able to do nothing but preside over the continuing decline of this country, they will just be preparing the grounds for the Conservatives to return on the “swing”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Oct '12 - 8:48am


    The leadership has let you down in this Coalition by not being strong enough and taking on the Tories – perhaps to do a separate deal on HoL reform with Labour may have been possible for example, or testing the mettle of Miliband on a mansion tax or similar.

    Labour deliberately destroyed HoL reform. A democratic HoL could have saved us against the extremism of a future Conservative majority government. Labour also deliberately destroyed electoral reform, those among them supposedly in favour of AV were so quiet in the referendum that hardly anyone even knew of their existence, while Labour opponents were loud in their opposition – explicitly stating they wanted a return to the two-party system. And therefore, leaving us most likely to be run by the most extremist Conservative government ever very soon.

    Miliband could have come out in favour of mansion tax, and so helped build up the case for it which would enable the LibDems to press for it within the coalition. But he didn’t, all he has offered is empty talk, no real alternative solutions.

  • There’s just one problem here – the polls predicting doom for the libdems tend to be pretty accurate as well these days. Also, it’s easy to dismiss local election results but in the Scottish parliamentary election 2011, the libdems were cut from 16 members down to about 7 – and that was about 1 year into the coalition government.

    Plus it just makes sense that if a party sustained by the progressive votes of millions of young idealistic people suddenly jumps into bed with the devil spawn of Margaret Thatcher, they’re going to suffer pretty badly.

    Sorry chaps. You’re going down.

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