Six months from 7th May 2015: how the polls are looking and what to look for

There are three key things about opinion polls.

The first is what matters are trends, not individual poll fluctuations.

The second is they’re snapshots, not forecasts. (A point made by Lord Ashcroft, to his credit, every time he publishes his latest poll finding.)

The third is the next general election won’t be decided by national party vote shares but by who wins in 650 individual seats. (A point often made by PoliticalBetting’s Mike Smithson.)

Here are the trends…

Here’s a graph which focuses solely on the first of these. It shows the result of every single opinion poll – courtesy Mark Pack’s invaluable spreadsheet – in the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014 (incl.):

poll trends 2014

What it shows is clear enough:

The Labour vote is declining, down from 39% to 35%. Once October’s polls are included this will show a further fall. It is this trend which is the explanation for the last two days’ Mili-madness, with Labour MPs’ private grumbles about their leader being publicly aired with no particular purpose in mind.

The Tory vote is static at 33%. To state the obvious, as this is down on their 2010 result, it means the Conservatives almost certainly would not win an outright majority.

The Ukip vote is up sharply, from 11% to 15%. This is drawn from all parties (and none) but primarily still from the Conservatives.

The Lib Dem vote is down a bit, from an already low-base of 10%, to just 8%.

Here’s what explains the trends…

Blogger-pollster Anthony Wells has come up with a very handy infographic which illustrates the net movements between parties*.

What it shows is clear enough: “In 2012 all arrows pointed to Labour, they were picking up support from everywhere and holding on to what they had. Today they still have the benefit of a strong transfer from the Liberal Democrats (though even that’s declining), but they are leaking support in every direction – to the Greens, to UKIP and to the SNP.”

Similarly the Lib Dems have bled support in all directions — mostly to Labour, but also (in order of loss) to Ukip, the Conservatives and Greens.

antony wells 2014 polls shifts

Beyond the trends: forecast and individual seats…

To return to my initial three points. What the charts above show are the poll trends. But they are not forecasts, and they don’t in themselves recognise (nor are they designed to) that the general election will be decided by who wins in 650 individual seats.

Another pollster, ComRes’s Adam Ludlow, has assessed where he thinks the parties stand six months out from the general election. His take on the Lib Dems is fair and balanced, ranging from optimistic to pessimistic:

Liberal Democrats – losses almost certain, but well known to do better in their own seats. Key issue will be whether one of the main parties will have enough seats to reach 326 or be forced to form either a minority government or coalition with Lib Dem MPs.

Win: History repeats itself and the party does better in the campaign time than mid-term, getting a vote share in the mid-teens. They do especially well in their own areas, end up with 35-40 seats and enough to form a majority Coalition with one of the main parties – or ideally either. Possible but not currently looking likely.

Draw: Poll around the 8-12% mark, do well in seats where they already have MPs. End up with c.30 seats and enough to form coalition or some form of confidence and supply agreement. Looking likely except for the coalition scenario which is heavily dependent on the performance of the main parties.

Loss: Nick Clegg has banked everything on making the Liberal Democrats a “party of Government”. With significant vote and seat loss almost certain, the worst case scenario for the party is therefore that it is not possible to form a coalition. This could actually happen if the party performed as well as in the medium outcome above, but the rest of the Parliament is so hung, no party can combine with the Liberal Democrats to reach an absolute majority. Alternatively, the Liberal Democrats could face electoral decimation, left with around 7% of the vote and only 20-25 MPs. Perhaps unlikely given the historical formidability of the Lib Dems’ local campaigning organisation.

Win, lose or draw. Which of those outcomes it will be in large part depends on what happens in the Lib Dems’ 75 battleground seats. However, the difference between a national party rating of 7% or 15% (and both currently are plausible) will also be crucial. I realise that’s stating the obvious, but I’m not sure what else you were expecting six months out…

* Anthony notes: “percentages are of the whole of the sample, not of each parties support, and because the sample also includes people who say don’t know or won’t vote things don’t add up to 100%”.

* 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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69 Comments

  • Paul in Wokingham 7th Nov '14 - 3:10pm

    As Stephen says it is 6 months until the election and we are still marooned in single digits. I might be wrong but it feels like there has been a small average improvement in our poll rating in the last week or two. Not much – maybe just 1% or so – but definitely something. Of course it could be that I’m just looking at the disastrous performance Ed Miliband is giving and imagining a slight drift from Lab back to LD that isn’t really there. But if “tuppence-gate” is giving us a boost then all it takes is for Clegg to have a “much the same” moment in one of the debates to send us spiralling down.

  • Taking all the local government by elections to the end of October, the Lib Dems have polled 14% and won 20 seats. The Greens have polled 4% and won 4 seats. In the two byelections on November 6th, the Green percentage went down and the Lib Dem percentage went up, even though no seats were won.

  • Richard Dean 7th Nov '14 - 4:11pm

    There’s an awful lot wrong with the graph. First off, it doesn’t have a horizontal scale, so we can’t judge how things have really evolved over time. Is the horizontal axis really a linear time axis, or has it been scrunched around to fit some other criteria like convenience?

    Second, the black dashed lines clearly obscure the actual trends. For Labour, the real trend is constant at 38.5% for the leftmost half of the graph, followed by a fairly rapid drop by about 3%, followed by a constant 36% or so. Similarly, LibDems were more-or-less constant for the left side of the graph, with a drop of a percent or so in the middle, followed by more-or-less constant at about 8%. Tory are approximately constant all the time, and UKIP starting the year on a slow rising trend, then seem to be bouncing about a bit.

    A shrewd political analyst would link these features to some events or policy announcements that occurred, and might even be able to work out how to change things. Do LibDems have such a person on their team?

  • We are slightly more than 4 months from the start of the election in March. The 6 months is until election day itself and it seems highly unlikely that there will be any reason for a last minute surge of support for Liberal Democrats (even if some are pinning their hopes on such a miracle).
    At least 3 weeks of those final 4 months will be taken up with Christmas and bad weather (when campaigning will be impossible). There are only a few weeks left for the party’s campaigners to make a difference.

    I am surprised to see mention of “75 battleground seats”. The idea that the party has enough resources to stretch over 75 seats seems foolishly optimistic. Those resources ought to be concentrated on the dozen seats where they might make a difference.

    The most optimistic expectation for the number of Liberal Democrat MPs on the 8th May has repeatedly been put at somewhere between 30 and 40.
    Even if we go into the election in March with as much as 15% support in the opinion polls it would be a bit much to expect more than 30 MPs.
    Experts can put me right if I am wrong but I think it is right to say that no party with just 15% support has ever got 30 seats.
    We have more than once achieved more than 20% of the national vote and still got fewer than 25 seats.

  • matt (Bristol) 7th Nov '14 - 4:37pm

    Joe Otten – ‘What other possibilities could there be?’

    You don’t mention minority coalition, maybe propped up by confidence and supply with a third party or parties.
    The obvious option there would be Lab-LD with confidence agreement with the SNP, but Con-UKIP propped up by a tripartite UUP and DUP confidence agreement would be another. This tool, would be fiendish and probably short-term.

    Can we ask another country’s PM to take over as caretaker for a bit whilst we sort things out with our voting system and the lack of clear unity between leadership and membership in pretty much most of the parties except SNP and UKIP? The Danish PM is surely literate in UK history and politics. Bill Clinton’s free and Hilary probably wants him out of the house for a year or two whilst she runs for President.

  • Joe Otten
    The Conservative Party obviously think an arrangement between them and the DUP is a possibility because they are now paying people to work on that (or so it was reported on The Daily Politics).

    In the Edinburgh Parliament the Conservatives have alreadybhad an arrangement with the SNP. So why not a Conservative, DUP, SNP arrangement in Westminster? especially as the SNP have no problem whatsoever with English Votes for English Laws.
    The DUP and the SNP will definitely have some Westmnster MPs next May — the same cannot be said of UKIP.

    And as for Cleggite MPs next May, the Conservatives’ planners do not seem to be spending too much time on such a possibility. I wonder why?

  • stuart moran 7th Nov '14 - 5:38pm

    For those of us who will not vote LD in 2015 because of a lack of trust in the leadership and where their values lie in relationship to the other parties, I have a few observations to make

    I am a liefelong LD voter just to put things in context but, as I said, I will not vote for you in 2015. I live in a Lib/Lab seat…not many of them left lol….but I have a feeling any vote for LD is a vote for the Tories

    I will base my vote on the following

    Economy

    I am not one who subscribes to the view that either of the main parties are better than the other. I was born in the late 60s so saw the booms and busts of the Tory Governments from 79-92 . Plenty of disasters then. This was followed by the Labour Government from 97-2010 which led to 2008 which cannot be forgotten and then the current Tory chancellor who doesn’t seem to have learnt anything

    Draw (if anything a Labour slight win)

    Public Services

    I cannot think of anything positive the Tories have done with regard to public services since 79. Labour did make investments – not always the right ones to be sure – but the support for the principle of public service was there. The Tories were also much better at selling off public assets at knock-down prices creating profits for their friends in the city

    Labour win

    Constitutional Change

    Again I cannot think of anything the Tories have done in this area. Labour at least brought in devolution (using a proportional system) and made tentative steps towards Lords reform. They are also not as ideologically opposed to voting reform as the Tories are.

    Labour win

    Foreign Relations

    The Tories seem always to try and annoy Europe and then wonder why they have little influence. The Labour Party seems to be more internationalist in outlook. The big Labour issue was Iraq but I have to say that if the Tories had been in power they would have done exactly the same. I remember the rhetoric from the leadership at the time which was firmly in the ‘attack’ camp. Labour also have a black mark for their attack on civil liberties but again I am absolutely certain that the Tories would have done the same based on how they were with the Irish in previous decades

    Slight Tory win because of Iraq

    Society

    I cannot express fully the contempt I have for the Tories and how their attitudes have poisoned the debate since 1979 – we are a poorer place because of the right-wing mentality that has taken hold on the attitudes to the poor, the less advantaged, the disable, the immigrant. Labour are not in the same league – although they have some rogue members and are guilty of cowardice in not taking on these perceptions

    Labour win

    Leadership

    I like Miliband. He may not be the most photogenic but when I hear him speak he says interesting things and I prefer him to the public schoolboy persona of the current PM. Cameron is a PR man pure and simple with no substance. Miliband is a bit geeky and academic sometimes but perhaps we need someone like that. He must be doing something right because the media spend all their time attacking them (yes, the media owned by tax dodgers and oligarchs which is almost 100% hostile to anyone to the left of Thatcher). We are not a presidential system anyway and so for me….

    Labour win

    So there we have it – a clear win for Labour. Not ideal and I despair of their cowardice sometimes but I also feel a Miliband – led could be a real surprise. I know what comes with the Tories and it feels me with dread

    I hope to return to the LD in 2020 when you have a clearer direction and under a new leadership (no Alexander, Clegg or Laws please)

  • paul barker 7th Nov '14 - 6:03pm

    The problem with bog-standard Polls is that they are asking Emotional questions at a time when most Voters are doing a lot of feeling & very little thinking. The exception is ICMs Wisdom Index which by asking how Voters think other Voters will behave takes the Heat out of the question & get round knee-jerk responses. The last one had both Libdems & UKIP on 15%. Our 15% looks very close to the average 14% we have been getting in Local byelections.
    Oppositions generally lose between 3% & 13% between 6 Months out & The General Election, lets take the mid-point of 8%. Labour are currently averaging 33% according to UK Polling Report, take away 8% & you get a “prediction” for Labour of 25%.
    So thats Con 33%, Lab 25% ,Libdems 15% & UKIP 15% ; leaving 12% for Nats, Greens etc. Thats a middle-of-the-road, conservative sort of prediction with no more earthquakes. Our Parliamentary group would be reduced but not smashed & we would have another hung Parliament.

  • Paul in Wokingham 7th Nov '14 - 6:07pm

    The mention of the “75 battleground seats” is interesting in the context of Ashcroft’s most recent poll. According to ukpollingreport.co.uk the seat of Northampton North was 25th “nearest miss” for the Lib Dems in 2010. Now admittedly 57+25=82 so just outside that 75, but Ashcroft puts LD on 9%, down 18%. On the basis of all the polling evidence it looks hard to justify a “35 battleground seats” strategy, much less 75.

  • David Evershed 7th Nov '14 - 6:49pm

    We should be more concerned with principles than polls.

    Let us articulate our liberal principles so that people know more clearly what Lib Dems stand for.

    We have lost some socialist supporters because they hate the Conservatives more than they love Lib Dems. Even some of our supporters are not clear that we stand for free markets and free trade as well as freedom of the individual and caring for those who can’t look after themsilves. Lib Dems are not the Labour lite party.

    If more left wing Conservatives understood this then we would be getting their support, particularly after forming a successful coalition with the Conservatives. Then the polls would turn our way without having to woo people who are socialists at heart and against free markets.

  • stuart moran 7th Nov '14 - 7:05pm

    David Evershed

    Who is against free trade and regulated free markets? I would say the electorate are actually more against these than any of the political parties apart from the Greens…..I think the important word is ‘regulated’ – something the Tories have never been a fan of

    I am a voter who does indeed ‘hate’ the Conservatives more than I ‘love’ the Lib Dems (although I would say dislike rather than the more pejorative term).

    In a FTPT system many voters will not find any one party actually fulfilling all their wishes – for me the LD and Labour fulfil much more than the Tories. However, your party is currently supporting the Tories and the leadership seems reluctant to move away from that

    I cannot vote for a party which may end up supporting the Tories…period!

  • Stevan Rose 7th Nov '14 - 7:15pm

    @JohnTilley. If the resources are concentrated in the existing seats and forget the rest entirely then it should be possible to retain most if not all even with a nationally low share. Like the SNP will be focussed, albeit geographically in their case. The salvation will be that Labour and Tory are both weak and UKIP has the strength to split their voters without being strong enough to win anything. We are more or less immune from being split by UKIP but a tactical choice in some seats to keep UKIP out. I agree with you though that 75 battlegrounds is foolishly over optimistic given resources.

  • stuart moran 7th Nov '14 - 7:22pm

    Stevan Rose

    Please keep your activists away from my house….if I, a LD voter since 87, isn’t considering voting for you then who are you expecting to do so? Soft Tories ? Can count me out for 2020 as well then if that is what you want to do

    The only people I can think would be tactical voters but that isn’t really a vote for the LD is it?

  • Stevan Rose 7th Nov '14 - 7:40pm

    Stuart Moran
    I voted Labour in several elections before rejoining Lib Dems this year. This party had the guts to do what had to be done when Labour wrecked the economy. I was perhaps an activist working for Labour, whilst not actually a member, in 97. Everyone has their own journey and you’re obviously going in a different direction right now. Good luck to you.

  • stuart moran 7th Nov '14 - 7:49pm

    Stevan Rose

    You were ‘perhaps an activist’ – what does that mean?

    The Tories have also wrecked the economy as well, and are in the course of doing so again…..I have experienced Tory economic disasters and am in no way convinced that either party can claim to be a success

    I ask you – who are you expecting to persuade to vote LD in 2015 who is not saying they will, or has not done so since 2010 ? None of my peer group is intending to do so – centre left voters who will not forgive the current incarnation for allowing the Tories to do what they are doing at the moment….

  • Stephen Hesketh 7th Nov '14 - 8:06pm

    David Wright 7th Nov ’14 – 5:16pm

    David, I mostly agree.
    I have come round to the view that it is vital we spend the next 5 years in opposition while we assess how we managed to get it so badly wrong (OK, most of us know the answer to that one already), to quickly elect a new leader, to find internal peace and to move onto re-establishing our party with our pre-2010 members and voters.

    Nick Clegg remaining as leader is not an option under any scenario if we wish the Liberal Democrats to continue as a meaningful political force. I am not concerned about soft Tories as they must make up their own minds whether to follow their party to the right or vote for someone else.

    We will receive an almost inevitable (not to mention deserved) drumming next year but if we can make it through the next 12 months or so, Clegg and his centre-right coupists may yet have done us a favour (albeit a very costly one) in showing the true nature, values and path of 21st century Liberal Democracy.

  • We should not forget that even if we have 75 fighting seats the other parties are “fighting them too, all with their much enhanced resources”, In my humble opinion the last thing this party needs is another coalition or equivalent. It needs a period in opposition to re-charge , replenish and move on from the existing electoral mess with a charismatic leader, hopefully a woman, who can provide a new drive and vision. More of the same will lead to an even worse scenario. Already we are a defunct force in many, many areas of the country, have little influence at Council level, and in the large northern cities almost non existent. It is time for a change. Let us make that difference!

  • Stephen Hesketh 7th Nov '14 - 8:23pm

    stuart moran 7th Nov ’14 – 7:49pm

    Stuart, whoever you actually vote for, do please consider renewing your membership (I think the minimum fee is £5) in time to vote for the next leader and the future direction of the party immediately after the GE. The party will need its true Libertarian Radicals to return to the fold at that point.

    We have clearly been far too close to the Tories during this Parliament but I’m sure you know in your heart that Labour cannot offer true devolved and democratic empowerment to our people. It simply isn’t in their nature – you only have to see the behaviour of the present Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool in relation to regional democracy to appreciate that.

  • Stevan Rose 7th Nov '14 - 8:36pm

    It means that I got a letter from Ian McCartney thanking me for all my efforts and assistance with honing policy in the run up to ’97 but I didn’t do the traditional activist thing of knocking on doors or delivering leaflets, or even joining the party. Activist lite. WMD killed that love story.

    I don’t agree that the current Government is wrecking the economy; I believe it has done the best it possibly could have in the circumstances and a lot of that is down to Lib Dems curtailing what a pure Tory government would have done. Opinions will differ though. Some will give credit for holding the Tories back, others will blame the party for compromising. Those, like me, that give credit where I think it’s due, and can overlook the compromises, will vote LD in 2015. Others will vote tactically and that has always been a Lib Dem net gain. If you and your circle disagree then vote Labour and get the same people who left nothing in the pot in 2010. Remember Liam Byrne’s note. It was Labour’s mismanagement that caused the crisis but they have never accepted responsibility so I can’t forgive them (that and WMD). I would not be voting LD if they had thrown in with Labour. We’d still be on 8% overall, just a different 8%.

  • Stephen Hesketh

    ” but I’m sure you know in your heart that Labour cannot offer true devolved and democratic empowerment to our people. It simply isn’t in their nature – you only have to see the behaviour of the present Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool in relation to regional democracy to appreciate that.”

    And yet the massive majority of people who actually live in Manchester and Liverpool vote Labour and wouldn’t touch the LiDems with a “barge pole”.

  • Stevan Rose

    “It was Labour’s mismanagement that caused the crisis but they have never accepted responsibility”

    If it’s the near collapse of the world banking system crisis you refer to – how did Labour cause that? Was Gordon Brown responsible for the collapse of Lehman Brothers? I didn’t know the UK had that much influence in the world!

  • Stevan Rose 7th Nov '14 - 9:08pm

    @malc. As Chancellor then PM Gordon Brown failed to regulate the City properly causing the collapse of RBS and HBOS which in turn toppled Lloyds TSB. Gordon Brown cooked the books and mortgaged the NHS to the hilt via PFI deals. He borrowed and squandered rather than balancing the budget and building up a surplus in good times. How long have you got?

  • Stephen Hesketh 7th Nov '14 - 9:37pm

    malc 7th Nov ’14 – 8:38pm

    Malc, I agree with you but it hardly invalidates my point.

  • stuart moran 7th Nov '14 - 10:47pm

    Stevan Rose

    Indeed WMD was a despicable act….but then we have many years of despicable acts from both the Tories and Labour. Unfortunately if I am to vote I have to choose one or another, and for me it is Labour over them. I do not believe we will survive another Tory Government of this type

    You can have your own opinion on the current state of the economy but to me it has been an unmitigated disaster from beiginning to end and only the fact that the media seems petrified of Miliband for some reason (Leveson?) has let the shambles go uncommented on. The current EU funding discussion is yet another example of this (Osborne being extremely economical with the actualité again today – just to be added to the frequent misrepresentation of facts by this Chancellor and IDS for which they have been chastised by the ONS)

    Also, Byrne’s letter was a poor joke – based on one Maudling did in the 60s (yes it has happened before with a Tory Chancellor). It was a bit off of Laws to make it public – especially seeing his history. Again I would like to point out that no-one has been handed a Ministerial position after being banned from the house in the same Parliament – he was extremely fortunate not to end up in front of the tribune.

    As to accusations against Brown – the problem with PFI started under Major and has continued apace under Osborne. If you look at what Brown did in reality – and not what the Tory-owned press tell you – then you will see that it was nowhere near what you are saying. Remember also the fundamental reason why we had to spend so much money on services was the complete mismanagement of the economy under the Tories that starved our services of money……I grew up in the 80s

    I see you are also commenting on the failure to regulate the banks by Brown. I agree with that but remind me again which Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Chancellor were calling for further deregulation prior to the crisis? Perhaps the ones that your MPs are slapping on the back after another wheeze to bash the poor.

    I am actually happy to see your posts as it has affirmed to me that my decision not to support the LD is correct. So many of you parrot the same line as the Tories without actually looking back at what happened

  • oh please, I don’t think liberals need any lectures from the Labour party and its keyboard activist apologists and neither should they feel the need to apologise to them! Who sold the gold off at the lowest point in the market? who invented the ludicrous pfi that drags the nhs down to this day? who toadied to Bush and engaged in illegal wars?! And who is trying to fob the country off with milliband as a credible leader?

  • @ David Evershed

    We should never say we stand for free trade or free markets. Our support for free trade is conditional on it being beneficial to the UK and those who are not well off. As Stuart Moran has said we support regulated free markets to protect those needing protection from the power of business.

    At the heart of our principles is regulating and controlling those with power for the benefit of ordinary people.

    @ Steven Rose

    It is important that we get the facts right. The Labour government did indeed reduce the national debt in the years 1999 to 2001 by about £40.5 billion.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 12:15am

    So what if PFI started under the Tories. You expect that sort of thing from them, it’s not hypocrisy but the nature of the beast. For Labour to embrace it with such gusto was / is a betrayal of principles. On bank regulation again the Tories may have advocated light touch and you’d expect them to do their buddies some favours. But they didn’t actually do anything; they were out-Toried by Labour. Who is responsible for the £10k tax allowance that has helped the lower paid. Lib Dems. But who took away the 10p band. Brown. Labour haven’t looked after the poor in decades. If Labour was led by honest people of integrity such as Alan Johnson then I could go with it but the man who stabbed his own brother in the back then wants the country to trust him? Not in a million years. The Tories are pretty open about their motivations so to a degree you can manage that, not well at times but even so. Labour pretend to be one thing then out-Tory the Tories on the sly. I don’t want either but as it stands to me Cameron is pretty much what you see is what you get (a toff who doesn’t pretend to be an average man in the street) where Miliband says and does what his spin doctors tell him to.

    Why insult people by suggesting they are influenced by the “Tory-owned press”? Are people incapable of observing events and then drawing their own conclusions. For myself I haven’t bought a newspaper since the middle 1980’s.

    Don’t use my views to give yourself an excuse to back Labour. Most people on this blog are against the Coalition, lean more to the left and are more representative than I am. It’s a broad church of the centre ground – listen to those people. Vote according to your conscience but don’t put down others doing the same thing who just happen to have come to a different conclusion.

  • Shirley Campbell 8th Nov '14 - 8:39am

    If the views of Lauren Jayne Salerno were taken into account, then many of us would decidedly vote LIBDem, but the above airy fairy rhetoric would leave many cold and looking for an alternative.

    Goodbye, I am seeking an alternative.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 8th Nov '14 - 9:55am

    Stephen Hesketh 7th Nov ’14 – 8:23pm
    I was wondering whether to renew or not. You have persuaded me to take up the challenge and campaign for others to do the same. Its a long-shot but LDs are used to that and should vote for a good solution.

  • David Evans 8th Nov '14 - 9:57am

    David Evershed. The way things are going there will be no Lib Dems left to hold principles and it will be all down to people who sadly would rather talk about abstract matters than deal with the threat to this party’s existence. The polls show us where the public see the problem, pretending it is anything else is mere self indulgence. The house is on fire. Stop talking about painting the ceiling.

  • “The first is what matters are trends, not individual poll fluctuations.”

    So why do you keep posting articles that reference only ICM but no other pollsters?

    “The second is they’re snapshots, not forecasts. (A point made by Lord Ashcroft, to his credit, every time he publishes his latest poll finding.)”

    Ashcroft’s a businessman not a statistician. And he’s wrong. VI polls are all about predicting the GE result based on current sentiment, adjusting for the biases in the responders using different methodologies depending on the pollster..

    There is no justification for using a straight line in the plot you put up (unhelpfully without a horizontal scale). Try using a moving average. As others have pointed out, it is events that move opinion. VI does not move in a straight line as if it were on a trajectory and all your plot shows is the past. Real VI fluctuates and is just as likely to fluctuate in an opposite direction over the next six months as it is to continue in the same direction.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 8th Nov ’14 – 9:55am

    Well done Tony Rowan-Wickes for a wise decision, and well done Stephen Hesketh for persuading him.
    We need as many Liberal Democrat members as possible who see clearly the disasters of recent years.

  • I have been withholding my membership, funding and work until this party grasps the nettle and does something really dramatic to change the present scenario and attract the public’s positive attention. More of the same is pointless it is getting us nowhere, there has to be a change of personality and management. As John Rentoul said yesterday about the Labour leadership, you can change leader or management just or more effectively very close or just before an election.
    Perhaps he is also telling us something.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Nov '14 - 11:11am

    stuart moran

    I agree with your comments about the Tories and your assessment of Cameron. However, he is a cover for the dreadful, hardened ideologues driving post-Thatcherite policies – Gove, Osborne, Pickles. The Tories are no friends of public service and I fear for the future of education and local governance of schools, as well as health and welfare, if they are returned to power, even as a minority government.

    However, Labour cannot be trusted on their own either. Miliband might be a thoughtful individual but look around him. There are few there to reassure me that they are really committed to social justice and fairness. Just look at their shadow education spokesperson and team – Tristram Hunt, who returned from a trip to city-state Singapore (Gove’s model elitist education system) and declared that he would not be reversing any of Gove’s policies. He is being advised by uber-Blairites, Lord Adonis and Anthony Seldon. On civil liberties Labour are by instinct authoritarian and their version of equality (see Harriet Harman) means conformity with no respect for conscience.

    Labour hope to ride back to power on fear of what the Tories will do to the NHS. It’s not enough. They will have to find a philosophy and a vision which offers something more than authoritarian-centrism mixed with a Marxist energy policy.

    After all that, the Lib Dems as a party are the only left of centre party with a coherent philosophy. Leaders are here today, gone tomorrow – take the long view…

  • David Evans 8th Nov '14 - 11:49am

    Helen, we have been taking the long view for forty years or more and then along comes a leader who flushes 20 years effort down the toilet. Now if the leader was gone tomorrow there would be hope.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 12:00pm

    “After all that, the Lib Dems as a party are the only left of centre party with a coherent philosophy. ”

    Really? I see a battle between philosophies, little in the way of coherent policy with public appeal, and a party that straddles the centre ground and is neither consistently left or right. If I’ve rejoined a socialist party then I need to leave right now. This should be a broad spectrum party capable of attracting the disillusioned Blairites and Ken Clarke Tories, all of whom are currently homeless. There is strength in pragmatism at this time.

  • I have to say that I think Stuart makes a very valid and understandable argument – and I think it is one we should heed.

    Many votes were lost by mistakes, such as fees, but the real problem is that many are more interested in stopping the conversations than helping us!

    As Matthew H has often highlighted, our leadership does not help this problem by looking so happy for so long with the Conversations.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 12:25pm

    @David Evans. Clegg would not be my choice of leader and I wish he would step aside now. But to say he has flushed 20 years of effort down the toilet is nonsense. The party chose him over Huhne. That was lucky. His performance in 2010 led to the party holding the balance of power. Every route from that point could have led us here whoever was in charge. The party, not the leader, chose the route. He’s made mistakes and, unusually for a politician, apologised to great ridicule. The leader is not the only one responsible for the current polls and it is debateable if there is any sequence of events that could have left the party in a different position right now. I agree that a change of leader would give us a boost, if the right man or woman was elected. Labour might beat us to that one. Withdrawing from government in February to focus on holding seats would also be wise.

  • Steven Rose
    Please do not confuse the political labels “socialist” and “left”. They are not interchangeable words.
    Socialism is a distinct term.
    Liberals have never been socialists but for all of the last 150 years have clearly a party of the left.
    People who grew up in an uber-Conservative environment (eg Laws and Clegg) may be deluded about the political inheritance of Liberalism but 19th and 20th Century Liberalism in the UK has been of the left.
    People like Jeremy Browne have tried and failed to re-write history and pretend that they can re-draw the political map. Their abysmal failure to defy gravity and the dictionary of politics should now be obvious to all.

  • @@JohnTilley. If the resources are concentrated in the existing seats and forget the rest entirely then it should be possible to retain most if not all even with a nationally low share.”

    The problem is that 7-8% equates to about 2 1/2 million votes. 75 seats with 18,000 in each (ie the held and target seats) take up about half of those. So that leave an average of 2000ish votes in the remaining seats – which is not far off deposit losing level in all those (575ish seats).

    Simply put if the party scores around the 7-8% mark there are just not enough votes to go around for even a “core areas” strategy to work.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Nov '14 - 2:49pm

    Tony Rowan-Wicks 8th Nov ’14 – 9:55am and JohnTilley 8th Nov ’14 – 10:37am
    Thank you to you both. We all have our moments of weakness, ground down by, not just what has sometimes been done in this parliament in the name of our great party but the manner in which it has been done by those who share more common ground with soft Tories than with the radical reforming Libertarian centre-left aims of our party.

    Stevan Rose 8th Nov ’14 – 12:00pm
    Stevan, Just as you have not joined a socialist party, neither have you joined a centre party. The Liberals and Liberal Democrats have, ever since the 1960 and 70’s been a party of the libertarian centre left. It’s what we campaigned on and our supporters have voted for in increasing numbers. Clegg’s equidistant Centrism may have helped save the country from full blown unfettered free market Conservativism but the truth is, as suggested by David Evans, that it has been at the price of twenty or so years of much hard work and support by authentic Liberal and Lib Dem voters, members, councillors, MPs, MEPs and Leaders.

    @theakes 8th Nov ’14 – 11:07am
    I usual, your comments have much to commend them but if we don’t fight, the coupists will have won and the party with wither. Right now we still have a chance of rescuing our party. Although I believe him to be a genuinely decent man, Nick Clegg can not remain as leader of our party. It seems most unlikely that he is going to go before the election so we need to be in a position to remove him immediately after it. For that to occur we must remain as members.

    Anyway, I’m off delivering Focus leaflets to our delivery team while the sun is out!

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 2:55pm

    @Hywel
    The tactic also relies on UKIP and SNP both splitting the votes of Labour and Tory whilst leaving Lib Dems relatively intact, plus a degree of anti-UKIP tactical voting I think. So on average you should require fewer votes to hold a seat than in previous years. 75 is far too many to target though. That the party held Eastleigh demonstrates how it is done. Repeat that 57 times and pray copiously.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 3:14pm

    @Stephen Hesketh. Then I have to say that my continued membership fees and vote, along with many others, depends on retaining Clegg’s equidistant centralism. A centralism that, as expounded by Clegg, attracted 23% of the vote in 2010. Perhaps you can suggest a party where those with centrist views can go. This party seems a little too small to split on ideological lines.

  • Stevan – it’s a fair point. But 2000 more UKIP votes in Eastleigh and they win. You CAN win seats on sub-33% but you need a fair following wind! Eastleigh was a warning, not a model.

    75 probably is too many but I think my point stands with a lower number (and that is held seats +18 so not too far out)

    Your last two words are the key part of that strategy!

  • Hywel 8th Nov ’14 – 1:16pm

    Hywel, I agree with you. I think you are responding to Stevan Rose rather than me.
    My view has always been that resources and effort need to be concentrated on a dozen seats where outside help can actually make a difference.
    Members need to recognise that party HQ have not got a clue and as indiviual members they should take direct action to help good candidates in seats we can win.

    It is obvious that Clegg and co will insist on droning on about “being in government” instead of promoting Liberal Democrat candidates and ideas. They are in denial about the flat-lining in the opinion polls. They sit in the bunker pretending that some “soft Tories” are just around he corner
    The “soft Tory” strategy is an absolute disaster – but a mixture of arrogance and ineptitude keeps them immune from reality.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 4:16pm

    @John. Why can’t you do both? On a national level in the broadcasts and any debates highlight the achievements in Government whilst locally concentrating resources as you suggest. I think you are right that a single pronged government record approach won’t work on its own but there are some good things Lib Dems should take credit for, whether that is a £10k tax threshold or same sex marriage, and that do reflect principles of fairness in society. Just don’t mention tuition fees.

  • Just had a glance at our national state of play next Thursday. I make it 6 local by elections and we are only standing in 2!!! Should be a gain at Cambridge but surely overall this tells a story of our ceasing to be a national political and elective campaigning force. I have to ask, do HQ care?. What about those poor lost party souls who remain in these many areas of Lib Dem deprivation and isolation, does anyone care about them.
    Oh and I see the latest story is Alex Salmond going for Inverness not Gordon. If correct he must consider Mr Alexander easier meat than our Gordon candidate. Latest odds apparently Samond 4/9 on, Alexander 2/1 against.

  • stuart moran 8th Nov '14 - 5:13pm

    Helen

    Can’t disagree about much that you say but I have a decision to make for 2015 Labour or Tory. At the moment I see the LD firmly in the Tory camp, under this leadership. In the end I think Labour are the best bet but, of course, with huge reservations. Miliband is the only reason I am considering it to be honest – despite the hatred of the media

    Change the leadership and I may reconsider but at the moment I have to assume a vote for a LD is a vote for the Tories.

    If I look at the comments on here I see all the people I agree with are, at best disillusioned with the party, on ‘strike’ from campaigning or have left. The ones who I see as being crypto-Tories are the ones who seem happiest with the party as it sits at the moment

    Let’s see in 2020 because I still hope the LD will be what I always hope them to be a liberal centre-left party – not centrist and not centre-right. Centre-left!

    Stevan Rose

    Clegg attracted 23% of the vote by wooing discontented Labour voters. This has been the case since 97 when , if you remember, Ashdown only got 16.8%. This has risen by 7% – where do you think most of this has come from? And Clegg actually didn’t do much to improve it in 2010 but just built on the work done by the party since 1997.

    Those ex-Labour voters , some of whom I know, are virulently anti-Tory and will vote accordingly. They see you, as I do, as crypto-Tories so will not e vote for you no matter how many feet you put on the ground. You can try and portray yourselves in any way you want but the reality of the 2010-2015 period is more effective.

    My last paragraph is purely anecdotal but is supported pretty well by the opinion polls. Stevan Rose and Paul Barker seem to have a faith-based view of things and that actually all will be back to normal by May….not supported by any meaningful evidence

    Finally to Stevan Rose

    The tax threshold promise was not implemented fully – it was supposed to be revenue neutral as it was paid for by higher taxes on the rich. These never arrived though

    What happens with the tax threshold rise is that the very poor get no benefit, those earning around the threshold gain in income tax but they have lost out in other areas so in the end it makes no difference. Most of the benefit goes to those earning well more than the £10K but then again it is all off-set by the lack of wage growth. Is raising the tax threshold a good policy? The jury is still out in my view. Remember also a lower tax take means more cuts to public services which disproportionately hit the less well off. It also plays into the hands of the Tories who want everyone to see taxation and public spending as inherently bad. They would prefer that everyone buys their own services off private providers (Royal Family still get to keep their snouts in the trough though!)

    Gay marriage was inevitable with a LD coalition or not – the main decision in this area was made by Labour over civil partnerships and it was actually LD/Labour rather than the Coalition who did this. The Tories, as a party, hate it and expect back-tracking if they ever get into power on their own again

    Oh, and the economic miracle – if you look on t’internet you will find a graph showing we now have the biggest deficit in the EU – remember the deficit that was supposed to have disappeared by 2015? It seems that the Coalition conveniently forgets what was said in 2010……

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov ’14 – 4:16pm

    With any other leader or top team I might agree with you that we could do both. All the evidence of the last four and a half years is that those who are at the moment re at the top of the party with always grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
    It is not just that I think they have the wrong strategy, based on experience I have no confidence that they could effectively follow any strategy.
    Even in the 2010 general election they squandered that huge upswell of support that became known as Cleggmania. Within just two weeks we saw the leader and his team fumble their way from enormous public enthusiasm to actually losing seats. The recent European election saw a similar sacrifice of MEPs on the altar of the leader’s ego. The AV referendum disaster and the appalling losses in council elections every May for the last four years add to that evidence. Why should we believe it will be any different twenty something weeks from now?

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 5:41pm

    “Those ex-Labour voters , some of whom I know, are virulently anti-Tory and will vote accordingly. They see you, as I do, as crypto-Tories”
    I’m one of those ex-Labour voters myself, as I said I put in quite a lot of unpaid effort into helping the 97 landslide. You are right, some are virulently anti-Tory and won’t accept that there was no credible alternative to coalition with the Tories. I was highly sceptical myself at first. Others have kept an open mind and personally I think it has worked. Different people come to different conclusions. There is no reason to insult those with whom you disagree by labelling them crypto-Tories. What does that contribute to any discussion.

    As to the centre left thing, any party that tries to position itself exclusively on a very narrow and over populated strip of the spectrum between dead centre and Labour will disappear, swamped by the inevitable post-Miliband swing back towards the middle. At the same time you leave what is now a huge gaping chasm between dead centre and the start of the current Tory party completely vacant, ripe for UKIP and Tory attack. By alienating those in dead centre or slightly to the right you actually help the Tories you hate. Well done. Lib Dems do best by occupying the whole ground between the two major parties and not alienating anyone.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 5:47pm

    @John. I completely agree with you on Clegg. He must go and before the election if possible. There would be fewer prayers required. But who do you put in his place?

  • stuart moran 8th Nov '14 - 5:59pm

    Stevan Rose

    To me they are crypto Tories – I include in this many MPs – they are economicallyvery much in tune with Conservative thinking on economical matters. I also include here the Blairite wing of the the Labour Party

    If people want to see it as an insult then that is up to them – I say it how I see it

    If you want to be seen as a centrist (whatever this means) or centre-right party then good luck with that—shame is that a lot of your voters don’t want to know. I assume you will then try to hoover up ‘soft’ Tories or the remnants of Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman that Blair spent his time sucking up to

    Good luck with that!

  • Stevan Rose 8th Nov '14 - 6:22pm

    @Stuart. “I say it how I see it”. No, you say it to cause conflict, in the full knowledge it will wind people up.

  • stuart moran 8th Nov '14 - 6:29pm

    No I do not say it to cause conflict at all – that is not what I said

    I just said that if people see it as an insult then it is up to them

    When you look at your posts they are exactly the same as the ones that come out of Tory central office – Byrne’s not, Brown squandering money etc etc. I see many instances of LD MPs, an members posting on here, parroting the same lines I hear from Tory central office. None of this is balanced with criticism of the Tory Party and how they behave

    I am bored of this thread now…..I am also annoyed at seeing the party I trusted with my vote turning into what it has become. A centrist/centre-right load of hot air and waffle with no interest in listening to the people who have stopped voting for them

  • @ Stephen Hesketh 2.49pm

    There is a big difference between Liberalism and Libertarianism. We are not and should never describe ourselves as Libertarians. I view the leadership as mostly libertarian. Jeremy Browne could be described as a libertarian. Libertarians believe in a small state and government and so can never been seen as truly on the left in politics where the left sees the role of government as vital to improve social conditions and well-being . As John Tilley stated Liberalism in Britain has always been on the left side in politics.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Nov '14 - 7:15pm

    @Stevan Rose 8th Nov ’14 – 3:14pm
    “”@Stephen Hesketh. Then I have to say that my continued membership fees and vote, along with many others, depends on retaining Clegg’s equidistant centralism.””

    Centrist Clegg and the unfettered free marketeers to his right have paid lip-service to the aims outlined in the preamble to our party constitution, to democratically agreed Lib Dem policies and clearly wrecked what many Liberals and Lib Dems have worked towards for years.

    As it happens I supported and just about still support the coalition.

    And yes, PR would naturally lead to coalition and coalition to compromise but the fact that the Cleggites have been seen to be so eager to endorse certain mainstream Tory policies has been embarrassing.

    I am obviously from the Liberal’s Radical tradition but am completely happy to support ‘common ground’ policies. But if we remain an equi-distant centre party in 2016, it will be me not renewing my membership.

    My question to you is although people will walk the streets for strongly principles against all odds, just how many will do so for a party which seeks to always adjust its position to be an equi-distant centre party and to keep Clegg and similar ‘manager-politicians’ in office?

    I believe that the legacy of Nick Clegg’s leadership will be a welcome resurgence in the mainstream centre left of the party. That is why I am very keen to keep members such as Tony Rowan-Wicks and radical libertarian supporters such as Stuart Moran in the party or close by.

    Regarding centrism, come the next leadership election, I believe the party will think and vote “Once bitten, twice shy”!

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Nov '14 - 7:25pm

    @Amalric 8th Nov ’14 – 6:30pm

    Amalric – fear not I am a LLLibertarian – the fact that economic pig troughers have attempted to appropriate the term should not make us afraid to use it. These people and their policies are neo-conservative – no wonder they wish to give it a coat of respectability.

    You will find little difference between the political beliefs of Mr John Tilley and Stephen Hesketh!

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th Nov '14 - 7:44pm

    @Amalric 8th Nov ’14 – 6:30pm

    Amalric – I do hope we can agree that the Libertarian left and libertarian right are actually poles apart.

  • @Stephen Hesketh 6.30pm
    I am sorry we can’t agree. I don’t believe a Libertarian can be on the left.

    As Conrad Russell said, “Libertarians are for minimum government; Liberals are for minimum oppression. We want to see all power subject to control, …”

    This does not mean that I don’t recognise that we can agree with Libertarians when we agree about those things that should be seen as personal choices and not matters for the state to dictate about, such as same sex marriage.

  • paul barker 8th Nov '14 - 11:13pm

    Another thread hijacked by a handful of men waving their egos at each other, let me try to wrest it back to here & now.
    A group of 20 Labour Frontbenchers are apparently all ready to go public with a call for Milliband to step down if only they can persuade Alan Johnson to be crowned Leader, without a contest. Theres a few small problems though:

    Johnson doesnt want the job.
    The Labour constitution has no provision for a Leadership change without a contest, it only takes one MP to wreck the whole idea.
    The 20 apparently cover the whole spectrum of Labour opinion “except for The Hard-Left”. That would be The Hard-Left who control most of the major Unions, without whose money Labour would go bust.
    Milliband is just the label on the problem, not the problem itself.

    We should be in for an interesting few weeks in any case.

  • “Tories on 31 per cent, against Labour’s 30 per cent. The UK Independence Party was third on 16 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats fourth on 13 per cent. ”

    The above is the latest ICM poll. 13% – are things starting to look a little rosey in the LibDem garden?

  • Stevan Rose 9th Nov '14 - 12:42am

    @Stephen Hesketh. I find myself in complete agreement with virtually everything John Tilley has said this evening and your last post has a lot of sense in it. I have a lot of common ground that lies to the left of centre, but some views that fall to the right of centre, mainly on fiscal prudence. I do not believe we should be borrowing money we don’t have and leaving the next generation to suffer as a result. That makes for tough spending choices. I’ll compromise on anything else. But I’m not going to be part of Labour Light any more than I’m happy at being labelled a crypto-Tory.

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th Nov '14 - 7:23am

    paul barker 8th Nov ’14 – 11:13pm
    “Another thread hijacked by a handful of men waving their egos at each other, let me try to wrest it back to here & now.”

    Paul, sorry if you think contributors debating the issues they feel important rather than focusing on your own pet topics of believing all is well in the Lib Dem family and continually talking about Labour’s problems instead.

    If you follow the thread and contributions you will see how it actually evolved.

  • Paul In Wokingham 9th Nov '14 - 7:43am

    @malc – that is the latest ICM “wisdom” poll – where the question is “how do you expect other people to vote?”. It is not a conventional poll and tends to show LD support higher than in regular polls. For example in February the equivalent poll had us on 16%, so this decline to 13% probably reflects increased public perception that the Lib Dems are floundering.

    Nonetheless I am increasingly certain that there has been an increase in LD support registered in regular polls. I don’t believe that this is anything to do with the party’s “strategy”, but probably reflects the decline in Miliband’s personal approval rating and a slight drift back from Lab to LD. Whether that is a permanent change or a temporary phenomenon in response to the appallingly bad few weeks that Miliband has had, remains to be seen.

  • David Evans 9th Nov '14 - 10:04am

    @malc – There is no poll on ICM’s website more recent than 13 Oct, and that had us at 11%. Can you provide a link to your 13%?

  • paul barker 8th Nov ’14 – 11:13pm
    “…,,,,,,,,,,, the whole spectrum of Labour opinion “except for The Hard-Left”. That would be The Hard-Left who control most of the major Unions, ”

    paul barker,
    Who are the major unions “controlled” by The Hard Left ?
    Who are ‘The Hard Left’ ? Are they any relation to the ‘Reds Under the Bed’ or perhaps ‘The Enemy Within’ ?
    Or are you just repeating parrot fashion exactly what the right wing media have fed you?
    Do you know anything about any union at all?
    Are you even a member of a trade union?
    Or are you happy to be a dupe of extremist right wing media moguls?

  • Julian Critchley 9th Nov '14 - 5:28pm

    The bubbles and arrows diagram is funny. The whole strategy of Clegg was that those large yellow arrows heading off to Labour and the Greens would be more than replaced by a large blue arrow arriving from the Tories.

    How’s that working out for you, Nick ?

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