So you think Ukip are the new third party? Let’s have a look at the data…

Food for thought for John Rentoul (who calls Ukip ‘The new third party’ here), courtesy of PoliticalBetting’s Mike Smithson:

(Hat-tip: Vote Clegg, Get Clegg Facebook page.)

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • The tories ahead of Labour at mid term, quite a supprise. Though th parties other than the big 2 get squeezed at general elections, at least half od UKIP would probably go to the Tories.

  • Simon

    Well, given the figures in that table, where on earth would you start in trying to draw any kind of reliable conclusions about party support? For a start you’d need to know when they were last fought and what the shares of the vote were then, and to make a sensible comparison you’d need to allow for which parties contested them – both in the by-election and at the previous contest. If you knew all that and did some lengthy calculations you could then compare with the overall national shares of the vote in local elections in the different years when the seats were previously contested.

    Even after all that, to draw any conclusions about support for political parties nationally, you’d have to make some further assumptions about the differences between regular elections and by-elections, and about the differences between national elections and local elections. But it’s such a convoluted and indirect procedure that I wonder why anyone would bother to go to all that trouble (not that anyone has!) – unless they were desperate to find some figures that looked better than the opinion polls, of course.

  • Nikolas Tolsky 1st Jan '13 - 6:56pm

    Does this predict a conservative general election victory? If so how reliable are these stats?

  • No one has said that UKIP was the third party over the whole year.

  • paul barker 1st Jan '13 - 7:15pm

    Local byelections are fairly useless unless you look at changes in the party votes, which is what Rallings & thresher do with excellent results in the past, unfortunately the table above doesnt include that information.
    The local government base has a built in pro-tory bias because there are more councillors in rural areas, hence that vote lead. These figures do demonstrate the silliness of “the polls” but we knew that anyway.
    Regular reporting of the Rallings & Thresher studies would be useful as they dont get covered in the media much.

  • In terms of elected representatives and party organisation, the Lib Dems will obviously remain the third party, however there is a clear danger that UKIP could have a disturbingly high vote in the European elections. Lib Dems need to broadcast as clearly as possible what MEPs do (or do not do in the case of UKIP and BNP) and the democratic importance of the European parliament.

    So long as the much of electorate are scornful of the European parliament and are content to vote frivolously the UK will continue to elect embarrassing extremists and vacuous loud mouths. . There is a real risk in a pervading atmosphere of incessant Europhobia that the Lib Dem vote will be painfully low.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jan '13 - 9:05pm

    I think most people who are expressing support for UKIP are doing so in ignorance of what the party really stands for.

    Consider – the Liberal Democrats have seen a slump in support because they are perceived to have made a big shift to the economic right and their supporters don’t like that. So how does it makes sense for the LibDem vote to be replaced by a UKIP vote when UKIP is to the right economically of the Conservatives? I suspect that most people who answer “UKIP” when asked by a pollster just aren’t aware of that.

    UKIP gets support for seeming to be an old-style Conservative party, wanting to return the country to some glorious past. But the reality is that the biggest destructive force of old-style values and ways of doing tings is the free market. And UKIP are gung-ho supporters of extreme free market policies. WHY are we letting then get away with this?

    UKIP raise the EU as the enemy taking away UK independence, but are silent on the way foreign interests are buying up control of our country, buying up control of transport, fuel, water and so on, all through privatisation. They are silent on the power the Qatari sovereign fund, as a particularly notable example, is exerting on our country. WHY are we letting them get away with this?

    It seems to me that anti-EU hysteria has been cynically built up by the right-wing press in order to distract attention from what is really happening in this country. UKIP benefit from that. We should have the guts to take them on face to face.

  • I do not believe that the majority of “former” liberal democrat voters (non members) voted for the party because they were Pro-European.
    The Liberal Democrats had no record in government to stand upon so a lot of the parties support came from protest votes, people who wanted to send a signal to whoever was in government that they were not pleased.

    But it is also worth noting, that a lot of people (non party members) prior to 2010 had fell in love with the pipe dream of Europe, of reaching retirement age and buying a home in the costa del sol, without really fully understanding everything to do with the EU membership and European politics.

    When the global financial crisis hit and the property bubble burst, we saw no end of horror stories of ex-pats who were losing their homes abroad, pensioners no longer able to afford to live on the continent, Thousands of people who had fallen foul to the crocked property developers who got away with stealing millions of pounds worth of money due to inadequate European laws and never seeing their homes finished. Families seeing their homes demolished by the Spanish Governments because proper planning laws had not been granted.

    Suddenly the pipe dream became a complete nightmare and a heck of a lot of British people were thankful that they never got caught in the trap.

    The hundreds of thousands of families and pensioners who were forced to return home and lost everything have totally fallen out of love with Europe, so I would assume a majority would not even consider supporting a pro-European party now. And the one’s that were still dreaming the dream but where yet to take the plunge had a rude awakening and woke up to smell the coffee.
    This would have undoubtedly had an effect of peoples voting intentions when it comes to pro-European parties and many voters would have changed their priorities when it comes to choosing a political party.

    It is not unreasonable therefore to think that a lot of the protest votes that went to Liberal Democrats previously would not now go to UKIP.
    I don’t think for one moment that a majority of people who will end up voting for ukip will do so because of their economics, just like I do not believe that people voted for Liberal Democrats did so because of them being Pro-European. The truth of the matter is most people do not fully understand what the EU membership means, most didn’t even care, they just fell in love with the dream, which has now all gone horribly wrong

  • I think we need to recognise that there is a rapidly increasing fragmentation in the way people vote according to the particular election and the voting system they face.

    While they might vote one way in Euro elections, they are voting another in council elections and another at Westminster This is not new, but it is increasing. UKIP is now the repository of protest votes on the right as Labour is on the left.

    The problem is that while the Lib Dems remain quite popular at local level, at national level, the party brand is at its weakest level ever and I think there is little or no read through from these figures to our prospects in 2015. That will be decided, seat by seat, on the basis of MPs’ individual popularity.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jan '13 - 10:50pm

    Ignoring UKIP briefly, whilst it is great to take comfort from less than 200 local byelections (with no information about how representative a sample they are), let’s not forget what happened when elections were held across the country for nearly 4900 council seats in May 2012: “Labour made net gains of 32 councils and over 800 council seats. The Conservatives had a net loss of twelve councils and 400 seats. The Liberal Democrats had a net loss of more than 300 seats and one council. Labour won 39% of the national equivalent share of the vote, compared to 33% for the Conservatives and 15% for the Liberal Democrats.” ( Which set of results will be closest to the local elections in 4 months?

    And returning to the topic of this thread: why should local government electoral success (or the lack of it) be any sort of meaningful measure for UKIP, a party whose raison d’etre is withdrawal from the EU? It is more relevant to consider who will be the third party in the European elections in May?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '13 - 12:13am

    Simon Shaw

    The slump in Lib Dem support is not because of the slight righward shift in the Party’s perceived position. It’s because some former supporters don’t like the fact that the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Conservatives.

    Er yes, because it means that Lib Dem MPs are voting for mainly Conservative Party policies, which are way to the right of what the Liberal Democrats used to be about. Sorry Simon, what you’re saying here makes no sense because it’s self-contradictory.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '13 - 12:19am


    But it is also worth noting, that a lot of people (non party members) prior to 2010 had fell in love with the pipe dream of Europe, of reaching retirement age and buying a home in the costa del sol, without really fully understanding everything to do with the EU membership and European politics

    I think there are a great many other reasons why co-operation with our neighbours in Europe makes sense apart from a wish to buy a house in the Costa de Sol.

    When the global financial crisis hit and the property bubble burst, we saw no end of horror stories of ex-pats who were losing their homes abroad, pensioners no longer able to afford to live on the continent, Thousands of people who had fallen foul to the crocked property developers who got away with stealing millions of pounds worth of money due to inadequate European laws and never seeing their homes finished.

    Er, yes, but doesn’t that suggest a case for closer European co-operation, leading to a common framework of property and planning law so this sort of thing doesn’t happen?

    On the one hand we are told the EU is taking control, European nations have no control over their own destiny and laws any more, on the other here you are moaning about Spain being able to have its own planning and property laws which mean people from here can’t just hop over to buy property in Spain on the assumption it’s no different from buying property in another UK county.

  • “thee Lib Dems face the possibility of a near full slate of UKIP candidates in the County Council Elections”

    Give me a definition of “near full slate” and we can start talking about wagers.

  • @Matthew

    “I think there are a great many other reasons why co-operation with our neighbours in Europe makes sense apart from a wish to buy a house in the Costa de Sol.”

    You misunderstand my post, I was not suggesting there was is not.
    What I was pointing out was a very large part of the electorate do not understand everything when it comes to EU politics. They just feel in love with the pipe dream.

    ” on the other here you are moaning about Spain being able to have its own planning and property laws which mean people from here can’t just hop over to buy property in Spain on the assumption it’s no different from buying property in another UK county.”
    I was not moaning about anything, I was pointing out an observation. I was not affected by the planning laws in spain, I have no aspirations to own a home in spain or any other European country.
    Again, I was just pointing out, based on what I have heard others talk about when it comes to their pipe dreams being smashed by all thats happened.

    A majority of the electorate struggle to get their heads around uk politics let alone the EU Membership. They may have had dreams, aspirations to retire abroad, but that has all fell apart.
    That’s why I was pointing out it is not inconceivable to think that people who formerly voted Liberal Democrat would not now vote for UKIP.

  • Matt Surely your argument on Spain (my understanding, from having friends with “property on the Costa del Sol”, and elsewhere in “holiday Spain”, is that there is a lot of local corruption militating against proper implementation of planning, and also what we would call building regulations here, so you often have unsafe and poorly built housing, as well as bad planning!) is, as Matthew says, one which should be moving towards compatible European policies?

    Surely, the issue is also one of proper understanding of issues – education being one aspect, and the media playing a key part. While we have a biased media we will continue to have people reacting in this way.

  • I was just trying to put forward reasons why it is not so inconceivable that someone who voted Liberal Democrat formerly, would not now vote UKIP, despite the parties policies being poles apart.

    Admittedly most of UKIP support is coming from former Conservative voters who are disenfranchised with the Tory Party, but I do think it would be strange not to expect former Liberal Democrat voters who voted for the party not because they were pro-european, but because they were either protest voters against government, or voters who were fed up with the UK government and aspired to moving to for example to Spain, but had little or no understanding of European Politics . That pipe dream has burst for many people.

    I was not complaining, or moaning, I was merely making an observation from bits and pieces I have heard over the years.

    Like I said a majority of the UK electorate are not political nerds, they don’t necessarily full understand UK politics, many tick a box out of habit.
    I am ashamed to point out the lunacy of how even some of my own family have voted in the past.
    A sister who voted for Nick Clegg for his looks, A mother who always voted Labour despite having zero understanding of what she was voting for, but would not vote Gordon Brown in 2010 because she did not trust his beady eye’s

    So yes I agree, there is lack of education when it comes to politics.
    People do not fully understand the EU membership and they are being turned off the idea of pro-european parties, because all they hear and know about are the nightmare stories of ex-pats and how pipe dreams have been smashed.

    I was not criticising the Liberal Democrats in my post. I was just pointing out the fact of the lack of understanding from many, so it is not inconceivable to think that votes for the party could be lost to ukip.

  • I think we (LD Voice contributors) should acnowledge that we are political nerds. Joe public ain’t like us.
    Joe public wh is not obsessed by politics for more that five minutes a day sees things very simply. Europe is ripping us off ‘cos the mail/express etc say so and we superior Brits are better off without them. Nice Lib Dems who we could vote for’cos theyr’e different ar
    in Governm,ent doing nasty things so they are a dead loss especially Clegg who is a joke.
    Anyway that summarises the doorstep message and might explain the polls.

  • Does this article take into account anywhere the complexity of Local Government in England where we have some unitary and some two-tier systems?

    The unitary councils are predominately, but not exclusively in urban areas whereas the two-tiers are in the shire areas. Then there are the metropolitan boroughs, parish councils etc.

    The Tories are very strong in non-Metropolitan counties and in the district councils whereas Labour are stronger in the metropolitan boroughs. The other unitaries are pretty well split. The Lib Dems seem to be spread across all of them.

    The upshot is that the areas where there are more councillors (in the two-tier counties) are very conservative and so we would expect to see a crude analysis of the council by-elections to be biased towards the Tories

    As paul barker says, without a proper analysis this is just fluff and I am surprised it has been given such prominence, as the overall thrust of the argument, ie UKIP not having much representation is just.

    I also think, though, that this retrospective analysis is risky to judge the current situation. UKIP are currently riding high and we may start to see some interesting results in 2013-2014.

    What do the results look like if we use Parliamentary by-elections as the guide? Not the same I would suggest which shows the dangers of poor data analysis

  • I’ll caveat the following by accepting it’s based upon my circle of aquaintances and may not be representative, but…

    I don’t see UKIP as a threat to the Lib Dems in a major way. I know quite a few people who generally vote either Labour or Tory who occasionally vote UKIP, I only know one couple who are ardent supporters. Most do so in European elections, less in local ones and most seem to revert to their core views in General elections.

    In the coming European elections this could actually help the Lib Dem cause. If disaffected Tories and Labour supporters ‘lend’ their vote to UKIP and the Lib Dems are left beng the only outright supporters of the EU then it should allow even those upset at the party n coalition to have a clear choice of vote.

  • I suggest looking at the polling done by Michael Ashcroft on why people vote UKIP which is less to do with views on Europe but more a general view that this country is going to the dogs and it was so much better when I were a lad (I paraphrase).

    In that context. I think the increase in UKIP candidates will lose us some support from people who may have supported us because we worked hard locally when they actually always agreed with UKIP’s outlook on the world but didn’t have the option of voting for them. However, there is some evidence (anecdotal at the moment but ALDC is working with LDHQ on this) that where we are fighting the Tories, UKIP standing is a net benefit but it is more of a problem (albeit still not a universal one) in Labour facing areas as we lose more votes to UKIP than Labour do.

    UKIP will get a respectable share of the vote next year in Tory-facing areas but win very little (that has been the pattern throughout most of 2012) whereas the Lib Dems will actually win far more seats than them across the country and possible control of a council or two. The likelihood of UKIP coming third in the national vote share is fairly low.

    @David No, it was said that UKIP was the third party towards the end of the year when Lib Dem election performance was actually very good and substantially outperforming UKIP.

    @Matthew I don’t imagine any of the problems in Spain suddenly changed people’s perceptions of the EU. Most people will have settled on their view years before. Mind you I don’t know anyone who has always had a dream of a home in the Costa del Sol and so I think it depends on who you know and what their ambitions are, and to be honest I’ve hardly heard any stories about people’s dreams of moving there being ruined by the Spanish economy and planning problems.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '13 - 11:39am


    What I was pointing out was a very large part of the electorate do not understand everything when it comes to EU politics. They just feel in love with the pipe dream.

    Sure, but what you wrote came across as suggesting that membership of the EU is such a bad thing that no-one who thought it through properly would support it, so the support that it does have comes largely from people with this sort of pipe dream.

    UKIP and the opponents of the EU in the right-wing press constantly play on this idea, they love to portray anyone who doesn’t actually oppose membership of the EU as some sort of fanatic or some sort of out-of-touch person, a member of the remote political class, while down-to-earth Britons would by their nature be anti-EU. They want to shut out the idea that there are many pragmatic reason for being in favour of membership of the EU, and that those who can see and accept these reasons are not mad idealists who are blind to all its less successful aspects or unwilling to consider any reforms to it.

    While they play on this down-to-earth ordinary Brit image, if one looks carefully at what they are saying, what really exercises them is their fear that EU co-operation might challenge the power of big money. Lack of international co-operation means the big corporations can play one country off against another, as we have indeed seen for example with the Starbucks tax avoidance issue. The reality is that far from a nostalgic return to old values, their vision of the UK is as a sort of international tax haven, run purely for the benefit of the super-rich, with the people of this country reduced to a race of helots, in existence only to serve these masters, living brutalised lives, forced to work long hours, sackable at will, no democratic rights as everything that might be controlled by democracy has gone into private ownership.

    That is what makes me SO angry about the rise of UKIP. Yes, as Anders put it, it is getting support from people who have “a general view that this country is going to the dogs and it was so much better when I were a lad”, but the fears of these people – which I think are in part justified – are being used to get them to support, in effect, the very thing that is driving this country to the dogs – the dominance of big money and the values of those in control of it squeezing out every other aspect of life.

  • I vote Lib Dem locally and UKIP nationally. How does that work in with your stats? I just don’t think LD’s ‘get’, the core UKIP vote.
    To understand the UKIP vote, you need to see the In/Out referendum, as a kind of gift wrapped ‘pass the parcel’. When the music stops on election day in 2015, whoever ends up with the ‘guaranteed in/out referendum parcel’, on their lap, WILL DEFINITELY, get my vote.
    The ‘parcel’, appears ( at this point ), that it will be on UKIP’s lap in 2015, but I suspect the Tories will snatch it from UKIP in 2014.
    Let me be very clear. I think UKIP is a complete joke, and I utterly despise the Tories, BUT…. (and this is important!), so strongly do I feel about this cancerous horror, that is the EU project, that I will give my vote (on a one time basis only), to Beelzebub himself …!!, if it would secure an EU in/out referendum.
    Once we (the UK voting public), have had our democratic say over Europe, (and irrespective of which way that EU vote goes!), I would then probably revert back to voting Lib Dem, in subsequent elections.
    This has nothing to do with ‘… the Lib Dem message… ‘, or philosophy, or strategy. It is a fight for democracy and sovereignty, which all three main parties have sadly lost sight of.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '13 - 11:59am

    The rise and fall of the BNP at local level suggests what is likely to happen if UKIP ever does try to become an all-purpose political party rather than one which exists primarily to enable people to cast a “No to the EU” vote at EU elections. When people saw the miserable crew that were BNP councillors: incompetent, lacking in even the most basic knowledge of their responsibility, unable and unwilling to provide the services that people want councillors to provide, and mostly rather strange and not very nice people, they realised that voting for someone out of an ill-considered emotional urge was not a good idea. So far as I am aware hardly any BNP councillors ever survived to a second term.

    I very much think UKIP councillors, should they start coming into existence, would be the same. Forcing them to do an actual job – representing their constituents on the council – would show up their internal contradictions. They would find that politics is about more than mouthing slogans, and that there aren’t the instant solutions to difficult problems which their party’s line supposes.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Jan '13 - 1:48pm

    I cannot think how speculation (one way or another) in January 2013 about UKIP’s relative size of political position is worth any consideration at all – other than by people who want to fawn to UKIP’s inherent narcissism. How many parsnips are buttered by such speculation, most of which is pretty mindless and not supported by any ‘clean’ data?

    Discussion about the same issue in February 2014 might be a little more interesting – and even relevant.

  • Simon Shaw

    I found this discussion on the UKPR website which shows that the LD have moved to the right on the assessment – and the leader is definitely seen as more right-wing that the party.

    This poll was also carried out 2 years ago and so to try to use this data to explain the here and now is very iffy. I would guess that the perception would be of an even more rightward shift since then. Is there a more up to date poll that I have missed?

    I think your party also has a cheek if they go into the election still pretending that they are a left-leaning party. If this site is anything to go on I find most of the LD right-wing in inclination and happy to be considered so.

  • Peter Chivall 2nd Jan '13 - 2:25pm

    UKIP won a District Council byelection in Ramsey in the adjacent to me constituency of Cambs. North West, from the Conservatives but following the untimely death of LibDem former town Mayor Ray Powell. They subsequently won the Town Council election the following May. I haven’t heard anything from them or about them since. I think Matthew is correct.
    In Peterborough they stand candidates in local elections across the City and frequently out-poll our ‘paperless’ candidates in our non-target Wards – but never get near being elected.
    In next year’s Euro elections, I expect them to out-poll us in many regions on a low turnout as our national profile is unpopular and we haven’t got the courage to offer ourselves as the only pro-European ‘candid friend’ of Europe. We need a more rugged presence in the national media but I can’t see that happening.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jan '13 - 2:31pm

    @Simon Shaw “The Lib Dems are not perceived to have made a big shift to the economic right. Since the time of the General Election the Lib Dems are seen to have moved slightly rightwards, to very close to the political centre. That perceived slight rightward shift is similar in size to the perceived leftward shift in the Labour Party since the election (source: UK Polling Report)”
    Interpreting the Yougov left-right spectrum polling seems a tricky exercise.
    On the data discussed at ukpollingreport (most recently Oct 11 that I could find), Lib Dems were “scored” -17 before the election (< 0 is "left"), +1 in Jan 2011, and -4 in Oct 2011. In that same time the Conservatives moved right from +37 to +46 and Labour moved left from -37 to -41. The figures do show a perceived move by Lib Dems to the right but is it a big or a small change? Are changes near the centre more significant than those further out? One could cheekily suggest that going from -17 to -4 means the party is 76% less left wing!
    Peter Kellner last year summarised the problems thus, "At first blush, the Lib Dems should be happy with our findings. One average, voters place themselves (-1), the party (-5) and its leader (-1) all very close to the centre. On their own, these figures would suggest the party occupies the ideal ideological space. Close examination dispels this happy thought. Most right-of-centre voters place the Lib Dems on the Left – and most left-of-centre voters place the party on the Right. Few voters feel that the party’s ideological location is the same as their own. This is especially marked among voters who have switched from Lib Dem to Labour: they are overwhelmingly on the Left themselves, but feel that the Lib Dems no longer are." (
    Interestingly, elsewhere on ukpollingreport Anthony Wells reports that in 2008 Lib Dems were perceived as being to the left of labour: "The exact figure for the Liberal Democrats doesn’t seem to be the article, but it’s implied that they are still seen as to the left of Labour (Labour are on 4.82, and the Lib Dems are reported as being slightly to the right of Clegg’s 4.66)." ( (N.B. different type of scoring in Populus poll). Hard to imagine Clegg being seen as to the left of the party now!

  • Rebecca Taylor
    You only need to return to UKIP’s leadership farce at the 2010 General Election, when the totally incompetent Lord Pearson was party leader. He was barely able to maintain arguments he should have been absolutely familiar with, and was heard to mouth “I am not really very good at politics”! I have always reckoned that we need (at appropriate times) to expend a few well-targeted soundbites at them – they are so vulnerable. This has often been shot down by the “UKIP damages the Tories, we should encourage them” fallacy that has been allowed to grow roots in the Lib Dems, particularly among “the campaigners” (ie not those who have to make and win genuine political arguments!

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jan '13 - 3:08pm

    Simon Shaw

    May I put it this way: Suppose the Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition Government had pursued policies exactly in line with previous Lib Dem policies, rather than a compromise.

    Do you not think that we would still have lost most of the former supporters we have lost because they simply don’t like the fact that the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Conservatives?


  • simon7banks 2nd Jan '13 - 4:23pm

    It isn’t rocket science, Chris. Mind you, I’m told rocket science is one of the simplest branches of science. There is abundant evidence that mid-term opinion polls are very poor predictors of Liberal Democrat performance in general elections. If you’re trying to produce a reliable prediction, then yes, the calculations could be ridiculously complicated, but most of us want something rougher and readier than that. Both council by-elections and the last round of scheduled council elections show that Liberal Democrats supported by strong campaigns for seats where it’s clearly between them and the Tories do well. Elsewhere they do badly, though there are clear signs that performance against Labour – where we’re strong and campaign vigorously – is improving. A reasonable guess from that is that the performance in the next general election will be a lot better than the opinion polls currently suggest in terms of seats, but our vote will drop substantially in seats we can’t win.

    In comparing us with UKIP, it’s important to think about the things national political pundits don’t understand, in particular local strength, targeting and the activist base. I don’t rule out UKIP becoming a serious third or fourth party, but it’s got as long way to go because it has yet to show interest in or understanding of local politics and apart from backing its leader it’s shown little understanding of targeting. It will do well in the Euro-elections (that’s its issue, after all) but I see little sign that in the next general election it’ll win a seat. OK, maybe one if its leader chooses wisely. And where are the local authorities about to be UKIP-controlled or even led? By contrast, although the coalition and the current leadership have lost us many good activists, enough remain to run traditional hardworking target seat campaigns locally and nationally. The party is resilient because of its activist base. Remember that, ministers and advisors to Nick Clegg!

  • David Allen 2nd Jan '13 - 5:19pm

    Simon Shaw said:

    “May I put it this way: Suppose the Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition Government had pursued policies exactly in line with previous Lib Dem policies, rather than a compromise.

    Do you not think that we would still have lost most of the former supporters we have lost because they simply don’t like the fact that the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Conservatives?”

    May I put it this way. The challenge is along the lines of “Suppose that pigs flew. Would you please draw an idiotic conclusion from this supposition, and then take responsibility for the idiocy involved?”

    Nice trick question Simon. You are brilliant with the trick questions. You ought to write a book. It would be more constructive than posting here.

  • We would have lost some support because of the mere fact of being in coalition. However most support has been lost because of what we’ve done in coalition. For evidence look at the polls post may 2010. A month/6 weeks later were were polling relatively well (and see also the Thirsk and Malton “by-election”) – it wasn’t the fact of doing a deal with the Tories that lost us support.

  • markfairclough 2nd Jan '13 - 8:23pm

    According to BBC seats calculator , it gives the following seats
    Labour 361 seats
    Conservative 196seats
    LIBDEM 64 seats
    Others 29 seats including 1 UKIP seat

  • Markfairclough

    What numbers did you use. That projection seems very unrealistic. In fact all these projections are inaccurate as it assumes uniform swings.

    UKPR has the best one but nobody thinks it is anything but a very broad indication

  • markfairclough 2nd Jan '13 - 10:29pm
  • markfairclough 2nd Jan '13 - 10:31pm

    please let me know, otherwise i,ll give instructions how to find the link

  • UKIP has a reasonably clear agender and ideology, if people support it then fine. UKIP supporters who were previously Lib Dem are more than likely to be ‘flip flop’ supporters who support one party, then support another because of what they hear from the key figures, rather than actualy looking at the party ideology and values. The Lib Dems and UKIP have much different ideas. What people need to understand is that although what UKIP says is attractive, not the mention the additional support they get when we hear stories about European court of justice blocking deportation of dangerous people, forcing us to open our boarders to EU, cost of membership over rebate etc., withdrawing from the EU would not be the best option for Britain if it wants to keep its influence across Europe and the rest of world.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 12:51am

    Well now I have just here written YET ANOTHER long defence of the Liberal Democrat position in the government against YET ANOTHER attack on us which accuses us of abandoning our policies and becoming uncritical supporters of right-wing Conservative Party policies. And yet Simon Shaw insists the sort of person I am arguing with here, and have spent much time arguing with since May 2010 does not exist, that no-one in the general public thinks there has been a big right-wing shift in the Liberal Democrats, that on the whole the general public thinks we stand for much the same as we always stood for. Sheesh, I do wonder why I bother sometimes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 12:56am

    Simon Shaw

    One of the political advantages of living in a Metropolitan Borough rather than London is having elections by thirds. Anyone who has done extensive local election canvassing in 2011 and 2012 (as I have done) would know that you are mistaken in your belief.

    Er, so you think that had the coalition abolished tuition fees, not gone ahead with the Tory NHS “reforms”, kept income tax highest rate at 50% etc, we would STILL be getting the sort of attacks we are getting now? Well, maybe things where you live are VERY different from how they are why I live.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 1:08am


    it wasn’t the fact of doing a deal with the Tories that lost us support

    Indeed. Initially people were well disposed towards it, but I think completely unrealistically. Firstly I think very few realised just how far to the economic right the Conservative Party had moved, so that what compromises could be wrung out of them by the Liberal Democrats would still end up looking like pure Conservatism judging from what the Conservatives stood for when they were last in government. Secondly they seemed to imagine that what would come out of it would be somewhere midway between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives rather than something which reflected the relative weight of the two parties in Parliament. Thirdly they had yet to experience Clegg and his advisers getting every line wrong and so making a difficult situation so much more difficult for us.

  • ……………Ref it wasn’t the fact of doing a deal with the Tories that lost us support………..

    Back in 2005/2006 Senior Tories (Maude, Clarke, etc.) were rather more than just ‘open’ to a Tory/LibDem coalition……….. Ed Vaizey used a Guardian blog posting to invite Orange Book LibDems to consider being “part of a coalition to renew British politics” …..Conservative Home predicted, “Orange bookers will be keen, especially for the sense of power. The left will hate the idea but might put up with it if they think they’ll get PR.”

    Even William Hague (May 2006)…..One question the party may be asking after election day is whether they should enter a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. ‘Over the next couple of decades, there is now a greater likelihood of hung parliaments and parties having to co-operate. It’s just the way the electoral arithmetic works out,’ ‘There are some sensible Lib Dems, but there are others whose instincts are very left-wing. I have no idea whether the split Liberal party, and one now with rather weak leadership, would be willing or able to work with a minority Conservative administration.’”

    The election of Clegg and the ascendancy of Laws, Alexander,etc made such a “meeting of minds” inevitable…

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 10:06am

    William Hague

    There are some sensible Lib Dems, but there are others whose instincts are very left-wing

    Indeed, that’s how the political right see it, by “sensible” they mean “right-wing”. That’s why right-wing lightweights like Nick Clegg, who should have been left to get a many more years of experience of real life as backbench MPs got constantly put forward by the right-wing press, so consistently that other believed them and echoed them, as “obviously the most skilled MP and so the next leader” of the party.

  • The problem with all this esoteric discussion is that it ignores the very potent fact that people will vote for the party THEY believe is doing well and which the press say is doing well. The very salient facts that started these discussions matter not a jot because voters don’t know about them anyway. They simply believe that UKIP is doing well.

    And yes, if we Lib Dems are to have any hope of holding seats in the Euro elections then we have to run a pro EU ‘candid friend’ campaign, if only because there are more people in favour of staying in that will normally support the Lib Dems!

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jan '13 - 10:47am

    Whether you are pro or anti EU is a domestic issue, not a European issue. MEPs have no influence over whether a particular country stays or goes. We should fight European elections on what sort of EU we want to see, because that is the whole point of the European Parliament, as the democratically elected legislature that helps formulate law for the EU as a whole.

  • …… The Coalition Government has maintained a top marginal rate of income tax of 50% for more than 1000 days.
    ….. The last Labour Government (in office for 13 years) had a top marginal rate of income tax of just 40% for its whole time in office except for the last 30 day

    You, conveniently ignore the enormous difference in the comparative states of the UK economy between 1997/2008 and 2009/2012…
    As for tax rates; I have no qualms about taxing 50%+ on those whose incomes have trebled in the last 10 years (12% increases in the last 12 months alone)

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jan '13 - 4:02pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “Firstly, it might help if you read what I said, rather than misrepresent me. I did NOT say that “on the whole the general public thinks we stand for much the same as we always stood for.” I said that we are perceived to have moved slightly to the right since the General Election. In fact my precise words above at 9.57pm 1 Jan 2013 were: “That perceived slight rightward shift is similar in size to the perceived leftward shift in the Labour Party since the election (source: UK Polling Report)””
    The information to which you refer does show clearly that we are perceived to have moved to the right. It is not at all clear that it is perceived as a “slight” move to the right since there is no reason to believe that a change of 10 points is equivalent whether it is from a score of 50 or 20, especially given the way numerical scores are assigned and averaged based upon classification by those polled. Also, arguably a move from centre-left to centre is more cataclysmic than a move further left by Labour or right by Conservatives.

    Peter Kellner (leftish) and Anthony Wells (rightish) both of Yougov, make similar points about the data. I quoted Kellner above. Wells wrote (about the Jan 2011 data), “Until the General Election, the Liberal Democrats had consistently been perceived as a left-of-centre party, scoring between -9 and -17 on the left-right scale. They are now viewed as being almost exactly in the centre, with a score of +1. Nick Clegg himself is now seen as firmly right-of-centre with a score of +10. Given that the public themselves inevitably place themselves in the centre, this should in theory be good for the Liberal Democrats. In fact the Liberal Democrats have managed to secure the worst of all worlds. People who consider themselves as being left-wing tend to view the Liberal Democrats as being right wing. People who consider themselves as being right-wing tend to view the Liberal Democrats as being left wing. As a footnote, the data also gives us firm evidence of what most people assumed anyway – that the votes the Liberal Democrats have lost since the election have been their more left wing voters, leaving them with a somewhat more centrist rump. ‘Lost Liberal Democrats’ (those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 but wouldn’t tomorrow) place themselves on average at -20 on the left-right scale. Those who have remained loyal place themselves on average at -6.” (

    Also we should distinguish between polling evidence about a “perceived” move to the right (or the lack thereof) and any other evidence of an “actual” move to the political right. It is hard to quantify the latter or to determine which policies are right and left.

    There certainly appears to be consensus that the Lib Dem party has moved to the right of where it was before the 2010 election. We can all debate about whether that represents a leap or a baby step, but I don’t think that the quantitative evidence is adequate to support either view. The analysis of Kellner and Wells suggest that even if Lib Dems might be perceived to be near the centre, it is possibly simply because it averages out the scores of those on the left and the right whom we have alienated rather than because we are in a good position. It is probably more constructive for the party to be clearer about what it does stand for and which group(s) of voters it wants to attract. An apparent disconnect between the leadership and the grassroots does not help.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Jan '13 - 5:40pm

    @Simon Shaw “Insofar as I have always thought the Party should see itself as Centrist/Centre-Left, I certainly wouldn’t see it as “cataclysmic”.”
    I think that a problem faced by the party, based upon the polling data that we have been discussing, is that it is not viewed as a centrist/centre-left party. From the Yougov analysis, it appears that there is no consensus about where Lib Dems are on the left-right spectrum: those to the left view us as right wing and those to the right view us as left wing (and everybody thinks their own views are pretty centrist!). Averaging out in the centre or centre-left is not the same as being there. Also, being centrist might be meaningless per se: on some issues we might hold right-wing views and on other issues we might hold left-wing views, while our “anti-party” could hold diametrically opposite views yet occupy exactly the same centre ground. Indeed, based on many discussions on this site Lib Dems appear to be their own “anti-party”.

    I am new to this sort of debate, but wonder whether this left-right dilemma has always been a major issue within the party, and if the stresses of being in government (whether or not as a coalition) open up the cracks further by forcing decisions to be made and actions taken.

  • markfairclough 3rd Jan '13 - 6:54pm

    The funny thing is a lot of the Libdem members & supporters replying to articles on LibDemvoice
    think Clegg is a Tory.
    On ConservativeHome blog , their members & supporters think Cameron is a Liberal

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 11:17pm

    Simon Shaw

    Are you saying you have been canvassing in 2011 and 2012, and, if so, what sort of areas has that been in?

    No, as I’ve said several times, I will not go out onto the streets campaigning for the party until the leadership stops doing and saying things that undermine what I would want to say in defence of my party.

    I am talking about the sort of attacks we face here, the one I referenced as an example where you can see that yes I AM very much defending my party’s position in the coalition against what I regard as unrealistic attacks. Also I find this sort of thing constantly thrown at me in casual conversations. It may be unfair, it often IS unfair, I accept and have said so publicly, that actually I do think the LibDems in Parliament are doing as well as they can given their share of the seats. That does not change the fact, or at least what I observe to be the fact, if it is different where you live so be it, that our party seems widely to be BELIEVED to have made a huge shift to the right.

    I think this is because most people do not understand how coalitions work and don’t seem to have though through that it ought to be obvious that the smallest party can’t just scream and shout until everyone else gives up what they want and goes with what it wants. Politics is about compromise, that often means giving up a lot of what you really want in order to get a little which is better than nothing. As I’ve said, anyone who wants to see more compromise towards the LibDem way of thinking needs to see that to get that they need more LibDem MPs. Which they won’t get by backing an electoral system whose supporters, Labour and Conservative, put as its best aspect being the way it distorts representation in their favour and against the Liberal Democrats …

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '13 - 11:22pm

    Peter Watson

    I am new to this sort of debate, but wonder whether this left-right dilemma has always been a major issue within the party,

    Well, the party has always had a left and right, but when I was first active in it, the right were called “social democrats”, and what is now the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats was called “Thatcherite headbangers” and was very firmly deep within the Conservative Party.

  • Paul McKeown 4th Jan '13 - 1:39am

    And even if UKIP got 15% at the next General Election?

    Gallic shrug.

    UKIP might get a seat in the Commons, but the odds would be against them their vote is simply too evenly spread. They would do severe damage to Conservative returns, helping mainly Labour, but also the Lib Dems. 15% UKIP support would return a Labour landslide on the order of Campbell Bannerman’s 1906 Liberal landslide. The Lib Dems would do alright, too, holding many difficult LD / Conservative marginals and taking a surprising number where they are a decent second against the Conservatives. The Tories would be lucky to break 130 seats.

    The Conservatives are stuffed at the moment. As soon as they try to reach out to modern Britain, the Daily Mail starts moaning and Nigel Farage is invited to bluster on the airwaves, whereas as soon as they chase the aging Bufton Tufton vote, they can wave goodbye to the vote of anyone with any connection to modern Britain. Basically the Conservatives are boxed into a corner.

  • Harry Hayfield 4th Jan '13 - 10:36am

    Those figures were generated by myself, as I often send things to Mike that I think he may find of interest, and are the tally of all the votes cast in local by-elections in 2012. The similar figures for 2010 (since the general) and 2011 are:

    2010 (post general): Lab 34%, Con 30%, Lib Dem 19%, Ind 5%, Green 4%, UKIP 2%, Plaid 2%, SNP 1%, BNP 1%, Respect 0%, Others 1%
    2011: Con 32%, Lab 31%, Lib Dem 17%, SNP 6%, Ind 6%, Green 3%, UKIP 2%, Plaid 1%, BNP 1%, Respect 1%, Others 1%

  • mark fairclough 4th Jan '13 - 10:42am .As the link &the actual votes in the council byelections show its UKIP makijng inroads into the Conservatives that on those figures gives the Libdems more MPs than now actually helping the Libdems .

  • mark fairclough 4th Jan '13 - 10:43am

    making inroads

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 12:53pm

    Simon Shaw, Matthew Huntbach,

    Well, I did a great deal of canvassing in 2011. I stood as an anti-coalition Independent in the ward where I had previously stood as a Lib Dem (with the grudging acceptance of my local party, who could see that I was at least passing up the higher-profile option of standing in a ward against a Lib Dem sitting councillor). After some twenty-odd evenings knocking on doors, I could count just two people who said they liked the Coalition and were disappointed not to have a Lib Dem to vote for. Against that, I found at least three people who spotted me leafleting, and actually ran out of their houses after me to tell me how delighted they were to see someone making a stand.

    I built up a little team out of nowhere. I met very, very many people who shared with me their disgust for the way the Lib Dems had betrayed their principles in coalition with the Tories. It wasn’t just tuition fees, it wasn’t just the NHS (which at that time had not peaked as a news issue), it wasn’t just the economy. For most people, it was all those things together. Above all, it was Clegg fighting an election with a ringing appeal to trust and reform, and then comprehensively deserting the principles on which the Lib Dems had stood.

    Outside my own village, it’s pretty much the fox-hunting shires I was contesting, alongside predominantly middle-class commuters to Nottingham and surroundings. So the Tories beat me by 54% to 46%. The local Lib Dems were stunned by the contrast between my 46% and their own results, which were typically closer to 10%, other than when there were sitting Lib Dem councillors (who generally did very much better, clearly on a personal vote basis.)

    The lesson to learn is – The support for a centre-left Lib Dem party, as it was in the days of Kennedy and Ashdown, is huge. It has not gone away. It could come back. But only if the Party can change in an absolutely fundamental way to restore its principles and high standards.

  • “so are you actually a member of the Lib Dems. Standing as an anti Coalition candidate if you are seems a pretty odd thing to do if you are.”

    And it doesn’t seem odd to you that people who are members of the Lib Dems are supporting what the Coalition government is doing?

  • Peter Watson 4th Jan '13 - 3:18pm

    @Simon McGrath “so are you actually a member of the Lib Dems. Standing as an anti Coalition candidate if you are seems a pretty odd thing to do if you are”
    Even if David is still a party member, I don’t think what he did was that odd. It appears that he stood as an independent against a Conservative candidate with no official LD candidate in the mix (obviously would put a different slant on things if he was opposing a Lib Dem). Equally though I suppose he could have campaigned as an official Lib Dem candidate who opposed the coalition, though he might have had a harder time getting that part of his message across. Had he been successful – and it appears he came closer than other Lib Dems – then I am sure he would have carried out his duties in the same way and with the same principles whether or not counted as a Lib Dem.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Jan '13 - 4:16pm

    David Allen: So let’s get this straight. You stood in an election to a local authority on a ticket of opposing your (and my) party’s participation the national Coalition government. I fail to see the logic in doing this, but perhaps not for the same reason as Simon McGrath. The problem with your stance is that the Coalition agreement does not apply in local government (or in regional assemblies, or the European Parliament, or anywhere else besides the national government). In elections to these other things, we are not fighting on behalf of the national coalition government, we are fighting as Lib Dems, defending our record in these bodies where we are seeking election.
    Whenever I’ve canvassed anyone in local ward by-elections and they’ve mentioned the national Coalition, I have always responded by saying that this is for the local council, a separate body, and the Coalition does not apply. [And also it’s two-party Tory vs Lib Dem in my local council chamber.]
    It is unfortunate that voters often base their voting decisions on what goes on in national domestic politics, irrespective of the body for which they are voting. I certainly do not think that this thinking is something we should be encouraging, as you seem to be doing.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 4:17pm

    Peter Watson has summed up my position pretty accurately. Rushcliffe Lib Dems had no interest in standing a different candidate in my local ward. I realise that it was a rather unusual thing to do. However, the proposition that I should have been prevented from standing in a public election and expressing the view that the Lib Dems should leave the coalition strikes me as an outrageous infringement of the principles of free speech and democracy.

    I did at an earlier stage discuss with my local party whether I might stand as an official candidate who openly opposed the Coalition. The answer was negative. In fairness, most of the local membership were to varying extents themselves unhappy about what was going on at national level. I suspect, though it is only a suspicion, that they had to listen to some pretty heavy national guidance.

    I did learn another important lesson too, during that campaign. I began by wanting to strike a blow for what (by analogy with “Old Labour”) we can call the Old Lib Dems, and that is, of course, what I am still doing here on this site. However, the people on the doorstep were generally less interested in that than the fact that I was Independent, and would keep sordid party politics out of local issues. I picked up on all that, and in my final leaflet included a promise that even if the Lib Dems were to chuck Clegg and his cohorts into oblivion, I would stay an Independent as (and if!) elected. In local politics (if not national), that is clearly what people really now want.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 4:21pm

    Simon Shaw,

    “Tell me, David, would that “principled” Lib Dem Party be one that would only ever enter a Coalition Government with the Labour Party?”

    It would be prepared to enter a suitable coalition agreement with either the Conservatives or Labour.

  • “I can never get a straight answer to that question.”

    Could it be anything to do with the fact that the apologists for the leadership have told us till they’re blue (I use the word advisedly) in the face that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are meaningless/irrelevant concepts – so in the Libservatives’ own terms the question doesn’t make any sense?

    As for acting in a principled way, it has absolutely nothing to do with which party you have a coalition/agreement/pact/understanding with, and everything to do with how you behave when you’ve done so. If there’s no principle you won’t compromise on – or even simply surrender altogether, often without any perceptible benefit in return – then you can hardly make believe that you are principled, can you?

  • “I did at an earlier stage discuss with my local party whether I might stand as an official candidate who openly opposed the Coalition. The answer was negative.”

    Do you mean they didn’t want you to include “anti-Coalition” or similar in your official description on the ballot paper?

    Surely you don’t mean that if you stood as a Lib Dem candidate they didn’t want you to mention that you opposed the Coalition.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 4:28pm

    Alex Macfie,

    What you say is quite logical. At one stage when considering standing again as a Lib Dem, I proposed that our local party should campaign as just that, and should avoid all mention of the national coalition in its local election leaflets. Essentially I was arguing that provided nobody insisted on our representing ourselves as in favour, I would be happy not to present myself in the campaign as against.

    My proposal was rejected. It was made clear that all approved Lib Dem candidates should be declared supporters of the Coalition. As I said before, I think this came with regional or national guidance rather than home-grown in Rushcliffe.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 4:42pm

    Simon Shaw,

    “do you consider the Lib Dems should be to the left of Labour?” (etc)

    The reason you don’t get a simple straight answer is because you asked a rather complex twisted question.

    In Michael Foot’s day, the Liberal / Alliance were clearly to the Right of Labour and said so. In 2005 when Kennedy fought Blair over Iraq and being “intensely relaxed” about millionaires getting richer, the Lib Dems were clearly to the Left of Labour and said so.

    Now we have Miliband, trying to be all things to all men and convince everybody he is on their side. Clearly Clegg is a long way to the Right of Miliband, but that’s not the point. You asked me where I would like the Party to be. The best answer I can give you is that I would like it to stick with its principles, to watch Labour gallivanting all over the shop, to support them when we think they have got something right, and to attack them for whatever it is we think they are doing wrong just now.

  • “It was made clear that all approved Lib Dem candidates should be declared supporters of the Coalition.”

    Presumably on that basis they would have deselected Charles Kennedy as a parliamentary candidate.

    I think the phrase for the state of mind the party has got itself into is ‘death wish’.

  • Simon Shaw
    “And you, Annie, conveniently ignore any explanation of why Labour didn’t increase the top 40% income tax rate in April 2008 or in April 2009, but bizarrely waited until April 2010 (the very last month of their term in office) before raising the top rate to 50%.”

    That’s a bit disingenuous Simon.

    As most governments do, Labour announced the increase in advance (in the budget of 2009 to come into effect in 2010.) I’m sure Alistair Darling wasn’t planning on losing the election when he wrote his budget.

  • “I have never argued that left and right are meaningless, so, assuming you are a Lib Dem, would you like to answer the question:”

    Blimey, Simon, it’s hardly a secret that I’m not a member of the party any more. As I’ve said many times, I resigned some time ago (in 2008, after more than 20 years as an active member).

    As for my answer, it really is a bit difficult to pin down where Labour stands at the moment – as we’re also frequently told by leadership loyalists.

    The most clear-cut area is civil liberties, and I think the party should be supporting civil liberties more strongly than Labour, but as David Davis is supporting civil liberties more strongly than Labour – or any of the three parties – I’m not sure whether that means it should be to the left of Labour or to the right.

    But essentially my instinct is – yet again – to agree with Charles Kennedy and say that two Conservative parties is enough. As a concrete example, on the proposal to limit benefits to 1% growth (i.e. a cut in real terms), unless I’ve missed a more definite statement Labour is still only _probably_ going to oppose that. If the Lib Dems had retained a shred of principle they would be opposing it with all guns blazing.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jan '13 - 5:04pm

    @Alex Macfie and @David Allen
    “In elections to these other things, we are not fighting on behalf of the national coalition government, we are fighting as Lib Dems, defending our record in these bodies where we are seeking election.”
    Parts of this discussion raise an interesting issue about local versus national politics.
    Essentially, what is the difference between Lib Dems in a local election and Lib Dems in a national election?

    If I were to move from one area to another (e.g. urban nothern town to rural southern county village), should I expect the Lib Dem councillors to share the same principles, support the same sort of policies (where relevant) etc.
    If not, then what does local election success or failure actually mean for the party as a whole?
    If yes, then should local politics reflect the national party situation, including the coalition and its policy compromises?
    Electoral results suggest we do better in local byelections than when local elections are held across the country on the same day, so presumably national politics weighs heavy with local voters when there is national news coverage. Similarly, we are doing badly in parliamentary byelections, and perhaps this is because there is national coverage of those local events.

  • Simon Shaw

    You have called me far-left in the past and you have challenged me as to why I think that all the parties are pretty much right wing at the moment.

    Economically all parties are to the right of me, including the Lib Dems. The most challenge to the neo-liberal consensus from the three parties was from Cable before the last election. He tore Osborne a new one in the debate, but the party is now supporting those policies he opposed in the debate. Apparently Clegg changed his view at some point – pity he never told us. Saying that I still see the LD as being right-wing economically. Any party with Laws in a position of influence cannot be anything but.

    I think that David Allen summed it up nicely – the thing is to try and maintain the principles that you believe in and ignore the relativity to other parties. Labour has moved to the right over the years. Milband may try to move back. This means at times the LD have been to both the right and left of Labour. Indeed you continue to still be on certain policies.

    I would like to remind you of the policies I support and challenge you to tell me which are far-left – the thing you have accused me of from your extreme right-wing position

    Free education for all up to tertiary level
    Abolition of charitable status for private schools and the removal of any other state subsidies
    Government contracts only to awarded to environmentally and socially responsible companies
    Open government and FoI – including security services
    Commitment to reduce child poverty
    Investment in science research and development
    Removal of the nuclear option for our defence
    Reduction of inheritance tax threshold
    Introduction of a form of wealth tax
    Increase in luxury goods VAT with reduction in essential goods VAT
    PR and HoL reform, including removal of religious representation unless elected
    Abolition of monarchy
    Disestablishment of CoE and removal of any legal exemptions for religious organisation

    Most of these have been LD policies or are within the scope of LD philosophy. Can you tell me why I am far left?

  • Simon Shaw

    I am not sure David Allen said that the LD shouldn’t position themselves to the left of Labour as they are now – just that they aren’t. Perhaps he could clarify that.

    I think the points he made are correct. Prior to 2010 I think the LD were positioning themselves as being left of Labour on a number of issues.

    It would now be silly to claim they are to the left of Labour as the LD are more centre-right. You dispute this and keep quoting a poll from well over a year ago. I totally disagree with you. I think you are right wing so you may perceive your party as being on the left. I find this risible based on the policies you are supporting. Perhaps the general membership is further to the the left but that is of little consequence at the moment.

    You seem to say and indicate the LD have never been to the left of Labour – I think this is difficult to argue during the Blair years

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 6:38pm

    Peter Watson,

    Good questions again. Well – Once upon a time, local politics did effectively mirror national politics. Thus, a typical Council would have an annual tussle about next year’s budget, whereby Labour would propose to raise tax levels and spend money on good works, while Tories would propose to cut services and reduce taxes, and yes, the Lib Dems and their antecedents usually came somewhere in the middle. Since we were talking about specific projects, and the debate could sometimes show they were more valuable or less valuable than was originally thought, it could even be constructive. However, nowadays we have capping, nobody has anything much to argue about, and anyway, many of the services have been outsourced or taken into Whitehall control. So, local politics falls back on more shadow boxing and posturing.

    Once upon a time, the Liberals invented “community politics”, with the pitch that they would bring in a new style of local politics, genuinely consulting and involving the community, not just dictating events from the council chamber. The Focus newsletter was the key tool of communication. Many Liberals truly believed in the principles and saw them as transformational. Sharper campaigners saw Focus as a way of winning votes. For myself, as a (then) young SDP newbie, I thought both viewpoints had a fair amount of validity. Whilst I couldn’t see Focus ever revolutionising our society, it seemed to be a very reasonable way of doing local government a bit better, and gaining support for doing it. In those days, one could promise to do things differently in Council and actually mean it.

    What changed? Well, in my area at least, one thing that changed was that the Tories worked out how to counteract Focus with dirty tricks. When you publish a Focus, you create a hostage to fortune. Just one example – When a rumour ran around a local village that the nearby wood was about to be invaded by hordes of gypsies, we ran a Focus about it. We said there was no evidence for the rumour, and anyway, we had spoken to the local planning authorities, who had taken some actions to make sure that nothing illegal would happen. Nothing did happen. The Tories left the issue alone for a year or so, right up until the day before ballot papers went out. Then they “reminded” the voters that the Lib Dems had written a “scaremongering” Focus, based on a trumped-up rumour. Nice. Alongside several similar travesties of local events, capped with a little shield logo about their anti-LD crusade for “Honesty, Integrity and Truth” (the HIT team – geddit?), it worked a treat. They won a landslide.

    But that wasn’t the only thing that changed. It also became increasingly more difficult to achieve anything. Councils stopped listening. They now had policies in place for everything, and that was that. Or sometimes, they actively avoided listening. When I was a Lib Dem minority Borough councillor, it often seemed to me that the surest way to stop something from happening was to declare it as Lib Dem policy. Because, if it was Lib Dem policy, the ruling Tories would then set their faces against ever implementing it, lest we might get any of the credit for it….

    And besides that, people became increasingly disenchanted by politics. When I first started, people would gladly take and read my Focus, because “you’re the only people who ever do anything around here”. Now the attitude has shifted 100%. When local people organise something – like the new allotments in our village – they do it for the whole community, and they do it because they are interested in it. If I had come along and declared myself an allotment campaign hanger-on and that I wanted to be involved for the greater glory of my political party, it would have been an absolute kiss of death! And rightly so.

    It would be good to see party politics taken out of local government at parish and ideally also district level, given the way councils have lost so many responsibilities. It would also be good to see party politics become a less dominant factor at county and unitary level too. The main legitimate role for party democracy, I think, is at national and supranational level.

  • David Allen 4th Jan '13 - 6:42pm

    Simon Shaw,

    No, I didn’t select your option (3). I said what I said. We should just stick to our principles, irrespective of where Labour choose to put themselves on the political map at any one time.

  • @Simon Shaw

    You are the first person to keep throwing around the word “misrepresentation” so why do you feel the need to constantly do the same thing.

    Where is any of bazzasc posts has he said he was far left?

    The only consolation is, you seem to be just as rude towards members of your own party.

  • Simon Shaw

    You really do go out of your way to annoy people don’t you?

    I. I have never said I am far left. It is you who say that about me as I maintain Labour is right- wing economically. Do you dispute that they are supporters of the Chicago school economics that have held sway over the last 30 years. Perhaps they are moving back but still not convinced.

    2. You may believe this. Currently they are the members of the most right-wing Government I have lived under . As I say you are of that ilk yourself so may have a distorted perception

    3. The poll was in 2011 before bhs and welfare reforms. Also the results were far less clear cut as you state. Also it was a one off poll. I would be interested to see an update. The same company give you 10% in the polls

    4. I do see you as right-wing. I would ask you to find someone who considers you anything but that? If I am to the left of 75%. Of people then so be it. Shows how far to the right the centre has moved since the 80 s. my views were pretty much soft left then. I don’t know how valid your arbitrary number is though. I think there are more leftyz than you would like to admit. Most are probably in the 35% who don’t vote, especially all those lost Labour votes after 97

    5. You may be correct must like most of your party is to the left of Clegg. At the end though the leader sets the direction of the party. Both Labour and the LD have seen their conference and membership emasculated by their leaders

    By the way thanks Matt

  • @Simon Shaw

    “then I would have said the far left ”

    And the proof is in the pudding “you” have said he is far left
    and not Bazzsc

    You are intentionally “misrepresenting” him in your comments @ 8:01pm when you said “1. You say you are far left (i.e. to the left of Labour). Accordingly your viewpoint is highly distorted.”

    I think most reasonable minded persons can tell from Bazzsc posts here on this thread and on previous threads that he is a Centre/left thinking person.

  • Simon Shaw

    I dispute your perception of what is left and right wing!

    I do not think that anyone who considers themselves to be left of the Blair Labour Party to be far-left. This is the party of Iraq, deregulation of the banks, cosying up to the rich, a continued increase in the wealth gap, a credit boom, tuition fees etc. they did also, though, increase spending on public services but even then it was only if the private sector creamed off profits.

    I think your leader in 2007 said you were coming at them from the left ( the quote has been share here before).

    And you claiming to be centre-left is a joke when your party is supporting this Government. Please can you find someone on here that considers you to be centre-left. I have seen no evidence for this.

    I may be further left due to a shift in the centre to the right. Often driven by the press. None of my core policies, listed above, are particularly far left. Even if they are considered to be so then a number of LD are also far left. Perhaps some of the 35% of voters who don’t vote do so because there is no such party.

  • Thanks again Matt

  • @bazzasc

    Your welcome, us Centre/Left minded voters must defend the position from these imposters 😉

  • I am trying to think what is liberal about uncontrolled immigration – it’s the weakest here that can’t get jobs or have wage-rates reduced.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jan '13 - 11:10pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “2. Accordingly, you are mistaken when you say Lib Dems are “centre right”. We are currently Centrist/Centre-Left.
    3. In support of that I referred to the most recent UKPR poll I have found. You have supplied no contrary evidence, other than your own (self-admittedly highly biased) point of view.”

    Strictly speaking, the data from yougov discussed at ukpollingreport does not really show that.
    The polling data generally showed that those who considered themselves to the “left” perceived Lib Dems to be right of centre. Those who considered themselves to the “right” perceived Lib Dems to be left of centre. Averaging out in the middle is not the same as being there. It also means that considering the Lib Dems to be right-wing is a widely held view (albeit countered by a widely held view that we are left-wing).

    We should also distinguish between claims that the party has moved to the right and claims that it has moved to the right of the centre. We all seem to agree that the party has moved in a rightwards direction: you believe it has stopped at the centre while others believe it went a bit further.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jan '13 - 11:18pm

    @David “I am trying to think what is liberal about uncontrolled immigration – it’s the weakest here that can’t get jobs or have wage-rates reduced.”
    On reflection, this also seems like a great example of how left-right labelling falls down. Is it right-wing nationalism to oppose immigration, or is it left-wing socialism to protect the British proletariat from being exploited by capitalists importing cheap labour?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Fiona
    I'm a member of Compass, and while I continue to support the overall advertised aims of the group, I can't help but think that they only see the LibDems as a me...
  • Barry Lofty
    It is really sad to see the NHS under so much pressure and services deteriorating mainly because of the reasons given by Catherine Royce. The NHS is something t...
  • Yeovil Yokel
    An intriguing, and possibly masterful, choice for a safe rural Conservative seat. A major, eh? - Paddy was but a mere captain. You don’t want to miss this o...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might we be facing two problems at the same time, which may or maybe not significantly connected? One is increasing poverty and the other is increasing inflati...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might it be the case that the attitudes and performance of the Metropolitan Police in this matter come somewhere on a continuum/spectrum between inept and corru...