Some good news for the Liberal Democrats from Lord Ashcroft

Lord Ashcroft, nowadays a relatively detached observer of British politics, usefully spends some of the money he used to give to the Conservative Party on opinion polling.  He has just published his post-voting analysis of the European elections – and it has some encouraging information for Liberal Democrats.

‘The biggest single chunk of Lib Dem support in the European elections came from 2017 Labour voters (37%), with 31% coming from previous Lib Dems and 24% coming from 2017 Conservatives.’

52% of Conservatives who had switched to voting for the Brexit Party said that they intend to stay with the Brexit Party at the next general election; while…

‘Conservatives who switched to the Lib Dems say they are even more likely to stay put: 61% now say they will vote Lib Dem again at the general election, with only 22% saying they expect to return to the Tories. Overall, only 43% of 2017 Conservative voters who turned out in the European elections say they will vote Tory at the next general election.’

‘Half of Labour-Brexit Party switchers said they expected to stay with their new party at the next general election, with only just a quarter saying they expect to go back to Labour. Just over half (51%) of Labour-Lib Dem switchers currently say they will stay with the Lib Dems. Just over half (56%) of 2017 Labour voters say they will back Jeremy Corbyn’s party for Westminster.’

He doesn’t provide a breakdown of respondents by age, social class or education; and he doesn’t provide comparably detailed information on voters who switched to the Greens, which would have been useful.  But this gives us some useful targets to go for: to hold onto our new voters, through continuing contact, and through getting across to them where we stand on policies other than on Brexit.  

Our leadership campaign should help us to get other policies across, as the media (at last) give us more coverage for a contest likely to be far more constructive and less bloody than the parallel Conservative race.  Both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson have done well in post-European election media comments, and we can hope for more media attention as the other two parties’ agonised arguments over what went wrong spill over.  

One of the most encouraging impressions from this campaign is that so many of our new members have thrown themselves effectively into campaigning.  Some of them, we have discovered, have brought campaigning experience from other parties.  The last weekend before the Euro-elections, a package of leaflets was brought round to our house late at night by a local member who told us he’d been ‘a Ted Heath Conservative’ party member until the Conservative Party had made people like him too uncomfortable; and we went out to deliver the leaflets alongside a new friend who had been a member of the Labour Party until a few months ago.  Let’s hope we can attract more like them over the coming months.

Those of us who’ve been members of the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats for decades know from hard experience how difficult it is to crack the two-party stranglehold on British politics.  But it’s now possible that old loyalties and political coalitions are beginning to disintegrate.  In recent weeks I’ve listened to people I had thought of as tribally-committed to Labour or the Conservatives tell me that this time they were voting for us.  The election of Boris Johnson or Dominic Raab as Conservative leader, or the continuing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, under the influence of his tight-knit circle of advisers, might well drive some surprisingly prominent people in our direction along with others.  We must do our best to encourage those we see as liberally-inclined, to be cautious about those we see as careerists hoping to hop for a while onto our bandwagon, and to work to consolidate the voter support, financial resources, and enlarged membership that recent months have happily brought us.

* William Wallace has fought five parliamentary elections in Manchester and West Yorkshire. He is a former president of the Yorkshire regional Liberal Democrats.

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  • Nevertheless as the political chaos deepens the Party needs to recognise that a General Election remains more likely than a referendum. The impasse has to be broken somehow, and a referendum raises all sorts of questions and issues that many would not want to address. Whereas an Election is familiar and straightforward.

    We also need to start thinking about the risk of some understanding between the Tories and the Batshit party, that enables a single Brexit candidate to be put up against opposition MPs. Such an election would be the most critical of our lifetime, and to allow all the various Remain parties to go into competition against each other under our current voting system, with the same hand-wringing and semi-apologies we had this time, would be unforgivable.

    If under the EU elections just run, CUK and the LibDems had combined forces, we’d have three extra MEPs. If the Greens had joined in, the combined alliance (assuming the same vote, which is arguable both up and down) would have beaten the Batshit party 30 MEPs to 25.

  • Richard Underhill 28th May '19 - 6:33pm

    Our MPs should be willing to contest a general election or another referendum, or to revoke Article 50.
    Think of the inhabitants of Troy and beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
    Tory leadership candidates are busily forecasting strange bedfellows for other parties, including an SNP-Labour association / agreement / understanding /etc. They should remember what Harold Wilson said.
    In 2015 the former SNP leader had some fun with the idea that he could be as influential as he had been portrayed.
    Tories on social media encouraged people to believe this fake news. Don’t.

  • There are breakdowns (not quite for everything I think) for age, class etc. in the detailed tables linked to on Ashcroft’s site – and for the Greens.

    It’s worth noting that the base for this is only those that voted in the European elections not including the other 63.3% that didn’t vote in the election. A poster on the UK Vote Forum suggested that our 17% Westminster vote share here equated to 13% if everyone was taken into account.

    I believe I saw a poll that I don’t have to hand that we slump back down to about 7% if Labour take an unequivocal Referendum stance.

  • Nom de Plume 29th May '19 - 3:17am

    A lot of poll reading going on. They are only, at best, indicative. With politics in its present state of flux all outcomes are possible.

  • Nom de Plume 29th May '19 - 3:48am

    This is what happens when one goes gambling and keeps raising the stakes. Perhaps it is popular at Eton.

  • As a marketer I advise businesses about how to reach their customers. I am constantly telling them that social media, the internet and all the other electronic media won’t work unless they have content.
    I hear too many comments about a ‘great looking Focus’ when the content is bland and uninspiring. As Michael says, we need to look to at our core philosophies (as outlined in the Preamble to the Constitution – how many new members even know about that?) and amplify and apply them in our communities.
    There are immense inequalities in this country which drive me to despair. We want to change these but are not getting cut through against the Tories. A Focus (however well written) through the door probably won’t achieve that as it gets swept into the recycling with the rest of the junk mail. Word of mouth is the best persuader and cheap but it will only work with a relevant message.
    Each month HQ should decide on a topic for the month and give guidance to local parties how to use the topic. We can then localise it and get people talking about it. Then we might get some momentum going.

  • Sue Sutherland 29th May '19 - 11:39am

    Would Michael Meadowcroft write an article or series of articles for LDV about our philosophy?

  • We will need to work hard to keep these new converts to liberal democracy. The media is still slanted towards the two main parties in Westminster. Our leadership contest will help as will the steady drip of news from their antics. It is essential we have a uniting and progressive manifesto that is credible for the next General Election whenever it comes.

  • Three cheers for Michael Meadowcroft – who I first met back in 1964 at Liberal Party HQ in Victoria Street.

    Michael is right. There needs to be a strong statement of basic philosophy…. what Liberalism is.. but … there also needs to be a strong statement of radical Liberal policy about the needs of the value of the individual going beyond the single item of opposition to Brexit.

    For starters, as a former Convenor for Social Work, I know how much the party must respond to the Social Care Crisis in England – far worse than it is in Scotland and Wales.

    The new Leader and the Parliamentary Party should back up the newly elected Lib Dem Councils and Councillors to campaign for more generous local government funding.

    Every Lib Dem should watch tonight’s Panorama programme highlighting Somerset (a key Lib Dem target area) as a critical case in point. … and why… because the Lib Dems are a bit less culpable as participants in the austerity of 2010-15 in terms of individual Ministerial responsibility. It was Pickles’ mess and outwith the direct responsibility of Lib Dem junior ministers, Stunnell, Foster and Williams.

    Being elected is the start. It is not an end in itself. It’s what you do next. Getting things done, and being seen to get things done is what the job is about. Bang the drum against Brexit, yes, but bang it also about the Social Care crisis. It matters to people and we should be their voice.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th May '19 - 2:21pm

    Excellent from Lord William, and the replies by Michael M, David R, Sue S, terrific.

    I would like more of ideas and values, and speak on this in fact, and yet find little outlet to, and plan to more, the party does not make use of speakers not able to be seen or heard because they are in constituencies where the party is not a winner, or are not pushy or able to attend every conference and be at obscure or showy debates.

    I think it should be the basic norm, political meetings, not just focus leaflets, stalls, not just focus delivery, events, not just focus…..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

  • David Raw,

    Adult social care is a major issue that we need a clear plan to address. This is an area that the coalition and ministers like Norman Lamb did some serious work on. The Kings fund 2015 report gives an objective view
    “the coalition has made more progress in five years than the previous government did in thirteen. The independent commission, chaired by Andrew Dilnot, reported within a year. To the surprise of many, his central recommendations were not only accepted but also embodied in legislation that will be implemented from April 2016.

    To make any headway at all on an issue that has eluded all previous attempts at reform – and in the toughest fiscal climate in living memory – is a big achievement. It establishes a symbolic milestone in social care policy – that the state places a limit on how much the individual should pay for care and extends to care and support needs the protection from catastrophic costs that we have always enjoyed for health care needs.

    The coalition should receive credit too for the most comprehensive and ambitious overhaul of social care legislation since 1948. The way that the government has engaged with the sector and its stakeholders to ensure the passage of the new Care Act is a model of good practice in policy development that contrasts sharply with the experience of the Health and Social Care Act. To consign the 1948 National Assistance Act to the history books is an achievement of which any modern government could be proud.”

    The decision in July 2015 to defer the introduction of a cap on lifetime social care charges and a more generous means-test that had been proposed by the “Dilnot Commission” was a tragedy. We are still awaiting the green paper on the alternative proposals

    I have written on this recently and both Norman Lamb and Michael Meadowcroft addressed an Alter fringe meeting on the issue at the spring conference in York.
    We can not only bang the drum about the social care crisis, we can solve this problem given the political will and the cross-party support to do so.

  • Richard Underhill 30th May '19 - 12:07pm

    At this point in time and at this stage of the process members and activists should have two priorities:
    1) parliamentary by-election in Peterborough, just do what the agent asks,
    (even if you are the candidate). Don’t give money to bookies, although this worked for some in Ribble Valley. The party will accept donations.
    2) attend leadership hustings and listen to the debate/s. A new leader is likely to introduce some new ideas and changes. For instance not all of us are former commandos. Not everybody supports the idea that water should be free because blood is free. How would the distribution work in practice?

  • As we know, the ChangeUK MPs, who appear to run the party in the absence of a democratic structure, rejected co-operation. The time really is approaching when they have to decide to commit to a modest deal or sink with popguns blazing. A deal with the Greens could have been very productive in a tougher election for us both.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Tory/Brexit deals. In the last general election, UKIP stood down for the Tories in Tom Brake’s and Norman Lamb’s constituencies with no visible impact and if Tories stand down for Mr Falange, this will not only force some relict moderate Tories to look for an alternative (probably us); the votes of the unthinking if-it-has-a-blue-rosette Tories won’t all transfer because they’ll be disoriented by the lack of a Conservative to vote for, so some won’t turn out.

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