The 12 Op-Eds of Xmas (Day 2)

Throughout the festive season, LDV is offering our readers a load of repeats another chance to read the 12 most popular opinion articles which have appeared on the blog since 1st January, 2010. The eleventh most-read LDV op-ed of 2010 was by LDV co-editor Mark Pack, and originally appeared on 17th April …

Poll surge continues: is this 2003 or 1974?

“I will only really believe it when I see it in print!” – so read a text message to me from one of the party’s senior campaign strategists after news started spreading about the latest poll:

BPIX/Mail on Sunday: Lib Dem 32%, Conservative 31%, Labour 28%
ComRes/Independent/Mirror: Conservative 31%, Lib Dem 29%, Labour 27%
ICM/Sunday Telegraph: Conservative 34%, Labour 29%, Lib Dem 27%
OnePoll/People: Lib Dem 33%, Conservative 27%, Labour 23%
YouGov/Sunday Times: Conservative 33%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 29%

The YouGov poll gives Nick Clegg the eye-watering personal ratings on doing well/badly as party leader of 81% versus 9%. At the height of the Iraq war backlash, Charles Kennedy’s rating on this question wording was ‘only’ +44%.

So what on earth to make of this all?

First things first: my scepticism of BPIX remains and OnePoll (due to their newness and similar lack of transparency) should also be treated cautiously, but their figures are in line with those of the other pollsters – even if they are the only ones to give the Liberal Democrats the hugely symbolic edge into first place.

Second, all the polls are telling much the same picture, within the usual margins of error. The pattern across them all is also of the Conservatives being hit more than Labour by the Liberal Democrat surge: Tories down 4% on average, Labour down 2%. (Others are also being squeezed.)

Third, as I wrote this morning, newspaper editors do not like getting too far out of step from their readers. Having numerous readers supporting the Liberal Democrats won’t turn the Sun into a cheerleader for the party, but we’ve seen far more positive coverage for the Liberal Democrats in papers such as The Sun and the Daily Mail, even whilst they’ve also been putting the boot in.

Fourth, there have been previous sharp increases in Liberal Democrat, Alliance and before that Liberal support. Most recently, after victory in the 2003 Brent East by-election polls showed a surge for the party, including an NOP poll that put all three main parties on 31%. That surge quickly deflated – but thanks to causes which give reasons for cautious optimism this time.

Previous surges have come and then gone because the news agenda moved on. There are only so many times you can report “… and the Liberal Democrats dramatically won…”. In 2003 after Brent East came the Liberal Democrat party conference – but then it was off to Labour and Tory conferences and the media’s attention moved on.

However, this time round the media isn’t moving on to other stories: the state of the election campaign is the story until May 6th. Moreover, it’s not that there’s been one TV debate and now it’s on to other campaign reports. There are two more debates, nicely spaced out between now and polling day, to come. There is also a record breaking volume of polling which, so far, is keeping the “Liberal Democrats doing well” story running.

So whilst pessimists will be thinking of 2003, expecting the bubble to soon burst, optimists will be thinking of 1974. In February 1974 the Liberals surged forward at the general election, thanks to a charismatic leader and a run of Parliamentary by-election victories that gave the party vital momentum. The chance of the right series of by-elections at the right time doesn’t often come the way of a party; it did for the Liberals in with Rochdale, Sutton and Cheam, Ripon, the Isle of Ely, and Berwick. Perhaps in 2010 the sequence of three TV debates during the campaign will the equivalent of that early 1970s run of by-elections?

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9 Comments

  • Dude, it’s a post from Cleggmania.

  • @red trev

    Ah, you, the arbiter of how the people feel. You, the people. Gives me a lump in my throat just watching you skewer us with your words, straight from the mouths of all the people. Honestly, “the people”? Which people? Possibly those people who agree with you? Am I not a subdivision of the people?

    Gods I hate that asinine turn of phrase. Individual people have different views and opinions, which is what makes them individual people. One opinion can be the consensus view, but it doesn’t mean that those who subscribe to others are not part of the population.

  • Ah, those halcyon days when anything seemed possible, except the mess we are in now! And yet even at the time there was something about it that made an old Liberal like me feel uneasy: Clegg was good in the first debate, but he wasn’t THAT good (there were huge holes in our policy on, for example, immigration); and when it comes down to it, our strategy has always been to win the argument ward by ward over a long period of time, so that generations have grown up since the start of community politics saying, “I always vote Liberal (Democrat)”, rather than, as seemed to be the case with the debates, “Oh that Nick Clegg looks like a nice man, I think I’ll go with them this time”. And there was also, for those of us on the left old enough to remember, the shadow of 1992 with its example seared into our souls of how everything can go wrong at the last minute, and thus it came about.

  • Patrick Smith 27th Dec '10 - 9:50am

    The key factor in why suddenly there was a surge in Cleggmania was to do with forthright honesty from our Leader.

    Nick Clegg spoke about how it was necessary to do a `New Politics’.

    He asked his attentive audience to embrace the new prospect of real political reforms to clean up politics and to consider a new style of democratic pluralism.

    This would mean Party Leaders should work together and not remain like ostriches in the sand or bigoted about working on some agreed common ground on behalf of `National Deficit’.

    The surge stemmed from Nick Clegg`s appeal to the Electorate to consider a `New Politics’ and its implemementation in the form of a workable `Coalition Agreement’.It transpired that 63% of the L/D Manifesto was translated into the `Coalition Agreement’ that is destined to reshape British Politics.

    I beieve that the key part of making the `Coalition Agreement’ workable over the full term of a five year Parliament is a mutual trust on enough common ground between the respective Leaders.

    As a `die-hard’ Liberal Democrat I want to see all important stated progressive reform policy implemented, that includes voting reform and civil liberties progress and a fairer society for the vulnerable and least off members in our local communities and more help for students likely to face greater debt in reality.

  • @ Patrick Smith
    “a `die-hard’ Liberal Democrat I want to see all important stated progressive reform policy implemented, that includes voting reform and civil liberties progress and a fairer society for the vulnerable and least off members in our local communities and more help for students likely to face greater debt in reality.”

    Lib Dems are part of a government targetting the vulnerable and least well off people! The new ESA rules, forcing the sick and disabled onto JSA when they will never find work will create poverty to an extent that will put lives in danger. Food and heat will become unaffordable. DLA is being taken away. Housing benefit ‘reform’ will force people into homelessness. I can go on and on. Get out of your warm security, there is bleak despair in these ‘communities’. Please do not pretend to care when you are complicit in backing these most draconian welfare reforms that you term ‘progressive’ and ‘important’.
    Tuition fees should not have been raised. shall we talk about pledges? University funding cut. EMA withdrawn. New Politics to Clegg meant it does not matter what you say before elected, just u-turn when you are in power and have your nice cars and pay. that is why the coalition approval is down to 43% We now see you for what you really are.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/26/coalition-government-support-dramatically-down

  • Martin Pierce 27th Dec '10 - 4:51pm

    @ Patrick Smith

    Hmm, my recollection is that the ‘new politics’ was mainly about “no more broken promises” (if you recall the election broadcast just before the election)….

    And what are the political reforms exactly? 1. Instead of voters voting every 5 years maximum, make sure they can only vote every 5 years as STANDARD (no people power there then). 2. Hold a referendum on a system that isn’t even proportional, so in some ways no better than the current system – then hold it under the least propitious circumstances with our dear PM allowed to campaign against (so we lose it and are able to say nothing else about electoral reform for a generation. There’s something about elected Lords, but apparently that’s going to take at least 10 years to achieve (by which Cameron is probably thinking the phrase ‘long grass’ is apposite).

    Well, the voters at least had seen through Clegg by the time of the election already – as we were back down to the 23% we started with and fewer MPs (ha! Of course 23% would be a dream now!). Still, once we’ve been wiped out in Scotland, Wales, Locals and AV referendum in May perhaps LDs will think again about the wisdom of going along with this nonsense.

  • Patrick Smith 27th Dec '10 - 5:59pm

    In response to Anne and Martin Pierce:

    The new `Coalition Agreement’ has already delivered part of the L/D policies to help the least off and vulnerable, that is only a significant start.

    1.Cutting 13 years of the Labour mess of leaving £179B `National Deficit’.

    2.Restoring the link for State Pensioners and Earnings broken by Thatcher in 1980.

    3. Increasing the tax-free personal allowances by £1000 and with target of £10K , over 3/4 Budgets.

    4.100,000 new `Green Jobs’.

    5.Pupil Premium of new £2.5B for school pupils in most need.

    6.Scapping expensive and unnecessary ID Cards.

    7.Closing of Contactpoint and Yarlswood for holding children and personal data.

    8.Voting Referndum set for May 2011.

    9. Delaying Trident Renewal.

    10. New Royal Mail and Post Office reform and keeping more local post offices open.

    In 2010 Labour were at internal loggerheads in Government, with no political will to even tackle the `MPs Expenses’ scandal or to take initiatives on the rising challenge of the `National Deficit’.

    Labour had racked up an insurmountable `National Deficit’ and had failed Britain on `Civil Liberties’.

    They had also presided over an unprecented expansion of prisons to 80,000 -the highest number in history- with 1 in 2 re-offending within 2 months of realease- after serving 6 months.

  • @ Patrick Smith

    Still the silence on the sick and disabled and the poverty they face or any defence on housing benefit cuts. Total and utter silence from you. I can refute most of your so called ‘gains’ but this has been done on other threads. EG Pupil Premium, paid for from cuts in welfare, removal of EMA and cuts in education budget.

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