The Lib Dem HQ take on the party’s poll ratings

Tom Smithard, the Lib Dems’ Parliamentary Campaigns & Intelligence Analyst, has been compiling an occasional polling report – collating interesting material from published polls and providing a bit of commentary – for internal use within Cowley Street since he started working for the party this summer. We’re publishing his latest assessment in two parts: today focuses on the Lib Dems’ poll ratings; tomorrow, the second anniversary of Nick Clegg’s election as Lib Dem leader, Tom looks at Nick’s personal ratings as leader.

December has seen a pleasing turnaround in our share of the vote with ComRes. On November 11 we were down to 17% with the pollster that normally gives us our best share – eight points behind Labour and 22 behind the Tories. Two polls later and we’ve picked up four points. We’re now just three per cent behind Labour and catching up with the Conservatives.

Our average from the last ten polls is 18.7%, a little behind where we were in the run-up to the 2005 election but considerably closer to Labour (currently average 28.1%) compared with this period in 2004 when we were 17 points behind with ICM.

So what can explain Labour’s current reversal of fortune and how will it affect the Lib Dems?

Gordon Brown has been on confident form recently – taking a more aggressive stance in PMQs and unleashing a series of popular policies, including measures in the Pre-Budget Report hitting bankers’ bonuses and the recent announcement on funding 22 new helicopters for Afghanistan. While Brown’s new sense of vigour will not have moved the polls in itself, it has allowed the media to create a new narrative around him in the hope of making the race more competitive.

This is now having an effect, with Labour’s poll ratings shooting up from the mid-20s to the high-20s and low-30s. Everything Labour does at present is being portrayed as the party fighting back, while the media are presenting the Tories as rapidly losing their chance to seal the deal with the electorate (which is what we’ve been saying for a while). Talk of a Tory landslide is certainly over.

The worry with this is that the Liberal Democrats are being squeezed out of the media narrative in favour of a newly resurgent Brown versus a jittery Cameron.

The only answer is to continue doing exactly what we are doing – aggressively make the case for why we can present an alternative government of our own. It may not fit in with the media narrative of the moment but we have the tools at our disposal – a modern, attractive website and a first-class ground war infrastructure – to make the case directly to voters.

Compare Labour’s PBR to our package of tax reforms and it’s clear there’s only one party capable of dealing with the economy in a progressive, fair and responsible way. Continued abuses of civil liberties, difficulties in Afghanistan, failings in health and education – all these are strong reasons why progressive-minded people should not vote Labour.

And while the Conservatives’ response to Labour announcements tends to hyperbole without saying what they would do instead, we offer precise criticism and detailed examples of how our policy is better. Our responses may not always generate the headlines but they do get into newspaper reports, often ahead of what the Tories are saying, and they do get noticed. Maybe we could describe it as the Tesco approach to media coverage … every little helps!

It is also important we continue to highlight and exploit Tory weaknesses, such as the work done to expose Zac Goldsmith’s non-dom status. They are suffering from their first sustained period of pressure and the longer we can keep them on the defensive the more votes they will shed.

Labour seem happy to piggyback onto our work, and part of their recent increase in the polls is probably down to that, but keeping the pressure up on both Labour and the Tories will see floating voters from both sides of the spectrum either return to us, or come to us afresh.

The resurgence of Labour does have one other benefit to us: the Tories will have to redouble their efforts on Labour marginals to win a majority. Every poll of marginal seats, alongside countless council byelection results and plenty of anecdotal evidence, shows how resilient incumbent Lib Dem MPs are in the face of Tory pressure.

The Tories know this and they are worried. Recent press reports suggest they are pulling resources out of Lib Dem-Tory marginals (Cheadle has been mentioned as an example) to invest elsewhere. The harder they have to fight against Labour, the less they will be able to justify wasting money in Lib Dem target seats they have little chance of winning.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.


  • I think the last poll showing a Tory lead of only 9% is a bit misleading.
    If you remove the Scottish part from the poll, so you only include England and Wales it shows
    Con 44%
    Lab 23%
    Lib 20%
    Oth 13%

    So the main swing to Labour is in their heartlands, but not in England. I think the reason for this increase in Scotland was because of Browns attack/joke on the playing fields of Eton, and Zac Goldsmith’s non-dom status,
    this type of attack will go down well with the Far Left

    If this poll is correct it will leave the Tory party winning the election by about 50 seats.

    It does seem that the Tory attack will be on the Labour seats, as they know Brown is disliked in England, and it is a lot harder to win seats from the Lib Dems.

  • Excelent piece. HQ are right that we should carry on doing what we are doing but I would be disturbed if they waste too much thought on the polls. As away of telling how we are doing now, against 3 momths ago, theyre o.k but they give very little sense of how well we will perform in the GE. If we look back at average polls in the run-up to the last 3 elections, there is a correlation with the results but its very weak.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '09 - 9:15am

    @David – I don’t know where your figures come from, but they can’t be right, or else they don’t relate to the same poll. Scotland accounts for less than 10% of the electorate, which means that even if every single Scottish respondent said they were voting Labour, that would give the Tories a lead of 40-31, already nine points. Given that Labour’s lead over the Tories in Scotland can’t have been better than, say, 45-10 (I’d be astonished if it was even that much), this would translate into an overall Tory lead of at least 41-25.

  • The Poll listed
    Scotland, North of England, Wales and Midlands, South East England, and South West England.
    I do not have all the figurers that I wrote down, but I left Scotland out which Labour had a very big lead in.

    The Tory total in the rest came to 177 div by the 4 areas came to 44%
    Lab had 25%, 22%, 28%, and 17% total of 92 div 4 = 23%
    Lib Dem had 22%, 16%, 24%, and 18% total of 80 div 4 = 20%

    I hope my maths are correct !!!!
    Remember these are over large areas, and there will be areas within them that are a party is stronger or weaker. So the number of seats won in each area will not work out to the overall averages.
    If that poll is correct then there is a big swing in Scotland to Labour.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '09 - 9:49am

    Well, as I already explained, your maths can’t possibly be correct! Perhaps because you’ve apparently assumed that the four areas you did count are all the same size; though the figures you give suggest (though you don’t break down the Tory totals) that the Tories had nearly a 20-point lead in the North of England, which seems unlikely. Can you give a link for this poll, or some details of who published it and when?

  • I think but not 100% sure
    In Scotland Labour had 48%, and the Tory % was about 13%

    Con 177 = 13 = 190 div 5 = 38%
    Lab had 92 = 48 = 140 div 5 = 28%

    The poll gave a Tory lead of 9% mine shows 10%

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '09 - 10:05am

    Yes, but this shows exactly the problem with your method. As I said, Scotland contains fewer than 10% of the electorate in Britain. Your method assumes that it has 20%, which is how you arrive at such a huge disparity between the overall picture and the England/Wales picture. Again, can you provide a link or other searchable info on this poll?

  • In the North
    Labour had 25%
    Lib 22%
    Oth 15%
    Con 38%

    I can only give you what the poll gave out.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '09 - 10:12am

    No, you can give me a source for the poll so that I can look at it myself. Then perhaps I can get to the bottom of the figures, because as I say, your figures don’t add up.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Dec '09 - 10:41am

    Thanks, but this seems to confirm that your detail figures are not from the same poll. This document breaks the country up into only three regions – North, Midlands, and South. No separate figures are given for Scotland, indeed the words ‘Scotland’, ‘Wales’ and ‘England’ don’t appear anywhere in the file; and looking at the sample sizes the poll couldn’t be used to give any sort of trustworthy regional breakdown anyway.

  • Can you explain what the relevance is of arguing over Labour’s vote in Scotland? As far as I see it, it’ll still be a General Election so the vote in Scotland is just as important – unless what you’re saying is that with Scotland Labour could win, but that the Tories would have a majority in England & Wales, which is interesting.

    (BTW – there’s a lot of people up here who would simply see that as retribution for the 1980s…..)

  • Bill le Breton 18th Dec '09 - 6:59pm

    Tom Smithard’s piece (above) went live at 4.45 on the 17th. He is the Lib Dems’ Parliamentary Campaigns & Intelligence Analyst, we are told.

    The piece contains opinion by the bucketful but no analysis. David and Malcolm have been trying to analyse a poll. The assertion and challenge is valuable. However, it is surprising that as of 6.45 on the 18th ‘our’ analyst has not come in to give his analysis of that poll.

    Come on Tom. Tell us what poll David is referring to and what your analysis of it is. Do recent polls show the gap narrowing or not?

    As the leadership has prefaced all its tactics on a Time for a Change election it would be good if someone told them if/when that changes into a ‘Stick to Nurse for fear of something worse’ election.

    If your analysis is not for public consumption, which would seem wise, please don’t subject us to such ill-disguised propaganda.

  • Tim; you guys at Cowley Street have little clue on the marketing/pr front and that is seen on the streets of the U.K.

    It is mostly “Nick who?” and “what are the actual policies of the Libdems”. The Comms department have a huge hill to climb and I’m afraid our leader is not the best choice for success. He’s too nice a guy!

  • Do you really think you’re fooling anyone calling yourself libdem guru Toryboy?

One Trackback

  • By Top of the Blogs: The Golden Dozen #148 on Mon 21st December 2009 at 9:43 am.

    […] the tories on wit and wisdom’s blog. And in case you missed it, here is that hammering. 5. The Lib Dem HQ take on the party’s poll ratings by Tom Smithard on Lib Dem Voice. Are we being squeezed out, and how can we tackle that? 6. No […]

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