The Liberal Democrat challenges for 2011: winning elections

Over the festive season we’re running a series of posts on the main Liberal Democrat challenges for 2011. You can find all the posts as they appear here.

Yesterday I took a look at the economy, an issue on which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will sink or swim together. Where the parties will be directly fighting each other will be in the ballot box, both in the big round of scheduled elections in May, in by-elections all through the year and in the AV referendum, where most Conservatives will be lined up on the ‘no’ side.

The combination of huge fluctuations in opinion polls during the last Parliament and in the general election campaign with a fixed-term Parliament means that the political impact of opinion poll ratings is more muted than in the past. Media pundits, in particular, are now less prone to draw firm conclusions about an election several years away based on a measure which they have seen move all over the place in previous years.

But the reality of votes in ballot boxes has a strong drip-drip effect on party morale and activity and the occasional high profile contest will – rightly – get wider attention.

May’s normal elections, the AV referendum and the Oldham by-election are the three main tests here. Imagine how different politics would look in mid-May if all three went well for the party compared to if all three went badly, for example.

The strength of the cross-party grassroots campaign for a Yes vote, combined with some of the polling results and the increasing profile from Labour Yes campaigners are promising signs for the referendum. For the others, the motivation of Liberal Democrat activists will be very important – and so is the topic of tomorrow’s challenge.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Do you think you’re going to see Nick front and centre of any of these elections?
    And if not why not if the polls are so meaningless?

  • I think Oldham may not be truly indicative.

    I am one of many who feel badly let down by the activities of the Lib Dems in Government, but after Woolas’ actions, which must have had the support of the local Labour party, would not bring myself to vote Labout in this election even if it meant punishing the coalition (as is the want of by elections). Labour deserve to lose in Oldham.

    It is the May elections that will be truly a mark of public opinion. The referendum requires the support of key Labour figures to achieve a win. The party, by their continued hostility to all things Labour, are risking this fading away to insignificance. The huge mistake of holding it on the same day will allow those wavering to concentrate mainly on the local elections at the expense of the Yes Campaign.

    As you have previously alluded to, it is the tone of Lib Dems in coalition that will have the biggest impact. If it remains a love in then expect a loss of traditional, non member, support. Tories in marginal seats may help out, but the average Conservative Club is packed to the gunnals with the hang ’em, flog ’em brigade who see anything liberal as a sin, so do expect too much help.

  • Polls of Party support are, at best, snapshots of the Public mood; what most people feel that most people feel. As such it largely reflects the Media narrative.

    There is some evidence that Party Leader approval polls are a better predictive tool & they suggest that the fundamentals havent shifted since the Election. Clegg & Milliband are in equal 2nd place with Cameron leading. We will all have to wait & see.

  • Man on the Bus 21st Dec '10 - 12:35pm

    “There is some evidence that Party Leader approval polls are a better predictive tool & they suggest that the fundamentals havent shifted since the Election.”

    Quite right.

    It may be true that Clegg’s approval rating has fallen 101 points from +72% to -29%, but fundamentally nothing has changed.

  • Let’s see….. you are now polling at around half the % you did in May/June, which may even be an over estimate as some polling organisations assign “don’t knows” with the party they voted for last time, which in the case of the LD’s just isn’t going to happen.

    Wake up! Unless you do something pretty soon you are heading into single figure territory and the heady days of Grimmond and Thorpe. Only the Woolas factor is preventing you from automatically losing big time in O&S…. but anything other than a win has to be the writing on the wall for the Coalition.

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