LDV poll: Vince or Tim are Lib Dem members’ top choices for leader in event of vacancy

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

28% choose Vince, 21% tip Tim: how you voted

Yesterday we reported the finding that 34% of Lib Dem members surveyed thought Nick Clegg should step down as party leader before the 2015 general election compared to 59% who thought he should stay to fight it. Today we report the hypothetical question we then posed: who should take up the reins if for any reason there were a vacancy as leader…

LDV asked: In the event of a vacancy for Lib Dem leader, which current MP would you be most likely to vote for to succeed Nick Clegg?

    28% – Vince Cable
    21% – Tim Farron
    6% – Jo Swinson
    5% – David Laws
    4% – Edward Davey
    4% – Simon Hughes
    4% – Steve Webb
    3% – Chris Huhne
    2% – Danny Alexander
    2% – Norman Lamb
    2% – Lynne Featherstone
    1% – Michael Moore
    5% – Other (please specify)
    13% – Don’t know / No opinion

The first thing to say is that hypothetical questions like this are exactly that, and such polls are often poor predictors of what would happen in actuality. Nonetheless, as a snapshot wet finger in the air, the findings are interesting.

First, it suggests that in the event of an immediate vacancy for Lib Dem leader it would be a two-horse race between Vince Cable and Tim Farron. I had expected Tim would top this poll. That Vince did instead shows his enduring popularity and canny ability to appeal to the party’s economic and social liberals simultaneously; and perhaps also a view that Tim, if he’s to become leader one day (and I’m sure he will), is better placed to do so after 2015, both to ‘pick up’ the party if we lose seats, and also to give him time to acquire a little more gravitas.

There is then a big gap between the top two and the rest of the likely runners and riders, with Jo Swinson and David Laws nosing ahead of the pack. In both cases I suspect re-election is their top priority: Jo because of proposed boundary changes to her constituency, David to regain electoral validation following his resignation from the cabinet two years ago.

Looking through the ‘write-in’ preferences expressed by the 5% who chose ‘Other’, Jeremy Browne, Charles Kennedy and Julian Huppert are the names which crop up unprompted a handful of times — as does the name of a non-MP, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems.

My best guess would be that — assuming there is no vacancy before 2015 (and I’m sure there won’t be barring the unforeseen) — the most likely eventual contest will be a three-way between Tim, Jo and either Ed Davey or Norman Lamb. But it goes without saying that a lot could change in the next three years!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th May and 1st June.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


    • Vince triumphs also, perhaps, because he’s anticipated problems before they’ve occurred – this is rare. He suggested the credit bubble was growing out of control before it burst, and was absolutely spot on about taking a firm stance against Rupert Murdoch.

      This shouldn’t be read as disdain for Tim; he’s a great Party President and doubtless will be a successful leader one day.

    • “He suggested the credit bubble was growing out of control before it burst”

      He would have had to have been on another planet not to have noticed. I don’t know a single, sane, person that wasn’t expecting things to crash when house prices were shooting up a decade ago. Cable is viewed as a sage for doing nothing more than observing the blindingly obvious. The fact that personal debt rose by 250% (and with it, obviously, house prices) between 1993-2007 wasn’t subtle and it was widely reported in the press during the period, as were the fraudulent activities of mortgage lenders (although the exposure of british banks to similar activities in other countries wasn’t reported).

    • Yeah Steve, it was so obvious that neither the then Labour Government ever mentioned it, nor did the official opposition.

    • “Yeah Steve, it was so obvious that neither the then Labour Government ever mentioned it, nor did the official opposition.”

      It was a disgrace that the opposition didn’t mention it – many had their snouts in the trough (expenses/home-flipping), had close relations with the City or were afraid of voters who had their snouts in the trough . Cable really didn’t do anything more than point out the obvious. In a relative sense he is a noble sage, but only in relation to a very low baseline.

    • This is a good indicative poll, however it is limited by it being a FPTP poll, (I’m guessing due to technical limitations), 51% of respondents did not reply Tim or Vince that is way more than enough second preferences to sway an actual leadership contest.

    • When I turn on the monitor on my PC, it says “Cable not connected”.

      How aposite.

    • Nicola Prigg 7th Jun '12 - 5:44pm

      I have to say I found it difficult because it was a FPTP vote so wrote in many of the people I would consider voting for including both Tim, Vince.

    • Andrew Suffield 7th Jun '12 - 7:20pm

      Of course, the problem with Cable as leader is that he genuinely does not want the job, and has said so many times.

    • I voted for Jo Swinson (I think).

      I like Tim Farron but he seems to be the frontrunner basically due to the lack of obvious alternatives. As Andrew has just said – Vince Cable has already said several times that he doesn’t want to be leader.

    • Just followed Lon’s link – didn’t realise that Jo Swinson is only 32! Well that narrows the current field even more so.

    • Nic k has been a leader of immense courage in the most difficult of circumstances. To enter the Coalition was the only long term option. I think that there could have been a wiser and wider choice of top ministers (do we look like Tory Mark 2 ?)
      Liberal Democrats (and Liberals before them) had always been regarded as the people who could be trusted (easy in opposition !) but that trust was shattered by the Tuition Fees betrayal. Local government results demonstrate how well run local councils and a thousand plus Lib Dem councillors suffered as a result.
      It is easy to say that we should stick it out until 2015 with, possibly (probably !)after that Election only a handful of M.P.s to fight the Liberal corner. Liberalism deserves better. We have to resist further erosion of civil liberties, even at the cost of rocking the Coalition.
      Some of the problem is leadership – can Nick reclaim lost ground ? Would a different leader be more succesful ? The party will have to decide. John Major remained as Prime Minister but resigned as Leader of the Tories so that opponents coluld vote, if they wished, for someone else. Is that the way forfward ?

    • Ross.. No it is not a ‘good indicative poll’ atall unless you are reading behind the figures. Given that less than half of those registered on LDV thought it was worth a reply.. and given that the people on LDV are the self selecting, self confessed fraction of the membership… hmm… The results are fairly meaningless, especially when several of us responded that we shouldn’t even be asking the question.
      The clear conclusion here, that should be the tone of the PR is that ‘key activists within the party declined to enter into a discussion on such a hypothetical and highly premature question’ – which can be interpreted as ‘party members endorse the current leader, and any suggestions of doubt in the leader is misplaced media hype’

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