Was the LibDemVoice poll on Nick Clegg’s leadership a fix? #QTWTAIN

Nick Clegg Q&A 8(#QTWTAIN = Question To Which The Answer Is No, an abbreviation made famous by the Independent’s John Rentoul)

I decided weeks ago that, come what may, LibDemVoice needed to carry out a survey of party members immediately after the local and European election results were declared asking what people thought about Nick Clegg’s leadership.

I reckoned the election results wouldn’t be pretty and that there was a good chance the result of our members’ survey could be deeply unhelpful to the leadership. But I thought it important members were given a say sooner rather than later. So, as the Euro results came in, I drafted some questions, circulated them to the team for comment, revised them – and at 1am on Mon 26th May the emails started being sent out.

A handful of people who want Nick Clegg to stay thought I was being reckless and told me so. A handful of people who want Nick Clegg to go thought the survey was a fix to shore up his position and told me so. It was neither. Whatever my own views – and if you’re interested you can read them here – when I conduct LibDemVoice surveys it is with the aim of ensuring party members’ voice is heard, and that the survey offers a fair reflection of party members’ views. That is what I did yesterday when reporting the finding that, by 54% to 39% Lib Dem members want Nick Clegg to stay as leader.

However, complaints have been raised at how the survey was run and it’s only right to address them head on. The main was one is this: “The survey was closed early to make sure the result was helpful to Nick Clegg.”

Not true. The survey went live at the same time as the extent of the Euro result disaster was becoming clear. If I’d wanted to be helpful we’d have delayed sending out the emails til later, not when disappointment was rawest.

I intended to publish the survey results on Tuesday afternoon, so long as we had sufficient responses to justify doing so (as it was a Bank Holiday, I wasn’t sure whether we’d have to leave it open longer). In case you doubt my word, here’s my tweet to the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope, sent on Monday afternoon:

On Tuesday morning we emailed a reminder, which said the survey would close at midnight – that was sent by our technical guru, Ryan Cullen, who didn’t know my plans: it was his best guess of the time to close off the survey. When we realised the error, a second reminder was sent out specifying the survey would close in two hours’ time (ie, 3pm Tuesday). For the record, 756 members completed the survey after their first email, 141 completed it after the first reminder, and 95 completed it after the second reminder.

Some people who had intended to complete the survey later were unable to do so. My apologies to them for the confusion – my fault for not telling Ryan – but it was no more than that: a confusion, not a conspiracy.

The bigger question is: Would it have made a difference to the results? It’s unlikely. Given 992 of the c.1,600 party members registered on the LibDemVoice forum completed the survey, each additional member completing the survey would have affected the outcome by just 0.1%. It would, therefore, have needed 150 of those 600 remaining party members to have completed the survey to have all said Nick Clegg should go – and not a single additional member to have said he should stay – for the result to have shifted to a tie between whether he should stay or go.

There is no sign that was happening. Ryan Cullen has analysed the statistics to produce a breakdown of the responses:

Votes cast: loading…

The graph shows the results of the poll question ‘Do you think Nick Clegg should lead the Lib Dems into the next general election, or do you think he should stand down as party leader now?’ in bundles of 50, starting with the first 50 surveys completed, then the next 50, and so on. As you’ll see the numbers wanting Nick Clegg to stay increased the longer the survey was open. It’s likely (though unprovable) that leaving the survey open longer would have increased the gap between those wanting him to stay (54%) and those wanting him to go (39%).

* 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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44 Comments

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th May '14 - 9:13pm

    The only thing that seems certain to me from this article and the survey is that there appears to be a deep division and that no one has much idea how to resolve it.

  • Daniel Jones 28th May '14 - 9:15pm

    I think the concern I have is when you say it is a poll of Lib Dem Members. As you say, LDV is only 1600 of the party membership – and further self selected down to those who answer the survey. It is also an amateur poll, not weighted in any way to represent the wider membership (which I accept would be near impossible anyway!) and while I understand the media like it to be ‘Lib Dem Members’, maybe ‘Lib Dem Members on Lib Dem Voice’ or some other might be more accurate.

  • Stephen, are you a closet Clash fan?

  • But why the pro-Clegg headline? The real headline was that nearly 40% of the poll wanted him to step down.

    I’ve nothing against Nick Clegg. I just want a leader whose photograph I can put on my leaflets, and not have people say: “I’d love to vote for you, but I won’t do anything to help Nick Clegg!”

    My view is that Nick will have to stand down eventually, perhaps after the Newark by-election next week. The real pity is that he failed to resign on Monday as soon as we got the results so it could be seen to be his own honourable decision. Now, when he does go, he will be portrayed by our opponents as having been pushed, which is much more damaging.

  • Stephen Hesketh 28th May '14 - 9:28pm

    Stephen, we have all read and hopefully reflected much since the question was put to us. Perhaps it would be interesting to ask the question again – with an advertised closing date/time to see in which direction opinion is moving. I would particularly like this as I am one of those who didn’t get to cast a vote as I had read the questions but went away to think about my response! I didn’t see the ‘early closing’ emails due to being at work. Thank you.

  • “I think the concern I have is when you say it is a poll of Lib Dem Members. As you say, LDV is only 1600 of the party membership – and further self selected down to those who answer the survey. It is also an amateur poll, not weighted in any way to represent the wider membership (which I accept would be near impossible anyway!) and while I understand the media like it to be ‘Lib Dem Members’, maybe ‘Lib Dem Members on Lib Dem Voice’ or some other might be more accurate.”

    I raised this a couple of days ago, as did others, and I’m disappointed that Stephen Tall hasn’t answered this. ” 54% of Lib Dem members” is just not accurate. Also, is it not true that the poll was closed early because Stephen was going on News channels with this ?

  • “Paul K 28th May ’14 – 9:26pm
    But why the pro-Clegg headline? The real headline was that nearly 40% of the poll wanted him to step down.”

    Yes, a very good point.

  • Bill Le Breton 28th May '14 - 9:35pm

    Stephen, we are so fortunate to have the facility of LDV, thank you to all … Even if you did reject a piece by me today because you were not going to have anything more about the leadership question and virtually everything today rightly has been about this issue.

    Nothing has addressed the image of the party in the minds of the 93% of those who voted on Thursday , which was covered by James Oates elsewhere. It is the key question which then leads to the question of whether Clegg can do anything to change that image which is basically his.

    As LJP says the survey shows that the party is split. There has therefore to be a new leader to unify us. The split will not heal otherwise. But no one in the Parliamentary party dares to move first. What an inditement. The Party deserves a leader who recognizes that commanding the allegiance of 55 or even 60 % of the party activists is sustainable! and it deserves and parliamentary party that is brave enough to do something about it, rather than parrot absurd chirps of loyalty. There has to be among them someone to. Be the healer.

    Naushad Fazal to write as you have does not do those who you seek to help any favours.

  • Ian Griffiths 28th May '14 - 9:45pm

    I have got nothing against ,Nick Clegg.What i do have is Is Members ,Supporters,And even our own Cllr’s and MP’S Writing Nick off.All right we had a bad night in the Local and European Elections.But that isn’t his fault . I put it down to the bad apples we have in our Party who couldn’t be bothered to get out there and campaign.take were i live in Shropshire The Liberal Democrats didn’t come round to our area until 12 hours before the polls opened.And that was only because i contacted the Liberal democrat Head Quarters in London to ask if they new who our MEP was.

  • 54% of the respondents supporting the leader is being seen as supportive of him?
    Zounds!! How we have fallen..

  • Steve Comer 28th May '14 - 9:56pm

    I remember a by-election in Bristol where Labour realised they were losing. They went door to door on the big Council estate in the ward telling people that due to a power cut the Polling Station was closing early and they’d better vote soon! All complete lies of course, they still didn’t get their vote out, and we did win the seat from them.

    So why e-mail a poll with a midnight deadline, then close it early? Surely better to tell the Daily Telegraph that the closing time they’d been told was wrong. If that had happened on Thursday there would have been ugly scenes at Polling stations (as there were in 2010 when some presiding officers turned away voters who’d arrived before 22:00).

    I accept it may not have been a fix, but it looks bad, and in the present climate that should have been avoided.

  • Ian Griffiths, we have not had a bad night. We have had an awful three years or more – and plenty of evidence as to why this has been awful as opposed to merely bad.

  • Ian ” All right we had a bad night in the Local and European Elections”

    The Party has been losing elections and Councillors for a very long time, it wasn’t just one bad night, to be fair. In one election, the Lib Dems got 13 votes and came behind the ‘Elvis’ joke party. I read somewhere that the Party has lost a huge amount of money through lost deposits. People are speaking up now because its the final straw.

  • …just one bad night…couldn’t be helped…bad luck all round…have a brandy…chin up…feel better in the morning…push on…stand together…hold your nerve…resilience…pull up your socks…no more blubbing…don’t let the other fellows see you’re down…carry on…stiff upper lip…one for the team…Rule Britannia…tally ho…pip pip…last one over the top’s a rotten egg!

    I begin to doubt which century I’m living in.

  • @Daniel – weighting the polls has been tried in the past, and didn’t make a noticeable difference to the results. Details at http://www.markpack.org.uk/34160/faq-are-the-liberal-democrat-voice-surveys-of-party-members-accurate/

  • David-1: conspiracy … Orange Bookers … Pangloss … Cleansing fire … Right wing cabal … Neo-Liberalism … We’re all dooomed

    It’s therapeutic but it doesn’t really help, does it.

  • Stephen, you have explained why closing the poll early could not substantially have affected its result. However, closing the poll earlier did enable you to release its news earlier. In fact, earlier than the infamous Guardian poll. Did anyone want your news rushed out earlier, I wonder?

  • Steve Comer “I accept it may not have been a fix, but it looks bad, and in the present climate that should have been avoided.”

    Yes I feel that way too.

  • David Allen “Did anyone want your news rushed out earlier, I wonder?”

    It looked to me as though the Poll was closed early just so that Stephen could get onto the News Channels to say most members support Clegg. My husband was with me when we saw Stephen on the News, and he said ‘ the Lib Dem spin machine is out in force’ . Perhaps there is a different explanation but it all looks a bit strange. Otherwise I don’t see why there was so much haste that they couldn’t wait for people to get home from work, expecting the survey to be live until midnight. The obvious thing would have been to say ‘ ok guys we wanted to close this survey early but because of a misunderstanding with Ryan, the members have been told they have til midnight so in the interests of being seen to be fair, I think we should honour that ‘ .

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '14 - 4:09am

    Naushad Fazal

    I find it deeply disturbing how Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown’s opinion on leadership could be belittled and underestimated by outrageous rebels and wannabes

    I find it deeply disturbing that in a party which is supposed to consist of “Democrats” there appear to be large numbers of people who are so afraid of democracy that they think the very idea of discussing whether we have the right person as leader is unacceptable.

    What we are seeing, again and again, is attacks like this on those of us who have called for a change which have not addressed at all our concerns and instead have just thrown insults and completely untrue accusations against us.

    In a truly liberal and democratic party, it would be considered that the leader and all those working at central level in the party are doing so as servants of its members – the members together are the boss, not the other way round. In this context it should be considered entirely natural to move people around at the central level so that the person best for each job is doing that job. If someone turns out not to be so good at a particular job, it should not be considered an insult or some great dramatic thing described with words like “coup”, “backstabbing” and the like if they are moved on, and the members want to try someone else in that role. It should be considered entirely natural and normal to initiate a discussion on this matter.

    The same line that are being used here could be used to attack democracy itself. It would be said that it is unacceptable to criticise the President or Prime Minister of a country, instead we should just listen to that President or Prime Minister and his supporter with respect and not undermine him by suggesting someone else would be better in his place. We could say that public opposition to the government is “outrageous” and just consists of “rebels and wannabes”. Well, I would not want to live in a country like that, so why should I want to be a member of a party which thinks like that?

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '14 - 4:52am

    Ian Griffiths

    I put it down to the bad apples we have in our Party who couldn’t be bothered to get out there and campaign.

    Well, call me a “bad apple” if you like. I am a volunteer, as we almost all are. If I decide to do work voluntarily for the party I will, if I decide not to, I won’t. I am not a slave of the party’s leadership, I cannot be forced to work for it.If the party’s leadership takes the party so far away from the one I joined in terms of what it stands for, then I will stop working for it. If the party’s leadership ignores what members of the party like myself are saying, even if the majority of us say it, then I will stop working for it. The party’s leadership needs to realise that it depends on volunteers, if it makes us so unhappy that we no longer feel keen on coming out and working for the party, that’s a problem it needs to address.

    I have defended in public the compromises made by the Parliamentary party and its leader in coalition right up to the day of the election. I’m not happy with those compromises, because they are, as they have to be, big compromises to the Conservative Party way of seeing things, and I am not a Conservative Party supporter, if I had to rank the major parties in order of preference, the Conservative Party would not even come second. However, I have always believed that politics is about representatives coming together and agreeing to a compromise. The people of this country decided to elect a Parliament that consisted of many more Conservative MPs than Liberal Democrat MPs, and backed by two to one the distortion that gave us that and ruled out an alternative Labour-LibDem coalition. We have the government the people voted for, it would not be my choice if the choice was up to me, but democracy means I accept the people’s choice, and the people’s choice in 2010, very much confirmed by the referendum in 2011, was to have a mainly Conservative government. If they did not want a mainly Conservative government they should not have voted “No” in 2011, when the main argument of the “No” side was the distortion of the current system in favour of the biggest party (i.e. the Conservatives) and against third parties (i.e. us) was a good thing.

    I am sorry to say that all my attempts to use this line seem to fail, and when I try it, I find I am being accused of saying it only because of my party membership which people seem to assume means I have thrown my own capacity for independent thought away and have become someone who mindlessly repeats the party line, whatever it is this week. I am very sorry that politics now has this image of being like this, I do not think it is good for democracy. However, I find a big part of the problem is the way the party’s national leadership has played the coalition. By painting the necessary compromises as triumphs, and by exaggerating and twisting what policies are coming out to make dubious claims about them meeting our manifesto promises, I believe they are damaging our case, as it gives the impression that these very Conservative-oriented policies are what we really wanted in the first place. This, I believe, is why a great many of our former supporters have fallen away. It is NOT the mere fact of coalition, as many are saying, it is also the way the leadership has chosen to present the coalition.

    So I have stopped working for the party. I have stopped delivering leaflets, I have stopped knocking on doors, I have stopped making donations. So, Ian, you call me a “bad apple” for this? Well, it is not that I “couldn’t be bothered” as you put it, it was that I felt I was wasting my time and effort if everything I was trying to do was undermined by the party’s national leadership. I have been a member of the party and its predecessor for 35 years, I have put huge amounts of time and effort and money into it in the past.I am one of those who in this way has helped build up the party which I now feel has been taken over and wrecked by those at the top.

    So you and people like Naushad Fazal tell me I have no right to say what I think is going wrong, and to call on the leadership to change the way it is doing things, and to call for a change of leader when it refuses? Do I have no right as a long-term member to be listened to, is the experience of local campaigning I am basing my comments on worth nothing, so useless as it can just be dismissed as the work of a “bad apple” or “outrageous rebel”? Refusing to work for the party is the last step before dropping out completely, a step taken in desperation in the hope that if I do that at least perhaps the points I have been trying to make will be taken into account by the national leadership.

    Sadly, I see no signs of that. Instead I see an orchestrated campaign to insult and abuse those of us who have tried to make constructive criticisms, and a statement by our leader that he will not resign, as if the party is his personal possession and we the members belong to him and not the other way round. This is not a party I want to belong to or work with any more. It does not stand for what I call liberal democracy. If the internal critics are silenced in this way, I am off. You who are left do what you can to win what you can in 2015, but don’t expect me to help you out. You say you do not want the party to be torn to pieces, well you and your arrogant and illiberal attitudes are doing just that. I am a piece, and you are responsible for tearing me off.

  • Shaun Cunningham 29th May '14 - 6:17am

    Let us not forget the scale of our losses

    Since joining the coalition the lib Dems have lost 1700 councillors (43%), 11 MEPs and our share has dropped from 23% at the last general election to 13% in the local elections and below 7% in the Euros.

  • The Oakeshott/Cable/ICM poll is a fix though. I am reading the PDF now. The sample is weighted based on the economic situation at the 2011 census – so in other words it assumes no economic improvement between 2011 and now.

    The result of the weighting process is that the 2010 general election results in Redcar would be Labour 40%, Lib Dem 36 % – in other words, if these are the the voters then Labour won in 2010. The actual result was Lib Dem 45%, Labour 33 percent.

    On the day of the euro elections the Lib Dems successfully defended a majority of 35 in a council by-elections, that was considered a safe seat for Labour and won by them as recently as 2007. The got killed in the euro elections though – which perhaps shows the Europe policy is the actual problem.

    More generally, if you want to change your leader then do it, but don’t expect it to change much as you will either have a new leader who has also been tainted by being in government or a leader who is going to compete unsuccessfully with Ed Miliband for the anti-government vote.

  • Tony Dawson 29th May '14 - 7:54am

    Bill Le Breton :

    “Stephen, we are so fortunate to have the facility of LDV, thank you to all … Even if you did reject a piece by me today because you were not going to have anything more about the leadership question ”

    Bill, it would appear that the LDV policy to not carry new Leadership commentary pieces from 28 May onwards has cut out not only your contribution but Stephen Tall’s own piece! I find this (extracts below) thoughtful because it rightly recognises that the key issue of whether the Leader should stay or go is correctly largely a rational utilitarian one rather than a political spectrum issue. ie “is the Leader ‘fit for purpose’ in the present circumstances. Stephen concludes (my emphasis below) that, in the present situation ,the present Leader is not.

    I have enormous respect for Nick and like him personally. I am sure he’s entirely honourable in wanting to stay on as leader to contest the 2015 general election. If, as seems likely, he chooses to stay I will support him and the party.

    However, I think he’s going to find it tough to turn things round. The media, mostly unfairly, has given him a pounding over the past four years. The relentless hostility has taken its toll on his reputation with the public. I seriously doubt that damage can be restored in the next 11 months.

    That does not mean the party is doomed, though. According to the psephologists, last week’s local elections indicate the Lib Dems would win c.35-40 seats if the public voted as they did last week.

    Such a result would make Nick Clegg the king-maker in the likely event of another hung parliament. And this gets to the nub of why I think in the interests of the Lib Dems Nick should stand down.

    The party needs a leader who can negotiate the best deal possible to advance the Lib Dem manifesto.

    However, I don’t think Nick will be able to secure a Coalition deal with the Conservatives that Lib Dem members will be prepared to sign up to: there is too much suspicion lingering from the current deal. Nor do I think Nick will be able to do a deal with Labour that he will be able credibly to communicate to the voters as anything other than a complete about-turn on the previous five years of cohabitation with the Tories.

    In short, Nick is one of the impediments (not the only one, but a not insignificant one) to the Lib Dems being free to negotiate a second Coalition if that’s the hand we’re dealt.

    – See more at: http://stephentall.org/2014/05/28/why-i-am-one-of-the-39-of-lib-dem-members-who-thinks-nick-clegg-should-stand-down-as-leader/#sthash.KTL0PkBu.dpuf

  • Tony Dawson 29th May '14 - 8:12am

    This:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTT-bbBIbFk

    remains, fundamentally, the principle reason why Nick Clegg’s continuing Leadership continues to harm our Party.

  • “The Oakeshott/Cable/ICM poll is a fix though. I am reading the PDF now. The sample is weighted based on the economic situation at the 2011 census – so in other words it assumes no economic improvement between 2011 and now.
    The result of the weighting process is that the 2010 general election results in Redcar would be Labour 40%, Lib Dem 36 % – in other words, if these are the the voters then Labour won in 2010. The actual result was Lib Dem 45%, Labour 33 percent.”

    How did you arrive at those numbers? Could you post the details?

  • Peter Watson 29th May '14 - 8:35am

    In many ways the LDV poll was similar to Oakeshott’s polling.
    LDV commissioned a poll of members,some of whom might live in Sheffield Hallam or Richmond, in order to show that barely half of them want Clegg to stay, undermining Clegg’s leadership at this critical time.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th May '14 - 10:04am


    Such a result would make Nick Clegg the king-maker in the likely event of another hung parliament.

    We ought not to use that phrase “king-maker”. For years and years before the May 2010 general election discussion of the possibility of a no-majority Parliament almost always made that assumption, that the leader of the Liberal Democrats would have the luxury of being able to choose which of the other two main parties to form a coalition with, and to dictate the terms.

    As we saw in May 2010, it doesn’t necessarily work like that. But we have been greatly damaged by the continuing assumption that it does, as this has led to the assumption that it was our choice to have the current coalition in its current form with its current policies, that we decided that, and that we could, if we had wanted, have “jumped into bed” with either Labour or the Conservatives, and insisted that either of them must drop their entire manifesto and pick up ours, Much of the criticism of the Liberal Democrats on the issue of the coalition underneath makes that assumption. It is nonsense, of course. But continuing to use words like “king-maker” bolsters it.

    As the situation in May 2010 shows, there are enough MPs from smaller parties to mean it is highly likely to be the case that only one of the two major parties can be the basis of a coalition. This will continue to be the case so long as there are Scots and Welsh nationalist MPs, Northern Ireland with its own party system has MPs, and there may be the odd English MP from another party, such as the Green Party MP, next time maybe a few UKIPers.

    We can only form a coalition with another party if it agrees to it. If there is only one potential coalition, it can dictate the terms, not us. It can say “Either you accept our terms, or we accuse you of plunging the country into chaos by refusing to allow it to have s table government because you are being obdurate on your own political obsessions which few others support”. I would hardly call such a situation being a “king-maker” one. It is the reason why, though I’m a great supporter of electoral reform, I don’t think it would be a good idea to make it a “red line” on coalition deals, as is often suggested, since I can see how standing firm on that would be painted by our opponents.

    We were in just this weak situation in May 2010, with the additional factor being our disappointing result in the election, peaking early in the opinion polls and then losing all the gains when the actual vote came, suggested we were on the way down, and would be the main losers if another general election was called because we refused to help form a stable government. If our party leadership had been willing to admit this from the start, the concessions we have had to make in the coalition would be easier to defend. Instead it did the exact opposite, calling for us to rejoice about the situation almost as if we had won full power for ourselves, and continuing to use phrases like “in government” and “party of governance” which suggest that. It is this that has damaged us, and made the job of defending our party so hard, not just the mere fact of there being a coalition.

  • How representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole are ones likely to respond to LDV polls ?

  • Something which really worried me yesterday was the way the London ‘bunker’ turned against anyone who questioned Clegg. On the radio I hearded Simon Hughes effectivly say that anyone who didn’t support Clegg should consider their place in the Party.

    Are HG seriously suggesting that 39% of polled Lib Dem members should leave? Maddness!

  • @Chris,

    It is in the full PDF file of the survey, linked to from another thread on here. Table 14 for Redcar includes the question “How did you vote at the 2010 election?” The only processing I have done is to convert the absolute numbers to percents.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    Two excellent and eloquent posts pointing out things that far too many within the LibDem higher echelons seem to be avoiding discussion on or engagement with.

    One thing I have to pull you up on: the country did not vote for this govt, the electorate did not vote for a coalition, nowhere on our voting slips did it give us that choice . What happened is that no overall party won and so 2 of the parties got together, did a deal and presented it to the county as a fait accompli. At no point was the electorate consulted on this matter and what annoys me even more is then they rapidly legislated to ensure they remained in power for 5 years and sold it as being for the good of the country – utter rubbish, such a fundamental change to our democracy should’ve been put out as a referendum.

    That said, I do believe that a coalition was needed at that time and I commended the LibDems for doing the right thing and more-so for making the right deal with the Tories rather than their more natural allies, Labour. Course it has since become obvious that the LibDem Parliamentary party was comprehensively outplayed in initial negotiations and pretty much continuously since then. If I had my way the coalition would’ve come together to bring us back to stability with a promise that once that was achieved an election would be held once again. And yes I understand that it would difficult to frame what stability would be – perhaps coming out of recession, or several months of growth?

  • Just to be clear, the comment s by Matthew Huntbach prior to his latest. – “Such a result would make Nick Clegg the king-maker in the likely event of another hung parliament.”

  • Stephen Donnelly 29th May '14 - 4:39pm

    What about a word limit on comments ? if you cannot make your point in 250 words, submit a full article.

  • Bill le Breton 29th May '14 - 5:06pm

    Sadly Stephen you are not guaranteed that it will be published. For some reason readers are not allowed to select what they read. some of that is being done for them.

  • “As we saw in May 2010, it doesn’t necessarily work like that.”

    Not only not necessarily, but never. Since the Second World War, on the very rare occasions when there’s been a hung parliament, the only choice open to the Liberals/Lib Dems has been to deal with the largest party or not. Giving a majority to the second largest party has not been an option.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th May '14 - 1:54am

    Jimble

    One thing I have to pull you up on: the country did not vote for this govt, the electorate did not vote for a coalition, nowhere on our voting slips did it give us that choice .

    Yes, so what would you say they did vote for?

    Your line that it has to be “on our voting slips” implies that it has to be a single party government. Well, what one would it be? Are you arguing that the people voted for a Labour government? Hardly. If, as you have done, you take the line that the only legitimate government is a single party one, then surely it must be a government of whichever party got the most MPs, which is the Conservative Party. That WAS the line used by the “No” campaign in the 2011 referendum when they said the best thing about the current electoral system was they way it distorted representation so that the largest party usually got over half the MPs even if it got well under half the vote.By two to one, the people of this country supported them. It almost worked out that way in May 2010, the distortion caused by the electoral system which the people gave their enthusiastic backing to a year later did enough to rule out anything but a Conservative led government and considerably reduced the proportion of Liberal Democrat MPs compared to Liberal Democrat votes, just what the “No” campaign said was such a good thing, so reducing the LibDem influence to a minor one. If the Liberal Democrats had spread their campaigning about a bit more with less targetting they would have won the same proportion of votes but fewer MPs and there would have been a majority of Conservative MPs and hence a full Conservative government.

    So, Jimble, by the very argument you are using, you are saying there should be a full Conservative government now. You are saying that is the only possible legitimate government. By the argument you are using, the more the Liberal Democrats gave in and accepted what the Conservatives wanted, the better, as the more that would bring this government to what by your argument would be the only legitimate government we could have.

    My view is that we elect a representative chamber and its members get together to work out what is the government that would have majority support, agreeing on compromises to reach it. Sad to say, most people in this country and most commentators seem unable to see politics in this way, although it is how the British constitution is meant to work, and it is the liberal democratic idea of government. The idea that elections are about choosing a rigid five-year plan with a Leader of the country who can’t be challenged, Parliament just a sounding board with the Party as the real maker of policy, derives from Leninism. Unfortunately, the Leninist model of political party has become so dominant that most people now take it for granted and cannot even think of politics working in any other way.

  • “We had a bad night” The papers are all against us” “Too many bad apples” “Our message wasn’t heard” Oh yes it was heard, but the people didnt like what they heard!!
    If you don’t trust the people to have their say in an EU in/ out referendum, why should they trust you.Still I suppose you could always keep having referendums till you get the answer you want, although I think Eire beat you to that one.
    It’s time to look in the mirror LIBDEMS!!

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    You describe exactly the way I feel!
    Except I’ve not been a member for 30 years but joined the day after the coalition was formed, not because I like the Tories (never voted for them) but because a party acting in such a responsible, mature and selfless way was one I thought worthy of not just my vote but my active support (I’d never been a member of any party before, never even considered it).

    But the way we’ve conducted ourselves since then has made me consider letting my membership lapse and I couldn’t fathom the will to go help in the campaign (I find it painful enough trying to defend being a libdem to my friends, who should be our natural audience and were very positive to us before but now won’t give Nick in particular the time of day, without trying to do that with strangers.. not that it seems our campaigning locally has any effect on the results so i would have clearly been wasting my time anyway).

    Many of the things we’ve implemented whilst in government have been contrary not only to our liberals principles but even to the coalition agreement itself!
    And whilst I accept that compromises are the nature of the coalition beast (which I suspect many voters don’t), we could and should have been clearer that those WERE compromises instead of cheerleading them. It could have been done in a non-aggressive manner that did not threaten the coalition itself, at the very least by explaining for example when we supported a particular policy but for a different reason than the Tories.

    Right now, I feel slightly uplifted by the fact this debate is at last happening, but if nothing is done, I think I might just give up too.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    You’re mis-representing what I said:

    1. You said that we have the govt that the people voted for. I disputed this. We ended up with a coalition between the Tories and the LibDems. The electorate did not explicitly vote for this.

    2. “Your line that it has to be “on our voting slips” implies that it has to be a single party government.”. You inferred this, I didn’t say it.

    3. “Are you arguing that the people voted for a Labour government?”. Did you read what I wrote? Me: “That said, I do believe that a coalition was needed at that time and I commended the LibDems for doing the right thing and more-so for making the right deal with the Tories rather than their more natural allies, Labour.”. Let me repeat it again: I believe the LibDems and Tories did the correct thing in forming a coalition.

    So, given the above, I think the rest of your essay on what you think I believe falls apart.

    I’m sadden that you would take the one thing I disagreed with you on and and use that to radically distort what I had actually said. Next time, if you’re unclear on what I mean with regards to something I’ve written, it might be best to ask rather than surmise.

    Jim.

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