Latest Euro poll shows how, in this May’s elections, every %-age point matters for the Lib Dems

clegg farage lbcInterest in the outcome of May’s European elections is picking up, at least judged by the number of polls the newspapers are commissioning – four have been published in the last fortnight. Here’s the average support for the parties:

    Labour – 30%
    Ukip – 26%
    Conservative – 24%
    Lib Dems – 9%

Converting that into seats using EuroElection predict’s online gizmo would produce the following figures:

    Labour – 24 seats (+11)
    Ukip – 20 (+7)
    Conservative – 18 (-9)
    Lib Dems – 3 (-8)

Those figures ain’t the most encouraging for the Lib Dems. What’s more encouraging is that the first (partly) post-Nick v Nigel debate poll shows the party up, on 11%. Feed those figures into EuroElection and you get this:

    Labour – 22 seats (+9)
    Ukip – 19 (+6)
    Conservative – 18 (-9)
    Lib Dems – 6 (-5)

This highlights quite what a difference even a couple of extra percentage points can make to the Lib Dem position. At 9% we’d probably win 3 seats; at 11% we’d probably double that tally to 6 seats.

This emphasises the importance for the party of the Nick v Nigel debates, and of Clegg leading the pro-European cause, taking the fight to Ukip. In a sense it doesn’t matter whether Farage ‘wins’ the post-debate polls or not, so long as the Lib Dems make net gains in votes. As the above figures show, every extra percentage point could make a big difference to the eventual outcome.

We’re still 7 weeks away from the elections, of course. A lot can and probably will change.

I’d guess, for example, that if Ukip tops the poll – in my view the most likely outcome – that will spike their national support, hurt the Tories, and help Labour recover a more decent lead. So expect the national polls to bobble around quite a lot in the next few months, though the general trend of Labour’s lead receding seems sure to continue.

* 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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28 Comments

  • Michael Shea 28th Mar '14 - 12:23pm

    Nick kept insisting on sticking to the facts, fair enough. However, the statement that 3,00,000 jobs would be under threat or lost if we left the EU is not a fact, it is an opinion. No matter how sincerely that opinion is held, it remains merely an opinion, not a fact. It was opinion that predicted dire consequences f we did not join the Euro; the facts spoke for themselves after – it would have been a disaster for the country had we joined. So please, yes, let’s have facts quoted at the next debate, and opinions stated for what they are. Why was Ukraine so keen on entering the EU? My opinion is that why wouldn’t they want to get their hands on a large amount of our money that the EU is so keen to give them? It is a fact that the lawfully and democratically elected government of the Ukraine was overthrown. It is a fact that the majority of the Crimean population is Russian. It is a fact that before 1954 Crimea was not part of Ukraine. So let’s have some balance in the debate, especially from Nick.

  • Shows how important getting the vote is for all local parties. In fact in ‘safe’ tory/labour seats like us in Tatton, the Euro elections are where our effort can actually make a difference. I encourage every member, even if they’re a bit narked off with the leadership to make an effort, for the sake of the brilliant MEP’s we currently have (Chris Davies being ours in the NW)

  • Michael – Nick did not say 3 million jobs would be under threat or lost if we left the EU. He was very, very careful to say that there is research suggesting that 3 million jobs are LINKED TO our EU membership. And he posed the question, even if it is far fewer jobs that might be lost, why lose even a single job?

    Re Crimea, you are confusing “Russian-speaking” with “Russian” or even “want to be citizens of Russia”, you are ignoring the appeal of the EU to people in Eastern Europe as a guarantee of the rule of law, brake on corruption and source of trade and investment, and you seem to be suggesting that the points you make mean that what Russia has done is somehow ok. Let’s say 97% of the people in the Crimea really did want the Crimea to become part of Russia: that might be ok as part of a fair process, carried out calmly and in dialogue with the rest of Ukraine, and without Russian troops storming centres of local government and surrounding military bases and running a referendum with only one outcome at two weeks’ notice under a puppet ruler.

  • 9% for Liberal Democrats. So nothing has changed. Clegg remains poison to around 90% of voters.

    Last para of this Guarian piece sums up this excuse for a “debate” —
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/27/nigel-farage-nick-clegg-ukip-lib-dems-tv-debate-eu

  • @Mark
    “Let’s say 97% of the people in the Crimea really did want the Crimea to become part of Russia: that might be ok as part of a fair process,”

    Well quite, but how was such a process ever going to happen when the Ukrainians had been denying the Crimeans a vote since 1992, and had even changed the constitution in 1996 to make such a vote illegal?

    The Russian intervention may have been appalling, but the Russians can’t be blamed for creating the political chaos in Ukraine/Crimea right now; Ukraine had already descended in to chaos before the Russians got involved.

    The one time Crimeans were allowed a vote – without Russian tanks on the streets, but with the Ukrainians still complaining it was illegal – was in 1994. They made their feelings pretty clear then, with 78% in favour of greater autonomy from Ukraine, and 83% in favour of the right to hold dual Ukrainian/Russian citizenship.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Mar '14 - 2:29pm

    We are only five weeks away from the election for over a third of voters. Postal votes land on most doorsteps on May 6th.

  • @Michael Shae: Nick DID NOT say that three million jobs depend on the EU. Listen to his actual words; in fact, he went to some lengths to point out that is not what he was saying.

  • Nick Collins 28th Mar '14 - 3:09pm

    @ Stephen Tall . Are the 6 or 7 additional MEPs which UKIP would get , according to your figures, 6 or 7 more than they have now, or 6 or 7 more than they won four years ago; how many MEPS elected as UKIP four years ago are currently siting (if that’s what they do, or propping up the bar,)as independents or members of other parties?

  • Nick Collins 28th Mar '14 - 3:10pm

    Sorry for the typo; I meant “sitting”, not “siting”!

  • John Tilley – Owen Jones nails it in the final paragraph of the Guardian piece you link to, “Of course, this was a debate between two neoliberals, one socially liberal, the other nationalist.”

    I can’t help wondering what happens if Clegg et al manage to complete their project of transforming the Lib Dems into a party of ‘economic liberals’ (with apologies for the inadequate label but it’s become the code for their view). It’s a political position that is clearly not well supported in the country – or even in the Lib Dems come to that – so a continuing downward drift in support seems likely, especially as local activists give up and no longer represent the more traditional position in their communities. Presumably then the Lib Dems would settle at around 5% in the polls like the German FDP except that with our FPTP system even 5% might not be the floor.

  • @GF
    Whenever I read the term “neo-liberal” I know I am reading a comment by someone who usually doesn’t know what they are talking about and who is resorting to a lazy, catch-all term for someone they just happen to disagree with.

    What specifically is “neo-liberal” about the party under Nick Clegg. In your reply, feel free actually to make reference to real neo-liberal ideas and demonstrate where they have actually been put into practice in policies insisted on by our party.

  • RC
    until very recently I might have shared your irritation with the use of the word “neo-liberal”. I have some sympathy for what you say. However, in the last couple of weeks in LDV we have had a headline and a thread based on a meeting addressed by Jeremy Browne, suggesting that the Conservative Party might be a better vehicle for promoting “liberalism”. We have also had in LDV, Nick Thornsby supporting Browne and saying that his “economic liberalism” is the same as capitalism. Nick Thornsby is apparently not the only member of the group “Liberal Reform” who takes this view. I find it very difficult to find much difference between the views of some people who entered our party from a traditional Conserative background and those who stayed in the Conservative Party. We know that some people are on a mission to change the Liberal Democrats into a centrist or economic liberal or capitalist party. To them the terms seem interchangeable.
    I do not think you are one of these people from what you have said about your own views. But it is quite clear that Clegg is not a Lberal Democrat in the same tradition as Charles Kennedy, David Steel, Ming Campbell, Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams etc. In the final para by Owen Jones I am not sure which is the nationalist and which is the social liberal. Clegg’s rhetoric wrapped in the union jack is NOT the historic Liberal or Liberal Democrat commitment to Europe steeped in internationalism. He seems to base his position on a nationalist, centrist, conservative appeal to self-interest.

  • RC – “Neo-liberal” was actually Own Jones’ term but I believe I know what he means. Some may use it as a lazy catch-all but I don’t.

    For liberals freedom is central to their belief but it can be interpreted in two ways that often get confused by, ahem, lazy or ignorant usage. They are (1) freedom for corporations or (2) freedom for people.

    The first is the direct descendent of Thatcherism but with the lady long gone and her thinking internationalised a new term was needed; ‘neoliberal’ is that term in generally accepted (though admittedly not universal) usage. It’s an approach that has been adopted in some degree by every government since. Simon Jenkins (not everyone’s favourite I know) wrote a very good book about this a few years ago called Thatcher and Sons. It’s rather dated now but still germane. Remember that Thatcherites were often described as ‘economic liberals’ and it’s not too fanciful to conclude that the famous rose garden event that launched the Coalition went so well because the new partners shared a world view.

    This interpretation of freedom asserts that if only companies are given enough freedom everything will turn out just beautifully. Basically it’s the infamous ‘trickle down’ in disguise and writ large. Hence regulation of any sort is seen as the enemy even though it is demonstrably the case that companies of all sizes from dodgy builders to the largest banks can quickly go bad or serve narrow sectional interests rather than socially beneficial one when regulation is absent or defective. For vested interests, of course, freedom to do what they like is crucial, in extreme cases for the same reason that criminals don’t like the police. One example in current policy is the abject failure of this government to stop the City continuing on its profitable but destructive course as a casino and make it actually provide finance for industry. Another is the EU-US trade negotiations supported by the Lib Dems that propose ending by treaty the right of sovereign governments including our own to regulate the activities of multinationals even with respect to obvious bads like pollution. (Google Ecuador + Chevron for a preview of what’s coming our way once fracking gets going).

    The second is the traditional social liberal view and probable the one that Lib Dems overwhelmingly subscribe to but somehow it remains curiously absent from the national stage in any properly worked-out and expounded way. The task for those of us in this camp is to work out how to create an economy that works for people directly while distinguishing between the bad regulation which certainly abounds and the good regulation we need. I strongly suspect that the absence of such an alternative from the national stage is a major reason so many no longer bother to vote – especially younger folk who are less habituated to doing so.

    I can recommend Prof David Harvey’s excellent Brief History of Neoliberalism” (Oxford UP) if you are looking for more information.

  • Simon Shaw
    I remember a TV interview with Ted Heath about the early years of Blair. In an aside he suggested that even he (Heath) was to the left of the Blair Labour party.

    In an earlier thread you were challenged (not by me) to explain why you joined the Liberal Party in the 1970s if you now agree wholeheartedly with Clegg and co. The Party of Thorpe, Grimond and Steel was well to the left of today’s Miliband Labour Party, would you not agree?

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Mar '14 - 7:33pm

    GF – ‘I strongly suspect that the absence of such an alternative from the national stage is a major reason so many no longer bother to vote – especially younger folk who are less habituated to doing so.’

    I agree with you. Problem though ultimately is that decisions are made by the people that show up. That alternative that we need tends to be little more than a talkboard abstraction. The only way though that you will create the economy you talk about is to have capital accrue to labour, not capital. An awful lot of people out there on the sweet end of the generational deal will never wear that. The young have simply worked out that politics is a numbers game they can’t win. Fees was just the most grisly illustration of the point.

  • LJP concludes:
    “An awful lot of people out there on the sweet end of the generational deal will never wear that. The young have simply worked out that politics is a numbers game they can’t win. Fees was just the most grisly illustration of the point.”
    Abrupt,…to the point,… and very true. And as a boomer it troubles me that a voting decision I made in 1975 for the continuance of the EEC, (for the best of reasons), has set the scene for younger people like my daughters in their mid 20’s in the UK today.
    Do my two daughters, and everyone else up to the age 54 not deserve the right to say where they want this country to go? Let’s not forget, in 2008, even Nick Clegg thought so. So what changed? For what it’s worth, I strongly suspect my two daughters in their mid 20’s would vote pro EU, thus probably cancelling out my one vote of anti EU, by a ratio of 2 to 1. But isn’t that the point? Choice for all involved?
    Isn’t democracy about giving my young daughters a choice, and me, as well as you Lib Dems, having to live with it the result of that free choice?
    It’s time for a choice, surely?

  • roger roberts 29th Mar '14 - 6:35pm

    I nearly left the Liberal Party once! That was in 1956! Time of the Suez crisis Since then, I realise that while we don’t always agree with every item of policy, there is a Liberal DNA that cannot be at home in any other party. Coalition Government is incredibly difficult, but the alternatives in 2010 would just not have worked: we have achieved a great deal in Government. I tremble at the thought of a majority Tory government. Trying to get Labour to support certain liberal measures receives little response. I’m glad I didn’t post that resignation letter nearly 60 years ago! Just make certain that the historic Liberal tradition remains at the heart of the Lib Dem party.

  • After all that, it’s amusing to see today’s YouGov poll on voting intention for the European elections:
    Lab 32 (+4), Con 24 (nc), UKIP 23 (-3), LD 11 (nc), Green 5 (-2)

    No sign there of any effect at all on the Lib Dem vote.

  • John Dunn asked in relation to an EU referendum: “Do my two daughters, and everyone else up to the age 54 not deserve the right to say where they want this country to go?” He has a point, but why only on this EU issue?
    The NATO treaty means that a Russian incursion into Latvia could mean the UK is at war with Russia. Yet when the NATO treaty was signed Latvia was part of the USSR! We didn’t have a referendum before signing the NATO treaty, and we had no vote on its expansion to the East post -1990. Neither John or his daughters have ever had a say – especially as all major parties are pro-NATO.

    And why just a referendum for the UK? Surely if one country decides it wants to ‘renegotiate’ its relationship with the EU then 27 others might just want to do the same, and where does that leave us? Probably with a splintering EU.
    Make no mistake the aim of those pushing a referendum know this, and their aim is to wreck the enterprise and ensure that an American dominated neo-Liberal capitalist system can rule the whole world without the tempering and moderating influence that either Social Democracy or Social Liberalism can bring.

  • Steve Comer – I don’t see the EU providing the moderating influence you describe.

    Simon Shaw – Many Liberal Democrats seem to view being in the political centre as a primary goal. Regardless of where that ‘centre’ lies. Equidistance, centrism… these are uninspiring values, and by no means equate to being liberal. The party should always strive to be liberal, and if that means drifting away from the middle ground or switching position with Labour or the Tories then so be it.

  • Oh, and John Dunn – yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I’d like the opportunity to have a say, as so do many others of my generation (and plenty either side of it).

  • Peter Tyzack 31st Mar '14 - 11:12am

    Steve Comer is so, so right..! .. and what about all other organisations that the UK are part of?
    Either we have to have more referenda, (and more information so we know what we are voting about – less of the newspapers telling us what to think), or we have to recognise that we, supposedly, have a representative democracy, where we elect our MPs and Councillors to study the facts and advice and then vote on our behalf. The fact that the system doesn’t actually work as it should means that, self-evidently, IT needs reform.

  • Peter Hillier-Palmer 7th Jun '15 - 11:40am

    You can dress it up any way you like: we are in a mess with a long way to climb!! We’ve been here before and we may be able to it again!

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