When should the Coalition end? Here’s what our survey said…

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 500 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Three-quarters want Coalition to go on til 2015 – but 40% say it should end early to allow for differentiation

LDV asked: When would you like the Coalition to end?

    10% – As soon as possible, definitely this year
    3% – It should end in 2013
    9% – It should end in 2014
    40% – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the two Coalition parties can set out their different plans
    35% – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election
    3% – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election
    0% – Don’t know / No opinion

An interesting spread of results. Unsurprisingly, the aggregate figure of 78% of Lib Dem members who want to see the Coalition last almost up to, until, or even beyond 2015 closely reflects the proportion of members who say they support the Coalition – 77% – which I highlighted last week here. In total, 22% of Lib Dem members — almost one-in-four — want to see the Coalition brought to a close even before 2015. Another way of slicing the figures, of course, is that 62% of members think the Coalition should end earlier than its official deadline of May 2015. Only two members out of the 498 who responded didn’t have a view on this issue!

This is the first time we’ve asked this question, which was originally posed by ConservativeHome to their panel of signed-up readers (who may or may not be Tory members) — here’s how they responded:

    20% – As soon as possibly, ideally this year
    9% – It should end in 2013
    10% – It should end in 2014
    41% – It should stop shortly before the 2015 general election so the parties can set out their different plans
    19% – It should continue right up to the 2015 general election
    1% – It should continue beyond the 2015 general election

Though tilted more in favour of anti-Coalitionists, it’s notable that both surveys produce c.40% in favour of the Coalition ending a few months shy of May 2015 to end officially collective responsibility and enable the parties to strike different policy stances. Though superficially attractive both to Tories and Lib Dems, I’m unsure yet such a step will be necessary, and think it runs the risk of looking indulgent. But it’s not a decision we need to make yet in any case.

Here’s a selection of you comments:

The government should stay in place – but there should be a limited legislative programme in the last few months

I don’t think there’s any reason why the two parties can’t set out separate and opposed plans/policies for the future while still remaining part of the same caretaker government.

It should continue till a new government forms… wasn’t Alistair Darling off in europe signing deals for the British government after the election in 2010, but before the Coalition had formed? I dont like the idea of the Tories being free to do anything they like (well those things that dont require a HoC vote) in those final days

In 2014 – only after the 2014 budget is agreed and adopted, and only if this allows for one year of ‘Short money’ to build capacity. Otherwise, it should end in run-up to GE.

I think there will be no possibility to “pull things back” for any election without quick and radical action. There is no box by the influence question below, but essentially i believe that Orange Book ideas have influenced a reasonable amount, but mainstream caring, green Lib Dem ideas have had little influence.

I may be in a minority, but I would like to see us fight the next election as a coalition, with a single Coalition candidate in each seat. I think that this is the only way to continue the good work on stabilising the economy and avoid the risk of Labour getting back in to wreck everything.

Being in government with the Tories does not stop us from campaigning separately from them; after all we still fight them in Parliamentary by-elections! If we can’t set out our own stall while we are in govenment with others, then we are history. We have to do it for local and Euro elections that happen during the course of the parliament. For the election we must campaign as an independent party with no preference for coalition partners, so NO continuing *this* coalition beyond the 2015 general election.

As as Lib Dem for over 30 years what I am horrified that we can’t be more critical and positive about what our society needs

I believe it should end immediately and we should fight with Labour to reverse disastrous policies.

The party should be able to continue in coalition for the full term AND set out our own approach including criticism of the coalition where appropriate. We’ve never tried this in any meaningful way but have also been wounded by Clegg’s woeful approach to the coalition in the first twelve months where every opporuntity seemed to be taken to emphasise the alleged closeness of the two parties. Every such speech or remark was a nail in our coffin.

At least six months is needed for differentiation before the election. November/December 2014 should be the latest.

As a government it should last for the full term, but there should be no limitations on developing programs FOR THE FUTURE by either party. Perhaps the need to focus on the future and not tear each other apart over the past in 2015 (for fear of self-harm by imlication) will actually help at least 2 of the parties focus on positives and future policies in the election campaign (for a change)!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 500 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 6th August.
  • 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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    5 Comments

    • Keith Browning 21st Aug '12 - 9:23am

      So, people are suggesting that the LibDems withdraw from government and let the Tories have free rein until the election. Clegg et al lose all their ‘free’ publicity as ministers and have no influence over the conduct of the government in the run up to the general election. In that time the Tories also offer a few sweetners to the population and rubbish their previous Coalition partners.

      Which of these is beneficial to the party. Generally not a good idea I think.

    • Matthew Huntbach 21st Aug '12 - 10:56am

      I remember thinking as the general election results were coming in “OK, we’ll form a coalition, but pull the rug from them after two years”. The reasons I don’t now think the rug should be pulled suddenly are:

      1) The Labour Party has not offered a coherent alternative
      2) We have not prepared the ground for doing so
      3) The 2011 referendum effectively endorsed the government we had and ended the argument that it was illegitimate because it was based on distorted representation

      However, I have not changed my mind that two years was long enough for people to see what the coalition is like and to make a judgment on whether they wish to continue with it. So, given the 2011 endorsement of it, that gives us another year.

      I think it fair for us to say as we pull out “OK, you accuse us of abandoning our principles and becoming Tories, so now let’s see what the Tories propose when they are governing on their own”. Those who want to see us destroyed perhaps deserve a salutary lesson in what life would be like if they had their wishes and we had the pure Tory government that our destruction will lead to. I also think that the breaking of the Tory agreement to back House of Lords reform is sufficient grounds to break the coalition. However, other grounds are that the coalition was formed on the argument we would gradually see the economy improve and by mid-term we would start seeing people coming to us in gratitude for that. It hasn’t improved, has it? The “entrepreneurs” who promised they would come out and get things running if only their taxes were cut haven’t done so, have they? They just bank their millions while calling out for “more, more”. Isn’t it a bit like paying Danegeld? And a big proportion of those who endorsed the Tory austerity plans in 2010 have now publicly rejected them – calling in fact for what we ourselves actually proposed in the 2010 general election. So why aren’t we jumping up and down about this saying “Look we were right all along!”?

    • Perhaps an expert on Liberal/Lib Dem history could explain exactly what happened on the previous occasions when the Liberal Party (or one of its branches) agreed on an electoral pact with the Conservatives, and which party benefited from the deal. I think that might be rather illuminating.

    • Mathew says “And a big proportion of those who endorsed the Tory austerity plans in 2010 have now publicly rejected them – calling in fact for what we ourselves actually proposed in the 2010 general election. So why aren’t we jumping up and down about this saying “Look we were right all along!”?”

      Absolutely right, of course. But why did we not seek to argue this case in the coalition negotiations. As far as I can see there was no negotiation as the party leadership bought into the Tory analysis and policy wholesale. I’ve yet to see a satisfactory explanation of why this was the case. Anything that has been suggested has been refuted e.g. the suggestion that “new data” was seen which made clear that the economic situation was worse than had been understood. This was refuted by the Governor of the Bank Of England who stated categorically that Clegg et al saw nothing that they hadn’t already had access to.

      Perhaps the answer is that those Liberal Democrats in the cabinet are, and always were, more inclined towards the Tory analysis and policy and perhaps remain so.

      I’d like to see some real leadership instead of announcements made in response to political pressures created by adverse electoral results or from the party members. It’s not a pretty sight.

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