Why aren’t our poll ratings higher?

On the train to Spring conference, as I was chatting with a student, I mentioned I was a Lib Dem. He said: “Aren’t they the party that saved the country, and then got destroyed because of it?”

My first thought was: “Wow! Student opinion has shifted since 2010.” But I also noted that he didn’t realise how much we’ve recovered since the last General Election.

It’s disappointing, but this feeling that the Lib Dems are still on the ropes is fairly widespread.

Those of us closely following politics know all about where we’ve succeeded. Spectacular local council by-election wins, a doubling of membership, widespread acclaim among journalists for our press operation,

We’ve not just seen many new members, but members who do things. One of our newbies even got herself elected as MP for Richmond Park.

We have a highly effective leader, who is perfect for these times. He knows how to speak in ways which connect with people’s emotions. He understands the importance of a simple message. And he sounds like an ordinary person. Strengths that are probably why the metropolitan elite like to sneer at him, but, secretly, maybe are jealous of.

His other great success really struck me at the Spring conference. How united the party is. We have a range of opinion on policy, as we should have. But, whereas in the past there’s been considerable angst between those primarily concerned about social justice and those primarily concerned about a free and vibrant economy, I didn’t see it last weekend. And much of that is down to Tim.

Horrifying though Brexit and Trump are, they’ve given us a cause, and with it a distinctive political identity.

Our opponents could hardly have made worse mistakes. I don’t need to explain the mess they’ve been making. I’ll list a few words and you can fill in the blanks: Cameron, Corbyn, Nuttall, Labour civil war, hard Brexit.

So why aren’t we doing better?

Despite some staggering successes in local by-elections and winning a parliamentary by-election, we’re getting maybe two or three per cent more in the opinion polls than in the 2015 general election. For crying out loud, considering the shower that our opponents are, considering how good Tim has been, why not much, much better?

If you too have been wondering, have a look at this graph. No. It’s not a prediction of the next two years.

It’s history.

In 1979, the Liberal party received 13.8 per cent of the vote. In the following two years, the Conservatives introduced some incredibly unpopular policies, and civil war broke out in the Labour party. Sound familiar?

Yet the Liberal poll rating hardly moved. And then, suddenly, boy, it moved!

The catalyst on that occasion was the extraordinary drama of the formation of a new political party, the SDP, which formed an alliance with the Liberal party.

But why hadn’t there been a shift before?

Most people aren’t interested in politics; if they listen to any news, it might be the occasional minute of headlines on the radio. Today, they know we were almost wiped out in 2015, but they know almost nothing about our progress in the last year and a half.

It can take years for them to register when things go bad, which may mean that Labour’s polling still has further to fall. And it can take even longer to notice when things get better – like the success of the #libdemfightback.

So if, like me, you’re feeling impatient with the polls … don’t be discouraged. Are they taking forever to catch up with reality? Yes.

But, eventually, they will catch up.

* George Kendall is the acting chair of the Social Democrat Group. He writes in a personal capacity.

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56 Comments

  • I think it’s because a lot of the people who voted Lib Dem in the past were the ones most hit by the coalition. There’s a tendency to reduce this to students, but really the Lib Dems had a lot of disabled people and low income families in the fold. So to me the problem was over claiming on influence, plus an inability to see the Conservatives as opponents in 2015.
    The idea that the Lib Dems saved Britain is part of the problem because it credits the junior party in a coalition with more power than it had and it’s open to debate that the resultant policies were positive.

  • Andrew McCaig 6th Apr '17 - 10:15am

    That graph just emphasises how the Falklands war change British political history…. If you take out the Crosby spike the Allianec poll rating was on a steady gradual climb and had reached about 32%. Bermondsey was a spike in a declining trend and then we got our trdaitional bounce during the Gener4al election campaign as people thought about voting.

    A substantial part of the British will be voting on May 4th, and most indications are that many people will switch their vote to us compared to 4 years ago. I hope that actually voting will remind some of those people that now is the time to start supporting us nationally as well. That should give another modest uptick in our poll rating which has recently consolidated above 10%. Winning Gorton would give us a big spike and a lot more media attention! That would help considerably!

  • To develop Glenn’s point, the austerity wage freeze and pension benefit cuts supported by the Lib Dems in Coalition deeply affected millions of public sector workers in teaching and local government. They were probably the largest single demographic in the party’s support base.

    Later, many of them weren’t in the least amused by the rush for knighthoods and peerages after the 2015 General Election led by Sir Danny boy & Co.. It was all very corrosive to the party’s support.

  • Simon McGrath 6th Apr '17 - 10:47am

    “We have a highly effective leader……. And he sounds like an ordinary person”

    what makes you think this is an electoral advantage ?

  • Red Liberal 6th Apr '17 - 11:10am

    An integral part of the solution is to get as many former Labour supporters (such as myself) over to support this party. No, it’s not a magic bullet, and not a solution in itself, but it’ll help. The elephant in the room here however is the negative and divisive legacy of the Coalition – I’ll have to admit that without Brexit, and had not my old party been taken over by a far-left eurosceptic leader, I would not have ever considered the LibDems as an option.

  • Thanks for this piece George. It’s always a much discussed topic, but often off of the back of a particular result or poll, and comes with baggage.

    I agree that polls and public mood can be slow to show change, and IMO the direction, and overall trends are more meaningful than snapshots. Nevertheless, the current rate of increase feels slower than deserved. It is tempting to get frustrated by voters who we know support most of our policies and have been let down by rivals, and yet they can’t forgive us for tuition fees, or ‘getting in bed with the Tories’. Being a smaller party adds to this handicap, as we don’t have the luxury of pushing all new faces to the front. Nick Cregg has all of the necessary expertise to talk about Europe and the whole country benefits from his involvement, but his high profile involvement is a constant reminder to Labour students of what they like least about us.

    Of course, people tend to be more pragmatic and think more carefully when a real election comes along, and local issues and local campaigners push those theoretical concerns into the background. Being under estimated by our rivals can work to our advantage at local and by-elections. Westminster elections are more tricky as people worry about the eventual government, and tactical voting, and our lack of profile counts against us.

    I am afraid Simon is right. One person’s down to earth is another person’s dull. We can’t change that, but at least Tim can string a sentence together and is a capable public speaker, which puts him head and shoulders above Corbyn.

    IMO, getting more Libdems of all shapes and sizes on TV and in the newspapers is key to national polling. Easier said than done, especially if it’s not just the usual places. But in the meantime, it’s the local elections and we are good at them.

  • paul barker 6th Apr '17 - 12:09pm

    Its impossible to underestimate how little attention most voters pay to Politics between General Elections & its hard to grasp how low journalistic standards in Britain are. The Media dont find Local Elections or Party Unity very interesting.
    This may shift on May 5th but I wouldnt depend on it. Barely 10% of voters will actually take part on May 4th, perhaps another 10% might notice that an Election is happening. Any effect on the remaing 80% depends entirely on how The Media reports the results.
    We just have to keep winning on the ground & wait for the news to filter through.

  • The stubborn-ness of the national opinion polls is getting to be a real drag! I’m a natural pessimist but even I am convinced that there is a real recovery underway – yet still the polls don’t seem to know about it!! All we can do is keep churning out the leaflets, knocking on doors and talking up the recovery to our friends, neighbours etc. May 4th is going to be a crucial moment. Not just the locals but Gorton too. If we can make real breakthroughs that night, then I think more people will really start to sit up and take notice. But if we just make ‘modest progress’ that will mean another 6 months of 9%-12% poll ratings. We need to do well enough to make sure that we are the big story of the night. (as opposed to ‘Labour collapse/Corbyn crisis’).

  • If the price of getting rid of Danny was a knighthood it was a price worth paying. My heart sank every time they led him out to justify George’s latest cuts. Thankfully the leadership to be inoculated to the siren cry of be nice to Tories and many of the people who seemed happy to be Tory lite have gone. But as Bill has warned we are at our best when we talk too and represent people. We are out our worst when we ignore, preach at and talk down to people, and that was what we became under the Yellow bookers.

  • A good chunk of it is because we keep re-running the same unpopular people over and over. A good counter-example of that is Richmond. Sarah was new, enthusiastic, had a good story – people were inspired to vote for her. Unfortunately, far more common is things like the Bristol metro mayor election where we’re running a guy who was fired by those same voters at the last election, and are desperately fighting to avoid fourth place.

    If we were willing to take our new members and actually use them – including their reasons why they were coming to us, to inspire other people to do so – we could start making progress. As long as we keep insisting “This person you can’t stand, we’re putting them on the ballot again. and again. and again”, we’re giving ourselves a natural, and hard lid on how much support people will give us.

  • Be interesting to see what happens on May 6th if our dreams at Gorton and local elections are met. Or will it be another false dawn.
    At least the Suns political columinist has said publicly that Conservative MPs in the South West are fearful of losing seats to us and do not want a General Election, but how many know he said that.

  • paul holmes 6th Apr '17 - 1:06pm

    George I think you nearly hit the nail on the head when you talk about most people not being that interested in politics and mainly just getting the odd minutes of news headlines each day.

    That news gives little coverage to the current ‘Fourth Party’ of British Politics. Couple that with the fact that in the majority of the UK a typical household more or less never get a LD leaflet through the door or has a LD activist knock on that door. Our run of good by election results over the last year (like the 0-67% Council by election gain from Labour in Chesterfield last December) are a result of intensive local campaigning in those particular areas. National Opinion Polls however sample as few as 1,000 -2,000 people spread everywhere across the country, some are in areas of LD activity but most are not.

  • Peter Watson 6th Apr '17 - 1:35pm

    “The catalyst on that occasion was the extraordinary drama of the formation of a new political party, the SDP, which formed an alliance with the Liberal party.”
    And brought with it Labour (and wet Tory) MPs and members and supporters and voters into a new endeavour, something that is absent now. Perhaps a boost would come from some very senior defectors from Labour, sharing an anti-Brexit platform, but I suspect that Tim Farron would no longer be the leader of such a movement (or even its highest-profile figure), and the Lib Dems (or whatever the party’s name became) would change significantly. Perhaps that would be for the better, perhaps not.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Apr '17 - 1:39pm

    @charles:

    “….we keep re-running the same unpopular people over and over. …. like the Bristol metro mayor election where we’re running a guy who was fired by those same voters at the last election”

    I have a sneaking suspicion you are unaware as to what is happening in the West of England mayoral election which covers Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire as well as Bristol. The people who voted Stephen Williams out make up only one small part of the voters in this election and did so largely because of their ‘take’ on the Lib Dems’ role in coalition, not on the man himself.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Apr '17 - 1:46pm

    Outside of the seventy or so parliamentary seats and municipal areas where Lib Dems are highly-active, most people never hear of our Party and assume it pretty much disappeared off the planet at the last election. If they watch the Parliament channel on TV, even, the people they see besides Tory and Lab tend to be the SNP. So, unless they see a really powerful Lib Dem presence on the ground in their area, if they take any sort of ‘cue’ for local election voting from national polls or national politics, it will be massively-restrained by their beliefs in this respect. Therefore, do not expect any massive rise in Lib Dem vote on May 4th across the nation although the unpopularity of both of the other parties might slightly increase the ‘plague on both camps’ votes which will come to ourselves, Greens, independents and even to UKIP.

  • Charles, I agree with the need for fresh blood, but no one wants to vote for a Mayor with no experience. In 2015, did the public sack individual MPs, or was it a protest against high profile members?

  • ‘On the train to Spring conference, as I was chatting with a student, I mentioned I was a Lib Dem. He said: “Aren’t they the party that saved the country, and then got destroyed because of it?”………

    Amazing how these ‘students’ pop up at convenient times; what was he studying, ‘Creative Writing’?….

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Apr '17 - 3:13pm

    This article is too optimistic for my liking. It’s not just a case of people not paying enough attention to politics. The truth is there are millions of Tory and brexit sympathisers who often keep their mouth shut until they get to the polling station.

    Regards

  • Paul Pettinger 6th Apr '17 - 3:17pm

    “… in the past there’s been considerable angst between those primarily concerned about social justice and those primarily concerned about a free and vibrant economy” – and angst between those who recognise a free and vibrant economy requires social justice and those who do not

  • Bill le Breton 6th Apr '17 - 3:52pm

    Why aren’t our poll ratings higher? Because only one in ten of the people ‘polled’ by the companies say they will support us. Obvious, but the obvious needs stating.

    A slightly finer understanding can be gained by looking at the ‘actual’ questions, the weightings and the methodology etc. But the fact remains we are not making the impression that we think we are for reasons given above.

    This surprise is a function of lack of political campaigning experience compounded by our deceptive performance in local council by-elections and in one Westminster by-election that took place in probably the best place for us to have a by-election in the whole country. This would be no mystery to those who have been reading Tony Dawson on both the subject of local by-elections and the history of Richmond Liberal Democrats.

    I have just listened to Colin of Rawlings and Thrasher. They suggest our vote share will be 22%. I’d bite their hand off for that. I hope they are right. But their calculations are based on results in 2013 uplifted by a factor calculated by using the average uplift in our vote as recorded in recent actual by-elections.

    But this fails to appreciate (again pointed to by Tony above) that our capacity issues are far greater than those revealed in by-elections. We have the campaigning infra-structure of about 1983. And about the same national profile as we had in 1992.

    This capacity issue was a point completely missed by the 2015 General Election team. Like slowly becoming short sighted and only realising this when you bump your forehead on the television screen, all our attempted holds had much smaller teams than those with which those seats had been won in the first instance. Some less reduced than others. In 2015 it was not the national polls that were wrong, it was our rose tinted perspective of our own standing.

  • Bill le Breton 6th Apr '17 - 3:57pm

    Why should all that matter?

    Because, as in 2015, it has the potential to distort our targeting decisions.

  • paul barker 6th Apr '17 - 5:32pm

    Bill le Bretons pessimism is reasonable enough but Rallings & Thrashers methods have been succsessful in predicting past results. Mark Pack has pointed out that they have a history of slightly overestimating our vote share but looking at their figures I would guess that they have adjusted them to take account of that. If we do get 22% in the Equivalent Vote Share then I would have thought that net gains of 100 Seats was a bit on the low side.
    Lets remember that we have till 2020 to prepare for a General Election, we dont have to do it all at once.

  • Tony Dawson is absolutely spot on. At a time when people’s love of politicians continues to shrink, the only thing that makes a difference is seeing some real people, somewhere other than on television, involved in real campaigning in real elections.

  • As rational people, we make the mistake of thinking that politics is a rational business (that’s why we struggle to understand Brexit) and that people will be rational and reward sensible parties and throw out governments who have clearly failed.
    The sobering truth is that most people think very little about politics but they have a vague attachment to a brand (I am Labour, I am a Tory, I hate the lot and therefore vote UKIP…!). Unfortunately few people in this country have been raise in Liberal homes and thus most of our vote is soft because it is not founded on a deep attachment.
    Consequently the Conservatives will probably do very well in may even though they have subjected the country to austerity, threatened us with a return to selective schools at 11, seem clueless about how to start negotiating a half decent Brexit deal, etc, I could go on.
    As for us…….hope springs eternal I suppose.

  • George asks an important question. Let me add another thought to the many good ones above.

    It all depends whether you are talking of Westminster or local elections. Locally we’ve been doing rather well recently; nationally not so much apart from Richmond which is too exceptional to count for much.

    This is a pattern I noticed soon after I joined nearly 30 years ago. The party is very good – and well respected – at local politics but when it comes to national politics it’s a very different story; it really doesn’t know how to do it effectively.

    Obviously, there is a lot of ‘crosstalk’ between local and national voting decisions but however good the party is locally it relies to an uncomfortable extent – perhaps 50% – on none-of-the-above votes in national elections as evidenced by the heavy reliance on tactical manoeuvres.

    So, what’s the problem, what is the party getting so consistently wrong nationally?

    For myself, but also I believe for a broad sweep of middle England (and Scotland, Wales & NI), I find myself deeply unexcited by the Lib Dem’s core ambition on the national stage. It’s all about how to get more votes to win power which sounds like a worthy ambition but is really about career progression for a very few people motivated by “we want a go at government”. The policy prescriptions are a safety-first blend of a bit more of this and a bit less of that as if that could make any material difference; many look as if they come from 10 – 20 year old copies of the Guardian.

    Well, Thatcherism and its latter-day derivatives have failed badly (note the past tense) but like Wile E Coyote the Lib Dems carry on regardless with their 1,000 year campaign to win ward by ward (as someone once put it). Meanwhile, back in the real world the country is desperate for a new direction and fresh thinking.

    Farage, for all his faults, has proven one important thing: you don’t have to have a large Parliamentary party to make a difference. But you DO have to know where you want to go and the Lib Dems don’t (at least not beyond sugary platitudes).

  • @Tony Dawson your ‘sneaking suspician’ couldn’t be further from the mark. If you were round here, you’d understand. Bristol West residents gleefully fired Williams at the last election. That’s no reason to think there’s a sudden, unexpected swelling of love for him across the rest of the subregion.

    @Fiona There’s a world of difference from the popular local MPs, like Jo Swinson, Don Foster, who simply couldn’t cling on as a tidal wave swept through, as against the genuinely unpopular ones who voters knew, and wanted out. We didn’t come a close 2nd in Bristol West, we came a poor third, as the voters willfully placed two other candidates ahead (and barely avoided 4th place then too). Around here, people like Don Foster and Steve Webb were well respected and liked, and people infuriatingly said good things about them on their way to vote for Tories (I think many of them now regret this). I have yet to meet anyone outside the party unhappy about our loss in West, and a good chunk of people *in* the party have no problem with it. This is why we’re struggling – of the ones we have who have experience, it’s mainly the inept and unlikeable ones who haven’t found work elsewhere, and are available to be our perennial candidates.

  • Bill le Breton:
    “Why aren’t our poll ratings higher? Because only one in ten of the people ‘polled’ by the companies say they will support us. Obvious, but the obvious needs stating.”

    Not quite true, if you look at the details of the polls. Most of them show about 15% saying they will support us. Based on past behaviour, especially the 2015 election, the polling companies assume that a relatively low proportion of those people will actually turn out and vote for us, and weight the numbers down.

    The polling companies may of course be right. Failure to apply such factors has in the past led to overestimates of both our and labour vote shares.

  • Bill le Breton 7th Apr '17 - 9:09am

    Adam, thank you. I accept your point entirely and did actually hint at it in my comment. I was trying to draw attention to the disparity between poll standing and by-election performance, and the danger this creates to campaigning in local authority marginals this May.

    The art of council wide or constituency wide campaigning is knowing where the political frontier lies. The best groups make great assessments of where that frontier lies and allocate resources ruthlessly along that frontier. Get it wrong on the optimistic side and not only do you not win your targets you lose those wards that we hold but which were on that election’s true frontier.

    Unfounded optimism also makes it harder for the central co-ordinating Team to ‘police’ and deliver its targeting strategy against the ‘I really can win here’ syndrome.

    I distrust all academic formulae approaches to election forecasts. Rallings & Thrashers learnt all they knew about elections from ringing David Vasmer at ALDC every Friday morning. David did not just record the results. He was in contact with all local election teams prior to polling day. He knew in every patch whose assessments could be trusted. Which is why the ALDC predictions were always the most accurate available to Party spokespeople and the media with whom we shared them. In those days that included sharing them and the reasoning with Rallings & Thrashers.

    If in these elections they are using a % mark up for our vote across the country based on our recent performances in by-elections they will have failed to factor in how by-elections allow ‘weak’ parties to pile resources into a limited area.

  • Roger Billins 7th Apr '17 - 9:16am

    The other factor that people ignore is that our polling is dragged down by Scotland where we barely trouble the pollsters. In England and, in particular, those areas that voted Remain, we poll very much better. My experience so far is that people are reacting well to our anti austerity in the provision of public service message and will give their vote to us not Labour.

  • gavin grant 7th Apr '17 - 9:17am

    Charles – Facts are important. Don Foster was not defeated by voters but retired at the 2015 election. The Lib Dems have made a net gain of 32 Council Wards since last May, 19 of them in the South West. As leaked internal Tory national and local documents show, they fear a Lib Dem revival down here – and rightly so. We have our largest ever slate of County candidates this Millennium. Very many voters are open to voting Lib Dem. Relatively few are committed to us. That is why there is such a diverge between opinion polls and by-election votes. Where we get our message across it is well received. Where we make little impact in communications and campaigning, we make little progress. Our future is in our own hands. Time to seize it.

  • Peter Watson 7th Apr '17 - 9:22am

    @Adam Cain “if you look at the details of the polls. Most of them show about 15% saying they will support us.”
    I’m not sure you are correct.
    The latest ICM poll (https://www.icmunlimited.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2017_guardian_apr1_poll.pdf) reports an 8% voting intention for Lib Dems (Table 3) rounded up to 11% by polling magic (Table 5). Similarly the latest YouGov poll (https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/rlhcaejxm0/TimesResults_170327_VI_Trackers_W.pdf) rounds up 8% (Page 2) to 11% (Page 1).
    (The biggest factor in polling magic in these cases looks like exclusion of don’t knows and won’t says).

  • Denis Loretto 7th Apr '17 - 9:51am

    Could it be that in a national opinion poll people think first and foremost about which party they see as running the country – and do not really see the Lib Dems in that light at this stage?
    When actually faced with a Lib Dem candidate on the ballot paper they seem to look more positively at us, especially given our clear leadership on Europe.
    Maybe it’s a stage we need to go through in our comeback.

  • Bill Le Breton:
    Thankyou, very informative post and I’m sure you are substantially correct

  • paul barker 7th Apr '17 - 8:12pm

    Its actually not true that our Polling figures havent shifted at all. Our average support has been rising for the last 10 Months, by around 1% every 3 Months, that is painfully slow but it is in line with the improvement we made in real Elections in the year after May 2015.
    Whats happening is that the Polls are tracking reality but about a year behind, I would expect our Polling to improve much faster after May.
    The same logic applies to Labour, they have been losing about 1% every 2 Months but their real support is probably a long way behind their current Polling average of 27%.

  • 52% will never vote for you again.

  • George – I think you’ve probably not understood what I was trying to say which was really two things. Firstly, that despite helpful ‘crosstalk’ we typically underperform badly in national elections compared with locals (or at least those where the local team has got its act together). That is surely undeniable.

    That leads to the obvious question – why should this be so. I was pressed for time and word limit so I only suggested one answer; in fact there are many possible reasons. But I am convinced that an important part of the answer is somewhere in the policy area (widely defined). You talk of the attraction of “sensible progressive politics” but is that really what we offer in any meaningful way?

    Consider this: in all the many years I have been a member the party has never managed to come up with a core narrative of what it’s about. Mostly the argument stalls somewhere around “we are the radical centre”. That’s just searching for unoccupied political habitat and is in no way a compelling narrative so it’s a ‘Policy 101’ fail right there.

    Consider also that in the Coalition many (most?) Lib Dems seemed perfectly happy to sign up for a Tory analysis though it was their policies that have failed. How is that supposed to work?

    Don’t get me wrong. Articulating a narrative and the rest is HARD, really hard. But what gets me is that there seems to be a great deal of complacency. Too many still hope that the electorate will eventually “come to their senses” or some such. We should rather be like Steve Jobs, relentlessly agitating for a better product.

    To be fair, I think there are early signs of green shoots breaking through. But still so slow, so small …

  • Martin: “52% will never vote for you again”
    Did you notice that we picked up a seat from UKIP last night, with a big swing in a pro-Brexit ward in Aylesbury?

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '17 - 9:59pm

    I notice that this post has been far more popular than your previous one which contained the dreaded d-word in the title! Why do you think that is?

    I may be over optimistic but I do think the message is slowly sinking in that it’s quite normal for a currency issuing government to be in d*****t. If it isn’t, then it isn’t issuing anything. So public opinion has moved on from where it was just a couple of years ago. There’s much less concern now that we are “leaving a huge credit card bill for future generations to repay”. Of course, I’d like a bit more understanding of why that isn’t the right way to look at it, but these changes in sentiment do take some time.

  • Peter Martin 10th Apr '17 - 10:00pm

    @ George,

    I notice that this post has been far more popular than your previous one which contained the dreaded d-word in the title! Why do you think that is?

    I may be over optimistic but I do think the message is slowly sinking in that it’s quite normal for a currency issuing government to be in d—–t. If it isn’t, then it isn’t issuing anything. So public opinion has moved on from where it was just a couple of years ago. There’s much less concern now that we are “leaving a huge credit card bill for future generations to repay”. Of course, I’d like a bit more understanding of why that isn’t the right way to look at it, but these changes in sentiment do take some time.

  • George if I read the last paragraph of your last but one comment correctly you seem to be saying

    1) You were pro-coalition because it was a national emergency
    2) You wanted it to continue throughout because coalition ending sooner it would be a catastophe for the country and the party, but most of all because it would be bad for the idea of coalitions,
    3) And even when it became clear (say by 2014 if not earlier) it was more than a catastrophe for the party; it was making the Conservatives stronger, you still just continued to support it because … it was bad for the idea of coalitions,
    4) And finally when people like me pointed out to you the disaster that was happening, to the party, the country and the idea of coalitions, you became even more loyal to the party, and the you blame us for the fact you would not change because we had the courage to point it out.

    So now we have a situation where
    a) we have a party in tatters with only 9 MPs and one MEP,
    b) a Conservative party that may well be in power for decades, and is doing much worse things under May than Cameron would have dreamed of,
    c) a set of values which to many people are seen to be selfish and elitist,
    d) and because we had so undermined those values in five years of coalition we have since lost a referendum on membership of the EU.

    Which bit of evidence based decision making do you not agree with?

  • Joss Creswell 11th Apr '17 - 2:36am

    Hear Hear!

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '17 - 11:26am

    @ George,

    I hope you are right about an upturn in Lib Dem fortunes because the country needs a sensible left-of-centre political force to counter and maybe even end the unfettered power which is now wielded by the Tories.

    But we have to be realistic. The left is hopelessly split on what to do about the EU referendum result. I can’t see that changing any time soon. Mrs May has done well for the Tories by making UKIP seem irrelevant and yet not losing much of the centre ground. Her position is unassailable for the foreseeable future. You can’t argue with getting on for a 20% lead in the polls.

    There’s no evidence that replacing Jeremy Corbyn would reduce that lead. If the Labour Party had chosen someone like Owen Smith there’d be mass defections from Labour’s anti-EU northern working class base.

    So the prospects for 2020 look bleak. It looks like the Lib Dems, and much of Labour, will go into the next election saying that Brexit was a disaster and we are all doomed. That’s not a formula for electoral success.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Apr '17 - 12:01pm

    I think we have a 2 year window of oppertunity to establish this party as the party of liberty ,social justice and a fair economy .Labour will decide if they wish to retain Corbyn until 2020 by 2019 .The Conservatives will be struggling to mend the holes in their budgets with more stealth taxes or dropping their stupid promise not to raise tax and NI rates to plug the gap in NHS ,Social Care expenditure which is being swallowed up by an ageing population and which local council taxes are unable to support to a sustainable level.The Brexit deal will be known in part and as reality kicks in is going to upset theirs and UKIPs support on the right of the political spectrum.

  • Steve Magner 11th Apr '17 - 3:23pm

    One of the reasons why our national opinion poll rating is so low is that we let a lot of people down in 2015 and they haven’t forgotten. They voted for left of centre policies and ended getting the complete opposite. Remember Nick Clegg’s famous “No more broken promises” PPB. It will take us along time to recover public trust in our ability to deliver what we promise.

  • Simon Banks 12th Apr '17 - 5:38pm

    Our polls also dipped badly after 1997 and to a lesser extent 2005. Something suddenly makes people see us as a serious prospect. It may not happen till the general election, with its better share of media attention and lots of local leaflets. As for us having alienated natural Liberal Democrat voters during the coalition, that’s absolutely true, but some of them are coming back. It’s our great luck that neither Labour nor Tories look half as attractive to them. In Scotland and Wales, of course, there are other options.

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