Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline figures, with changes from last month, of CON 42%(-1), LAB 28%(-5), LDEM 18%(+3). The poll was conducted over the weekend.

Populus’s methodology is quite close to ICM’s and we’ve got similar figures to their weekend poll. The Conservatives remain in the 40s, Labour sink down below the psychologically important 30% level and this time some of the support has moved to the Liberal Democrats, who jump up three points. Their support in this poll is significantly lower than the 22 points that ICM recorded, but it’s two polls in a row showing their support growing as Labour collapse further.

In other questions, economic confidence had improved slightly, albeit not significantly, after it’s big fall last month. Net confidence is at minus 57, compared to minus 61 in January and minus 35 in November when it enjoyed that strange temporary boost in optimism. David Cameron has moved ahead at the best Prime Minister to deal with the crisis now, having pulled level with Brown a month ago he is now ahead by 9 points.

Despite his “bail out boost” disappearing, Gordon Brown’s image is still much improved from last summer. The proportion of people who think he is strong (51%) is twenty-two points higher than last summer, those thinking him weak is 20 points down, those thinking he is up to the job is up 17 points to 42%. While Labour may be in a poor state, it is still not as bad as it was in summer 2008.

I’ve been told there will be some more stuff from Populus to come later in the week covering bank bonuses.


95 Responses to “Populus too show a (smaller!) Lib Dem boost”

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  1. @ Chris – not sure why you continually feel the need to insult me and others. This is generally a civilised forum – it’s a shame you seem unable to respect that.

    And your “shock and surprise” would seem to suggest that it is you, not I, who is uninformed.

  2. “I mean how can Cameron talk about super schools when they’ve confirmed cuts in spending ”

    Chris-the answer to your question is that Cameron has announced an Education Policy which mirrors the Swedish model ( well nearly before john tt corrects me!)
    This will result in freeing up the supply side, by removing the dictat of the Local Authority.Capital spend will thus be enhanced by new Education Providers , whilst Revenue Spend will be allocated per capita as now-slewed to support schools in deprived areas.Parental choice will thus drive up standards-at least that is the claim.

    You may choose to agree or disagree with Gove’s plans-but you must first understand them.

    With regard to “cuts in spending” in general you also need to understand the reality which is this:-

    Labour’s PBR last year includes plans for Government Spending cuts as part of the Government’s efforts to produce transparency for the Markets on Debt Repayment post recession.

    The Conservatives have also said the increase in Public Spending will need to be curtailed & have refused to commit to the PBR spending plans.

    IFS said after the PBR that Government spending would have to fall in real terms across the board if Government Borrowing is to be returned to sustainable levels within a given time frame.

    It is generally thought that the upcoming Budget will present a significant deterioration in the Public Finances since the PBR.

    Get used to it Chris-we have spent too much-we will have to pay for it….whoever is in power.

    By the way-just on “talking the economy down”-Ed Balls says it will be the worst for 100 years.

    I think I am right in saying that he currently holds the UK record for “talking the economy down”.

    Can I suggest to you that merely repeating tribal political chants adds nothing to political debate, and is as pointless as calling voters “fools” when they disagree with you.

  3. JJB/Mike/Andy – regarding the Lib Dems in 1992, firstly I wouldn’t compare campaign polls to what the Lib Dems actually got and draw any conclusions. Remember the polls in 1992 were horribly wrong – a better comparison would be what the Lib Dems were polling at the start of the campaign compared to the eve-of-election polls.

    In doing that, something else to be aware of is prompting. As you’ll know, including the party names in a poll increases the recorded level of Lib Dem support quite noticably. In the past (everyone does it anyway these days) it could make a 2 point difference.

    During election campaigns MORI used to start off not prompting and then, once candidates names were published, prompt by candidate and party name for the local constituency. This switch meant that half way through the campaign you’d expect to see the Lib Dems go up by 2 points in the polls as a result of different question wording.

  4. Chris – welcome to UkPollingReport.

    We don’t welcome that sort of discussion here, it’s a forum about polls and politics, not for politics. The vast majority of people aren’t floating voters, there is no one to convert, so it’s here to discuss polls and politics with people from views across the spectrum, without starting partisan arguments or trying to point-score off people from different parties.

    Everyone else- do not get dragged into a partisan argument. Making a partisan rebuttal is just as bad as making the partisan comment to start with (in fact, it’s worse, since you aren’t new and should know better).

  5. I have to admit that I am out of step with many (most) people on the economy, and therefore by implication Gordon Brown’s fate. In the last few days we have had increasing January retail sales, Halifax reporting house price rises of 1.9% in January (! yes, slightly shocking, but true), exports up by 0.5% for the month, and unemployment still below 2m when all forecasters confidently predicted it would smash the 2m barrier by Christmas. Yes, UK manufacturing output fell by 10% last quarter, but Germany’s fell by 40%. The pound has eased down, but not collapsed.

    Every piece of better news on the economy is either not reported or treated as ‘wrong’. Perhaps it isn’t wrong, and things are moving better than we think? Balls, Brown and Darling have a vested interest in making the global circumstances appear truly dire. The ‘worst in 100 years’ quip wasn’t a mistake, but a carefully planned bit of political positioning to enable Labour to take maximum benefit from any sign of recovery. It’s not a fashionable view, but I certainly don’t think Labour is finished yet. The Tories have not sealed the deal, and my feeling is that in terms of winning a majority at the next election they are in trouble. I don’t know that Labour will win, but I think they will have a much better chance than people think. Put a tenner on Brown with a 30 seat majority.

  6. “a carefully planned bit of political positioning to enable Labour to take maximum benefit from any sign of recovery”

    The thought has crossed my mind (more in hope thant expectation) on several occasions too.

    I think it’s unfortunate that the PR / Spin experts have so much influence. I know it would be a horribly skewed question, but I’d love to see a poll (or even some focus groups set up) that measured public distaste for political manouevring and spin.

    Thanks for the name-check, Colin! I appreciate facts, and suspect the Tory/Labour/LibDem/SNP (no fluffy, not EDP) fight will be demeaned by a lack of appreciation on all sides that a sound ethical motive would be a jolly good thing to attach to every slightest act and statement.

    Sorry about length of sentence.

  7. @Antony Wells – Take your point and will bare this all in mind in future.

  8. @Alec – agree with all what you said especially regarding the recent goodish news on the economy that received very little coverage. However, because the said right-wing biast of the media, and the free ride Cameron has enjoyed with it, Labour has an almighty fight to overturn these polls and win the next election.

  9. Chris – media turns very quickly when it suits them. Tories have a record of being over panicky, (even when they’re still 5 points clear). There’s a potential for some slimey stories over Tory donors yet to get real traction.

    Lots of ways for the Tories to lose it. The recent LD & Others rises may show those opposed to Brown are still looking for a home to go to…..

  10. Alec -I think you are right to point up good news when you think you see it.Your side of the argument requires you to hope ( & believe?) that GB’s interventions are producing results.

    Certainly I think the “opposition” point of view has to be very careful to distinguish between looking for bad news because we think that is what we see, and bad news because that is what we need politically.

    No one wants a prolonged & deep & destructive recession.

    I hope I am being objective then when I refer to BoE Governor KIng’s remarks today :-

    He said that the risks to the economy remain “heavily weighted to the downside,” in the BoE’s gloomiest assessment so far. The Bank said in its latest Quarterly Inflation Report that the speed of deterioration is accelerating, , and the economy may shrink by 4pc by the middle of this year.

    If Ed Balls knows something that Mervyn KIng doesn’t know I hope he explains it to him.

    The only straw I detect is the large amount of Monetary Policy interventions which have not yet been implemented. GB refered to a number today at PMQs as being ready within a few days. Mervyn King today signaled an increase in Money Supply as being imminent too. I don’t pretend to know whether any of this stuff will work ( and you can find as many expert sceptics as adherants in the Press), but I think a lot of it has not had a chance to do so yet.

    Frankly I think the claim that Fiscal measures have been significant or effective is empty rhetoric -but Mervyn King certainly said he thought the Monetary interventions WOULD work.

    He didn’t know when though so this is a political race against time for GB.

  11. The 1992 polls were wrong in general,
    but if that’s the case,
    perhaps we should stop comparing any party’s trends during campaigns to any election 1992 or earlier ,
    because the methods wouldn’t have changed specifically in 1992.

    The final polls in 1992 were about 38-38-20 if I remember correctly.

    Yes, the polls were wrong generally, but I strongly suspect the LDs did increase support during the campaign, and fall away again as people focused on the close result in harsh economic times.
    That to me looks like a credible model for next time.

  12. Less reported within Ball’s speech was an admission that the Gov’t along with others around the world could have regulated the banking sector better. We also had GB at PMQs quoting Cam at Tory conference pushing for less regulation.
    Expect next from GB/AD – we got regulation wrong and we regret etc but they would have been slacker
    I understand the Con position that red tape and financial regulation is different but it is a hard distinction to make to non-anorak voters even if valid.
    For me key question still is to what extent the cons need to spell out more what they will do or whether thay can rely on disatisfaction with Labour. Then if they do need to spell out more how effective will they be.
    They must be a little concerned that they can not reach 45% regularly as Blair did and more.
    Straw clutchers stillclinging on!!!

  13. Jim – I can’t fathom why Labour haven’t banged on more about previous Tory comments (especially Clarke when the first Brown budgets were implemented). perhaps they are waiting for an election campaign, but like you I expect the differences to becomes more obvious (and simplistic)

    if we’re into looking at upsides, then I’d like to add that we at least don’t have the misfortune of having to control inflation with higher interst rates at the same time as sufffering rising unemployment. Curing inflation is usually the first step along the “worse before better” road.

  14. John TT, Yes it is good that we don’t have an inflation problem at present. Presumably the inflationary effect of easing money supply won’t kick in until after the next election.

  15. That is true – we weren’t able to get interest rates down in 1980-81 because we had a big problem with inflation,
    and whereas inflation subsided in 1991, we had a big inflation problem in 1990.

    But of course, there has been inflation in housing and credit, not properly measured.

  16. “We also had GB at PMQs quoting Cam at Tory conference pushing for less regulation.”

    We did indeed Jim-He said that if Labour had tried to tighten Banking regulation the Conservatives would not have supported it -because Cameron at “the conference” had said “we’ve got to start tearing up the rule books ”

    So I started searching for this rather alarming hidden nugget in Tory Policy which I had missed.

    At last I found the right Conference-2007. And after searching in vain under Economy & Business I found it…..under Crime.

    This is what Cameron said-in it’s context ( which of course GB omitted so he could use it in a reference to Banking!):-

    “And I believe that if we really want to tackle crime, if we really want to make our society stronger then you have got to make families stronger and society more responsible and to me that word responsibility really means something. I think over these last 10 years we have seen responsibility sucked away from people, sucked away from our public servants and taken away from our public services.

    And it ended with that extraordinary farce of two community support officers standing by a lake after a boy had drowned, feeling that because the rule book said they couldn’t intervene, they shouldn’t. Well, we’ve got to start tearing up the rule books and allowing people common sense, initiative, and responsibility in the jobs that they do. “

  17. Kudos for the research Colin, Central office should give you a job.
    Point is that the preconception is that the Tories are less interventionist and it is going to hard for them to make the case that they would have been stricter or smarter in respect of Financial sector regulation. Whether fair or not the Gov’t will make this charge.

  18. RichardW – an inflationary effect is needed right now, not after the next election. Hopefully, we’ll be growing by then, and taking money out of the economy in order to bear down on inflation and pay off debt. Whoever’s in office, that will happen, if the approach works.

    BTW he was talking about rule books in plural. I don’t think Cameron would find any reference to his ideas of regulation helpful.

  19. Also, Colin, it’s just another example of word-twisting -rather like the twisting of a Brown speech about wealth-creation into one about protectionism. They’re all as bad as each other.

    The clever thing that Clegg could do is watch a few Yes Minister’s and come up with decent proposals to diminish the power of the Whips and promote real democracy in the HofC.

  20. Surely the question is the right sort of regulation, it doesn’t have to be a lot.

    Malcolm Fallon has made a speech putting it better than I could – sorry this post is my/his poltical view – but I think it’s relevant to the discussion on regulation –

    “When Gordon Brown first set up his new system of banking supervision, the amount British banks lent out was matched by the amount that they held on deposit. In fact, they were often in overall surplus. By the time he finished as chancellor, they were lending over £625 billion more than they held on deposit. That’s not supervision – it was sheer recklessness. It’s that funding gap which is the key to understanding how our banks have crumbled.”

  21. ‘Surely the question is the right sort of regulation, it doesn’t have to be a lot.’
    Dead right but it is going to be a hard job for the Tories to claim they would have achieved this; and, in the context of who better to run the economy going forward it is important.
    Note also very few references to Cam as Lamont advisor during Black Wednesday, I suspect Labour keeping back.
    Major Gov’t did not apologise for this either.

  22. I think the Tory response has been somewhat caught on the hop. To that extent I agree with you.

    Cameron’s role on Black Wednesday would have been irrelevant. The trouble then seemed to be that too much political capital had been invested in the ERM so they didn’t make the decision to get out before we were chucked out.
    Although not an ehthusiast of the ERM, it did force us to drive inflation down to a very low level which I don’t think any British government would have had the will to do before – on it’s own – even that one.

  23. I meant to say Michael Fallon of course – how on earth did I make that slip…

  24. JimJam – I’m not sure that the Tories need to show that they’d have done anything different. It’s the sort of line that Labour diehards come out with but I don’t think it has all that much resonance with uncommitted voters. Ultimately it’s a hypothetical, and a hypothetical about the past at that. The pressing question for voters is not what a party may or may not have done if it was in government five or ten years ago. What matters is what they think the parties will do in the near future. And on that front the minus against the Tories is just a “probably” speculation while the minus against Labour is the unavoidable fact that it has been in power for 11 years and it actually failed to formulate effective regulations.

    And if we look at what the polls have been telling us for a year now, what we see is Labour troughs down in the mid-twenties and even the highest Labour peaks still not enough to overtake the Tories. The question is whether anything can or will happen over the next 16 months to dramatically alter this picture in favour of Labour. The economic forecasts don’t look at all good so it seems very unlikely. But then it ain’t over until the fat lady sings the blues.

  25. Colin – Re your earlier comments about my views on the economy – “Your side of the argument requires you to hope ( & believe?) that GB’s interventions are producing results” …etc. I’m not a Brown fan. He’s one of the many who took their eye off the ball (if I’m allowed to say that after Mr. Clarkson’s ill judged intervention) and got us into this situation in the first place. The point I’m making is that unlike the eternally panicking media I don’t think its the end of the world, and I happen to believe that if Cameron had been at the helm it would have been a whole lot worse. That doesn’ make me a Labour supporter.

    As for your comments about Mervyn King – is this the same Mervyn King that 6 months ago thought we had a major inflation problem….?

  26. Alec -apologies for branding you a Labour supporter in error.

    An unforgivable mistake!

  27. why did labour loose in 1992?
    my view;
    1 oddly people were ready for change,but kinnock blew it with the shefield rally and stumbling on the beach.
    2 people know that in the end labour put taxes up,conservatives reduce them,as a generalisation.they were not quite ready for taxes,even though polls showed they wanted to pay more for services.the house prices were still depressed and they thought i can not afford any extra cost.this changed in 97′ as house prices had picked up.

    the exact opposite now applies.people can not afford taxes or anything.they need more money.tax reductions are now in their mind.

    where blair and brown blew it people wanted to pay extra taxes to have better services,in their minds.
    taxes have rocketed and people think services have not improved.

    step in cameron,who has a real opportunity to give people more choice and lower tax burden.eg education passports,buying power in health,massive reduction in quangos(jobs for the boys costing us £45bn)
    he should succeed,and labour will be out of power for a very long time.

  28. I’m afraid Cameron will be a massive failure if he does win power – his wishy washy policies and initatives will be exposed as mere headline grabbing ploys. They will be massive cuts in services to compensate tax breaks for the well off, eventually tax increases for all when Cameron and Osborne takes full raines of the economy.

    The good achieved in 11 years will be smashed apart in one Tory term. The last thing this country needs is Cameron – however it would give the country a reminder of how bad things were under the Tories – I think the Cons are benefiting from this at the moment.

  29. Rodger –
    You might well be right about 92 (I’d add red hair and Welshness to the reasons), but
    I don’t see any prospect of cameron reducing Quangos – Cameron’s “Office of Budget Responsibility” sounds like a particularly toothless and expensive prospect to me.

    I’m wondering what the electorate’s appetite is for education and health passports/vouchers. I’m sure it worked against them in 97 and hasn’t re-appeared as policy since.

    By “jobs for the boys”, are you referring to the Bullingdon members who are likely to populate a future Cameron govt, and Non Governmental organisations?

  30. It is a well known fact that when an election is actualy called and active the Liberal Democrats get a lot more publicity through the media and their own publicity in which the public can read their policies .
    At the moment the Conservatives and Labour are mentioned in the media most of the times and the Liberal Democrats now and then apart from Vince Cable input on the present depression/recession.
    If a poll were taken in Liberal Democrat held westmister seats you will find that they are probably holding their own .

  31. The LDs get too much coverage for their size in my opinion.
    And, anyway, not all publicity is good.

    After the next election, the broadcasters should equate coverage more towards the other 2 parties, or a bit more to the fringes, if the results are what look likely (but not certain).

  32. John Hawkesworth

    As the political wheel of fortune continues to turn…..there will be a steady deterioration in Labour’s position. GB should have cut and run in November or even January.

    Well said, John! I have been saying the same for some time.
    We are neither witnessing GB playing a game of brinkmanship nor GB playing mind-games with the electorate. He has simply bottled it.
    As the bewildering incompetence of this Labour regime becomes more and more apparent – just like stripping the layers off a rancid onion – it is still incredible that any part of the electorate still consider Labour worthy of their vote.
    Even the socialist idealists must be hanging their heads in despair as they witness the wanton rape of those ideals by the political opportunists of the Labour front bench.
    I remember when Michael Foot was openly ridiculed for his views and his appearance, however his socialist principles were nonetheless true and sound.
    And for that, at least, he still commanded respect.
    Tony Benn, so often vilified for his extreme left views could never be faulted for his integrity and, as such, is quite rightly a highly respected parliamentarian.
    Brown, on the other hand, is completely lost and inconsequential in their commanding shadows.
    May 2010 cannot come fast enough for us to be rid of this shambolic government and its equally shambolic leader.

  33. Bill Furness: We’ve all heard the line about the Lib Dems holding their own etc., but….

    Take the time to look what happened to the Liberals in the past when the Conservatives gain government. They are not immune from the effects of a Conservative revival.

    Here’s another thought. In bygone days when Liberal MPs were ‘characters’ like Freud or Thorpe there was a certain quirkyness about voting for Liberal MPs – in fact a lot of Conservatives voted for such characters.

    I cannot see the Liberals sustaining themselves during a Tory revival as they did in the past. They are less unique as a party, with fewer distinctive characters, their policies are no longer exceptional and their leadership is struggling.

    Holding their own? We’ll see.

  34. Anthony,

    I know you can’t do maps but on your polling average does the greatly reduced Libdem seat tally indicate that they will retreat not just nationally but back into specific regional strongholds like the South west and Northern Scotland (Yes that’s where I am).

    If that was the case then they would very much run the risk of being seen very much as a regional party who rather than the national force they were post alliance days were more a protest vote where they were seen as “anyone but them” choice.

    Such a post election public perception could well take more than one election to turn around. What they might have to fight is a feeling that for all they wanted to address the national agenda they were seen as a regional party, strong in Local Government but never to be a national one.

    Peter.

  35. to remove a labour leader who does not want to go,it has to happen at their autumn conference with a vote of no confidence.33% unions 33% membership 33% mps,majority.
    it can then take up to a year for the process to complete with a new leader.

    that is why you are not seeing challenges,as with last summer.

    the tories can do it in 3months.

  36. That’s no truer than the last time you posted it.

    Replacing a Labour leader does not take a year. The process can take 3 months or so due to the postal ballot of the electoral college, or could be done in a fortnight were there the willingness amongst the cabinet to unite around a single candidate as was the case with Brown himself, Jack McConnell or, for the Conservatives, Michael Howard.

    Neither should one be blinded by the rule book. There are many ways of ousting a leader that are not the formal channels. For example, if a majority of the cabinet publicly said Brown should step aside, his position would be untenable regardless. Looking at past precedents, Charles Kennedy was ousted by the Lib Dems without formal process, Tony Blair was forced into naming a leaving date without formal process, Margaret Thatcher resigned half way through the normal process not because she had lost, but because she lost the support of her cabinet.

  37. Old Hack,…
    Look at the recent local election results Liberal Democrats are winning seats from both Tory and Labour,people do not trust the present leader of the Conservatives, things have moved on from the days of Thorpe and Freud we now have a generation of voters who have grown up with the three party system and a four party system in Wales and Scotland they now have a bigger choice.
    UKIP and the BNP are the biggest threat to the Conservatives gaining power again as these two parties may take many votes that may have gone their way.
    People trust the Liberal Democrats economic policies due to Vince Cable and Nick Clegg ,as the country slides into a deeper and deeper recession Labour will
    be blamed by even its hardest supporters and could end up with just 26-28% of the national vote.

  38. Bill, can you find any poll where people say they trust Liberal Democrat economic policy?

    (And, one of things I asked about in the user survey here was whether people wanted some analysis of local by-election results. It was one of the most popular things and I’m working on it.)

  39. Anthony,

    Who do you think most people would trust to run the treasury.

    Darling
    Osborne
    or
    Cable.?

  40. Two points:-
    1. I can’t see Brown being replaced before the next election. Brown’s proposals to reduce pension provisions for future MPs is the clearest indication imaginable that Labour are already preparing for after a lost election. if Brown were to go as Labour leader before the election he would presumably have to be replaced by a long-established minister (who? Straw?); but it is already clear that the next generation are already jockeying for position in a, probably very vicious, leadership election after the next general election.
    Perhaps I can allow myself the luxury of commenting that the last thing the UK needs is yet another generation of effectively one party Government as the opposition rebuilds (as in 1931-1945, 1951-1964, 1979-1997, 1997- date). And after bringing the UK to economic crisis for the third time. after 1931 and 1979 (and arguably in 1951 and 1970 too), how many chances are the electors going to give Labour? Also, are the electors really going to go at the election after next for a set of wet behind the ears Labour leaders who became members of a party that had already lost its principles and enjoyed office without being honed in the fires of opposition? If Labour loses, I think the UK needs to, and will, go into new psephological territory as a new opposition emerges to the Tories. I only hope such a future is democratic and humanitarian.
    2. Looking at the matter purely in relation to political prediction, we must remember that historically the Lib Dems have gained some ground during election campaigns. But we must also remember that in recent past elections the Lib Dems have picked up ex-Conservative seats, whereas next time it looks as though they will be going for disaffected Labour areas, which is psephologically a harder task for them. It is quite likely that the Lib dems will have a mixture of gains and loses depending upon circumstances in individual seats. In these circumstances, their national standing in the polls is of only limited relevance.

  41. ” I don’t think Cameron would find any reference to his ideas of regulation helpful.”

    Maybe not john-but he didn’t design our banking regulation , and he didn’t say this :-

    “Our system of principles- and risk-based regulation provides our financial services with a huge competitive advantage and is regarded as the best in the world… when others argue that it is the UK which is making the mistake by allowing an excessively light touch in our regulation – or specifically criticise the regulation of the AIM market – I also disagree… To revert to more heavy-handed, detailed or mechanistic regulation which put process before substance would divert us from proper risk- assessment and stifle innovation.

    We do not intend to fall into that trap………”

    Gordon Brown
    Speech to the City of London Corporation, 25 October 2006

    “….The risk based approach of the future that Britain is now pioneering is founded on a different view of the world – trust in the responsible company, the educated consumer and the informed employee, with then on a risk basis the goal should
    be a fraction of forms, a fraction of information requirements and a fraction of inspections needed. And over time this new model of regulation should not only apply the concept of risk to the enforcement of regulation, but also to the design and indeed to the decision as to whether to regulate at all.”

    Gordon Brown
    Speech to the CBI, 28 November 2006

  42. On the LD position, I’m with Frederic Stansfield. The issue is not how many votes they get overall, but where. It is also important to note that the next GE will be the first time in 30 years that the country expects a new Tory government to replace a retiring Labour one.

    In general terms, the vast majority of current LD seats were won from Conservatives. That was equally true in 1969 and 1978, and in both 1970 and 1979 they saw many of their gains since the last time Conservatives replaced Labour in Government unwound.

    I am not suggesting that the LDs will be reduced back to 6, or even 11, but I do expect that they could lose 15-25 seats to Con at the next election, possibly more.

    On the other hand, they do have the potential to take seats from Labour, especially in Northern urban areas, which could give them 10 or more gains.

    If Labour should fall to mid 20s, and LDs can benefit from anti-Labour tactical voting, they could increase the number of gains from Lab to compensate for their losses to Con, and so achieve 50-60 seats, even with a lower share than in 2005.

    The problem that may well arise for the party after the election is that they have very few experienced MPs, and the profile of seats they represent is markedly different from now. This could cause some major internal tensions for their leadership.

  43. Paul H-J and I are thinking on roughly the same lines. However, a couple of points.

    Firstly, I think that, particularly as the incumbency effect tends to apply particularly to the LibDems, the LDs will not lose as many seats to the Tories as Paul suggests in his pessimistic scenario.

    Secondly, I do think that the LibDems will have a cadre of experienced MPs after the election, For instance, with his profile these days it would be an enormous shock if Vince Cable were defeated, and John Thurso has a personal fief in Caithness and Sutherland. However, there are other issues in that LibDem MPs get experience as backbenchers, but not in office. In addition, how can I put it tactfully, the ability of LibDem MPs can be variable.

    A lot will depend upon how Clegg performs as party leader during the General Election campaign. I do not get any more comfortable with time at the way Clegg won narrowly over Huhne with so many postal ballots ruled out for being late. And I think that if I were Brown or Cameron, or I suspect a senior civil servant worried at being called to account, I would be glad that Clegg is leader rather than Huhne.

    The other big problem for the LibDems after the election is that I think people are going to be asking big questions about political ideology in the UK. There isn’t really time for a new major party to emerge before 2010 to address issues arising from the economic crisis. But, particularly if Labour lose badly, people are going to start looking for something fresh for 2015, as my previous post suggested. The problem for the LIbDems is that whilst they can in the short-term flaunt economic competence, i.e. Vince Cable’s knowledge ability and experience, in the longer term there is no getting away from the fundamental issue that liberal philosophy, taken over by other parties in the UK and abroad, is at the heart of the current mess in the world economy.

  44. Frederick,

    Yes, LD’s have a track record of incumbency, but they also have to contend with the unwinding of significant anti-tory tactical votes that gave them many of their recent gains on above average swings.

    While, as we agree, one cannot simply extrapolate from national poll leevls, it is nonetheless the case that on average, the polls are showing an LD-Con swing of 6-7% since 2005, and there are up 30 LD seats which would fall on that basis.

    Another factor one should consider is that, assuming Brown does not go for a snap poll before June, the last set of elections before the next GE will be the County Councils (which were good for LDs in 2005) and the European elections. There is thus a risk for Clegg that he goes into the next GE with a “poor” set of last results. Whilst this may be more perception than reality, perception, especially of momentum is important, and it could go against the LDs.

    Indeed, LDs best hope is that Brown really does hang on till the final legally permissible date, which means a dissolution immediately after the local elections in May 2010 in which the LDs are likely to do “well”, especially in “Labour” areas.

    In the longer term, there is an opportunity for the LD’s to fashion themselves as the main alternative to Conservatives, but I don’t think Clegg is the right leader to achieve that. Ironically, that is something that Kennedy was probably best placed to do. Would they have the courage to bring him back ?

  45. Paul H-J :

    “..that is something that Kennedy was probably best placed to do. Would they have the courage to bring him back ?”

    Not a chance, the Jo Swinsons are still in the party and will not bring back a leader they knifed in the back will they?

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