Conference catch up

Want to get some nice publicity around conference season? Commission a poll! Quite a few little bits and pieces over the last couple of days, so I thought I’d catch up with some.

Firstly YouGov for Left Foot Forward asked about replacing Trident. 23% thought it should be replaced by an equivalent system, 40% thought a cheaper, less powerful system would suffice. 23% wanted to give up nuclear weapons completely. 32% of people still think that nuclear weapons make Britain safer, 21% think they make us less safe.

Secondly, Newsnight have a poll by ORB for the Conference season. They’ve got Barack Obama’s pollster Cornell Belcher (or at least, he’s one of several pollsters who worked on the campaign. Joel Benenson looks like he was actually the Chief pollster for Obama, but I guess Newsnight want to make the most of their chap) talking about polls during the conference season, so there’s some rather Obama themed quesions.

Asked which British politician is most like Obama, David Cameron leads with 18%, Gordon Brown on 11%, Tony Blair 7%, Vince Cable 6% and Clegg 3%. Being seen as similar to Barack Obama is, I should point out, still a good thing in the UK, if slightly less so across the Atlantic. Here 87% of respondents had a positive impression of him, only 9% a negative one (4% of people had never heard of Barack Obama…)

They also asked the classic US pollster question of “generally speaking, do you think things in Britain are moving in the right direction or are they pretty seriously off on the wrong track?” You’d expect the options to be right track/wrong track, or right direction/wrong direction wouldn’t you? But nope, they are mismatched. I think it’s just part of US polling culture now, so it doesn’t change. For the record, 30% thought things were on the right track, 67% pretty seriously off on the wrong direction.

Finally for now, ComRes have carried out a poll of 346 Lib Dem councillors for the Daily Politics. Asked what the party should do in the event of a hung Parliament where the party held the balance of power, 31% of Lib Dem councillors said they should back Labour, with only 16% saying they should back the Conservatives.

The assumption – probably not a bad one given they are largely the same people – is that this is probably roughly in line with the opinion of Lib Dem activists and members. It contrasts with the opinion of Lib Dem voters – on YouGov’s regular forced choice questions asking whether voters, if they had to choose, would prefer a Conservative or Labour government, the Conservatives are now normally their choice.

While it’s a interesting contrast, in terms of actual coalition or pact deals it probably doesn’t matter that much. Any form of hung Parliament looks unlikely with the present polls, and in the majority of hung Parliament situations only one party will realistically be able to form a government. The Lib Dems are not likely to actually end up in a situation where they are forced to choose.

21 Responses to “Conference catch up”

  1. The gap between LibDem voters and the party’s actual views is often stark. You only have to think of the anti-European views of the voters in the SouthWest, or the anti-Assembly views of the voters of the Welsh borders. It almost makes you wonder if some people vote LibDem just to be awkward…

  2. Or some people want a socially liberal party and Lib Dems are the best they can get.

  3. Something weird has happened to the LibDems.

    They are attacking Cons on all fronts-personal stuff too.
    Clegg calling Cameron a “con-man”
    To hear St. Vince descend to the Bullingdon level was a shock.

    And the Mansion Tax seems to have been rushed out without consultation, or consideration of how it would work, leaving St. Vince with a slipped halo.

    I can’t decide whether they have been spooked at their poor polling figures, or suddenly decided Labour is dead & they will be the official opposition.

    Either way the sudden lurch to Toff Bashing , Sting The Rich rhetoric doesn’t seem to fit. ??

  4. Perhaps they’re cleverer than we think. Only one big party will lose masses of votes in the next election. Perhaps the Libdems are positioning themselves to pick up those votes by opposing the other big party?

  5. I think, unlike at the 2005 election, there is no defining stance on something important that caused lots of Labour voters to swing towards them. This time around it seems the Labour voters are staying at home or thinking about voting Conservative. Perhaps the mansion tax might get them interested on polling day, but I think there’s got to be more than that on offer.

  6. In the past The Libdems have “Targetted Acendency” on the basis that you will pick up votes from the party that is falling with people leave them, but you need to fight for the votes of the one that is climbing.

    The Scottish LibDem story about the conference is a split over whether to support and Independence referendum, but behind the split is a debate about which policy is best to hurt the SNP, the party that is currently doing best in Scotland.


  7. They have the same problem in England and Wales.

  8. Colin,

    I think the purpose behind the attacks on the Tories is to gain the vote of disaffected Labour supporters.

    A decent swing from Labour to the Lib Dems in some seats could be the critical difference where the votes last time were almost equally divided among the three.

    For example, Watford, the Lib Dems 7th target seat polled in 2005 GE Con 29.6, Lab 33.6, Lib Dems 31.2

    It seems to me that, while about one third of former Labour voters have decided they will not vote Labour this time, many may vote tactically for the Lib Dems in order to minimise a Tory landslide. By the Lib Dems attacking the Tories they will be encourging disaffected Labour supporters to do just that.

  9. Philip,

    If you look at the Populus Sept. poll details they have a breakdown of how people might vote tactically.

    Anthony is doing a thread on the whole thing tomorrow.


  10. There was a very interesting poll done by Politicshome published on the 18th September which asked the question,”If there was a serious chance in your constituency of the Lib Dems winning would you vote for them this time.”

    23% of LABOUR voters answer yes, definately and 20% of LABOUR voters answered yes, probably. Only 7% of Cons definately yes and 12% yes, probably.

    Also significantly 26% of the non-aligned answered yes, definately, and 24% yes, probably.

    Regarding the Cons support we saw in that in response to expenses scandal 39% remained solid for months. They have safely banked 39/40% of voters supporters and there is nothing the Lib Dems can do to win over any of these votes.

    A further 30% of voters are unreachable for the Lib Dems. For collectively this the minimum that Labour and the other parties can be expected to achieve.

    This leaves 30% of voters that the Lib Dems have a chance of reaching. (In the early years of the Iraq war the Lib Dems achieved low 30s scores on several occasions).

    I’m not saying that I’m expecting the Lib Dems to gain 30% at the GE, but simply that this is their target area. Most of this area belong to former Lib Dems voters and Labour voters. Very few are likely to be passed Tory voters.

  11. And it’s worse for them.
    If you ask the reverse – do you think Labour, or Conservative can win here (and – as in some other sorts of elections – Greens, UKIP etc).

    Voters would wander off from the Lib Dems that way aswell.

  12. Cllr Peter Cairn (SNP)

    Thank you for your comment regarding the Populus poll.

    I hope to look at what has to say about tactical voting another hour and perhaps make a comment about it.

    I look forward to Anthony’s thread on the subject.

  13. “Asked which British politician is most like Obama, David Cameron leads with 18%, Gordon Brown on 11%, Tony Blair 7%, Vince Cable 6% and Clegg 3%”

    Must be a typical example of British humor (my favourite, actually :)))

  14. Philip,

    I don’t know if you saw it but there was an interesting piece on PB a few weeks back that was looking at using figures for the numbers of voters switching or prepared to vote tactically as an indicator for a seat projector that would be potentially more accurate than Uniform swing.

    The Populus figures look like the kind of thing you would need to have to try to do that although to get enough data to look at regional trends you would need a lot more pollsters to do it.

    I know that the pollsters all have their own methodologies and compete with each other but I’d love to have a Campaign that asked all the BPC members to adopt the same regional breaks, the most useful probably being the EU election regions.

    That does mean 12 regions but it has the advantage of having Scotland Wales and NI as seperate entities. Even if the headlines didn’t publish these results the could still be made available.

    Ideally the BPC should try to create some collective Archive of results that after a period of time (after a Parliament) could be available for academic research.


  15. What the Libdems are doing just now looks like some crazy dismantling of their party’s electoral prospects – in reality they are seeing that it is just over 6 months until the general election, putting all their chips on the table and playing their hand.

    Their current lurch to the left is notable for a number of things. Vince Cable jettisoned his image as an economic sage (and a dozen or so seats in the south of England) with his Dennis Callaghan impression. Nick Clegg tried to temper it with a bit of common sense about public spending cuts and his party promptly hit the roof – the basic strategy the Libdems are pursuing is obvious – forget about trying to hold seats in the SW against the Conservatives and go all out to make as many gains as possible from Labour further North.

    Obviously it is a high risk strategy. The party is rapidly returning to where it was politically when Charles Kennedy was in charge, and he was their most successful leader. Unfortunately for them the hand they have been dealt for the coming election is visibly poorer than that which they held in 2005. The fallout from Iraq naturally meant that a more left-leaning party would do better, and Labour supporters had the luxury of a protest vote, which droves of them made use of.

    This time round they don’t have an issue like that to drag in the student and socialist vote from Labour – they are facing a weak Labour party and strong Conservatives – making the anti-Tory stance seem counter-intuitive. It will be interesting to see how it pans out, and I suppose we will come to know over the next few weeks. My guess is that it will reduce the Libdems polling %age slightly in the medium term (i.e. between now and December) but may not damage them too badly in terms of seats.

    It all depends on whether they can make enough gains from Labour to balance the losses to the Conservatives – before this policy shift it looked like the Libdems would sustain a net loss of perhaps a dozen or so seats – I suspect that they are now looking at a loss closer to 20 seats, but only time will tell.

    Sorry for the essay.

  16. In terms of Lib Dem coalition talk, I think mike smithson of political betting has made a very good point. That is the only way we are going to get a hung parliament and Libs holding balance of power is if the Conservative lead over Labour is in the region of 2-7 pts. It would seem democratically impossible for the Lib Dems to then prop up a government of the party that got considerably fewer votes.

    As far as their attacks on the Cons go I iamgine they are just looking forward to the election. This can only be round 1 of their 2 step plan. Round 2 will be attcks on Labour, but they’ve got plenty of time in which to make that move.

  17. Stephen,

    ” Round 2 will be attacks on Labour, but they’ve got plenty of time in which to make that move.”

    I am not sure I’d agree with that. This is the time you want to show a united front and lay down your key campaign messages. Modern elections are about setting out your stall six months out and then pushing a united line with a united party.

    That’s why the tories have been pushing so hard to force Labour on cuts, they think it’s where they can win and they want the election to be about it. Set the tempo and make the enemy fight on your ground in your way.

    By having such a muddled conference and sending out mixed messages and particularly signs of division the LibDems seem to have missed an opportunity to set out their stall.

    I am not sure if attacking the Tories now and switching to attack Labour later won’t look like they are confused or muddled, being neither one thing or the other.

    People want to know and like to know what they are voting for and I am not sure the Libdems have done that this week. For them the danger is that a war on two fronts could turn a mixed message into a muddled one.

    Some of the signs are not good with vox pop from the conference saying that MP’s and delegates are confused about the message and direction.

    Sorry if that seems a bit like partisan party bashing but you are free to take it as my view or a party attack on the Libdems. it’s not as if you can’t tell who I support.


  18. I agree with Peter. If the Libdems are indeed following a 2 step strategy then it is misjudged. This week is the one week of the year when they get undivided publicity – and it is the last such occasion for them before a General Election – this week is when they had to play their hand, and any change of message later will look like indecisiveness at best and could easily be interpreted as infighting.

  19. Peter and Neil,
    I have to agree that there is a significant chance that you are right. For the Lib Dems there is a great chance of just appearing incoherent and to be honest this is one of the main reasons why I have never considered supporting them.

    However, I believe that considering where they stand this is about all they can do. They have to at least try to differentiate themselves strongly from the conservatives otherwise a) They will get slaughtered in many of their marginals (Lib vs Con)
    b) There is a risk that even if they manage to drive people away from Labour they will just switch over to the Cons, the natural alternative.
    So basically they have no choice. This is not to say that this will be effective though.

    I think 6 months is long enough to make some difference. If they keep up the attacks alternating between the two.

    I think a lot of people still aren’t sure who they are going to vote for. A lot of people who may have voted green or Socialist or Christian party or whatever at the EU elections, or just not voted for example. People who might start to wake up and think, oh a general election’s coming, who the hell am I actually going to vote for as they may despair at the thought of Labour but still not quite be willing to swap to the Conservatives. I carry no brief for the Libs. I am a Conservative supporter, but I am aware that there is a significant number of people who still are not leaping in the conservative direction with open arms (as the polls show).

    It’s obviously not going to push the Libs into government but it might just be enough to gain the few percent of the vote they need not to be wiped out, which is I think all they can reasonably hope for.
    If they manage to mantain their number of MPs at the next election they will have done very well in my opinion.

    Also Peter, I have to agree. No one can claim not to be able to tell who you support.

  20. If the Lib Dems were going to push Labour into second place, they’d have done it already in the polls by now… It’s been demonstrated twice or thrice before that under right leadership, the Libs can muster 25% of the vote, or even 27% (as in the days of the Alliance)… since Kennedy went, they’ve kissed their greatest chance for a comeback after a century goodbye.
    Neither Clegg nor Campbell have the charisma of Kennedy; they simply have neither the “staff”, nor the ability to pick them for the right posts, so I think in the long term, the Lib Dems are in trouble.

    They are more likely to lose seats than gain any from Labour’s demise, because they are seen as more like Labour than the Tories.

    I don’t think the Tories need or want them in a coalition… they’ll be teaming up with the unionists if anything.
    What could Cameron possibly do with Clegg in a Lib-Con coalition?! Especially when it’s so conspicuous that Clegg is upstaged by members of his own team! He can’t make him Foreign Secretary, because he would spout about Britain’s wars & trident; he can’t make him Home secretary, because it would turn into a constant policy war, with the Libs trying to claim credit for every good idea; and he can’t make him chancellor, because Cable’s more obviously qualified and rated. Clegg himself is the barrier to a Lib-Con coalition.

    I think the Libs will erode their own support as much as any of the other two if they persist in bickering attacks for the next 6 months… they are as much implicated (or perceived to be) in parliamentary corruption.

    I think their best option is to ditch Clegg as leader for Cable, and do a massive mea culpa purging of themselves – ignoring the other parties – and making themselves look as clean and transparent and different in style and behaviour from the other two.. emitting a full on love bomb on the public …I think the chances of them doing that are pretty remote; hence I think they’ll diminish with the other two eventually to about the 10-15% range, once Labour does it’s post defeat split.

  21. My Granddaughter (7) has heard of Obama, but didn’t know about Gordon Brown or Alex Salmond.

    She hadn’t heard of Fiona Hyslop either, but she knew that the Scottish Government wanted to reduce P1 class sizes to 17 (actually 18) and were on the way at 25 and would get there sometime later.

    I’ve met Fiona Hyslop and a bright and determined no-nonsense mother of two young kids she is. A generation ago she would have found her role as the Matron of a large teaching hospital whom nobody would attempt to obstruct. Terrifying.