Some of the internet got very excited over a LibDemVoice poll earlier this week showing 46% of Lib Dem members don’t want Nick Clegg to stay on as party leader at the next election.

The question itself was rather more nuanced than some of the comment upon it suggested – it gave respondents options of Clegg staying for the election, stepping down just before the the election or stepping down sooner than that (and also separate opinions for stepping down as leader and deputy PM). Most of the 46% of Lib Dem members that wanted Clegg to go were happy for him to stay on for now – 32% of respondents wanted him to step down as party leader at some point, compared to only 14% who wanted him to step down in the next year. It suggests to me that this is more about Lib Dem members thinking Clegg is probably not the leader to get them votes at the next general election, rather than a sign of unhappiness or opposition to him per se.

While I’m here I should write quickly about how representative the polls on LibDemVoice are. Stephen Tall and Mark Pack don’t make huge claims about representativeness and are always quick to stress that they can’t claim they are representative. This is admirable, but is sadly not a carte blanche, as however much the person doing a poll hedges it with caveats and warnings these are rarely picked up by third parties who report a poll and are more interested in making it newsworthy than reporting it well.

That said, I think they are actually pretty worthwhile. They have the huge advantage of being able to actually check respondents against the Liberal Democrat member database so we can be certain that respondents actually are paid up Lib Dem members and not entryists, pissed off former members, other parties supporters causing trouble, etc. LDV also have access to some proper demographic data on the actual membership of the Lib Dem party, so while their sample is unrepresentative in some ways (it’s too male for example), they know this and can test to see if it makes a difference. They have also compared it against some YouGov polling of Lib Dem members which had very similar results, and actual Lib Dem party ballots, which had excellent results in 2008 and rather ropey ones in 2010. Mark Pack has a good defence of them here.

Of course, there are caveats too. The danger for such polls is if they end up getting responses disproportionately from one wing of the party or another, from supporters or opponents of the leadership. I am not a Lib Dem activist so such things may be over my head, but from an outside perspective the LibDemVoice website doesn’t seem to be pushing any particular agenda within the party that might skew the opinions of their readers or which party members take their polls. If reading LDV does influence their opinions though, it could obviously make respondents different to the wider Lib Dem party (for example, here Stephen suggests Nick Harvey’s increase in approval ratings could be the effect of making regular posts on Lib Dem Voice, which would indeed be a skew… but not on a particularly important question!)

I do also worry about whether polls that are essentially recruited through online party-political websites or supporter networks get too many activists and not enough of the armchair members, or less political party members (not an oxymoron, but the type of party member who joins for family or social reasons, because their partner is a member or because they want to contribute to their local community through being a councillor and the party is really just the vehicle).

All that said, while they aren’t perfect and Mark and Stephen never claim they are, I think they are a decent good straw in the wind and worth paying attention to, especially given the verification of whether respondents are party members.


192 Responses to “On that poll of Lib Dem members”

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  1. SOCALLIBERAL

    Thank you for your reply.. I was amused by the comment on your put downs to which no one takes offence because they don’t understand.

    However, understand I may not, but your views on a different political world are refreshing, interesting and sometimes entertaining (if that is possible on a political blog).

  2. @Henry

    In my opinion all English political parties are very centrist (including LDs) imposing their ideas from Westminster. It works for Labour, Tory and Greens but it does not work for me.

    ______________________________

    Well LDs don’t impose their own ideas at all and that is a big part of the problem. If they had imposed a few things instead of letting Tories do all the imposing, then people would be less able to say that they are just Tories in practice.

    Fallon’s too implicated – might be popular with LDs but it’s the electorate you need to convince. Probably need an Ed M-style candidate – less experienced but sufficiently divorced from the abject capitulation of the current crew.

    Same was true of Tories and Cameron in fact.

  3. Amber

    “and decide not to have any?”

    That would certainly be an option. Though simultaneously avoiding “tough decisions” on borrowing or taxes might be a bit of a problem.

    Still, nice to know that you are another conservative advocate of “no change”, These slippery slopes are so dangerous (as is no change).

    It’s a difficult thing, this politics lark! ;-)

  4. CARFREW

    ” LDs don’t impose their own ideas at all ”

    That makes the assumption that those in the leadership who are Orange Bookers didn’t find so much in common with the Tories, that they considered that imposing those ideas on the rest of their party was an opportunity not to be missed.

  5. CarFrew

    ‘Well LDs don’t impose their own ideas at all …’

    Maybe a valid point on the Tories… However they do impose there views on the local parties and it has been very detrimental and as I have said several good MPs lost their seats in the GE and in my view HQ contributed to their demise.

    We don’t have an EM ( and I could never see him as a Liberal) . Unlike you, I feel TF has shown enough independent thought to win round ‘some’ of the electorate which is all he has to do, to save many seats. My preference would be is to move towards a Liberal stance not seen since the alliance, and attacking the other parties for being too centrist and not caring about the individual; the Tories were hot on decentralisation and individual freedom prior GE but there has been little enthusiasm from them since then.

  6. @Amber Star – ” …decide not to have any?

    If they are shown to be making things worse, why not indeed?

    Btw, the name I didn’t recognise on your post about the week’s political highlight – Andrew Burns. I have just visited his “really bad blog”, and thereby been introduced to the world of John Burroughs.

    A highlight for me tonight, investigating further and watching:
    1919 silent film (in prizma colour) “A Day With John Burroughs”.

  7. Henry

    “the Tories were hot on decentralisation”

    Somehow, that phraseology has little resonance outwith England (and quite possibly within it).

    All Westminster parties want to have power concentrated in Westminster (and Whitehall for England only matters, that Westminster still controls).

  8. @ Henry

    Well, Nick Clegg could always save himself by supporting Vince Cable a bit more & David Laws a bit less. Laws is tainted by the expenses scandal, the ex-banker tag & the Tory’s love for him. Nick should let him go… Laws’s career with the LDs is over & allowing him to believe he can come back is just prolonging the agony for him & everybody else.

    Nick Clegg should also explain his attacks on Gordon Brown. He can be unapologetic about the ones which were political; but the ones which were personal, he should apologise for.

    Most of all, Nick Clegg should refuse to budge on the boundary changes. That, more than anything, would show that he is willing to work with Labour after the next election – which polling shows is what his activists & the voters favour.

    Clegg could also stop his opportunistic ‘dinging’ of the Labour Party; he could openly say that he believes he could work with Ed Miliband & Sadiq Khan on the LD’s liberal & constitutional agenda.

    And he could behave with David Cameron like a coalition partner, not a chum, at PMQs etc.

    Such moves would go a long way towards reviving Nick Clegg within his own Party; & his personal recovery would also help revive the LD Party.

    Apart from blocking the boundary changes, which I want him to do because I’m a Labour supporter, the other things would likely take votes away from ‘my’ Party, so from that perspective I’m quite happy for Nick not to change & for him to cling to the leadership like a barnacle (a rather hackneyed but apposite metaphor, I think, given that barnacles are a drag on the ships to which they cling. 8-)

  9. Amber

    The LD’s have a “constitutional agenda”?

  10. @ Old Nat

    That would certainly be an option. Though simultaneously avoiding “tough decisions” on borrowing or taxes might be a bit of a problem.
    ——————————-
    On borrowing, the only ‘tough’ decision is to reclaim the notional interest on the QE from the BoE & use it as income. Except GO will likely do that in 2014 & use it for tax cuts – thereby showing that the cuts themselves were ideological & not entirely necessary.

    The decisions on taxes are pretty much already made. Ed M will have to support Hollande on the financial transaction tax; it’s almost unthinkable that he wouldn’t do so. The tax will be Europe-wide & used to fund a Europe-wide program for youth employment, IMO.

    There will be Europe wide progress on levelling corporation taxes throughout the EU; no more racing to the bottom.

    There will be higher taxes on bonus payments & the 50p rate for £150k income will be introduced unless there is concrete proof that the lower rate does increase total tax income.

    The autonomy of revenue & customs to choose not to pursue certain cases/ taxes/ penalties will also be curtailed; cases will be brought & won given the landmark court decision on ‘aggressive’ avoidance schemes.

    I could go on… but you were making a light-heated response to a relatively jokey comment which I made, so I will stop – you have suffered enough. :-)

  11. @ Billy Bob

    Andrew Burns is a super-nice chap; one of the nicest Councillors you could hope to meet. I have every faith in him to run a successful coalition between Labour & the SNP. I don’t know if they’ll achieve everything which they’d like to because of the current spending constraints but I think there will be a cooperative & collaborative atmosphere & the privatising of services is off the agenda! Savings may need to be found but I have a lot of confidence in the Lab/SNP team to minimise their impact on the bottom ‘tier’ of citizens.

    Andrew is also a bit of a ‘character’ which you’ve already noted from visiting his ‘really bad blog’. :-)

  12. @ Old Nat

    The LD’s have a “constitutional agenda”?
    —————-
    I think they’re in favour of having one; a constitution, I mean. And probably an agenda too, now you mention it. But I was referring to reforming the one which we do[n’t] already have [depending on whether constitutions need to be all tidily documented to exist]. :-)

  13. CARFREW

    I wouldn’t disagree with your analysis – though I’d put most emphasis on their wanting “Experience of government”.

    Contrasting the LD coalition negotiations in Scotland and the UK can be illuminating (and given Danny Alexander’s role probably instructive).

    Scotland 1999 was a no brainer – there was a huge backlog of legislation required in Scotland, and only the Tories were in disagreement with much of it. There were close relations between many senior Lab and LD politicians. Agreeing a common programme (most of which would also have SNP support) was easy.

    Scotland 2003 was much more interesting. The LDs held Labours feet to the fire over electoral reform in council elections – and Labour caved.

    Scotland 2007, and the LDs tried to hold SNP feet to the fire – but the SNP didn’t play the LD game and formed a minority government with the LDs marginalised.

    UK 2010 – The Tories knew perfectly well that they could form a minority government and, while they might not get much legislation through, the real power of government lies outwith the power of Parliament – unless members want to force an election. The LDs knew that a strong biggest party could just tell them to (Shakespearian verb) off.

    Consequently, the LDs went into coalition on a remarkably weak basis – only a referendum on a form of Westminster elections that they didn’t advocate anyway, and what was no more than a promise to look at HoL reform.

    The biggest charge against the LDs is incompetence.

  14. @Henry

    Dunno about Fallon. I’ve seen him turn on a dime and try and justify the u-turns on the manifesto too often. Seen it happen to others who appeared to have their head screwed on before the election e.g. Teather. Saddening to see what happened to them. The worst was Cable… his face when delivering the “We’re like Greece” gambit was a picture of disgust… like he was chewing on a wasp. We knew he didn’t believe it, we knew he knew, and he knew that we knew he was talking cobblers.

    I wasn’t advocating someone like Ed M, just anyone who shares Ed M’s attribute of being sufficiently distant form the carnage.

    I understand your desire for the traditionally liberal stance… the current lot in tying themselves to the Tories have been enabling stuff like the snooping thing, as you note, another change in the Tories since the GE, after giving Labour a hard time about it…

  15. Amber

    You won’t be surprised that I share your views on raising the tax take as you suggest.

    In electoral terms – especially in S England – these are, however, “tough decisions”. One of my biggest criticisms of Brown as CoE was that he relied on taxing the finance industry bubble, and played the Tory game of reducing the income tax take from the electorally mobile population.

    On corporation tax, I hadn’t realised that Germany was planning to remove the variation in Lande corporation tax – got a source for that?

    In a number of countries, there is a variation in corporation tax to “level the playing field” between locations that have greater or lesser advantages. Extreme variations within a single economy like the EU or the USA can have disadvantages, but moderate variations have significant advantages to the whole economy – not least because it avoids excessive concentration of population in areas like the Golden Triangle, with consequent costs.

    Centralist thinking considers it OK for wealth to be centralised, and then to subsidise regions which have been denied that wealth through that centralisation.

    Decentralists look at things rather differently.

  16. @Old Nat

    I’m not certain that corporation tax will be completely levelled but it is going to be part of any fiscal pact between the Eurozone countries; Ed M will sign up to it voluntarily.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16075890

    Above is a quick link; I should really try to find some better ones but I’m too lazy at this time on a Friday.

    I think that Hollande’s team replacing Sarkozy’s will make harmonising CT rates more, rather than less, likely.

    IMO, the Labour Party would sign up to this whereas other UK parties would use being outside the EZ as an excuse not to.

    I hear what you are saying about CT being regionalized but it doesn’t work unless the actual business has to be there. In Ireland, it doesn’t – so it encourages tax avoidance; ironically, many of the companies which tax domiciled there have now moved their tax affairs to even lower tax regions exacerbating the hole in Ireland’s finances. 8-)

  17. I’m referring back to last ST YG to polling about the railways but events have moved on with Virgin’s petition to get the matter of the contract awarding process (one assumes that’s the nub of the argument) debated in the HoC.

    The government’s reaction to this will be interesting & I’m wondering whether the ST will poll for the public’s opinion on this development in the story.

    I would obviously like to see politicians take the opportunity to use parliamentary priviledge & lay bare the commercial information which Virgin expects to be confidential. IMO, those who leverage public support for an issue should expect public scrutiny of all the relevant details.
    8-)

  18. Amber

    It’s now Saturday! But I didn’t expect you to have a link anyway. :-)

    Naturally, those states who like to concentrate their economic activities within a small geographic area might prefer a single rate of corporation (and any other business) tax across the whole EU.

    We aren’t really in disagreement, but economic activity can be encouraged or stimulated by tax regimes. I have no problem with the EU deciding that there should be a maximum level of business tax variation throughout its economic area, but an imposition of a single taxation model in any democratic system I haven’t yet seen.

    This is essentially a political question. Should these decisions be taken simply by the economic managers who reside at the centre of power, and who benefit directly from that, or should the decisions be taken for the benefit of people.

    (Yes, I recognise that exactly the same argument applies within an independent Scotland – though the distribution of wealth generation in Scotland makes that a very different argument.)

  19. CARFREW

    “Well, immediately following the election the LDs were in a strong position in the sense that none of the other main parties could get much through parliament without them.”

    This is, I think, the great myth of politics in all parts of the UK – at least until 2007. Of course you “can’t get much through parliament”, but power doesn’t lie with legislation, but through administrative authority.

    What the SNP minority administration demonstrated was the enormous power of government – even when it doesn’t have a parliamentary majority. All you need to do is to have competent ministers in charge of a competent civil service.

    Given Whitehall’s briefing of the UK government on school playing field sell offs, it may well be that Whitehall is pretty incompetent.

  20. @Oldnat

    Well parliament isn’t all about legislation but also approving budgets etc.

    I agree that much is done administratively, but then again Parliament has been required for a lot of stuff, and a lot of the Tory agenda would have been frustrated without LD support. Clearly the Tories knew they needed it or they needn’t have bothered going into coalition with the Lib-Dems.

    If you just want to run the country well then sure, you can make do with administrative power. But if you want to stack the deck and change the landscape a la Tories, you need a bit more…

  21. @oldnat

    Given Whitehall’s briefing of the UK government on school playing field sell offs, it may well be that Whitehall is pretty incompetent.

    ____________________

    Or to reuse an idea of yours from earlier, maybe it wasn’t entirely an accident?

  22. @ Old Nat

    Here’s the Ernst & Young commentary about proposed tax changes in Germany. IMO, E&Y haven’t done an in depth critique & are pretty much regurgitating the German government’s PR on the subject.

    It does mention that they are in the process of harmonizing tax rates/ regimes with France; & the German government are looking to bring in some hefty anti-avoidance measures which E&Y skate over.

    http://tmagazine.ey.com/insights/staying-ahead-planned-improvements-germanys-corporate-tax-legislation/

    I’ll post some more in depth analysis when I manage to lay eyes on it. My ‘authority’ is the controllers & tax experts with whom I work so finding articles on the web which cover the issues I’ve raised – & which are in English – is a wee bit tricky.
    8-)

  23. Amber Star

    Thank you for your advice on saving NC. As you know, I like Nick Clegg, but I believe he is doomed and will be sacrified possibly at dawn, for the sake of the Party.

    However it is no good the Party trying to be a second centre left (or second centre right) party. It needs to return to being the good old Liberals; firstly the Liberals were very quirky, and I always enjoyed being a member (possibly because I am very quirky and felt at home), secondly it would fill a void by being a Party that stands for individual liberty and decentralisation.

    It would help Labour as it would attract less from the left and more from all the other Parties. It could not take back the title of Liberal Party, that position is already taken; the Party in question is not unfortunately Liberal or I would have joined it years ago. Its leader if selected by me alone would be Nick Harvey, purely because I like him best, although I expect he would turn down the opportunity.

    Being realistic, I accept that the Party could be led by Tim Farron; I think there will be somewhat of an economic recovery and he will admit mistakes that NC made, while indicating that he was opposed to most.

  24. Carfrew

    You have made a number of recent interesting contributions.

    I do not personally agree with your assessment of the Tories ‘trash the economy for their own ends’ and lets face it the economy had been well and truly trashed before the Tories arrived on the scene, and ‘stacking the deck is what both parties were most concerned with, rather than the state of the nation’.

    While I am sure that most Labour MPs would agree with your criticism of many (but not all) of the policies of the Coalition Parties, they would never agree that these were implemented for the reasons you state. I only know a couple of LMPs so if there are any Labour MPs on this blog please correct me if I am wrong.

  25. Amber Star
    ‘I would obviously like to see politicians take the opportunity to use parliamentary priviledge & lay bare the commercial information which Virgin expects to be confidential. IMO, those who leverage public support for an issue should expect public scrutiny of all the relevant details.’

    Absolutely – is there a petition I can sign supporting the end of Virgin on this line. I have used their trains frequently unfortunately as they are much less comfortable than most other trains (you get squeezed), but mostly they have 4 first class (with a maximum of two people in each carriage) and 4 carriages for the rest, often standing room only. In addition the last time I travelled with them and bought a coffee paying £10 they gave me change for 5 and I foolishly did not check until later. When I wrote suggesting that they corrected their error by givng a fiver to charity, they kept responding saying they could not send me a refund unless they had my home address; why don’t they read the complaints?

  26. @ Old Nat

    “Of course, there was a city council Republican primary election in North Carolina where IIRC the turnout was less than 1% – that would be hard to beat!”

    Really? I hadn’t heard of that. Where was that? The only place I’ve seen turnout for primaries in single digits was in Virginia.

  27. @Henry

    I think there will be somewhat of an economic recovery

    _________________________________

    WIth cuts pencilled in for years along with a lack of investment and our trading partners in the doldrums, there’s little to stoke a recovery.

    There is much talk of the effect of the economy on VI when Brits don’t care overmuch about the economy anyway. Other things often matter more. Economy was screwed after the war but they voted for a party to spend still more and build the welfare state. Was the economy the issue when Labour got back in again in ’64, or was it Profumo and the Eton thing? In ’78 Labour were doing fine in the Polls… it was the lack of rubbish collections and burials that did for them the following year. Brits often worry about SERVICES rather than the economy per se. An issue after the war and indeed in ’97.

    Thatcher? Appalling economy in the first term… Labour doing good in the polls… Falklands war changed the game. ’92… Poor economy for the Tories again, but still got re-elected. Economy much better in’97… kicked out!!

    Despite the worst financial crash in living memory Labour only did 7 points worse than the Tories this time around and Tores couldn’t even get a majority. It wasn’t the economy that caused the sudden slump in the Tory polling this year, but the unfairness and incompetence of the budget. LD VI got hammered even before the economy slumped, based on being basically pants in bending over for the Tories and allowing the hammering of services – Tuition fees etc.

    Over in America, it’s more a case of the “Economy stupid”, partly because they have to pay for more of their own services directly. Tories are racing at breakneck speed to turn us into a mini-US of course, which is a bit carp as there is already a US already and their model doesn’t work all that well. But they have a huge internal market and continent of resources to bail them out. We don’t. Even when we had the Empire, things didn’t tend to work out so great for a lot of people, which is why we built the welfare state etc. in the first place.

    And it’s why the old Liberals did the welfare state thing because individual liberty is meaningless if you don’t have enough to live a decent life. The way things are going most people will be worrying more about paying for medical treatment and getting Johnny to College or putting food ln the table than whether planning regs are “decentralised” or not.

  28. Carfrew
    Your comments do point to failed Government whether red or blue, and the need for a strong third party, perhaps looking for solutions that the main parties refuse to consider.

    However, I do not accept that people today face the hardship of the past. My father used to tell me what it was like in the 20s. He was 14 and unemployed; he offered to work for free to earn a trade but still could not get a job. The current situation is not like that; there are more opportunities for the young, and much more is provided for those who need help.

    However, IMO the suggestion that liberty, democracy and individual freedom are less important in tough times in a dangerous path to tread, and one I would not follow.

  29. Alec
    ‘So while the report doesn’t specifically mention the UK…’

    A very interesting article and a good post. Although it would be fair to say it excluded the UK in its review (rather than not specifically mentioning it).

    However, the recalculation of GDP and the fact that unemployment is falling, provides reason for a little optimism. What is particularly worrying is our failure to close the trade gap by sufficient increase in exports. Both exports and internal trade help with jobs, although the former is preferred as it helps us to balance our books, and pay our way in the world.

  30. Good morning Henry. Your experiences of unnecessary overcrowding on Virgin Trains mirror mine.

  31. @Henry – “However, the recalculation of GDP and the fact that unemployment is falling, provides reason for a little optimism. What is particularly worrying is our failure to close the trade gap by sufficient increase in exports.”

    I see no cause for optimism. The recalculation of GDP still leaves us with a 0.5% quarterly fall – this remains a disaster. The unemployment figures are falling, but as I’ve said ad nauseum on here, productivity has fallen by 0.7% overall and by a huge 2.5% in the industrial sector. The better employment data won’t last.

    The slump in exports is indeed worrying, but was entirely predictable, and indeed predicted by me. It’s why I coined the phrase ‘coordinated austerity’. The entire conception of this plan, backed originally by the IMF, was clearly going to lead to the situation where countries cutting their domestic markets had to rely on exports, to other countries also cutting their own domestic markets.

    An ill conceived strategy, initiated by an ideological and inexperienced chancellor, backed by a coalition partner who told us it would be a disaster in opposition but who once in power put narrow political interest ahead of the economic well being of the nation.

  32. @Phil @Henry

    My experiences of Virgin West Coast have been largely positive. Good modern trains, fast and largely on time. The other lines I’ve experienced have either been much slower (Chiltern/London Midland), or have had ancient rolling stock (FGW, East Midlands, Greater Anglia all running 125s).

    However, regardless of our opinions of the actual service, from an opinion poll position:
    * is the government wise to take on one of the UKs strongest private brands (Virgin)?
    * how will the resulting noise impact overall voting intentions?

    The fact that the petition went from 0 to 111000 in under a week suggests that they’ve ended up with a dangerous enemy!

  33. OLDNAT

    @”All Westminster parties want to have power concentrated in Westminster”

    “……Mr Bell was among 22 Independents elected to the council this year. The SNP was the only political party to field candidates in May’s elections. It’s reward was 184 votes of the 9626 cast.
    Ironically it is this spirit which potentially puts Shetland at odds with Alex Salmond’s administration in Edinburgh. Mr Bell. the former local police chief is concerned by recent centralisation of police & fire services in Scotland. Others are worried about potential reform of education & health boards.

    It is a theme taken up by Mr Scott. ” This debate would not be so important in Shetland , were it not for five years of nationalist government, which had a remorseless centralising theme” he said.

    ” They are a command-and-control government” ”

    From “Islanders threaten display of own independent spirit”
    The Times
    25 Aug. 2012

    :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  34. Carfrew – read the comments policy please. People offering their opinions of the nefarious motives of parties which with they disagree is rarely if ever non-partisan.

  35. CARFREW

    @”it was the lack of rubbish collections and burials that did for them the following year.”

    Ohhh…I really think you missed one or two things there.

    One or two really BIG things.

    I recommend:-

    SEASONS IN THE SUN.
    The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979.
    Dominic Sandbrook.

    I particularly refer you to Part 1-chapters 1 to 8

  36. I’ve been reflecting on the rumbling GCSE row and it has reminded me of how often in politics that the issues that obsess us politicos are rarely those that feature on the radar of the ordinary voter. That’s why being involved in active politics can be such a reality check because I defy anyone who has knocked doors or had countless doorstep conversations to be anything other than both chastened and educated by the experience. So while we discuss boundary changes, the number of MPs, HOL reform, exogenous growth theories, credit agency ratings, the colour of Nick Clegg’s ties and the like, most voters walk on by. I’m not saying that some of these issues aren’t interesting, or important, but that they just don’t resonate.

    That’s why a lot of professional politicians get surprised when they suddenly get bitten on the backside by something that really exercises the voters minds. Quite often these issues come out of the blue, other times they should have been seen coming by any grounded politician but aren’t. Petrol prices, exam results, food prices, rail fares, pensions, benefit changes, access to health, house prices, care fees; these are the issues that move votes and, in my opinion (don’t you have to say honest here? lol), that’s why Osborne’s budget in March was so calamitous politically.

    Of course, perception of general competence is important too, and the likeability of leading political figures, but I can see this recent GCSE row being very damaging for the Government. It hits right on a political G Spot for voters.

    Clever and successful politicians all detect G Spot issues. Chris Lane’s old friend Mr Blair was very good at this.

  37. Anthony – just to reassure – I am not partisan. I don’t support any party and have never even voted in a GE.

    I’m a little baffled about not being able to discuss motives since the motives of parties is rather critical to discussions of voting intention since parties do quite a lot to affect said intention.

    E.g. when people discuss tax cuts before an election etc.
    Or using polls to influence opinion
    Or trying to associate themselves with the Olympics etc.

  38. @crossbat11 – “… the rumbling GCSE row”

    Worth listening again to the exchanges between Baroness Perry and Charles Clarke on Today this morning (8.30am), to see how this could develope – the mild mannered Evan Davis was somewhat taken aback!

    Charles Clarke was never an easy cabinet colleague, but he seems to be directing his ire at non-Labour politicians for a change. ;)

  39. Looking foolish or weak normally does for UK Governments.

  40. Phil and The Sheep
    I have just been reading the New Statesman who compared the two companies which included:

    ‘Virgin Trains: 266 complaints per 100,000 passenger journeys in 2011, 53 per cent responded to within 20 working days. One per cent of contacts were praise.’

    ‘First Great Western: 86 complaints per 100,000 passenger journeys in 2011, 100 per cent responded to within 20 working days. Five per cent of contacts were praise.’

    So it appears Phil and my experiences are shared by many others. Virgin is even worse that I realised. Though it is good to know it is not just me who suffered.

    The petition therefore is very disturbing and raises many questions. I do not believe that all these people had such a good regular service that they rushed to sign a petition. I wonder how many have even travelled the line.

    ‘a dangerous enemy’ indeed but one that in the public interest the government should not buckle to.

  41. @Henry

    Facebook: First Great Western 3,798 likes. Virgin Trains 61,828 likes.

    Punctuality last 4 weeks: FGW High speed 86.3, VT all routes 92.3

    Choosing different statistics gives very different results.

    My point is only that taking on Virgin (regardless of the underlying merits) may be challenging, and will need a sure pair of hands to avoid adding to the omnishambles. Personally my money would be on Branson having better media skills.

  42. Henry:

    I never believe people who claim to be “quirky”.

    Have you any examples?

  43. ….. apart from liking Nick Clegg that is.

  44. Carfrew –

    Short version is that it isn’t a venue for discussing your views of parties policies, competence, etc. The site is about public opinion in the aggregate, not each others opinion. E.g. “I think the government’s budget was incompetent and unfair” is out, “I think the government’s support was really damaged by the budget that the polls show people thought was unfair and the perceptions of incompetence at the time” is fine.

    Party X are doing Y for reason Z never leads to anything other than partisan nonsense as it is complete untestable, and is just people’s prejudices towards each party.

  45. AW
    Do you think/know if YouGov will be asking on the GCSE issue? (Apologies if it’s already been polled).

  46. @Carfrew – “I’m a little baffled about not being able to discuss motives since the motives of parties is rather critical to discussions of voting intention……”

    For myself, I take as my starting assumption the view that all parties are motivated to try and make this country a better place. What they mean by ‘better’ and how they seek to achieve this is where the debate starts.

    I was a little disconcerted by your apparent implication that the Tories motive is to trash the place – you were highly partisan and I always feel it is dishonourable to assign negative motives to political parties.

  47. Good Late Morning All, sunshine here.

    CROSSBAT 11.

    From TB. Hi. Y’know: things can be better. Look at my record.

    LOL, smiling face. Now is not the time for soundbites, but we feel the hand of History on our shoulders. (1998, GF Agreement)

  48. @Crossbat – I too agree that the exam results issue/scandal* [*delete as appropriate] is potentially a significant touchstone issue.

    There was a comment piece in yesterdays Telegraph from someone saying to the effect that as there had been no reaction to the first fall in pass rates for 20 years, Gove is on the right lines in trying to tackle grade inflation. Reading this mornings press, with legal action from academy consortia and a howling backlash from many formerly supportive headteachers and parents, I think the author is misguided and Gove could be in some trouble.

    I posted previously that while I generally support the idea that exams have become easier and grade inflation needs to be addressed, the actions taken actually give me less confidence in the exam system rather than more.

    We don’t know if the instructions came from Gove, his department, the regulator Ofqual or the exam boards themselves, but clearly this was a political decision. I just don’t accept that examination policy should be based on political expediency, with changes made mid stream to suite the prevailing political weather. Gove has managed the remarkable feat of degrading confidence in the system even further.

    If this ends in court, the implications could yet be very messy and embroil the government in another competence issue, and on a subject that you rightly point out is a touchstone issue for many voters.

  49. Alec:

    Absolutely agree.

    Such a motive would be bizarre. To suggest it as remotely plausible equally so although it does make imagined discussions rather amusing.

    I’m not a fan of George Osborne but it is inconceivable to me that he doesn’t believe what he is aiming for would be beneficial to the country.

  50. @ Henry

    You can clock me as another UKPR anti Virgin. I have to use the service regularly and although I doubt First will be any better I can’t honestly see any reason to sign a petition as I think they deserve to lose the franchise given all the grief I have had over the years.

    As Amber says the details of the Virgin bid seem to have been kept secret so we have no way of comparing but certainly First were offering more than the current franchise (extra seats by removing the shop and reduction in the peak travel fares by 15%).

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