Yesterday we had a selection of ICM polls in Liberal Democrat seats, initially released anonymously but eventually confirmed as having been commissioned by Lord Oakeshott. Oakeshott has now resigned, but left saying that Cable knew about the polls. The political row rolls on, but I’m just going to look at the polls.

Lord Oakeshott commissioned 6 constituency polls. The first was in Twickenham, and only asked about current voting intention. The other five were in Sheffield Hallam, Redcar, Wells, Cambridge and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey and also asked about voting intention with alternate leaders. The tables are here, here and here.

All six showed the Lib Dems losing (to the Conservatives, Labour or SNP respectively). However, I’m always slightly wary of constituency polls in Liberal Democrat held seats – the effect of incumbency and tactical voting is far higher for Lib Dem MPs, and when you ask a generic voting intention I think many people give their national preference, rather than how they would actually vote in their own constituency. In most seats this is only a marginal difference – in Lib Dem held seats it can be substantial, as repeatedly shown in polls of Lib Dem marginal seats using a two-stage national-then-constituency voting intention questions (see here by Lord Ashcroft, and here by YouGov). It’s also worth noting that ICM didn’t do their usual reallocation of don’t knows according to the party they voted for the last election, and given there are a lot of past Lib Dems now saying don’t know that makes a difference. ICM specifically provided the data necessary to do the calculation ourselves in their tables, and with normal reallocation the Lib Dems would have been ahead in Twickenham and only one point behind in Sheffield Hallam.

The second part of Oakeshott’s polling was to ask how people in those seats would vote with different party leaders, which in these seats suggested they would do better with Vince Cable as leader. This is in contrast to a YouGov poll in the Times today which asked a nationwide sample how people would vote with Vince Cable as leader – in YouGov’s control question asking how people would vote with the existing party leaders the Lib Dems were on 8%, if the leaders were Cameron, Miliband and Cable the Lib Dems would still be on 8%. No change.

That aside, how would you vote if X was leader are incredibly crude tools. When a would-be leader is little known to the public they are as good as useless. Even when the would-be leader is relatively well known to the public, like Gordon Brown was pre-2007 or Vince Cable is now, they are of dubious use.

Essentially, an ordinary poll respondent who doesn’t closely follow politics might know what the would-be leader looks and sounds like, might have a pre-existing positive or negative view, they might have a vague perception of competence or incompetence. What they don’t know is what policies that new leader would announce, what direction they’d take the party, how the media would react to them and so on.

If the Liberal Democrats change leader it probably won’t be the personality and image of the new leader that makes the difference… it will be everything else that comes with it. Would it mean them leaving the coalition? Would it mean them repudiating the coalition and their role in it? Would it mean them opposing some of the policies they supported until now? And what would be the impact of that – would it win back supporters they’ve lost, or risk alienating their pro-coalition supporters too? While the departure of Nick Clegg may be a requirement for a change of direction, the big strategic question for the Lib Dems is really what attitude they take to their record in government – not which politician is voicing it.


381 Responses to “On those Lib Dem constituency polls”

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  1. @Tony Dean

    However, upon deeper reflection I would have spent the last 36 years prior to 2010 more usefully by campaigning for reform within the Labour movement, rather than trying to build up an alternative Left to replace it..

    Luke 15:7

  2. @Tony Dean: “. I really believed the LDs were tougher about being a party of the Left, even if in a coalition with the Tories I thought they would demand much more, not get it, and bring the Tories down at a worst possible moment for them, rather than become Tory-lite FDP clones.”

    Well, yes indeed. The question for me is: is there still a core of the party we believed in, ready to be revived under new leadership, to provide the sort of party Roland is looking for? Left of centre, socially liberal, international in outlook and focused on maximising the opportunities and potential for the individual, as opposed to the collectivism at least theoretically espoused by Labou?Or has it all been irretrievably lost?

  3. Ann in W
    I bow to no one in my contempt for Shirley Williams, however calling her a Mare is just abuse. Far better to point up her many political faults.

    I remember an edition of ‘Any Questions’ just after the 2010 election when SW was attempting to criticise Coalition Govt policy, even though she was leader of the LDs in the Lords. Cake and eating it! Penny and Bun ! Having it both ways!
    The LDs are the Shrodinger’s Cat of British politics.

  4. The two main problems the the LDs have had are caused by attacking Labour, mainly from the left for 13 years [something they were quite entitled to do] but then, not just supporting a Conservative/”coalition” Governement but compounding it by sniping at Labour from the right.

    The other mistake I feel was that in becoming Deputy PM tied himself in totally with DC and by extension the Tory party.

    It would have made more sense to have taken a government position and kept their position vis-à-vis the other two parties, politically at least, as neutral as possible.

  5. The two main problems the the LDs have had are caused by attacking Labour, mainly from the left for 13 years [something they were quite entitled to do] but then, not just supporting a Conservative/”coalition” Governement but compounding it by sniping at Labour from the right.

    The other mistake I feel was that in becoming Deputy PM tied himself in totally with DC and by extension the Tory party.

    It would have made more sense to have taken a government position and kept their position vis-à-vis the other two parties, politically at least, as neutral as possible.

  6. Well, that’s the equaliser. I’ll still talk to you paupers though, when my winnings are delivered.

  7. @RosieandDaisie

    I would agree with you on that. Entering coalition can look opportunistic to British voters who aren’t accustomed to it. Maybe we’ll get a bit more used to it if we have another few hung parliaments.

  8. @Sun_Politics: YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Labour lead up two to four points: CON 32%, LAB 36%, LD 9%, UKIP 14%

  9. Ewen
    Couldn’t agree more.

  10. @Oldnat

    I think the Nigerian team had a few grand on a draw.

  11. @ JohnKay

    “Or has it all been irretrievably lost?”

    It has John, it has. The Labour party is not as collectivist as it was in its heyday of the late 40s, but I believe more predisributionist/redristributionist now under the Two Eds than then. So, I feel comfortable with Labour.

  12. The problem was that it seemed more like entering the Tory Party than entering a coalition.

  13. Thanks for replies although as the two of you remarked, it does not seem likely there is such another party (here).

    Of course once one has got one’s PR implemented and one has one’s integrated EU, one then still has to confront the ‘fortress EU’ concept.

    I read a satirical piece by a Dutch comedian tonight, who is on holiday in the South of France (hmm, quite).

    Stretching out on his lounger and contemplating the vast array of billionaire yachts before the coast, he wondered what would be the reaction of the occupants if a boatload of refugees from the south side of the Med turned up. Over the side, would the Eritreans and Syrians be asked ‘Oh, hello, are you here for the film festival or the Grand Prix?’.

  14. moe poll

  15. I am disappointed that EM has not made any serious speech yet about the EU.

    Ted Heath’s main vision was for a Europe so linked economically that war was inconceivable. We now act as though that is irrelevant.

    Yet one only has to look at the news from Ukraine – not just about Ukraine wanting closer links with the EU but with Russia backing away from an open invasion because of ITS economic links with the rest of Europe and the USA being threatened.

    Someone made the excellent point, in response to my observation that only democracies should be allowed into the UN, by pointing out that is really how the EU operates.

    We have minimum standards for entry and, despite some bending of the rules, we do benefit from that aspect.

    Look at the success of Poland in integrating for example. It should be easy enough to amend free movement to be like it is if we want to go to NZ or Oz….. i.e. You are welcome if you have money enough and/or a job.

  16. Jim Jam

    Indeed.

    Perhaps it won’t need the three weeks I’ve been banging on about.

  17. @JohnKay

    “Well, yes indeed. The question for me is: is there still a core of the party we believed in, ready to be revived under new leadership, to provide the sort of party Roland is looking for? Left of centre, socially liberal, international in outlook and focused on maximising the opportunities and potential for the individual, as opposed to the collectivism at least theoretically espoused by Labou?Or has it all been irretrievably lost?”

    Serious question: but why does such a party have to be left of centre?

    Why cannot it be all of the above and just centre?

    My own belief is that as such as you go pull left (or right for that matter but obviously for different reasons) you dilute the capacity to “maximise the potential and opportunity for the individual”

    Or to put it more crudely you get sucked into the agenda of the Labour party. Which may or may not be what 2010 LD voters primarily wanted of course but still I think there is an alternative perspective.

  18. stattser

    “I think the Nigerian team had a few grand on a draw.”

    Oooooooooooooooooooooh !!!!!!

    I think we shall have to get the PC bully-brigade on to you to…..um…..er………………………… say things. Then you’ll be sorry .

    Anyone would think there was corruption in Nigeria.

  19. Early on in his leadership Charles Kennedy was fully persuaded of the need to switch to targeting the Conservative vote. Seven out of eight LD gains in 2001 were from Con. He also wrote the Orange Book foreword: it should be noted that Huhne and Cable were contributors, along with Clegg, Laws and Davey.

    Clegg’s father-in-law was a conservative Partido Popular senator. As RAF noted Leon Brittan was his boss at the EU (after an intervention from family friend Lord Carrington)… and I have read comments that he chose between Con and LD on the basis of which offered him a safe MEP spot. Paddy Ashdown and Ming Campbell subsequently took him under their wing… can’t help noticing his negative reaction to Gordon Brown and other Labour politicians.

  20. @ Tony Dean

    “It has John, it has. The Labour party is not as collectivist as it was in its heyday of the late 40s, but I believe more predisributionist/redristributionist now under the Two Eds than then. So, I feel comfortable with Labour.”

    Firstly, Tony I want to say thank you for offering up so much of your own political history because it adds so much context to what you are saying even if you do take a different outlook on the current travails of the LDs.

    I am happy to accept you now feel your political home is with the Labour party however (an no criticism is implied either of yourself or the party) but do we know your above statement to be fact?

    I would think we would need to see a Lab govt in working operation to be certain.

    I could offer my own suspicions about that but I would definitely be veering into being partisan.

  21. Billy Bob,
    Very interesting comments on Clegg.No great surprise.

  22. TONY DEAN

    @”However, upon deeper reflection I would have spent the last 36 years prior to 2010 more usefully by campaigning for reform within the Labour movement, rather than trying to build up an alternative Left to replace it..”

    What a sad thing to say.

    I can’t imagine a life devoted to that .

  23. @ RosieandDaisie

    “The two main problems the the LDs have had are caused by attacking Labour, mainly from the left for 13 years [something they were quite entitled to do] but then, not just supporting a Conservative/”coalition” Governement but compounding it by sniping at Labour from the right.
    The other mistake I feel was that in becoming Deputy PM tied himself in totally with DC and by extension the Tory party.
    It would have made more sense to have taken a government position and kept their position vis-à-vis the other two parties, politically at least, as neutral as possible.”

    I agree entirely with this but would add that Clegg and co have made an absolute bindles of the gritty politics of it all. They have taken a bad hand and played it atrociously.

  24. We talk a lot on here about orange bookers. How many have read it? I haven’t (and won’t). I never read political books, even though I am interested in politics. Correction; I bought (I mean ‘bought’ for heavens sake) ‘Britain must join Europe’ by Harold Wilson and that put me off all political books for ever.

  25. “They have taken a bad hand and played it atrociously.”

    I wonder if in quiet moments of reflection they feel the same.

    It could and should have worked a lot better.

  26. @ Jack Sheldon
    ‘There isn’t, or shouldn’t be, any conflict on economic policy. Conservatives and Liberals share a desire for a smaller state and I think LAB would have followed a similar policy.’

    Some Liberals perhaps, but the important point is that the LD’s economic positioning in the years up to 2010 was a long way from the policy ultimately pursued by the Coalition. Of course, given the deficit any government would have been tightly constrained, but there was room for greater flexibility than the Lib Dems managed to secure. I maintain that the main reason they were unable to do this was that they were simply unprepared for the scenario created by the 2010 result, and were consequently utterly out-manoeuvered by the Tories. It was a gigantic strategic failure for which they are paying a very heavy price now.

  27. Grief, I’ve only just come back to this thread to see I’ve inadvertently offended some of you by my terminology.

    I apologise for having done so but must stress that the offending term was not used in a deliberately derogatory manner.

    fwiw, I’m a woman too & not in the habit of knowingly offending other women.

    If my apology is not accepted then I guess I will be frozen out of the site.

    C’est la vie.

  28. @New Forest Radicak

    “I maintain that the main reason they were unable to do this was that they were simply unprepared for the scenario created by the 2010 result, and were consequently utterly out-manoeuvered by the Tories. It was a gigantic strategic failure for which they are paying a very heavy price now.”

    Yes I think thats right too…but it goes against the idea that somehow always a big plan of Clegg, Alexander, Laws et al to manouvre the LDs to become an adjunct of the Tory party.

    They have been presented like that (very effectively by the Labour party) but I am not sure even these 3 are any more Tory than they are Labour.

  29. @ JimJam

    moe poll
    ————–
    Rats! I was hoping it was the beginning of a resurgence but you’ve burst that balloon before it got airborne. ;-)

  30. I don’t see why you should be frozen out, Bramley. There’s been a lot worse behaviour here fairly recently.

  31. NFR
    That’s easily written now. You are probably right, but one had to write it in June 2010. It was not so written (in fact not a word about tuition fees was). I doubt if many had a clue about what pledges MPs had signed at that point and it is always in retrospect that politicians are caught out. Politicians are always jumping on bandwagons that they did not know existed before making the jump onto them. ‘Why was this not seen before’ they cry, after every new scandal emerges.

    The report by Lord Browne was commissioned by ‘guess who’. Had ‘guess who’ remained in power, does anyone doubt what would have resulted on that subject?

  32. Thanks Nick.

    I’ve seen how some antagonise others on here & always tried to shy away from any particular controversy yet now it seems that my own words have caused huge offence.

  33. amber

    That 36% might be the first in the march back to 40%. We will have to wait and see.

    Then there’s Newark…

  34. @ Bramley

    Did you mean she’s a nightmare? Because I’m okay with that!

  35. Generous helpings of bramley umble pie usually make for a short stay on the naughty step.

  36. @ Nick P

    I have my fingers x’d. :-)

  37. NickP
    Wait three weeks. Whoops, I wrote that before.

  38. Amber

    Yes ! In our house we call each other ‘mare’ all the time – men and women alike. It’s used inoffensively – even my 22yr old son talks about his male friends as ‘mares’

    Never thought it would be taken as meaning anything else but then I guess there’s no accounting for how others take things.

  39. mrs bramley

    I didn’t see your post so not sure what was said. Any apology from anyone about anything is cool with me though – tis a rare thing !

    Personally don’t like to see women referred to as “hot” etc – c’est tout – and that is what I was referencing.

  40. Bramley
    had no effect on me, I assumed you were a cockney bloke, but then, I have this Ian Botham QOS problem.

  41. @Couper2802, @Oldnat

    How much did you win :)

  42. @ Howard
    How many have read it?

    (I may be a geek who occasionally posts on here bit I’m not that geeky.)

    On the hand I’ve read many of the major British political diaries, which have the advantage of being heavily edited.
    H. Nicholson, who knew everyone & had a genius for being in the right place at the right time; Chips Channon, who had a genius for being wrong about everything.
    Crossman, as a Cabinet Minister, who gives a highly coloured account of how Britain is governed; Benn, curiously narrow & unmemorable;
    Chris Mullen percipient about all the hostages Labour is giving to fortune & half-dazzled, half-appalled by Blair;
    & the most readable since Nicholson: Alan Clark’s hilarious 1st volume, which, inter-alia, confirms the view that those removed from the centre of power provide the best insights.

    Diarists have little power at the time, but they win in the long run. Their views have an influence decades later when the pontifications of the more powerful lie unread or forgotten.

  43. @Ghrinports (10.37)

    “They have been presented like that (very effectively by the Labour party) but I am not sure even these 3 are any more Tory than they are Labour.”

    I would suggest that on this site they have been referred to as Tories as much by exLDs as by Lab supporters. Look at them (particularly Alexander) as they refer to the Tories or Labour. There is no doubting where their affection lies.

    All, apologies for my earlier misspelling of Oak(e)shott which several of you subsequently referred to.

  44. Peter Bell – That is the perception. That is what I am talking about really.

    However when I said “very effectively by Labour” I did not mean they were exclusive in taking this position

  45. Somehow the Mail has actually managed to overexaggerate what’s happening in the LDs with tomorrow’s headline:

    LIB DEMS IN MELTDOWN: Like rats in a sack, the touchy-feely party turn on themselves in one of most poisonous days in modern politics.

    They could have used a few dozen exclamation marks to spice it up a bit.

  46. @Bramley – good to see your apology. Nice and civilised – as it should be.

    I’m thinking much Lab relief that the Cable coup hasn’t fired. The last thing Lab want is a change of Lib Dem leader at this point I would have thought.

  47. Oh, and if we’re recommending political books, Roy Hattersley’s Who Goes Home is very well worth reading, as is John O’Farrell’s Things Can Only Get Better. Those looking to get an insight into the rise of UKIP eight years before it happened could do worse than to read What’s The Matter With Kansas?

  48. The lib dems big mistake was to go into coalition – and thereby sign up to the tories policis – rather than adopt a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, where they voted on each policy on its merits.

    The latter would have far more effectively curtailed the tories most contentious polices (Osborne’s extreme austerity budget, the bedroom tax etc) .

    But instead they seemed to convince themselves some ministerial seats and a vote on AV was a price worth paying.

    Many voters felt utterly betrayed and believe that they sold their principles so that a few senior lib dems could get a ride in the government limousines – and/or that Clegg, Laws et al were poltically quite at home in the tory party all along despite years of selling themselves as to the left of labour.

  49. Funny, but I’d only asked about the Hallam poll last week, how coincidental it was taking place as I asked.

    I remember one response from a Labour contributor who said that they weren’t expecting to take the seat. I wonder what the response is now.

  50. I am very much in sympathy with the views of Paul. If we look at Egypt, very near ‘home’, it seems that the electorate there is faced, either with a return to a general, corruption and payola, or muslim oppression of women. It seems that the first is, in the end, preferable in that situation. Am I too simplistic and is there a consensus here in our parties for that conclusion?

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