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. The US economy surprisingly contracted in the last Quarter. More bonus points for the coalition’s economic strategy as the UK’s economy continues to grow while so many other recoveries cough and splutter.

  2. Robbie,
    I am so pleased that you scrutinise my poor offerings so carefully.I never learnt
    to type and often forget to press that arrow thing.So not blank verse alas.
    In future I shall be very careful as to proper presentation.Also I probably need
    to go to Specsavers as half the time I can hardly see what. I have written!

  3. Last week in Nottingham, he said, he met a man who is struggling to take care of his family on a minimum wage job at a gas station.
    ————
    Message to Ed: When you’re in Nottingham, it’s a petrol station.

  4. @ MrNameless

    “……and there are good people in every party…”

    How right you are. In my teens when a YC I helped some superb Conservative councillors to get elected who did amazing work for their communities, and thereafter for 36 years numerous Lib Dem ones. I recently helped a very promising young Labour councillor to get in.

    It is probably why I am still so fond of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties as historic national institutions, despite not supporting them personally anymore.

    I am always amazed at how negative voters are about political parties, when I can honestly say from personal experience that there are really good people involved in all our parties, most of whom are determined to do the very best by their constituents.

    We are so fortunate in Britain compared to many other countries where political involvement is primarily about lining your own pocket.

    On further reflection maybe you are all right (Shevii, MrNameless, Couper2802, Colin) – the important thing is to be involved in politics, no matter if you personally end up disappointed – along the way maybe we all do good either directly or indirectly.

  5. Amber

    Jim Waterson’s write-up on Buzzfeed has:

    Ed Miliband was in Nottingham last Tuesday when a man approached him to say that his part-time job at a petrol station wasn’t paying enough to take care of two children. This is an anecdote of the sort Miliband is always telling in his campaign to lower Britain’s cost of living, but what the man said next was “chilling.”

    “He was really, really desperate because he felt couldn’t properly provide for his family,” Miliband recalls. “He was thinking of ending it all because he just couldn’t make ends meet.”
    “Suddenly bacon sandwiches look slightly beside the point,” Miliband says.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/ed-miliband-on-the-road

    The gas reference comes from Ben Smith’s write-up.

  6. @ Bramley

    Thank you! I was worried for a few minutes there. :-)

  7. :-)

  8. @Rogerh
    Remember this banner over the top of every page on this site.

    “Labour & the Lib Dems won’t give you a say. UKIP can’t. For an in-out referendum on Europe, vote Conservative today”

    It’s disappeared in the last week. It’ll be back in 9 months time. Relentlessly.

    Clearly someone thinks it’s going to sway votes.

  9. “It’s disappeared in the last week. It’ll be back in 9 months time. Relentlessly.”

    Phil: you are Mr. Pressman and I claim my fiver.

  10. More fool the Tories if they think that’s how they’ll win the election. Reminds me of Hague’s ‘last chance to save the pound’ campaign.

  11. @RogerH,

    Would it be churlish of me to suggest that there is not a Tory election slogan that could be conceived by the most fertile of imaginations that you would ever believe would help them to win an election?

  12. @ Ann in Wales

    Thanks for taking my silly teasing in good part. I do read your posts. Like most posts from females they are short & to the point. It’s the male posters including myself who bore on and on.

  13. Yes it is – absolutely – because tax havens have (with our quiescence) waged economic warfare on us for several decades.

    British Crown Dependencies are right up at the top of that list and in many respects because of our property ownership laws (or lack of them) London acts in the same way for rich overseas pseudo residents to hide their wealth.

  14. Breaking News.
    Senior Lib/dem has snuffed it.

    -He’s not dead He’s just pining for the Fjords!

  15. AMBER STAR
    Last week in Nottingham, he said, he met a man who is struggling to take care of his family on a minimum wage job at a gas station.
    ————
    Message to Ed: When you’re in Nottingham, it’s a petrol station.

    -Message to Amber it was an Interview reported by an American publication I expect they translated the comment.

  16. @ Robbie
    I did like the blank verse; Ann in Wales did a good job of being your ‘muse’. :-)

  17. On a Guitar Forum, female guitarists’ playing can be ‘hot’ but the guitarists not. i.e. I completely agree with Rosie&Daisie!

  18. @ Neil A

    Would it be churlish of me to suggest that there is not a Tory election slogan that could be conceived by the most fertile of imaginations that you would ever believe would help them to win an election?
    ————–
    How about a picture of Dave, Ossie & Boris with the caption: ‘We’re voting Labour so you don’t have to’? It might confuse people enough to make them vote Conservative & thereby help the Tories to win the election. ;-)

  19. Are we allowed to think that women are hot and not say it? Or is the thought itself a crime, too?

  20. Neil A

    Is it women in general or is it a particular One you had in mind ?

    I plead guilty to unashamedly loving women .

  21. @Neil A

    The very thought is a crime because you are valuing a woman as a sex commodity rather than as an attractive personality.

    You must understand that it is now obligatory that men think like women – you first find a member of the opposite sex interesting, attractive as a personality, amusing and therefore physically attractive.

    It is nowadays forbidden to view things like a man in the opposite order to that stated above even if for several millenia it was hitherto normal for men to operate mentally in the reverse order.

  22. I am not so fond of hot women, I like cool ones.

    Should we have a poll?

  23. Good Afternoon All.
    TONY and HOWARD.
    What is the polling implications of this analysis of sexual politics?
    How does it relate to the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats, whose future looks to be gloomier that the present?

    Many thanks.

  24. Groan – this in a week when Theresa May has had to deny losing weight in order to run for Tory Leader.

    The thought would never had occurred re a male politician.

  25. “Are we allowed to think that women are hot and not say it? Or is the thought itself a crime, too?”

    AS A POLICE PERSON. NEIL, I AM SURPRISED THAT YOU ARE UNAWARE THAT ASKING THAT QUESTION COULD LEAD TO YOUR ARREST.

    BEST HAND YERSELF IN WITH THE PUNNY WORDS

    “ITS A FAIR COP GUV.”

  26. “It’s a fair cop Guv”.

    Ha Ha. True, the last female cop I encountered was a blond.

  27. @ Neil A

    “Are we allowed to think that women are hot and not say it? Or is the thought itself a crime, too?”

    “heaven will never arraign him for what he thinks, but for what he does. Every man has a thousand vicious thoughts, which arise without his power to suppress.”

    BUT
    “though our erroneous opinions be involuntary when formed, yet as we have been wilfully corrupt, or very negligent in forming them, we deserve punishment for our vice, or contempt for our folly”.

    On this site sexist language gets bashed whenever it shows its face in polite company as you know perfectly well.

  28. @Howard

    Your dry comments always make laugh… thank you.

  29. On the issue of EM’s and Lab’s position on an EU referendum.

    The current government has set in motion an attempt to change the EU treaty rules. This attempt will probably continue after the next GE, and we might see a new Treaty particularly in light of the EU election results across the EU.

    If Lab are in power in 2015, a referendum will then be held.

    I think EM should stick with this position.

  30. ROBBIEALIVE
    “It’s a fair cop Guv”.
    Ha Ha. True, the last female cop I encountered was a blond.

    The last One I encountered was a Blond too and a Bitch and had 4 legs but Her handler was a very nice young lady .

  31. @ Alec

    Thanks for the reply. Richard Murphy and the Tax Justice Network have also been campaigning over the last 10y for all banks globally to have to share information so no individual can evade tax jurisdictions.

    I’m quite happy for Switzerland to be singled out but Luxemburg is as bad if not worse. However, isn’t it true that the UK is responsible for about 12 tax havens .. Jersey, Isle of Man, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos etc so the UK could easily pass a proper GAAR. Unfortunately, George Osborne’s version means that all tax devices, which are not listed as evasion, are automatically legitimated.

    Furthermore, the recent Pfizer bid to take over AZ indicates that the UK itself is viewed from the US as a tax haven. It would be a much more difficult for BA not to fly into UK airports than it would Zurich.

  32. On the subject of woman and I’m in no way sexists but my ideal female specimen would have to fall somewhere in-between Diane Abbott and The Birth of Venus.

  33. Steve2

    The US economy surprisingly contracted in the last Quarter. More bonus points for the coalition’s economic strategy as the UK’s economy continues to grow while so many other recoveries cough and splutter.

    There’s an old saying that when the US economy catches a cold British economy gets pneumonia, we must wait and see.

  34. Alec

    Fair enough, but why not start at home with the City of London and the role of British banks in money laundering, tax evasion and general badness

    Trouble is that it is easy to blame other countries where we have no effect but surely we should start where we can do things. How many successful prosecutions does the SFO have against the dodgy practices of our own banks?

  35. AC
    Far more information than any of us need….

  36. TONY Dean

    Thanks for that.

    It was certainly from the heart.

    Best of luck for some contentment in your new political home.

    You deserve it.

  37. @Neil A: “Would it be churlish of me to suggest that there is not a Tory election slogan that could be conceived by the most fertile of imaginations that you would ever believe would help them to win an election?”

    I’m not going to be voting Tory (or Labour either, for that matter) regardless of any slogans. I dare say there are some slogans that might attract some voters to some parties but my point was that I don’t believe the promise of a referendum is likely to benefit the Tories.

  38. ‘You’ve never had it so good’ was very effective IIRC.

  39. Robbie,
    You are of course not boring at all.

  40. “Britain deserves better” was persuasive .

    Clever too-didn’t say we would get it.

  41. I had to look IIRC up-so I suppose I should add UIAVMM to my post.

  42. Postage,
    If you are around.I have just remembered that there is an old saying about a
    mares nest.Any illumination about that rather weird saying,as it is obvious that
    mares do not make nests.At least as far as I a aware.

  43. Rumours of a yougov Newark poll at 22.00…

  44. Ann in Wales

    Jonathan Swift 1751 – “What! Have you found a mare’s nest, and laugh at the eggs?”

    Though I think there are earlier examples. A humorous idiom, much used previously. As opposed to HIGNFY which repeats the same humorous idiom week, after week, after week ……

  45. NickP,

    Alternatively titled “Will Mrnameless bother spending fifteen quid on a train ticket to Newark – the poll”.

  46. @RogerH
    “More fool the Tories if they think that’s how they’ll win the election. Reminds me of Hague’s ‘last chance to save the pound’ campaign.”

    Yes, Hague’s campaign against the Euro didn’t work for him in 2001. But it might have had something to do with the commitment to a referendum in Labour’s manifesto for that general election, as follows:

    “So, in principle, we are in favour of joining a successful single currency. But ….. If the government and Parliament recommend entry, the British people will have the final say in a referendum.”

  47. PS. And it’s also worth bearing in mind that, had there not been local elections which boosted turnout in London and the metropolitan districts last week, Labour would have come 3rd in last week’s EU elections, behind the Conservatives.

  48. do we know that Phil?

    What was London Turnout change on 5 years ago compared to the rest of the country.

    In any event might there have been a greater commitment to get vote from a more anti-UKIP electorate anyway?

  49. @ Mr. Nameless,

    What, you mean you don’t want to make an exciting visit to scenic Newark just to take in the atmosphere!?

    @ Pressman,

    Disappointing that this Clegg issue is now dominating matters, the focus could easily have been pressure on Miliband after the election results and the Tories could have built more momentum.

    That’s very ill-disciplined of you, isn’t it? What will happen next year if your editor sees a squirrel or something and forgets all about telling us Ed Miliband is carp?

  50. No danger of that spearmint. As for LD collapse helping the Tories, I don’t buy that at all.

    They were to the Left of labour in 2010 and they are going to lose more support to a Labour Party that has moved Left.

    As for Europe, banging on about it is not a vote winner for the Tories or Labour.

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