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A fresh breeze from Belize

December 12th, 2010 Posted in Liberal Democrats, polls by

Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative Party Treasurer responsible for funding target seat campaigns, many against Liberal Democrats, is not an entirely popular figure in this parish. Indeed the media spin on his latest report

 “Lib Dems ‘to lose half their support at the next General Election'” – Telegraph

“The LibDems may cease to be” – Iain Dale

… is unlikely to increase the number of air mail Christmas Cards winging their way to Belize.

However the research he has commissioned is important and there are much useful analysis within it that Liberal Democrats should not ignore.  I note particularly the conclusion of the Summary which states

“Pandering to the party’s oppositionist tendency may win back a few of the voters who don’t like what has happened since May – but at the expense of many more who think the Liberal Democrats are finally getting somewhere.”

Or put another way

“Those who voted Liberal Democrat mainly as a protest against the two main parties, or to stop another party from winning, were consistently more negative about the Lib Dems and their performance in government than those who had voted for a positive reason”

It may be obvious, but if your goal is to govern, you cannot build a sustainable coalition around factions more geared to permanent opposition.

The report also quantifies where disgruntled support is likely to go

“54% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 said they were likely to do so again in 2015. 22% expected to vote Labour, 5% Conservative and 8% for another party.”

And highlights the mixed blessing that many (43%) still vote Liberal Democrat mostly because of local issues and candidates, with a hope for a Liberal Democrat government next (21%), and tactical voting a much smaller consideration.

I say mixed as on the upside it means the currently negative national narrative will not be as impactful on individual results as the polls would suggest. But on the downside still implies the party has much to do to build up a core vote who are both instinctive liberals and identify those instincts with the Liberal Democrats.

The rest of the 32-page report is packed with many more useful quotes and numbers that a worth reading directly.

But it will be interesting to see whether the party’s strategists take this data as a sign they need to reach out again to the one in five former and more left-wing supporters who’d rather now vote Labour, or look for new support where a more left-leaning Labour party will alienate. Our preference, given the centre-ground is where elections are won and has more voters, particularly genuinely liberal voters, would be the latter.

What would lack credibility though is if Clegg reaches out one way whilst Farron and local candidates the other. And that remains the central message of this report. Nick Clegg needs to be the first Liberal Democrat Leader since Ashdown to set a direction and stick to it. Going both ways at once is like doing the splits in trousers. Whatever is in the middle ends up looking rather exposed to the political elements. And the breeze from Belize may not always be so tropical.

2 Responses to “A fresh breeze from Belize”

  1. Sam Says:

    A lot of the people who no longer support the Lib Dems were single issue voters, mainly voting Lib Dem for free higher education and electoral reform. Many of these people have a sort of fundamentalist utopian view of the world and it should really have been predictable that these types would stop supporting Lib Dems if we ever got into power.

    I think it was also a mistake spending the last decade focusing on reaching out to disenchated Labour supporters who were primarily disenchanted because Labour weren’t socialist enough/anymore. They would always have gone back when there was a more left-wing Labour leader.

    Because of this we’ve probably missed out on defining a more distinctly liberal agenda that could have reached out to liberal conservatives as well as centrists in the last decade, that may have been sticking with us in our current predicament.

    If the party tears itself apart then it will look weak and pathetic to much of the public. Our only hope of doing well at the next election is by having a strong and coherent agenda and hope that by the next election people will be able to see the positive things that have happened because of the Lib Dems being in government.


  2. Psi Says:

    Some may also be scared by the choices that are now required having believed Labours lies that you cab have your cake, eat it, take one from bankers and borrow one.

    In a few years if the private sector expands as the public sector retreats, the world will look a lot less scary.

    Or possibly something else may knock the economy like the level of US debt or europe. In which case the Lib Dems will take a pasting.

    Either way the responsibility of the Lib Dems is to do the right thing not to chase the easy political points. In short not to be Labour.