Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


Trying to understand why the Lib Dems aren’t doing better in the polls

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017


The Lib Dems are still paying the price for being hollowed out in local government during the coalition years.

One of the mysteries of current politics for me is how badly the Lib Dems are doing in the  polls. Since the general election every opinion poll bar one has the Lib Dems polling in the single digits when the current political terrain should be fertile for them.

With Brexit being so polarising I’d have thought the only staunchly GB wide anti-Brexit party coupled with the Tories and Labour being led by two flawed leaders would see the Lib Dems polling a lot better than they currently are, so why aren’t they, the chart above might explain it.

Like their MPs, since the Lib Dems entered the coalition their councillors were shellacked every May, that hollowing of the party sees the influence of the party weakened and perceived to be an irrelevance. My own feeling and experience is that a strong councillor base helps you win and hold Parliamentary seats, and that’s why the Lib Dems have lost so many MPs in recent years.

Earlier on this year the Lib Dems hit their highest ever membership numbers, so it isn’t all doom and gloom for them. Assuming the next general election is in 2022, that gives the Lib Dems four rounds of local elections to rebuild their local government presence.

If they can rebuild their footprint there, and undo the near two thousands council seats the Lib Dems have lost since they entered the coalition it might help them see an increase in the polls and the number of MPs they have.



UPDATED: On the face of it Vince Cable would be taking a risk doing anything with the Chapman “Democrats party” move

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The big development in the Chapman “Democrats party” move is the above Tweet from the ex-Mail political editor and former chief aids to DDavis.

There’s no doubt, as the YouGov polling above shows, that LD voters are much more likely to be pro-Remain than any other party and there would have been a risk for Cable in turning down the Chapman overtures.

But the LDs are a well established party where there are still bitter memories of the SDP in the 1980s with the eventual merger with the Liberal party to create the “Social and Liberal Democrats” in 1987. Cable comes from the SDP wing.

After that merger several leading SDPers, notably David Owen, didn’t join and remnants of the old party found itself often fighting battles with the new merged party. Back in 1989 when I ran for County Council as a Lib Dem my main opponent was from the continuity SDP and the fight was tough.

The LDs having been battered by the voters following the coalition are ultra sensitive to the dangers of a new party and a repetition of what happened in the 80s. They cannot allow themselves to be subsumed by Chapman.

I think Cable is well aware of the issues. The main thing is to impede the form of Brexit that TMay seeks.

UPDATE: The LDs have issued statement saying there is no question whatsoever of the party supporting the launch of a new party but that they will work with others to try to stop an “extreme Brexit”.

Mike Smithson


Can Vince make a Brexit-exit work for the Lib Dems?

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

And can he expand new Lib Dems support beyond Europhiles?

In the week when the Brexit talks finally got down to business, the Lib Dems acquired a new leader to head up the fight to – well, that’s the first question: what exactly are the opponents of the government’s Brexit policy (which itself is hardly perfectly defined) themselves advocating?

Vince Cable is already seeking to ride more than one horse on Brexit, advocating both that Britain remain within the Single Market and the Customs Union, and also that there should be a second referendum once a deal is in place, asking the public whether we’d rather stay in the EU after all, thanks very much.

One could argue that these are not contradictory and in a sense, they’re not: remaining in the EU’s key structures is most easily achieved by staying within the EU, and that if de jure membership isn’t possible then de facto membership (bar the influence and appointments) is the next best thing. On the other hand, those who want to keep Britain within the EU might not wonder whether trying to get the very soft Brexit doesn’t work counter to that higher goal.

Whether a Brexit-exit is even possible remains a contentious question. Several authorities, both EU and UK, have voiced the view that Article 50 can be withdrawn. This, however, tends to fly in the face of text and the logic of the Article. If notice could be withdrawn, what’s to stop a member yo-yoing until they get the deal they want? More pertinently, if it is revocable, why doesn’t it say so when it is so explicit about when the treaties cease to apply to the withdrawing member? Either way, without a judgement from the ECJ, no-one can know for sure.

But for the Lib Dems, and for now, that’s not a concern. Britain hasn’t experienced a conversion but there are more than enough who are very keen to Remain (or who are angry about Brexit if remaining isn’t possible), for a smaller party to chase. Some might point out that this was the same strategy that Farron tried in the Spring and which failed (although not for Cable himself). To some extent that’s true but Sir Vince might be more optimistic of making it work, partly because he’s a more authoritative figure and partly because he’ll be able to work in the light of more experience.

Opposition to Brexit (or support for the softest possible Brexit), however, can only be part of the Lib Dems’ recovery plan. To get back to where they were pre-2010, they’ll need to be seen as relevant again, which across large parts of the country, they’re not.

There are many stats which tell the same story. That they lost their deposit in 375 seats is one but perhaps the best illustration is that the average vote per Lib Dem candidate in 2017 was just 3771: it’s not been lower than that since 1886, when William Gladstone was leader and the franchise much more restricted.

You would think that conditions now ought to be ideal for a centre party. Labour has marched off to the left and looks set to stay there for the foreseeable future given the hugely increased authority Corbyn has received from Labour’s – his – campaign and election result. The Tories are weighed down by the Brexit talks and the internal divisions that’s causing, on top of an economy that might be stuttering and public services struggling after seven years of spending restraint. UKIP has served its purpose and even the SNP has peaked.

And they are ideal. The question is whether he can succeed where Farron failed and establish himself as a more credible opposition than Corbyn. He has form, of course. His brief acting leadership after Ming Campbell ’s resignation was notable for his ‘Stalin to Mr Bean’ quip to Gordon Brown. He also cultivated useful links with the media, notably Robert Peston. Getting in front of the camera as often as possible must be a key aim.

Which brings us back to Brexit. Barring something completely unexpected, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will dominate British politics for at least the next 18 months. Labour’s internal divisions and particularly Corbyn’s disinterest in and ambivalence toward the EU should give Cable a tremendous platform to put an opposing case to the government, as well as to link it to the economy and potentially the NHS, social services and other issues.

The stakes are high. An effective performance from the Lib Dem team, led by Cable, could well see the party back into the high-teens or twenties. The coalition of ardent Remainers and pragmatic free marketeers is a sizable one but not one being particularly courted elsewhere at the moment. On the other hand, were he to fail as his two predecessors did, the future for his party would be grim indeed. Nature abhors vacuums and someone must fill the one in the centre. Logic suggests that should be the Lib Dems. But then logic has had an unusually weak relationship with politics these last few years.

David Herdson


How the Corbyn surge has left the Lib Dems positioned largely as an anti-Tory party

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Labour aren’t in second place in any of the seats the Lib Dems hold, and Labour hold only 4 of the top 30 Lib Dem target seats

Looking through the results of June 8th I was struck by how much the Corbyn surge has left the Lib Dems as a Tory facing party. As we can see in above chart, in not one of the twelve seats the Lib Dems hold are Labour second, it is either the Tories or the SNP.

But if we look at at the chart below which shows the party which holds the seat in the top 30 Lib Dem target seats, so during this parliament and during the general election campaign the Lib Dem focus will be aimed predominantly at the Tories, this might help given Labour/Corbyn a free pass.

All of this makes we wonder if the Lib Dems are making a mistake in allowing Sir Vince Cable to become leader in a coronation. This is not meant as a slight on Sir Vince, but given his high profile role in the coalition and his role in tuition fees, I’m not sure he’s best placed to exploit the political environment he and the Lib Dems find themselves in.

Perhaps an MP such as Layla Moran who has no obvious links to the coaliton might better placed as she lacks the baggage of Sir Vince, a leadership contest, not a coronation might help the Lib Dems answer this.



Vince Cable looks set to become the first Strictly contestant to lead a political party

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

The news tonight that ex-coalition cabinet minister, Ed Davey, is not planning to stand for the LD leadership means that that former Business Secretary Secretary looks set to take over from Tim Farron as LD leader.

Davey became the third prominent LD to announce he wasn’t going forward after Jo Swinson and Norman Lamb.

The formal nomination process ends on July 20th which means that Vince will have to wait till then before taking the crown.

As someone pointed out on my Twitter timeline Cable looks all set to be the first Strictly contestant to become a party leader. He was on the show in 2010.

The big question mark about him is, of course, his age. It is 74 which means that if the Parliament runs its full course and he remained in office he would be 79 when fighting a general election.

Mike Smithson


Norman Lamb says he not standing in LD leadership race

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

So now it looks like Cable versus Davey

The busiest UK political betting market at the moment is on the LD leadership and within the last few minutes the Guardian has published the piece linked to above by the ex-health minister, Norman Lamb.

This has come as a shock because Lamb did very well against Farron last time and the recent Mark Pack survey had him just ahead of Cable if Swinson wasn’t on the ballot. This is the reason given by Lamb.

“I have just fought a gruelling campaign to win my North Norfolk seat. Attempting to win a seat for the Liberal Democrats in an area that voted quite heavily to leave the EU was bound to be a challenge. Not only was the party’s position on Brexit toxic to many erstwhile Liberal Democrat voters in North Norfolk, but I found myself sympathising with those who felt that the party was not listening to them and was treating them with some disdain.”

So the race looks set to be between the 74 year old Vince Cable and Sir Ed Davey who was a cabinet minister in the coalition government.

Cable is currently the very strong odds-on favourite.

Two weeks ago Lamb did well to hold onto his North Norfolk seat – an area that had voted very heavily for LEAVE. Almost all the other LD MPs are in areas which were strongly REMAIN.

Mike Smithson


The LDs appear to have chosen their next two leaders without a single vote being cast

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

The veteran former Business Secretary, Sir Vince Cable, has now moved to a 60%+ chance in the betting of becoming Farron’s successor following an extraordinary 36 hours when the party appears to have decided who should get the job AND who should succeed Vince.

As soon as Farron announced that he was going last week the LD blogger, Mark Pack, ran a survey of party members on the succession. In the past these have usually been fairly good pointers to the actual outcome.

On Monday the results were published and the woman who took back Dunbartonshire East at GE17, Jo Swinson, was found to have the support of a staggering 57% of the members who participated.

Inevitably she became a strong betting favourite with the only question being whether she wanted it or not. In fact she didn’t at this stage and has now become deputy leader – a position that is selected by the parliamentary party.

Her announcement left three potential runners, Cable, Norman Lamb the ex-health Minister, and Sir Ed Davey, the former cabinet minister who retook Kingston & Surbiton in the election.

Yesterday morning the 74 year old Cable became the first to formally put his hat into the ring with heavy hints that he’d stand aside in two or three years.

It didn’t take much working out for disappointed Swinson supporters to figure that a time limited Cable leadership would best suit their woman. Lamb and Davey are much younger than Vince and they would be looking to be in the job for the long term.

So there we have it and the reason there’s been such a move to Cable in the betting.

Mike Smithson


Electing a leader from Scotland could give the LDs a huge boost north of the the border

Friday, June 16th, 2017

If Gordon Brown could do it at GE10 then what about the Yellows?

We all know that GE10 wasn’t a good one for Gordon Brown’s LAB. The party lost power after having a comfortable majority for 13 years and suffered huge seat losses.

The chart above shows the party’s vote share changes in different parts of the UK but there was one place which bucked the overall trend Scotland.

Whereas in England LAB was down more than 7.4% in Scotland the party in increased its vote share by 3.1% and came away with 41 of the 59 seats north of the border.

    So extraordinarily LAB’s average vote change in Scotland at GE2010 was a whopping 10.5% better in Scotland than in England.

The reason was simple – the LAB leader, Gordon Brown, was Scottish. As was remarked at the time by a prominent Scottish politics academic “Brown maybe a bastard but he’s OUR bastard.”

When the LDs were last led by Scottish leader, the late Charles Kennedy at GE2005, they won 13 seats north of the border making them the second party in terms of Scottish MPs at that election.

On June 8th this year the party made most of its gains in Scotland and with the possibility of the SNP declining even more next time then the chances are that this will be fertile territory once again. Certainly their main target, Fife NE they were just two votes behind.

The LDs are so far behind where they were that the potential of a leader to help gain just a few extra seats will be very appealing.

I’ve little doubt that all of this will be communicated to LD members very strongly by the campaign of Glasweigan Jo Swinson if, as seems likely, she puts her hat into the ring.

Mike Smithson