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Are Libdems bleeding supporters?

6:32 pm - September 17th 2008

by Sunny Hundal    

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Polling fanatics Anthony Wells and Mike Smithson have picked up on a poll out tomorrow which puts Conservatives: 52%, Labour: 24% and Libdems: 12%. While Labour’s numbers have remained the same, suggesting their falling support has bottomed out, Libdems have seen their numbers fall by 5%.

It may be a outlier poll, and it could be that it doesn’t reflect the bounce following last week’s party conference, but its still going to put cold water over their recent optimism. If Libdems are bleeding supporters to the Tories, then that could fatally undermine Nick Clegg.

Could Nick Clegg’s attempts to make Libdems the party of cutting taxes have disillusioned right-leaning Libdems and pushed them towards the Tories, if they see nothing much separating the two? (I’m not saying there is little separating the two, only that most people aren’t going to read policy proposals) Shouldn’t Clegg be wooing left-leaning voters by taking over traditional Labour policies?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Libdems ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Hmm, The Conservatives on 52%. That poll is either wrong, or the country has lost it’s mind.

At the height of Thatcher the Conservatives only got 43% of the vote.

2. anotherplanet

Perhaps, if the Lib Dems are going to offer tax cuts along with pared down public services, with the introduction of top-ups in the NHS (to go with the co-payments already crippling pensioners in community care), some will reckon they’re to the right of New Labour and might just as well vote Tory. Meanwhile that huge pool of potential voters who couldn’t bring themselves to turn out for anyone last time round, and who are likely to be more receptive to arguments about the economic efficiency of social provision – particularly in the current climate – remain effectively disenfranchised.

Nick Clegg seems to be marching off in the wrog direction just at the wrong time. Markets will never offer security and stability, provide decent healthcare, pensions and social protection. This is irrelevant to those that earn enough to provide these things for themselves, but they already vote Tory.

…it could be that it doesn’t reflect the bounce following last week’s party conference

There was a conference? ;o)

The thing I don’t quite get is that 24% of the UK population is still saying they’re going to vote Labour.

It seems perverse that the LibDems would be losing support to the Conservatives by promising the tax-cuts which their supporters want but their party is resisting. There must be more to it than that.

Weird time, thus weird poll result. There is no impending election, but Gordon Brown is being challeged as Prime Minister, international capital is in a mess, UK housing market is in a mess, UK economy (independent of housing) unoptimisitic. And the party conference season has just started.

In such circumstances, David Cameron may look pretty, but we should wait a couple of months for more real polls.

Yes, things are weird, but at the same time Sunny is right. Lib Dem’s have positioned themselves to try and catch Tory supporters in the middle income bracket. In reality they could have, I feel, positioned themselves better to steal pretty much all the people being shed from Labour. However it’s all about how it’s put, in reality what Lib Dem’s are saying *should* be positive for baseline Labour supporters, the fact they’ve not skipped to Lib Dem already has to be worrying. I don’t see the Lib Dem’s getting more than a few points above their norm in polls next week, and that isn’t a good thing at all. But they have plenty of time, so what does it matter?

This poll is an outlier, no question of that. However it also show that Nick Cleggs attempt to stop a cull of his MPs in the south and southwest isn’t going to work. Cameron’s decontamination has worked and with the economic climate getting very nasty people are looking for ways to hurt those in power which means Labour. Personally I was surprised that he isn’t going after more Labour votes because of this. The Lib-Dems policies up till now would have looked very attractive to somebody on the centre-left such as being: anti-Iraq, anti-Nuclear, for losening the restrictions on drugs, for more spending on health and education, for pay for this through higher income taxes on the well off etc.

Having their conference completely overshadowed by the troubles that Gordon Brown is having will not have helped, and their poll ratings always go up in the run up to the election when people remember who they are but still I had personally hoped they would be doing better than they are.

Have Lib Dem’s ever polled well compared to how they have eventually ended up? Honest question, I can’t be bothered to search myself since it’s my bedtime 😉

There’s not a lot of point the LibDems positioning themselves to catch Labour votes. Most of their seats (aroud 70%) are in areas where the Tories are the challenger & Labour largely irrelevant. If, compared to 2005, the Tory vote went up 10% & the LDs dropped 5% (which is about what most national polls are showing), they’d not have much left. Presumably their tax cut strategy is in part a ploy to stop their voters deserting to the Tories in key seats.

@Lee Griffin: Lib Dems and predecessors have traditionally performed better in real elections than in polls. If you add two or three percent to to opinion polls at the start of a general election campaign, that is about what they get. That doesn’t apply to EU parliament elections where Lib Dems get thoroughly stuffed. The EU performance question requires a lot of analysis.

The Lib Dem tax policies are very interesting, but we need some figures and number crunching. If the poorer are to benefit (surely the aim if Lib Dems are to target vulnerable Labour seats?), then somebody has to pay?


You catch me on my special subject. I allow myself a small moment of smugness that I’ve been posting about Lib Dem tax cuts for low and middle earners for a year, including on this site, and have continuously been told by the Labour crowd that it must mean I was a right-winger wot wanted to destroy the state.

There are, broadly, two proposals. One is already party policy, has been for a year. The policy paper is here:

The package is tax-neutral. It pays for itself. The drop to 16p in the basic rate is funded partly by the Green Tax Switch, and partly by things like the restriction of extra tax relief on pension contributions by higher rate tax payers (currently they get more relief than basic rate taxpayers, which cannot be right). The package also includes the replacement of Council Tax with Local Income Tax, which I am only moderately happy about.

Glancing over it again, I would just like to extract this particularly telling paragraph:

“In the [previous] policy paper we set out a detailed package of tax cuts and how we would pay for them… it is necessary to reconsider the overall package in light of the changes made in the 2007 budget (see Figure 1). In particular, the government has now effectively abolished the 10p starting rate for income tax, not as we would have wished by lifting the starting threshold, but by increasing the rate of tax on this earnings
bracket to 20%…”

Ah, all the true horror of it comes rushing back.

The second, and recent, proposal just adopted at conference is to take 3% (£20bn) of Labour’s current spending and redirect it towards (a) our own spending priorities and then (b) further tax cuts, if there’s money left over – in which case I would very much hope that that would mean raising the personal allowance and taking people out of tax altogether.

So this is the proposal that doesn’t have numbers to crunch, but the cut to the basic rate is assured. I’m partly sympathetic to the party in that they can’t identify in 2008 every item of expenditure they want to save in 2010, but partly I think it was a daft idea to name the £20bn at all. It just means you’re damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t, and it isn’t permissible these days to say “We don’t know yet.” Sad, what the media continues to do to politics.

Actually, I hope we eventually go a lot further than £20bn for the redirected sums. Otherwise that would imply we thought Labour was doing things 97% right.

Finally, although I know a lot of people find psephology very interesting, can I just float the possibility that the Lib Dems might be offering tax cuts at the bottom end because it’s the liberal thing to do? 😉

Finally, although I know a lot of people find psephology very interesting, can I just float the possibility that the Lib Dems might be offering tax cuts at the bottom end because it’s the liberal thing to do? 😉

i agree alix, but its just a matter of how those tax cuts are funded. maybe you should write a short-ish blog post about it?? 😉

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