Liberal Democrat Newswire #61 is out: Tentative signs of Lib Dem poll improvement

Liberal Democrat Newswire #61 came out at the weekend, a special mid-month update with the latest election news including rather promising figures on candidate selection, showing how the party has improved its diversity significantly.

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Welcome to the 61st edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, a special mid-month update with general election news and analysis from the last week.

Statistic of the week: 0% – the proportion of Labour candidates who told MORI that the deficit is one of the most important issues facing the country.

Thank you as ever to the generous readers who make a small monthly donation to help cover the costs of Liberal Democrat NewswireYou too can join them at www.patreon.com/markpack.

I hope you enjoy reading Liberal Democrat Newswire, and do let me know what you think.

Best wishes,


P.S. You don’t have to wait for the next edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire to keep up with news. My site is regularly updated with stories such as How much influence have the Lib Dems had in coalition?

In this edition:

This year’s best candidate description

Rustington Parish Council - statement of candidates nominated

Click on image for a larger version.Thank you to Mark Calvert-Foster for highlighting this notice to me.

Tentative signs of Lib Dem poll improvement

So far, the main lesson from the general election’s opinion polls is that newspaper journalists still haven’t got the hang of how to report polls in ways that treat their readers with respect and don’t rapidly look foolish.

Both the Sunday Times and The Guardian have run front page splashes that in their own ways were deeply flawed.

The former splashed on one poll showing a big move and duly got the fate that single-sourced poll stories deserve, namely a huge amount of egg on face when the next polls showed a different picture. Then a few days later the latter ran a huge front page graphic based on three polls – but leaving out the two others published on the same day that told the opposite story.

It all may leave readers short of accurate reporting, but also leaves the BBC’s editorial guidelines on how to report political polls looking very wise:

  • We should not lead a news bulletin or programme simply with the results of an opinion poll
  • We should not headline the results of an opinion poll unless it has prompted a story which itself deserves a headline and reference to the poll’s findings is necessary to make sense of it

For the Liberal Democrats, there has been a modest move up in the polls during April, with the party averaging out around 1 point higher than in the polls in March. A fragile, but helpful trend. More important has been the much greater progress in moving voters from saying ‘I hate you’ to ‘meh’. The more who say ‘meh’, the bigger the chance for popular local candidates to then turn that into a vote for themselves.

For example, YouGov polling found the Liberal Democrats improving their honest rating by 13 points, compared to Labour shifting by 10 points and the Conservatives by 6 points. The result is that all three parties are now clustered around the same net negative rating – Tories at -19 and Labour and Lib Dems at -20.

Negative, but equal – which leaves the ground clear for the high personal ratings of Lib Dem MPs and a select band of the best candidates to win, playing to the strength shown by the research reported in Liberal Democrat Newswire #40:

Net MP satisfaction

Will EU citizens have a vote in a referendum?

In Liberal Democrat Newswire #60 I talked about how in a hung Parliament David Cameron may try to entice the Liberal Democrats into a deal on holding an in/out referendum on Europe by offering up a referendum on House of Lords reform on the same day – and promising to campaign in favour of a yes vote.

Since then, there has been more speculation about what conditions the Lib Dems might attach to agreeing to a referendum, especially if the party decides that having a referendum with David Cameron in post offers a better prospect of winning it than delaying until a future where the Conservative Party has an (even) more Euro-sceptic leader.

The Financial Times has reported that one extra demand is likely to be giving EU citizens living in the UK the vote in the referendum, which would add around 2.7 million to the electorate. EU citizens living here can already vote in both local and European Parliament elections as well as for the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.

Voting Lib Dem? Three simple things to do

  1. Sign up to show your support on Facebook by attending the ‘I’m voting Lib Dem’ Facebook event.
  2. Join the fantastic Team 2015 group of volunteers here.
  3. Remember to sign up for a postal vote if you’re not absolutely sure you can vote in person on the day.

Don’t miss out on new Lib Dem stories

As well as Liberal Democrat Newswire, you can also get:

  • a daily round up of the new stories posted up on the official Liberal Democrat website, and
  • a daily round-up of the new posts on my blog.

The latter features more chocolate and less Nick Clegg than the former.

If one or both take your fancy, just sign up here.

Handy campaign resources for Lib Dems

Solid progress made in improving diversity of Lib Dem candidates

Across Liberal Democrat held and target seats, including re-standing MPs, just over four in ten of the party’s candidates in this general election are female – a particularly impressive result given the huge historical baggage of a predominantly male Parliamentary Party. This is also a higher figure than in 2010.

It isn’t just on gender that the party’s efforts to improve diversity amongst candidates in the seats which matter the most have paid dividends: more than one in ten are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and on the LGBT front, the party has also reached more than one in ten for candidates in held and target seats.

The figures across all 631 seats the party is contesting (all constituencies in Great Britain aside from the Speaker’s) are lower, but up on 2010. Just over a quarter are female (26%, up 5%); just under 1 in 10 are BAME (9%, up2%) and one in twenty are disabled (5%;up 2%). LGBT figures are not available for 2010 (as far as I have been able to ascertain).

Although the party certainly needs to make more progress, including in local government, the success of the hard work put in by the Leadership Programme, the diversity team at HQ and party activists who have taken up the cause of improving diversity deserves praise.

As does the bravery of two Liberal Democrat candidates who have come out as being HIV-positive – the first to do so: Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett and Paul Childs.

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What happens if there’s another hung Parliament?

Two important pieces of information to bear in mind:

  1. The Queen’s Speech is due on May 27th, which provides the time for potentially a much longer set of negotiations than in 2010.
  2. The misnamed Liberal Democrat ‘triple lock’ (it was actually in four parts) process for deciding on the party’s stance in a hung Parliament was reformed after 2010. You can read the new process in full here.

Win a dinner with John Cleese as Lib Dems lead in target seats fundraising

Importing a fundraising idea popularised by the Barack Obama election machine in the US, the Liberal Democrats are offering people the chance to win dinner with a famous celebrity if they make a donation to the party.

While Obama offered up George Clooney and others, for the Liberal Democrats it is John Cleese – star of one of the most famous party political broadcasts and still a darn good film to watch.

To enter the prize draw you need to donate by Friday 17th April (or read the small print about how to enter without donating – one of those regular features of small print in all walks of life to cope with the quirks of regulation).

Note the clever piece of reverse psychology after you donate. [But no longer as donation link is now defunct.]

Meanwhile, newly published research shows the Liberal Democrats topping the local fundraising league table in target seats around the country:

Marginal seats donations by party

Although these figures do not include small donations made under the threshold for declaring, nor nationally raised funds used to support activity in target seats, they do reflect the overall picture I’ve reported on in previous editions of Liberal Democrat Newswire of party fundraising being very successful, and party resources targeted very tightly on a limited number of target seats.

Richard Dawkins backs Lib Dems in two seats

Richard Dawkins backs Layla MoranRichard Dawkins backs Maajid Nawaz

Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrats: what does an expert think?

Book cover: Tim Bale - Five Year MissionTim Bale is the author of the recently published Five Year Mission: The Labour Party under Ed Miliband, an excellent book which I reviewed in February. He’s also done an exclusive interview for Liberal Democrat Newswire on what Miliband’s leadership means for the Liberal Democrats. But first, I was intrigued by his choice of publication date…

Whether Miliband becomes Prime Minister in May will hugely influence how he’s record in opposition is seen. So why do a book just before rather than just after the election?

Good question. I actually think there’s a powerful trade-off involved. If you do it afterwards, you’ve got both the upsides and the downsides of hindsight. More perspective but a perspective which is inevitably skewed towards trying to establish precisely why a party and its leader won or lost. The explanations for the result go way beyond what people tried to do in order to win. It’s their efforts – and why they try to do what they do – that really interest me.

Besides, I did the same thing with The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron and got a chance to do a new edition soon after the election. So you never know!

In your book, Ed Miliband is – of course – not Prime Minister. Yet the Parliament has been hung all through his term in post. Why do you think there’s never been any meaningful speculation about him becoming Prime Minister ahead of the next election, not even speculation early in the Parliament that the coalition might fall apart and him achieve this a few years hence?

I think, in asking that question, you’ve actually put your finger on what (aside, of course, from what’s been going on in the Labour Party!) has to be the most interesting and intriguing puzzle of the 2010-2015 period, namely why didn’t the Lib Dems implode – or explode, depending on your preference.

Much as I’d like to bring everything back to Labour and Ed, I don’t think the solution to that puzzle really involves either of them, except insofar as they may have contributed (and then only very marginally) to the decision by Clegg and his colleagues to go with Cameron at the end of the ‘five days in May’.

If you pressed me to try and solve that puzzle, I’d say the solution has three parts. First would be the Lib Dems’ political naivety (the absurd faith in the idea that voters’ would eventually reward the party for acting responsibly ‘in the national interest’).

Second would be the Lib Dem’s rationality (the knowledge that parties which crash out of a coalition don’t normally do much better at the next election than if they’d stayed in, and find themselves less likely to be invited to join governments in the future).

And the third would have to do with the years the Lib Dems spent in the wilderness – an experience that ensured that, when the chips were down, they behaved more like a tightly-knit family than a ‘normal’ political party.

Your account of Miliband’s actions over both the AV referendum and Lords reform is kinder to him than Liberal Democrat MPs would be, many of whom are very critical of what they saw as an unwillingness to show meaningful leadership, preferring instead to pay lip service to political reform followed by vacillation and then caving in to the vested anti-reform interests in his own party.

If Ed Miliband is Prime Minister in a hung Parliament, do you think he would have both the skill and inclination to push through substantive political reform even in the face of opposition from parts of his own party?

I’d like to think (although I can’t be sure) that we may have seen a different Miliband had the referendum been on a properly proportional system rather than what many of us in favour of reform saw as ‘a miserable little compromise’ – a shift to a system that (a) looked more likely to favour one party (the Lib Dems) than others and (b) would ultimately have been incapable of bringing about the change this country so obviously needs given the glaring mismatch between twenty-first century voters’ preferences and the parliamentary line-up.

Probably more importantly, I think Ed realised pretty quickly that AV was doomed because its main advocate – Nick Clegg – was by that time utterly radioactive as far as voters were concerned. Given that, it just wasn’t worth investing his time and his (very limited!) political capital in the whole thing.

As to the future, it rather depends on how much else there is to do (always a problem for reformers), and whether Ed (and those around him) are as convinced that politics-as-usual is bust as they seem to think is the case with economics-as-we-know-it. Some of them get it, but many are much more focused on the latter than the former – even if, in my view, the two things are inextricably linked.

To be honest, though, I don’t think electoral reform will come about until the Tories finally realise that they face possibly insurmountable difficulties in the future in forming a government while a radical right-wing populist party on its flanks wins loads of votes but no seats, thereby depriving them of otherwise very handy parliamentary support.

If people like reading your book, what one other book would you recommend they turn to next?

I don’t need to tell you of all people that Amazon’s algorithms (and star reviewers!) probably do a much better job than I could of answering that particular question.

But, inasmuch as a reader shares an author’s interests, then they might want to get hold of a book that’s (literally!) on my wish-list: Mad Men and Bad Men: What Happened When British Politics Met Advertising.

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