Liberal Democrat Newswire #63: Hung Parliament? Don’t forget the House of Lords

Liberal Democrat Newswire logoLiberal Democrat Newswire #63 came out on Monday, including a look at how a minority government in the Commons will suffer in the Lords.

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Welcome to the 63rd edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, rounding up some of the Lib Dem-related election news you may have missed in the last week.

Statistic of the week: 48 – the number of new members the Liberal Democrats have been recruiting each day during the campaign.

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.

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 20 extreme Tory policies the Lib Dems have blocked (expanded from the original 18) and Torbay Conservatives come up with novel excuse not to go canvassing.

In this edition:

Gradual improvement in Lib Dem poll ratings continues

The small rise in the Liberal Democrat poll ratings has continued through the last week, with more 10% results appearing and 6% results now something of the past. With the amount of statistical noise in the polling results, it’s a trend that’s more brittle than soaring, but still real.

More significant for the party’s target seats is the continuing detoxification of the party’s overall reputation. As I wrote in Liberal Democrat Newswire #61, “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”.

Now there’s been further polling which backs up that I reported in #61 about the improvement in the party’s overall image:

MORI polling on party images

Polling out at the weekend showed Nick Clegg to be the most popular choice as Deputy Prime Minister, although other new data shows that Nick Clegg overall has little impact on the party’s support.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows Liberal Democrat supporters continue to lean neither left nor right in their coalition preferences:

If, following the election on May 7th, both the Conservative and Labour parties were looking to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, rank these outcomes in order of your preference. 

The Liberal Democrats form a coalition with the Conservatives 42%

The Liberal Democrats form a coalition with Labour 39%

The Liberal Democrats do not form a coalition 20%

Given the margins of error in this poll, that’s a dead heat and mirrors earlier data from Ipsos MORI:

Ipsos MORI data on coalition preferences

Don’t forget the House of Lords

House of Lords

In all the talk of hung Parliaments and possible Commons arithmetic, the House of Lords has been rather neglected. Yet, baring a small number of dissolution honours, we already know what the makeup of the Lords will be the day after the general election. It’ll be hung with either Labour or the Tories heavily dependent on Liberal Democrat peers to get legislation through.

Currently there are 783 peers of whom 224 are Conservative, 215 Labour and 103 Liberal Democrat. There are just 3 Ukip, 1 Green, 2 Plaid and no SNP. Turnout in House of Lords votes is rarely anywhere near a full 783, so in practice a nominal strength of 300+ peers, including the high turnout Lib Dems, has been enough for the current government to get its business through reliably except in cases of major revolt within its own ranks.

Yet any combination of parties which excludes the Liberal Democrats – barring a German-style Grand Coalition – doesn’t get anywhere close to that. Talks of deals with Ukip, the SNP or Northern Ireland parties (only 8 between them) doesn’t help in the Lords.

In the past, a single party majority government has been able to rely on the Lords deferring to the result of a general election and not being too obstructive (with the threat of Lords reform also sometimes hanging in the background). But a minority government in the Commons, and so soon after Lords reform has to be abandoned? The threat of reform will seem weak and the democratic legitimacy argument will be hobbled.

Moreover, in the past governments have created large numbers of new peers to shift the makeup of the Lords towards the outcome of the previous election. With the building physically reaching its limits and only a minority government mandate to stuff the Lords, that too is rather less of a power to get legislation through than in the past.

So unless a deal is done that ropes in Liberal Democrat peers to regularly vote day after day for the government, expect a very rough ride for any new government in the Lords – especially as some Lib Dem peers will be only too happy to push Lords procedure to breaking point in order to reinvigorate demands for its reform.

All the more so as it’s far from clear how far the Salisbury Convention about the Lords not blocking manifesto policies of the government applies when a government doesn’t have a Commons majority – especially when both Labour and the Tories have had less, rather than more, detail in their manifestos on many key issues (including Parliamentary boundaries).

Best Lib Dem poster display

This is what happens when two rival campaigns end up in offices next to each other:

Lib Dem poster display in Mike Crockart's office

Voting Lib Dem? Three simple things to do

  1. Green tickSign up to show your support on Facebook by attending the ‘I’m voting Lib Dem’ Facebook event.
  2. Sign up to this Thunderclap to share a message about voting Lib Dem on the eve of poll.
  3. Join the fantastic Team 2015 group of volunteers here.

What’s your Tory cutting score?

This new website from the Liberal Democrats is rather fun – with a serious message:

What's your Tory cutting score?

Don’t miss out on new Lib Dem stories

Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg read the newspapersAs 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.

England’s peculiar polling stations

Polling station in a laundrette The BBC has a great feature of some of the strange places which end up as polling stations:

A casual glance down the list of polling stations for next month’s general election reads like this: “Parish hall, village hall, village hall, village hall, community centre, parish hall”. But every so often they throw up a peculiarity…

Where would you be least likely to find a polling station? A football stadium? A launderette? A school bus?

Actually, all three will be clearing houses for ballot papers when England goes to the polls on 7 May…

When it comes to a full range of facilities, few polling stations can beat the The Royal Chase Hotel in Shaftesbury. It has a spa and indoor swimming pool, though casual voters need not bring their towel and swimwear.

Read more about them all – including the polling station in a laundrette – over on the BBC site.

Don’t miss out!

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News in brief…


Green backing for Lib Dem record and plans

Oak trees

Twenty leading figures in the renewable energy sector have written a letter calling for the Liberal Democrats to have a role in the next government:

When the Coalition took office, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to make it the ‘greenest government ever’.

Liberal Democrats kept to that pledge. Under the leadership of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, they have consistently acted to make this country cleaner, greener and more open to investment in renewables. Some £37 billion has been invested in renewable energy, supporting 460,000 jobs as of 2013, reducing our carbon emissions and improving Britain’s energy security.

From setting up Britain’s first Green Investment Bank and the first Community Energy Strategy, to battling with the Treasury over critical decisions like the Levy Control Framework or the 4th Carbon Budget, the Lib Dems have an impressive record of achievements on climate change that deserves much wider recognition.

Moreover, a survey of 646 environment and sustainability professionals found 89% agreeing that the swift introduction of the Nature and Wellbeing Act proposed by the Liberal Democrats would enshrine a much-needed strategic approach to biodiversity protection in law. BusinessGreen reports:

While all the three major parties have committed to a 25 year plan to aid the recovery of UK wildlife and environment, only the Liberal Democrats have vowed to enshrine the plan in law. The party’s manifesto promises a new Nature Act that would put the NCC on a statutory footing and also includes plans to impose green criteria on public procurement, adopt EU air and water quality targets into UK law, and reform the water abstraction regime.

“The UK is in the privileged position of still having a wealth of natural capital which makes a real contribution to our recovering economy,” said Nick Blyth, IEMA’s Lead on Sustainability, Climate Change and the Natural Environment. “However, if we are to retain our natural assets and wildlife, the next government must be the first Parliament to create a Nature and Wellbeing Act.”

Misfiring Ukip leaflets hit wrong constituency

Ukip Eastleigh leafletAt election time, the Royal Mail will deliver for free one leaflet across the constituency for each candidate. One of the reasons parties prefer to address the leaflets to voters individually is that it greatly increases the reliability of the delivery compared to handing over lots of unaddressed leaflets in huge bundles to the Royal Mail.

Usually, that is.

But not if you get your names and addresses wrong – and give the Royal Mail tens of thousands of leaflets for one constituency that have printed on them the names and addresses of voters in a neighbouring one.

No prizes for guessing what Ukip has just done in – or rather next door to – Eastleigh…

IFS leads the charge for spurious accuracy

The Treasury building in Whitehall

The IFS does much good work, and its analysis of the 2015 general election manifestos is useful (including, ahem, the finding that the Lib Dems are the most transparent about their plans).

But there’s a fundamental flaw in the IFS approach, which the media and politicians have all happily trooped along with: the margins of error in five year economic outlooks are so huge that expecting exactly detailed plans to cover all that any party will do on tax and spend to meet its targets over the next five years is wishing for detailed irrelevance.

Overall objectives, clear priorities and a good indication of how they’ll get started: those are all sensible things to expect of parties and for the IFS to analyse. But criticising people for not saying in detail what they’ll do based on figures that everyone knows will be wrong by the time we get to them? That’s not so sensible.

The best canvassing story of the campaign

A board game close up

Hard to beat this from Liberal Democrat Prue Bray:

Is this a first? On the doorstep today a lady told me about some friends of hers who are so keen on me as a councillor that for Christmas the wife made the husband a board game about me, where all the pieces are made out of photos of me cut out of our Focuses. And they play it. Regularly.

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Best wishes and thank you for reading,


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