Political

Learning the lessons from last week #2: Lib Dem voters don’t want out of the coalition

Even after last Thursday, I’ve come across very few Liberal Democrats saying, “we should have made a deal with Labour last May”. That’s not a surprise, given the Parliamentary arithmetic and also all that has come out since about just how split Labour’s negotiating team was, not to mention the almost farcical lack of preparation from Labour for talks. Peter Mandelson grabbing a quick cup of tea with Ed Balls to sort out Labour’s negotiating line before walking into the first meeting may be very English, but competent or prepared it wasn’t.

That does, of course, leave the question of whether coalition or a minority Tory government would be preferable.

A minority Tory government, with Liberal Democrats providing support on “confidence and supply”, certainly sounds tempting to some in the party. (Though given that the “supply” part of the phrase is voting with a minority government on the big financial votes, it’s worth remembering that would have meant voting for George Osborne’s financial measures.)

But what do the voters think?

Courtesy of polling carried out last Thursday and Friday by YouGov we have some pretty up to date evidence (with all the usual caveats about one poll etc, but as you’ll see the margins are pretty hefty).

The poll shows that current Liberal Democrat voters think the party should stay in coalition, but express its differences with the Tories more often (with my bolding in the questions):

Do you believe the Liberal Democrats should now distance themselves from the Tories?
No, they should remain in the coalition and continue to make the compromises necessary for the coalition to work: 36%
Yes, they should remain in the coalition but refuse to back policies they oppose: 48%
Yes, they should leave the coalition altogether: 9%

Less than one in ten Lib Dem voters saying the party should leave the coalition is a clear message. But, you may ask, that’s current Lib Dem voters – what about those who used to be Liberal Democrats? That’s a fair question as the YouGov poll put the party on 10%.

However, the poll also records results from people who were recorded by YouGov last May as having voted Lib Dem, both those who are still Lib Dem and those who are no longer Lib Dem. Their views collectively are not that different:

Do you believe the Liberal Democrats should now distance themselves from the Tories?
No, they should remain in the coalition and continue to make the compromises necessary for the coalition to work: 23%
Yes, they should remain in the coalition but refuse to back policies they oppose: 48%
Yes, they should leave the coalition altogether: 21%

So when you look at the views of people who voted Liberal Democrat last May, 71% still think the party should remain in coalition. The idea that leaving the coalition would somehow win back the support lost since last year isn’t supported by this evidence. In amongst the 21% are certainly some very vocal voices, but they are the 21% not the 71%.

What the figures show is that many Liberal Democrats – both current supporters and the 2010 voters – want the party to distance itself from the Conservatives, but by a massive majority wants the party to stay in the coalition.

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