Saturday, 4 September 2010
Are the Lib Dems Finished?
The latest YouGov opinion poll shows support for the Liberal Democrats at only 11% of the British public. This is the lowest level of support for the party since Menzies Campbell was bundled out as leader in October 2007.
This blog has forecast a slump in support for the Lib Dems ever since party leader Nick Clegg and his Orange Book acolytes decided to prop up David Cameron’s minority Tory government in May this year. I’ve spoken to many voters who backed the Lib Dems at the general election in May, and almost uniformly they say that they won’t be making that mistake again.
In between elections the usual excuse for poor opinion poll ratings for the Lib Dems is that they don’t get the same level of media coverage as Labour and Conservative, except at general election time, when some sections of the media at least, give them something approaching equal air time. The Lib Dems can’t use that excuse anymore though, as their party has been at the forefront of media attention, now that they are part of the government.
The problem runs much deeper than relative publicity, it is a problem of voter perception. They were viewed by the public as not Tory, and also a nicer type of Labour party, centre left politically. All of this is now out of the window, and the perception from their left leaning voters, probably more than half of their support, is of betrayal. Whilst those more on the right who supported them, are thinking they may as well vote Tory, and stop messing about with the Lib Dems.
Make no mistake about it, this spells trouble for Lib Dems and particularly Nick Clegg the leader who brokered the coalition government agreement. As stated above, the last time they were polling so poorly the then leader’s head was demanded by MP’s and party activists alike. I wonder what the odds are on Clegg being Lib Dem leader this time next year? Pretty long I image.
One theory is that if the Alternative Vote referendum is won, Clegg can claim he has secured a historic victory, and particularly if they manage to rig the constituency boundaries in the coalition’s favour, the Lib Dems will be part of government for a long time to come.
I’m not sure the public will back AV though, and opinion polls show a slight majority against a change to this electoral system, which I think, will harden as Labour and Conservatives will, in the main, campaign against AV in the run up to the vote.
When the massive cuts in public services and the hike in VAT start to bite, the Lib Dems may be down to single figure vote shares, and heading for electoral oblivion. Then perhaps members of this most opportunist of political parties, will finally see the writing on the wall. By this time though, it could well be too late, and all the electoral progress that they have made since the 1960’s will be reversed, and Nick Clegg can go off and join the Tories, rather David Trimble like.