Sunday, May 31, 2009


As Lib Dems Surge To Second Place, Polls and Papers Say – Vote Lib Dem To Really Hurt Gordon Brown

This morning’s ICM poll puts Labour in third place for both the General and European Elections, beaten by the Liberal Democrats, for the first time in two decades. That underlines why the Lib Dems are the best choice on Thursday, whether you’re voting to make the European Union work better or just to hit the Labour Government where it hurts. The negative and the positive cases are clear in today’s newspapers: The Sunday Telegraph calls the Lib Dem surge “the worst possible news” for Gordon Brown; The Observer calls for a Liberal Democrat vote as the best party on Europe. I’m voting for the party that best expresses my view on Europe – the Liberal Democrats. But I have to admit, voting to do real damage to Gordon Brown’s Labour Government is a very satisfying bonus.

The Observer comes off the fence today and calls for a positive, not protest, Liberal Democrat vote in the Euro-elections as the best party on the issues:
“There is a pressing need in this country for advocacy of the EU as a good in itself, as opposed to something distasteful that occasionally suits our interests. That view does not preclude criticism of European institutions, but it eschews wrecking tactics against them.

“Nick Clegg is the most instinctively European leader at Westminster. That is currently a lonely position, but the Lib Dems have a decent record of taking minority stands that are later vindicated. On the environment, on civil liberties and on the mounting debt bubble, the Lib Dems were quietly but consistently ahead of the Westminster curve.

“Likewise on transparency. In 2007, they opposed the Conservative move, tacitly encouraged by Labour, to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act. The Lib Dems alone took a party line for openness.

“While MPs from all parties are tainted, the parties themselves are not equally guilty. A credible record of support for transparency and for constitutional reform reflects well on Nick Clegg's team.

“This Thursday's vote is being held in a uniquely febrile climate. It should be about Europe; it will be about the expenses scandal. On both counts, it is a moment to reward the principled consistency of the Liberal Democrats.”
After the explosion on MPs’ expenses, columnist Andrew Rawnsley assesses the three parties’ proposals on constitutional reform and voting reform and suggests that the party to trust on changing things is the one that’s always argued for it, rather than the ones who’ve always voted against but suddenly find it fashionable. The Guardian, too, issued slightly half-hearted praise for the Liberal Democrats last week. Jennie has a vivid round-up of today’s Lib Dem news stories.

Today’s ICM poll for a potential General Election vote puts the Conservative Party at 40% (+1 from the previous poll), the Liberal Democrats surging to 25% (+5), and Labour at their lowest since polling began on 22% (-6). Asking the same people their voting intentions for this week’s Euro-elections – nothing about the county council elections – the figures are Conservative 29% (-1), Liberal Democrat 20% (+2), Labour 17% (-7), Green 11% (+2), UKIP 10% (no change) and BNP 5% (+4). Even for the General Election vote, where there’s far lower support for the minor parties and all of the three main parties are higher, the Liberal Democrats are slightly up on our vote at the last General Election, while Labour have lost nearly half their vote. Yes, I know, it’s almost impossible to believe. Over half of the people who voted Labour last time are still planning to. Where do they find them?

I don’t trust individual opinion polls, though ICM is usually the most reliable pollster, but there’s been a long run of them now showing Labour’s vote disintegrating. The question is, where is it going, and – for actual votes rather than just poring over polls – where would the most effective place be for you to put it? A Populus poll the other day, for example, gave very similar figures, except for putting the Liberal Democrats noticeably lower than other polls and UKIP noticeably higher. We don’t know what the result will be, of course, but in most polls the Lib Dems have been up on their European Election vote four years ago, with UKIP generally down. So it’s possible that either today’s poll or the previous one may be a ‘rogue’ poll (one that’s simply wrong). I would usually expect the Lib Dems to do worse in Euro-elections than in General Elections, with us getting our best votes in local elections, not just because the system enables other parties to make a breakthrough (which hurts each of the three main parties), but simply because Euro-elections are fought on a massive regional basis, and Liberal Democrat bottom-up campaigning is most effective the smaller the area. I’d say hold your breath, but probably more effective to get out campaigning this week, just in case…

Update: I’ve split this article into two and moved the original continuation of it, on the Liberal Democrats versus UKIP, into a piece of its own; I thought it read better that way. It makes more of the case why if you want to hit Labour hard, you should vote Liberal Democrat.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

And in at number 59 on The Golden Ton for 2008-9.

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