LDV members’ survey, August 2008 (3): what do you think of Nick Clegg’s leadership?

by Stephen Tall on August 6, 2008

All this week, Lib Dem Voice is publishing the results of our first ever survey of party members. Some 133 of you accessed the survey via our private members’ forum. We don’t pretend it’s a representative sample, but that doesn’t mean it’s without value either. We hope you, LDV’s readers, find it interesting. Perhaps the wider party will, too. This is the first in what we intend to be a monthly survey – if you have ideas for future survey questions, please email me at stephen@libdemvoice.org.

The third question asked about Nick Clegg’s leadership of the party.

LDV asked:
Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with how Nick Clegg is doing as leader of the Liberal Democrats?

Very satisfied 12%
Fairly satisfied 56%
Fairly dissatisfied 20%
Very dissatisfied 9%
Don’t know 3%

As we have no previous data to compare it with, it’s hard to know if Nick should be happy with a total satisfaction rating of 68% to 29% dissatisfied (a net rating of +39%). Given the tendency of party members to be critical – and the more so, it seems, if they are hooked-up to the internet – he can probably be pretty relaxed. Here are a selection of the comments of those who answered the question:

• I certainly don’t buy the criticism that he’s invisible – I think he’s been getting some good regular slots
• Good policy direction but needs to be more ‘charming/cheerful’ and also needs to make much more of a media impact.
• We just need the media to give him more attention – no doubt a pipe dream this side of a GE campaign!
• Generally right direction, but far too slow and still lacking clear narrative
• Exception of abstention re: Lisbon [though I am pro-European]
• Solid start. Needs a bit of luck and we could do well.
• He has done better that I expected but he still needs to show he is a ‘bite yer bum’ campaigner. And I am not sure he is being completely clear in his policy thoughts.
• Good guy but doesn’t take enough risks
• The guy needs time. He’s not being given a chance by the media yet but eventually they’ll have to give him coverage
• Moving in the right directon but needs to move faster.
• He’s surprised me. I thought he was a talentless twat. Now I accept he’s a talented twat.
• He’s doing better than I expected

LDV members’ survey, August 2008 (1): the Lib Dems and by-elections
LDV members’ survey, August 2008 (2): what you think of Make it Happen’s tax-cutting agenda

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There was a time, at the start, where I couldn’t watch a TV show without seeing Nick’s face, I think he’s made good progress

by theChristophe on August 6, 2008 at 8:57 am. Reply #

A good rating given just over 50% of party members voted for him.

by Gavin Whenman on August 6, 2008 at 9:29 am. Reply #

As a “fairly satisfied” who for some arcane reason cannot log into the Members’ Forum and therefore did not vote, I am fairly satisfied with these results. We are critical of a leader who is making changes, as we should be. I guess we would be a lot more critical of a Leader who wasn’t.

by David Heigham on August 6, 2008 at 12:57 pm. Reply #

I couldn’t vote either, but I would have said “utterly dissatisfied”. I make no bones about it, I thought he lacked the ability to do the job properly during the leadership election and, since then, all that has happened is that these fears have been confirmed and exacerbated (take your pick from the Lisbon Treaty misjudgement, his “Cleggover” interview with Piers Morgan, and/or now his attempt to reorganise the party entirely against the grain of its democratic culture). Many parts of the media have now decided he’s either a lightweight non-entity or a clown (so much for the “great communicator”). In the light of this, even a smart policy move, such as on taxes, will have comparatively little positive effect because, as the Republicans in American have shown for almost every Democratic presidential candidate since 1980, even a resonant political message will have little or no impact if the messenger him or herself lacks credibility. Sorry if this seems morose, but the only light at the end of the tunnel for me is that his period at the top (“in charge” would be a hopeless misrepresentation) may be mercifully short.

by Derek Young on August 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm. Reply #

David / Derek – could you drop Ryan Cullen an email at ryan@libdemvoice.org to let him know why you can’t access the members’ forum so you can take part in future polls?

Derek – I happen to agree that the party’s stance on Lisbon was a misjudgement: but it was the policy of both the candidates standing. I’m not sure what Chris would have done differently…?

by Stephen Tall on August 6, 2008 at 4:15 pm. Reply #

“Many parts of the media have now decided he’s either a lightweight non-entity or a clown (so much for the “great communicator”).”

But that was always going to happen (and I’ve said exactly the same thing to the Clegg-worshippers). The media literally have the knives out for us. It doesn’t matter what we do or who we have as leader. Honestly. The best thing to do is to try and struggle out of their clutches and create new communications channels for ourselves.

by Alix on August 6, 2008 at 4:19 pm. Reply #

Stephen and Alix,

Thanks to both for your responses. I enjoy both your blogs and you both talk sense most of the time.

You’re right, both Clegg and Huhne said the same on the Lisbon Treaty, and both of them were wrong (sometimes we forget that the policy of the available leadership candidates is not always fully reflective of party opinion). Whoever won should have had the sense to kill the policy when in office, but of course we’ve only lived through the experience of one Leader so only have one experience to draw upon. Whoever won should certainly not have given Ed Davey licence to act like a lunatic and staged a walkout from the Commons in support – we looked like idiots. Forgive me for paraphrasing, but it seems that you’re asking me, “could someone else have done any better?” My response is: are you kidding? How could we have done worse?!

Are the media always out to get us?, as Alix suggests, well maybe. But if that’s true, the one thing we mustn’t, cannot do is give them the ammunition ourselves. It’s all water under the bridge now, but I think Huhne understood that better. Many people have me down as a shameless partisan about this, but if Chris had won and made just as much of a balls-up, I hope I’d have the front to give him just as many pelters. I honestly think some of the front-benchers don’t stop and think how infuriating it is for the rank and file to knock their pan in on cold and wet evenings going round the doors, only to have people respond by holding you accountable (as one of the only Lib Dems they meet in person) for the failings of those at the top.

by Derek Young on August 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm. Reply #

Stephen

“Derek – I happen to agree that the party’s stance on Lisbon was a misjudgement: but it was the policy of both the candidates standing.”

Eh? The nonsense about whipped abstentions certainly wasn’t promulgated during the leadership campaign.

All Huhne did was to go along with the party line under the leadership of Clegg. That doesn’t mean the same thing would have happened under a Huhne leadership!

by Clegg's Candid Friend on August 6, 2008 at 4:32 pm. Reply #

“It’s all water under the bridge now, but I think Huhne understood that better.”

I do agree with you there. Huhne was much the better at handling the press pack during the election. I suppose I’m just, on the whole, more impressed by all the stuff Nick’s done right in that area that, to be honest, I had thought was beyond him. And owing to my dim view of the MSM I can’t help feeling that Huhne’s gifts wouldn’t have altogether fought off the inevitable negativity. The papers will have had two headlines ready, notionally speaking, for the morning after the election. “Lib Dems disastrously elect callow Cameron-copy” and “Lib Dems disastrously elect grey accountant”.

We’re just better off not listening to their hype. Our problem is that most people will, which is why I suggest we need to give them alternatives, information and memes that doesn’t come to them through the mainstream media.

by Alix on August 6, 2008 at 4:52 pm. Reply #

Eh? The nonsense about whipped abstentions certainly wasn’t promulgated during the leadership campaign.

I remember at hustings both candidates being asked if they supported a referendum on Lisbon: both said no, with pretty much equal passion (Chris maybe more so).

The whipped abstentions were an inevitable consequence of both leadership candidates supporting a policy not wilingly supported by the majority of the party’s MPs or activists.

by Stephen Tall on August 6, 2008 at 4:59 pm. Reply #

As a figure in the public eye, I think he’s doing fine. As the leader of an important political party, come the GE, I think he will perform very well.

Leadership of the party members is a more difficult task; it’s something that Charles ignored, content to leave it to a Chief Exec, who is excellent at most things but that. Paddy was no better often seeking to confront the party rather than convert it. Once again, I think he will do better than previous leaders.

But will he do well enough to arrest the decline of the party as a ‘mass movement’ or will he take that on the chin and move us toward being the ‘cadre’ party which is the most likely future for us as an organisation?

by Martin Land on August 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm. Reply #

Stephen Tall wrote:
“The whipped abstentions were an inevitable consequence of both leadership candidates supporting a policy not wilingly supported by the majority of the party’s MPs or activists.”

If a whipped abstention was “inevitable”, why on earth was Clegg so unsure of what he was going to do that he blundered into saying that the MPs would vote _against_ a referendum during a TV interview shortly before the vote?

The whole thing was a shambles, and to say that Huhne would have handled it as badly, just because he was also against a referendum, is nonsense.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on August 6, 2008 at 6:22 pm. Reply #

I think Huhne gets slightly better press treatment because he used to be one of them…

by Miranda on August 7, 2008 at 9:59 am. Reply #

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