LDV members' survey (1): reshuffle reaction, and time to bring back Charles, Ming and Paddy!

by Stephen Tall on October 8, 2008

On Monday night, Lib Dem Voice e-mailed party members signed up to our Forum asking a number of questions about the current state of British politics, including the reshuffle. On Tuesday morning Nick Clegg decided to spike our guns by announcing a mini-reshuffle of the Lib Dem shadow cabinet. The survey’s still live for those who haven’t yet completed it, but we thought it was worth reporting the results of what our survey found now before it goes even more stale. To date, 168 of you have completed it, for which many thanks.

First off we asked for your reaction to the news which shocked Westminster late last week, Gordon Brown’s decision to bring back Peter Mandelson to the cabinet: Do you think this showed Gordon Brown as a strong Prime Minister able to forgive his enemies for the sake of good government, or as a party leader desperate to shore up his position but which will ultimately back-fire?

Here’s what you told us:

> A strong Prime Minister – 27%
> A weak party leader – 50%
> Don’t know / No opinion – 23%

We received various comments in response to this question – intriguingly, and entirely unprompted by the wording of the question, a significant number used the word ‘desperate’ to describe the Prime Minister’s actions.

Onto the Lib Dems – LDV asked: Do you think Nick Clegg should now reshuffle the Lib Dem front-bench in response to the changes to the Cabinet?

You told us:

> Yes, it’s time for a reshuffle – 35%
> No, he should stick with the current shadow cabinet for now – 47%
> Don’t know / No opinion – 18%

So, a majority of you were quite happy to stick with what the party had; though a few comments mentioned the need to fill the gaps in Housing (left semi-vacant by Lembit Opik’s resignation to campaign for the party presidency) and the newly-created department for Climate Change and Energy.

Particular kudos to some partially-fulfilled prescience goes to this comment: “Main players fine, but vacancies at Justice and Housing need to be filled, plus there’s the new department for Energy and Climate Change. Give that to Steve Webb, and bring back Tim Farron at Defra. Either Bring back Heath at Justice or give it to Simon Hughes, Andrew George at Housing, with Andrew Stunell going to help Webb on Energy. I’d also appoint Ed Davey as head of the General Election campaign team now, and give him a long run-up with the job. This would allow Charles Kennedy to return to the Front bench as Shadow Foreign Secretary.”

Which segways us neatly into our next question: There has been talk in Conservative circles of their need to bring back some of their so-called ‘Big Beasts’ to give the party increased gravitas in the current political climate. How important do you think this argument is for the Lib Dems?

Here’s what you told us:

> 51% – Important – we need our highest-profile MPs on the front-bench now more than ever to gain media attention
> 39% – Unimportant – it is time to develop the next generation of talented MPs and increase their national profile
> 11% – Don’t know / No opinion

And finally, for today, we turned to Fantasy Reshuffle, and asked: Which of the following individuals not currently on the front-bench would you like to see return to the Lib Dem shadow cabinet?

Here’s the percentage figures of those who thought the following should return to the Lib Dem front bench:

Charles Kennedy – 70%
Sir Menzies Campbell – 61%
Lord (Paddy) Ashdown – 57%
Jo Swinson – 52%
Tim Farron – 49%
Evan Harris – 48%
Baroness (Shirley) Williams – 43%
David Heath – 33%
Paul Holmes – 27%
Malcolm Bruce – 22%
Alistair Carmichael – 17%
Alan Beith – 16%

An intriguing set of results. Perhaps unsurprisingly the three most recent former party leaders, all of whom have high profiles – Kennedy, Campbell and Ashdown – head the pack. But Jo Swinson, again ignored by yesterday’s reshuffle, polls very highly, with over 50% of LDV party members urging her return.

Of the three Lisbon treaty rebels brought back in yesterday’s reshuffle, Tim Farron polls best (49%), followed by David Heath (33%), with Alistair Carmichael trailing with 17%. It’s interesting to note that two thorns in the side of the party leadership – Evan Harris (49%) and Paul Holmes (27%), who moved opposition to Make it Happen’s tax-cutting agenda at this year’s conference – are scored markedly differently.

And that’s your lot for today. More survey results later in the week.